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Mar 8, 2009 01:41 PM

Indian in London--seeking recs for New Yorkers

Please forgive the repetitive subject. I am helping out friends who will be in London later this month who will be lodging near the Barbican area. They are ready and willing to travel for great Indian food. Do not need fancy trappings. Do need wonderful food. (Indian food in NYC is not good at all, sad to say)

Also would love to hear suggestions for food markets, shops, ethnic restaurants in the surrounding neighborhoods.

I would be so grateful for a few suggestions. Many thanks. erica

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  1. If your friends are looking for more traditional northern Indian, I'd strongly recommend Hot Stuff in Stockwell. It's definitely not the place to go for fancy atmosphere but if your priority is tasty food, it's tops.
    I'm not as much of a fan of Anglo-Indian/modern Indian restaurants, so I'll leave those recommendations to others.
    Also, I'd recommend avoiding the tourist traps like Brick Lane (some OK South Asian grocers there but the restaurants are terrible).
    As a side note, having lived in both north-west India and NYC, I can say for sure that there is excellent Indian food in NYC (better than I've found in London, in fact - but I've only been in London for a year so I haven't been to a lot of the hole-in-the-wall type places). If your friends need help finding good Indian have them post to the NYC boards. :)

    3 Replies
    1. re: streetfoodie

      This is not the place to discuss NYC Indian food, but I'm surprised you found it better than what's in London. I have just the opposite opinion. Maybe my taste buds weren't fully developed when I lived near NYC. :-)

      1. re: zuriga1

        SF: I have never found great Indian food in NYC. (Yes, I have been to Spicy Mina!) But that is not what I am looking for now:

        My friends are traveling to London, so I am seeking great Indian food in that city at the present time.
        Many thanks for the responses so far! Please keep them coming!

        If you know of any other great Asian spots (not the ultra-high-end, though) please post them too.
        They are willing to travel by tube!

        Thanks again!!

        1. re: erica

          Silk Road in Camberwell is incredible for Xinjiang style Chinese food (basically Chinese interpretations of Uighur food. Unless you meant the British usage of Asian.) NY only has two Uighur restaurants and neither of ours are the Chinese influenced style (one is REALLY Uighur and one is Uighur done the way you'd get it in Uzbekistan or Russia.)

          P.S. Spicy Mina isn't very good. Horribly inconsistent and not Bangladeshi at all. She was really good at one point, but that was like a three month period a few years ago. WAY too expensive as well. Her prices are insane compared to ei. Ghoroa.

          Camberwell is harder to reach. Northern Line to Elephant and Castle from which you take the 12 bus for about 10 minutes towards Dulwich Library. East Ham is about 20-25 minutes on the Hammersmith and City Line and Brick Lane is 15 minutes. I wouldn't be surprised if the walk from Whitechapel Tube to Gram Bangla or Tayyabs would make the trip longer than going to East Ham. Make sure they know that 5-10 minutes of tube malfunction time have to be factored into nearly every tube journey in London.

    2. If you're willing to travel (and you are on the Hammersmith and City line anyway) then you really should make your way out to Thattukada. Thattukada is an amazing Keralan restaurant in East Ham which is only two blocks from the tube. The food is incredible and the people who run it are as well (I went in past closing the other day and instead of being turned out I was told that the place is always open for me, I was given a bottle of wine (which they wouldn't take money for and made me finish in one go), and everyone was just great.) The menu is pretty much divided between the actual written one and the immense unwritten one. You've got incredible stuff on the former (even their basic chicken curry is well above average. Also, all of their breads are made by an in house master.) The latter is where you can really strike gold though. You can order a whole (very very large) fish fried and then steamed in banana leaves for only 12 pounds. It is massive and will easily fill two people. They also have Keralan crab curry, fried mussels, the veg thali (3.50 with unlimited refills on rice, dals, etc) is great, etc. I can't say enough positive things about this place and I really recommend you spend the extra 10-15 minutes traveling rather than skip it. Far too many visitors to London give it the treatment that tourists give to Queens and Brooklyn.

      A bit closer is Gram Bangla which is probably the best Bangladeshi place in London. It's on Brick Lane and its the only establishment on the street that still serves edible food. Meals tend to be a bit pricier than Thattukada (which is perpetually 7 to 9 pounds per person seemingly regardless of what you get) but they have some great stuff. It's not fancy and it's basically a Bangladeshi men's social club, but the food is very authentic, spicier than most expect, and great (it's basically what you'd get in someone's house.)

