In London looking for Indian food, pubs and comfort food
I am heading from Boston to London with my father to visit friends and do some sight seeing.
Many have said if we eat one thing in London it's Indian food, any recommendations? The rub is my father has no taste for Indian food, esp. curry. Is it possible to find a place that serves good Indian food and perhaps something else to serve his more delicate palate?
Also any recommendations in general for places near Maida vale area (or anywhere for that matter, we're not afraid to travel)? Pubs, London comfort food, dare I say a gastro pub?
Cinnamon club is fine for "white people's" idea of Indian food... (if this is an idea of a solid recommendation should also recommend Benares, Tamarind or Chutney Mary's while you are at it - all look very nice - are a bit up tight - equally expensive and serve watered down westernized Indian food) which means basically it is better than what you can get in Boston but far from the best Indian food London has to offer.
The majority of the Indian restaurants on Brick Lane are touristy and outright suck - I wouldn't recommend any of them.
Go to LaHore Kebab House - doesn't matter what you order but they will also have a special of the day (we tried grilled lamb curry special last time I was there) - thank me later. It is a bit out of the way - but you already flew the distance - with the extra money you have left over from not going to Cinnamon Club - pay for the cab. This is truly amazing food.
Also what most people think is Indian food in London is actually Pakistani and/or Bangladeshi.
Chowpuppy - I can't agree with the comment "white peoples idea of indian food" I think it shows quite a limited understanding of the range and breadth of Indian food in London.
The Indian sub continent is vast and covers a wide range of food styles including Indian, Sri Lankan, Pakistani, Bengali etc. The difference in food North to South is a big as it is east to West. Thus “Indian” restaurants in London will inevitably cover a very broad range of cuisines. Restaurant like Cinnamon Club (and the other up-market Indian restaurants in London) serve high end Indian food that is typical of high end restaurants in India. I know because I have eaten in these types of restaurants the numerous times I have visited India. Most of these restaurants were full of Indian’s enjoying meals with colleagues and families. My Indian colleagues all loved the food, and usually try to choose restaurants that were interesting and represented the diversity of Indian cuisine.
Lahore Kebab House is a very good restaurant; it serves Pakistani food and is true to its roots. But it appeals to a different need/demographic than the up-market restaurants like Benares, Zaika, Tamarind etc. It doesn't make it better or worse, nor more authentic or less authentic, it simple means it is a different style restaurant. Think a good local burger bar in NYC versus the Gramercy Tavern - different price points but still authentic American food.
I have seen the evolution of "Indian" food in England over the last 30 years. From the sweet centres (that became the Balti houses) in Birmingham, through the first high end restaurants like The Red Fort and Bombay Brassiere, to the new wave of up-market restaurants like Amaya, Benares, and Cinnamon Club. Indian restaurants in London have evolved into a very vibrant mix with high quality restaurants catering to a broad range of tastes and price points. I visit a broad range of restaurants depending on mood etc. I head to Southall for a great high quality cheap meal (the refurbished Brilliant is good), but I also like to treat myself, so I will sometimes head to one of these top Indian restaurants like Cinnamon Club. It is good to have the choice.
Indian restaurants in the UK are not all good, in fact 90% are pretty poor, serving curries that all use the same “basic gravy” as the base. A ladle of gravy is mixed with the spices, pre cooked meat and any vegetables and flash fried. Using this technique they produce 20+ different dishes, no wonder they taste similar. These “high street tandoors” are far from great and are best avoided.
As I said in my first post I planned to revisit to the Cinnamon Club this past weekend. The food is very good, well cooked and well spiced (and the aubergine side dish packed quite a punch). The menu has a lot of game and fish on it with many unusual dishes. It is expensive at £120 for two (with a bottle of wine), and service is pretty average for this price (a bit of a production line). It is a nice, stylish room, but it is big and lacks intimacy. We loved the food, and were under whelmed by the evening, thus we would not rush back.
Finally, I was conscious that 'filletver" wanted recommendations restaurant close to Maida Vale, suitable for a father who has "no taste for indian food". Thus I thought the West End and higher end restaurants may be the most accessible for them.
Cinnamon club is most definitely not for "white people's idea of Indian food" as put down so banally by chowpuppy. The quality of the ingredients are of the best quality, the food tastes great just like back in India ,the flavors of the ingredients speak for themselves, not overly masked by over use of spices and to make it special the dishes all look stunning, something the Indians do not do at home nor do the other "Indian" restaurants in Brick lane and Aldgate. This holds true for the other upmarket restaurants like Benares or Chutney Mary's as well.
Lahore kebab house is a great place to eat as well though I can assure you that the taxi bill to there from wherever you are is going to be more than the bill you get at a place like Cinnamon Club, for lunch for 2!!
It's a bit comforting to find someone who shares my opinion (as does PhilD) about Cinnamon Club. I am not from the sub-continent, and my only exposure to 'Indian' food was back in NYC near where I lived most of my life. I'm probably very typical of tourists who come to London looking for a better meal than they get in the States. For me, a place like Cinnamon Club is ideal to recommend - far more pleasant than that schlocky area, Brick Lane. OK.. maybe I'm a snob, but the people I know who come for a visit are not looking for that experience plus they can afford something more upscale.
I think there is a universal truth that relates to Indian (and other ethnic foods) restaurants. If it has "english dishes" on the menu as well as the Indian food then it is best avoided.
London does have spectacular range of Indian restaurants, and as a result there are restaurants that now serve very sophisticated Indian food. Food that is well spiced, with a good range of flavours - not simply hot.
I am heading for Cinnamon Club myself this weekend so will report back. Another recommendations is Haandi (136 Old Brompton Road) which is quite central and not to expensive for its location. I also like Veeraswamy (99 Regent Street), it is quite expensive but quite up-market.
Amaya in Knightsbridge is the best Indian food I had in London. The restaurant is gorgeous and the food is amazing and unique. You can watch the chefs cook on flame grills. This is not a typical "curry house" but a Michelin-starred destination restaurant for Indian food lovers. I have been there 3 times and each time was fantastic. I have just moved back to the US after living in London for 4 years and really miss the great restaurants there!!
re comfort food there is a great pub in beak street in soho called the coffee house which does home made steak pies and shepherds pies at lunchtime. It is not a gastro pub but an old fashioned boozer so not a foodie place but great for comfort grub. And of course in east london you have the pie and mash shops - complete with jellied eels for an authentic Cockney experience. Clarkes in Exmouth Market EC1 make their own pies which are fab - i've taken extremely fussy french people there for hangover grub and they love it! Everyone sits on benches and orders from the counter.
Cinamon Club is the top end of indian food and prob light years away from the curry houses most brits go to - if you want the authentic curry experiences (well in UK terms) go to the east end. Brick Lane is packed with curry houses (and great supermarkets selling spices, etc) but it's got very touristy. Friends of mine rave about a place called Taayabs on Fieldgate St behind the London hospital in whitechapel - but I've yet to go there.. If you don't want to go that far east, Gulshan Tandoori in exmouth market (see above) is excellent as well - all my family love it. Perhaps your dad would be tempted to try something not too strong? MIne has just become a big fan - he loves rice-based dishes like chicken tikka biryani which has the veggie curry on the side and is not hot at all. Best thing is to order loads of different dishes and share!
I think your dad might just like the Cinnamon Club. Many purists poo poo it, but my American friends always seem to enjoy that place as it's a bit 'different.' The setting is also very nice. Try to find restaurants that serve things you wouldn't find at home. There are tons of suggestions in the pages here. Try to book ahead as things get crowded in London.