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Which Indian restaurant in London?

a
amydeastbay Mar 24, 2011 10:22 AM

I want to try an Indian restaurant in London that's unlike one I can find in the SF Bay Area (even in Berkeley, which has a fair-sized Indian population and a number of Indian restaurants). But even after reading all of the postings on Chowhound, I'm still undecided about which one to choose. Based on what I've read, I've narrowed it to Quilon or Moti Mahal, although I also wonder about Trishna. Or should I skip the high-end Indian restaurants and focus on someplace else, perhaps Dishoom? I'm thinking about having Indian food for dinner one night and perhaps for a casual lunch as well. I'm also concerned about having to trek completely across London for my meal, which is why I'm not considering Indian Zing. What are my best choices among the ones I've listed?

-----
Quilon
41 Buckingham Gate, London, Greater London SW1E 6, GB

Moti Mahal
45 Great Queen Street, London WC2B 5AA, GB

  1. zuriga1 Mar 24, 2011 01:34 PM

    I would choose Dishoom for your lunch, It's more of a 'snacking' place than Quilon or Moti Mahal (neither of which I have yet to eat in). Dishoom is definitely casual, but fun and tasty.

    -----
    Quilon
    41 Buckingham Gate, London, Greater London SW1E 6, GB

    Moti Mahal
    45 Great Queen Street, London WC2B 5AA, GB

    6 Replies
    1. re: zuriga1
      h
      helen b Mar 25, 2011 12:48 AM

      Yes, Dishoom is much more casual. Nice space, lively atmosphere, but went there last night and I have to say, after all the hype, was a tad disappointed. I had the St Martini with pomegranate and chilli - sickly sweet. Cafe crisps with their dipping sauces were an OK aperitif nibble. Calamari was the best thing of the night - deftly fried, non greasy, spicy kick. Roomali roti with dishoom chicken - OK. I liked that some of the chicken meat was dark, bit of skin...chicken berry biriyani was generous on the chicken and the berries, well cooked, but oddly tasteless. Lamb chops were so charred they were bitter and not pleasant...the daal was good, the accompanying naan was half burned and dry.

      Hey ho. Still, the blogosphere seems to love it so maybe I just had bad luck!

      1. re: helen b
        zuriga1 Mar 25, 2011 07:16 AM

        I don't think having eaten at Dishoom a few times now, that I'd go there for a dinner. There are far better places. I think their naan if pretty nasty but a few of the dishes are fine for a snacky sort of lunch. After so many people have complained about the naan, you'd think they'd start taking more care to improve it.

        I'm not exactly sure you had bad luck.

        1. re: zuriga1
          a
          amydeastbay Mar 25, 2011 08:56 AM

          Thanks for the input on Dishoom. I agree it sounds like it would be best for lunch rather than dinner, but I'm starting to wonder whether I should bother at all. I'm also considering the Delhi Grill as a very casual lunch option.

          For dinner, does anyone have any thoughts about Quilon vs. Moti Mahal vs. Trishna?

          -----
          Quilon
          41 Buckingham Gate, London, Greater London SW1E 6, GB

          Moti Mahal
          45 Great Queen Street, London WC2B 5AA, GB

          1. re: amydeastbay
            zuriga1 Mar 25, 2011 10:43 AM

            Yes, Delhi Grill has been given great marks here by others.. I haven't gotten there yet as I live quite south of London.

            A few days ago, a real maven said Moti Mahal was one of the best meals he has EVER eaten, and Harters has eaten in a lot of great restaurants.

            -----
            Moti Mahal
            45 Great Queen Street, London WC2B 5AA, GB

            1. re: amydeastbay
              howler Mar 25, 2011 11:05 AM

              they're all different: quilon = keralan, moti mahal= north indian, trishna = mangalorean. think french vs italian vs spanish for example.

              trishna in mumbai was one of the only up market-ish places you could go out to eat mangalorean, but it went downhill (in mumbai) a decade ago.

              1. re: howler
                m
                Muchlove Aug 5, 2011 03:59 AM

                As I said on another thread, I thought Quilon was very overpriced and not a good example of Keralite food.

                -----
                Quilon
                41 Buckingham Gate, London, Greater London SW1E 6, GB

      2. h
        highburygal Mar 28, 2011 12:39 AM

        If you go by sheer weight of devoted mention by London's food bloggers the place to go is Tayyabs in Whitechapel.

        6 Replies
        1. re: highburygal
          m
          medgirl Mar 28, 2011 03:28 AM

          Tayyab's is not Indian: it is Pakistani. Great in its own right.

          1. re: medgirl
            d
            DietStartsTomorrow Aug 3, 2011 09:02 AM

            moti matal was amazing when i went there - had the tasting menu at £39 a head (i think) and it was pretty special.

            haven't been to quilon yet...anyone been recently and is it still good?

            1. re: medgirl
              s
              ShekhaV Aug 3, 2011 01:53 PM

              truesay - and would pick needoo over tayyabs anyway!

              surprisngly quite enjoyed a meal at woodlands in piccadilly for dosa and other south indian a couple of months back. moti mahal is pretty nice for dinner, cant help thinking they could turn up the flavour a notch though....cant help feeling a few dishes were a little bland when i went there

              1. re: ShekhaV
                t
                thewegie Aug 5, 2011 02:39 AM

                I think Moti Mahal has noticeably gone downhill. I first ate there about four years ago, and the place was marvellous. Husband and I took a friend there for dinner, and the food was so-so by comparison. The delicacy and preciseness of flavour that had been there had gone down several notches towards something much more like the usual "English Indian". I felt particularly let down by the Black Dhal, which I remembered as excellent, and which turned out to be a few lonely lentils swimming in a red sauce, and which wasn't a patch on the Nepalese Special Black Dhal that the Nepalese restaurant around the corner at home does. I had to repair across the road to Lowlander to have a Grottenbier to cheer myself up afterwards.