      Also, NYC has great Indian food. It's in Queens. The Bangladeshi there is better than any I've had here except for Gram Bangla. New York's scene caters almost exclusively to South Asians so it's generally not high-end, it's low priced, and it's immigrant directed. That also means you generally have to get on the 7 train or F train to get it.

      The areas around both places are extremely South Asian and while they're not as concentrated as the Bangladeshi areas you find in parts of Queens and Brooklyn, they're certainly more diverse. East Ham has a massive South Indian and Sri Lankan population while at the same time have loads of Pakistanis, Gujaratis, and Bengalis. Not exactly luxury food markets, but I really enjoy Queen's Market (on Green St) and East Ham Market. I do all of my shopping between them, but they're really for groceries. Down the block from Thattukada there's also Lahore Lahore Eh which serves up some really good Pakistani food. Tayyab's is a notch above it, but Tayyab's is also packed at all times and in a constant state of rush. Lahore Lahore's rogni naan is freshly made, buttery, and delicious. Their kebabs are above average without reaching Tayyab's levels.

      6 Replies
      1. re: JFores

        After Justin's wonderfully extensive write-up on Thattakuda, I headed there two weeks, and really enjoyed myself. We have the devilled fish fry for starters. Very tasty, though a huge portion. I particularly liked the squid and mussels in this, and the crispy onions added an extra dimension. We didn't then venture into more seafood related dishes, primarily because the table next to us got served some lovely looking channa (with the small black channa) and some paneer masala and I immediately experienced a hankering for dishes in the vein of my own vegetarian Indian mothers dishes. Both were still great, with a real kick to them. The paratha were fantastic - flaky, buttery and all you would want to mop up some yummy sauce with. We also had the butter chicken, which I wasn't keen on, but my companion liked. It was just a little too rich for me. The mango lassi's were great - so good I had two, even though this probably resulted in me getting full far too quickly.

        I will definitely go back - I want to try the whole fish next time. I don't suppose anyone off here has ever been to Thrill of the Grill in East Ham? I think I shall, if only for that truly fantastic name.

        1. re: Sharmila

          Thrill of the Grill Kebabish on Green St? That one is incredibly good. Opposite Baburchi. The one of East Ham High St is eclipsed by Lahore Lahore Eh which is top dog for kebabs and Pakistani stuff on that stretch.

          1. re: JFores

            Great. It is the one on Green Street. I shall definitely get down there and try it out.

            1. re: Sharmila

              The lamb chops there are as good if not better than those at Tayyab's and its cheaper. I love Kekbabish because it's open till 2am or later and it's very local for me. The seekh kebabs are also very good. The chicken stuff is so-so so I tend to stick to lamb, but the locals seem to really like the chicken. The paan guy kitty corner to Kebabish with the stall built into the 1 pound pizza kebab shop is actually really good at his craft, btw.

        2. re: JFores

          I was also inspired by JFores' posts to make the trek out to East Ham, and loved Thattukada. The immediate neighborhood reminds me of the neighborhoods the 7 runs through in Queens - lots of colorful storefronts with a high percentage of ethnic restaurants - for those of us who prioritize food during our travels, and who take advantage of the opportunity to explore less-touristy neighborhoods in the pursuit of ethnic foods not available in our home cities, I think it's a must visit.

          For me the appam was a knockout. I traveled in Kerala for a bit last year, and fell in love with these lacy on the perimeter, fluffy and tender in the middle, coconutty, slightly fermented rice batter pancakes. I have never, ever seen them in the US. I used it to soak up the tumeric stained, coconut infused sauce of the fish moilly.

          I also enjoyed meals at Gram Bangla, and at the Indian YMCA.

          1. re: daveena

            If you're looking for appam in NY go to any Sri Lankan place--they're also called hoppers.

        3. I think it goes without saying you should head to Tayaabs - not far from Brick Lane. There are plenty of other threads on the board talking about it. It's not too far from the Barbican - jump on the Hammersmith and City line to Whitechapel (about 10 mins).
          It's BYO and you can eat really well for about £10 a head. Highly recommend the lamb chops and dry meat curry.
          Another favourite is Maida on Bethnal Green Road (at the eastern end of Brick Lane).

