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Jun 22, 2008 08:20 PM

Good Bengali Food In London?

I have always been impressed by the Indian food in London, and recently, I went to Tayyabs and was blown away by the Punjabi food there. We are going back in about two weeks and (aside from Sunday Brunch at the Blue Elephant, which my girlfriend has insisted we do again), I don't yet have my itinerary planned.

I will be alternating between value and high-end, but I think Zaika (which I loved the last two times I was there) is probably out this trip.

The rumor is that the Bengali cuisine in London is about the best anywhere in the world, so I want to use this trip as an opportunity to try it. Obviously, I would prefer more of a value place, but if the food is particularly good, I would be willing to go high-end, in order to experience the best of the best.

So, does anyone have any recommendations as to great Bengali food in London?

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  1. Have you searched this board yet? There are quite a few recent discussions on this subject.

    13 Replies
    1. re: Theresa

      Check out posts by JFores he is the resident Bengali food expert - and he has a couple of favorites that are authentic. Lots of kitchens in the UK are staffed by Bengalis but most cook "high street curry's" which lack regional authenticity, so it is tricky to get true Bengali food.

      Also check out the posts from Howler who has some good ideas of where is good - Bombay Brasserie lunch buffet is inexpensive and good, Quillion does a great veg thali etc etc.

      One point: I think Tayabs is a Pakistani restaurant, not Punjabi. Close geographically but distant politically.

      1. re: PhilD

        Tayyabs on the menu states that it serves Pakistani and Punjabi food. Personally, my favorite there was a Tandoori Chicken, which was different only in that it came out on a sizzling platter over onions. And I could detect the Pakistani influence because the rice was bad but the garlic naan delicious.

        I've looked at the posts from JFores, howler and limster in general on Indian and Brick Lane specifically. Just did not see one where they were specifically referencing good, authentic Bengali food.

      2. re: Theresa

        Yes, I saw several posts by JFores where he is lamenting that there is no good, authentic Bengali food in London.

          1. re: PhilD

            Thanks. Never would have thought to look at a thread with the title Gram Bangla.

          2. re: Hoc

            Cool you found the Gram Bangla thread. Yeah, that place is so good that I miss it and I'm in New York right now (which is pretty much food paradise for me.) I think I had a dream about it. If only it was a little cheaper... Oh well, I might be in Bangladesh this time next month!

            1. re: JFores

              New York is definitely one of many food paradises. I think I had my first Indian meal on a restaurant on Columbus Avenue, at which point I knew I liked Indian food (I do prefer the various Indian and Pakistani restaurants in London, though). But, then, I also had my first Cuban meal there and promptly fell in love with Cuban, and there is no deli food like it anywhere else in the U.S. Not to mention great Italian and passable Chinese.

              Last time we were in London, I persuaded my (Korean) girlfriend that she actually liked Indian food of various types (after trying a lot of garbage in Chicago that was called Indian food, she thought she hated the cuisine of the entire country), and now she is looking forward to trying various regional variations when we go back in about two and a half weeks.

              Back when I first went to London (in 1981), there was no decent food to be had there, except for Indian food, tea and sweets. Now there are other decent restaurants, but I would suspect that at least 70 percent of our meals there will be Indian or Pakistani.

              So, Gram Bangla is the place for Bengali, huh? OK, then that's where we'll go.

              1. re: Hoc

                Given the discussions above about Tayyab's provenance, it is worth repeating that Gram Bangla (which sounds great and definitely worth a visit when I get back to town) is Bangladeshi not Indian and, although there are some similarities, the cuisine is very different from Indian Bengali (West Bengal/Kolkata) food, the latter primarily hindu, the former primarily Muslim. Even dishes with the same name cane be quite different in ingredients and preparation

                There is no catch all. More than any country I can think of, even within states of India there are vast differences and when you have two countries partitioned by religion it is even more noticable

                Both can be delicious, but you wont find much Indian Bengali food in London apart from a few places selling passable Misti Doi, Sandesh and rasagula

                In any case, enjoy your trips and your meals


                1. re: Simon Majumdar

                  not quite accurate.

                  there isn't a distinct dividing line between pakistani/muslim punjabi food and indian/hindu punjabi cuisine like there is between bangladeshi and bengali cuisine.

                  the reason that bangladeshi and bengali food differ has to to do with where the populations are situated - not religion.

                  1. re: howler

                    You have slight religious exceptions; beef is relatively common among affluent Bangladeshis for example, but otherwise it's mostly an issue of climate and location. Dried foods that will survive the monsoons and floods, higher levels of salt and spice to compensate for the heat, monsoons, and again floods, etc.

                    1. re: JFores

                      Fair observations. Seems like you are becoming an expert on bengali food. Also reading this thread making me salivate. Need to cook some chingri paturi today. Look it up if you fancy....delicious

                2. re: Hoc

                  Yeah, Gram Bangla is excellent for East Bengali. As Simon said, there are major differences between east and west Bengali cuisine (and Gram highlights this to the fullest. Even Gram's shutko (mixed veg) has dried shrimp in it. Just about every vegetable dish has some shutki in it besides the kerala which also has dried shrimp on some days! BTW, New York and it's changing waves of immigrants have modified low level food culture considerably. For ei, our Chinese now stands alongside the west coast (we have an AMAZING variety with everything from authentic Xi'an to authentic Sichuan in Flushing) while Italian has pretty much gone the way of us Italian immigrants (Americanized... but we still curse in Sicilian...)

                  An interesting suggestion was made to me early on in my hunt for solid Bangladeshi food. Someone on here actually suggested that a similar thing happened to Bengali food, hence my negative experiences. Basically, that the Bengalis came first so they're now a bit more affluent and don't need low tier canteen style restaurants to serve males when they're at work. To be honest, I don't see how anyone who has gone to East London lately can consider this true. I've never seen so many Sylhetis in my life!

                  1. re: JFores

                    Hi hounds, if there's an interest in discussing places in Flushing, please do so on the Outer Boroughs board, so that we can keep this board focused and relevant to chowhounds in UK/Ireland. Many thanks!

          3. Jfores, what is the status today in terms of Bengali food and especially West Bengal food? Where are the West Bengal communities in London? Tooting or Bethnal Green? White Chapel is very Bangladeshi. We had a good dinner at Tayyeb yesterday, but it would be great with a visit in West Bengal restaurant before going home to Denmark.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Santoshpur

              Hi Santosh,

              I actually do not know of any W Bengali restaurants in London, however there is a supper club.

              Darjeeling Express. Not sure what their schedule looks like at the moment.


              1. re: JFores

                Thanks, J! I did a lot of research and concluded the same. But we had a really good indian meal at the Anjappar restaurant in East Ham. We had a few snacks at Dishoom as well and went by Gram Bangla too, but the best place and most West Bengal-ish meal we had was in the YMCA hostel where my friend in London eats on a regular basis near his university. The fish curry was one of the best I've had even though it was made and served cafeteria style. Not as oily as the food from Bangladesh and the dal was more watery and less heavy. Great atmosphere in that place too. Recommended.

            2. We will be arriving in London on 8/13, our hotel is in Earl's Court. Bethnal Green is probably a bit distant for us, any Bengali (or other Indian recs) in the EC area?