There’s no doubt the Brits love a curry, even adopting it as a national dish, so naturally Indian restaurants abound across London, and Covent Garden has a good balance of modern and traditional establishments.
Dishoom Covent Garden
Restaurant, Brasserie, Indian, $$$
Dishoom Restaurant | Courtesy Dishoom
Dishoom may have expanded with further sites across London but the original branch on Upper St Martin’s Lane still pulls in the crowds. With marble tables, ceiling fans, drooping pendant lights and vintage Indian advertising, the place certainly looks the part, inspired by the Irani cafes of Bombay. The food and drink delivers too; Irani classics like keema pau and chicken biryani sit alongside other Bombay staples, warming house chai and Indian-inspired cocktails.
Cinnamon Bazaar is in the same family of Cinnamon restaurants run by Vivek Singh and is inspired by the marketplaces of India. The colourful awnings and hanging flower baskets do give the impression of a bazaar, albeit a very slick one. The fusion of traditional and modern, Indian and international flavours is also very well executed. There is a range of chaats, street food that has been popular amongst bazaar traders for centuries, as well as Indo-Chinese chicken wings, lamb roganjosh shepherd’s pie and Kabuli kofta, and the cocktail list, designed by Mr Lyan, is similarly inventive.
Named in part after the Hindi word for tipsy, Talli Joe aims to get you feeling merry with its ‘full drinks’ but not totally legless thanks to its ‘half plates’. The cocktails draw influence from the north, south, east and west of India, as does the food – you can move from coastal fish curry to Kolkata style beetroot to New Delhi daal pakori in one sitting. You can even enjoy a Mumbai style dabba lunch, which is £10 and comes in 10 minutes (any longer and it’s free).
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Punjab is the country’s oldest North Indian restaurant, having welcomed diners since 1946. It’s still family owned, now fourth generation down, and still serving up traditional, home-cooked Punjabi fare including tandoori dishes, Acharri Gosht and Kali Dall made to their grandfather’s recipe. The Punjab team also pride themselves on their efficient service making it a great pre-theatre dinner spot.
If you want to experience the richness of South Indian vegetarian cuisine then head to Sagar, right by the Royal Opera House. The chefs are from Udupi in the state of Karnataka so you can be sure you’re getting the real deal when it comes to the food, with dosas, thalis, uthappams, curries and Bombay beach food specialities to choose from. And as an added bonus, lots of the dishes are also vegan.