          3 Replies
          1. re: pj26

            Maida drifts towards the realm of overpriced Indian Chinese. Also, is it still open after the brawl in which the waiter died?

            1. re: JFores

              Indian Chinese? Interesting description - certainly not the Maida I was speaking of. One of the few reviewers I would trust agrees:

              And just to clairfy, Tayaabs is no more than a five minute walk from Whitechapel tube, so certainly closer than East Ham! It's also a pretty interesting area to walk around with plenty more to see.

              1. re: pj26

                Maida on Bethnal Green Rd, right? Most of their main dishes are Indian Chinese as far as I remember. Pretty much everyone that was in there when I went was eating Indian Chinese stuff as well. It advertises itself as Bengali, but practically nothing on the menu is Bengali (and the name is flour in Hindi rather than in Bangla which would be moi'da.)

                I'd be willing to challenge the sights bit. East Ham's stores are arguably a lot more interesting and exotic, the area sports London's only large South Indian (specifically South Indian) temple, and the mix of South Asian groups is unlike what you'll find anywhere else in London. That's if you include the Green St stretch as well, of course. But then again, if you're only judging Whitechapel on Whitechapel Rd then it's a bit bleak as well (aside from the nice bit with the sailor's alm houses, the bell maker, etc.) Brick Lane's quite fun as well, though it's a hipster mob scene half the time now.

          2. Some of us here have enjoyed a Chinese/Indian place called Dalchini. It's right at the Wimbledon Park Tube station - not really all that far to go on the District Line.

            9 Replies
            1. re: zuriga1

              Dalchini is apparently quite good (same owners as Spice and Ice in Croydon btw.) I need to give it a shot.

              1. re: JFores

                We were there a year or so ago and had a good meal. It certainly was a culinary adventure for me. My son loves the foodie I've become since living in the UK. :-) I'll be in NY this May but won't have time to venture off to your favorite borough haunts. It's a quick trip. One day.....

                1. re: zuriga1

                  Shame you won't be able to make it out. Regardless, the city has some great stuff as well (especially Fujianese and Dominican.)

                  I've been meaning to make it out to Dalchini, but I'm very far east and I think Wimbledon is very far south so it's been a hard one for me (I go to Croydon pretty often, but I don't eat at restaurants when I go so I don't have the incentive.)

                  1. re: JFores

                    How long would it take you to get to Earl's Court? From there, it's not too far down to that northern part of Wimbledon. That said, it might be a long way to go from the Far East.

                    1. re: zuriga1

                      Mmm. 30+ minutes to Westminster and then another bunch to Earl's Court. It'd be under an hour and a half. I'll have to give it a shot. I'm currently so broke that I've been going to Thattukada every night because I can't even afford groceries (I've had 18 pounds in cash for two weeks so I've been running up my credit cards on Thattukada literally every day since groceries ran out. They take card now!)

                      Giving this post a food spin, I'd really love to get to Chuan in Acton sometime in the future. My first meal there was my favorite Sichuan in London so far. Also, I need to get to the quite well known one in Earl's Cort which randomly popped up on the radar because of its Chinese language handwritten wall menu items. What's the name of that one again? No 28 Chinese Restaurant?

                      1. re: JFores

                        It's No. 10 Chinese Restaurant. Some recent posts from Ibrahim.Salha and gang:

                        1. re: limster

                          I want to go to No 10 too, as it sounds good from Limster's posts. It's also near work! I went to Chilli Cool on Leigh Street in Bloomsbury a few weeks ago and I really really enjoyed it. The spicing was definitely a few notches higher than Snazz and say, the Sichuan dishes at Gourmet San. I also liked the atmosphere - it was full of Chinese students and young people who obviously attend UCL et al and it was very relaxed. I really enjoyed the spicy poached beef - seriously addictive. The dry fried green beans were also the best version I've had in London (and I think also better than the ones at Red Chilli in Manchester). Service was pretty haphazard, but in a rather amiable way. They do close the kitchen early though, so it's not the type of place to stumble into after 9pm I think.

                          1. re: Sharmila

                            Noting Chilli Cool for a future visit! Maybe tonight...

                            1. re: JFores

                              yeah do it and pls report back

            2. This is such great information! I am planning a trip myself in May so it will come in handy. Many thanks.

              To be more specific..the flat is in the City, easy walking distance from the Barbican.