                -----
                Moti Mahal
                45 Great Queen Street, London WC2B 5AA, GB

                1. re: ShekhaV
                  h
                  Harters Aug 5, 2011 03:22 AM

                  We ate at Moti Mahal in June 2010. Without question, the best Indian food we've ever eaten. And one of the better meals, of any cuisine, of the whole year. Recommended without question.

                  1. re: ShekhaV
                    m
                    Muchlove Aug 5, 2011 04:01 AM

                    I thought woodlands was not bad, worth a shot anyway.

              2. prima Aug 6, 2011 09:07 PM

                I'm hoping to finally have lunch at Quilon. Which vegetarian and seafood dishes do you recommend the most that are offered on their set lunch menu? http://www.quilon.co.uk/menus/

                -----
                Quilon
                41 Buckingham Gate, London, Greater London SW1E 6, GB

                22 Replies
                1. re: prima
                  m
                  Muchlove Aug 6, 2011 11:40 PM

                  Seriously would recommend not bothering with Quilon. Just saying. When I went it was extremely expensive, it wasn't very tasty and it wasn't a good example of Keralite food, which by the way is delicious normally.

                  -----
                  Quilon
                  41 Buckingham Gate, London, Greater London SW1E 6, GB

                  1. re: Muchlove
                    howler Aug 7, 2011 07:56 AM

                    didn't you post almost exactly the same comment earlier?! and what is a good example of keralan cooking in london to you?

                    1. re: howler
                      zuriga1 Aug 7, 2011 08:54 AM

                      Just for my edification, is the proper adjective Keralan or Keralite? Keralite food sounds like a high protein shake!

                      1. re: zuriga1
                        h
                        Harters Aug 7, 2011 09:18 AM

                        I don't usually enjoy "lite" versions of things.

                        1. re: zuriga1
                          howler Aug 7, 2011 10:46 AM

                          'keralite' usually refers to the people of kerala, whereas keralan is anything that belongs to the state.

                          1. re: howler
                            m
                            Muchlove Aug 12, 2011 08:45 AM

                            Some people don't like the term Keralan and will correct you to Malayali or Keralite. I say Kerala cuisine or cuisine of Kerala!

                            Haven't eaten good Kerala food in London, this is my point. Apologies for making same comment twice, chowhound threads confuse me!

                            If you are determined to eat Kerala food in the UK, make some good friends or buy a good book! I can reccomend the book 'Grains, greens and grated coconuts" by Ammini Ramachandran. There are others too, Penguin India has a good book on the Essential Kerala cuisine. Failing that, go to Kerala - well worth it!

                            1. re: Muchlove
                              howler Aug 12, 2011 01:40 PM

                              malayali refers to speakers of malayalam, the predominant language of kerala. jewish indians in cochin are as much from kerala and they are emphatically not malayali.

                              you must have tremendous standards - much higher than us native indians who grew up with this cuisine and find quilon excellent.

                              1. re: howler
                                m
                                Muchlove Aug 13, 2011 01:12 AM

                                Wow, no need to be so snarky. Maybe we have different tastes? Maybe I had different dishes from you? There are many reasons why I may not have enjoyed it. For instance I'm vegetarian - maybe their fish/meat dishes are better.

                                Btw I am only telling you my experience with using the word Keralan to refer to things from Kerala. It's up to you what you make of that. I am aware of what Malayali is thank you.

                                Also, why does it matter that you are indian? Doesn't mean that you have excellent taste or that you should be the last word in everything that is to do with India. I have Indian ancestry, have travelled in India a lot and currently live in India. Doesn't make me an expert either but I'm still entitled to my opinion.

                                FWIW, I travelled a long way (from Bristol) to London just to go to Quilon. I was really excited and wanted it to be amazing. The service was lovely and the restaurant beautiful. But I was disappointed by the food that we were served. Several of the dishes were extremely average and very much like Indian take away food in flavour, type of dish and level of grease. Other dishes were at least different, but I felt that they lacked in flavour and were not worth the rather high price of the meal.

                                Quilon gets very high reviews on Trip Advisor so many people put it on their list of places to go in London. I was just sharing my experience. I didn't realise that saying anything that wasn't positive about a restaurant would result in such rudeness.

                                -----
                                Quilon
                                41 Buckingham Gate, London, Greater London SW1E 6, GB

                                1. re: Muchlove
                                  g
                                  gembellina Aug 13, 2011 04:05 AM

                                  well said

                                  1. re: Muchlove
                                    howler Aug 13, 2011 07:19 AM

                                    if i recall correctly, your very first opinion about quilon on these boards was that to someone like you, who'd spent a lot of time in kerala, it was overpriced, pretty bad and that you'd had much better for much cheaper.

                                    thats why i asked what you found better in london - surely you're not comparing prices in kerala with those in london are you? but perhaps you are, since you're recommendation is to buy a good book or get some good friends.

                                    the native indian bit was to point out that i have at least as much right to profess local expertise as compared with someone who has visited.

                                    there's no intention of being snarky - just trying to keep the facts straight. by all means, be as negative as you want about any restaurant - but if yours is a minority opinion, it deserves some explanation other than bland, contradictory assertions.

                                    1. re: howler
                                      m
                                      Muchlove Aug 13, 2011 08:03 AM

                                      I have spent a fair bit of time in Kerala and I enjoy cooking and eating Kerala food. I want others to as well, therefore this is why I said I did not think it was a good example of Keralite food - I didn't enjoy my meal there and was concerned that someone else might go there, have the same experience and therefore write off all food from Kerala as fairly ordinary or even perhaps the "same as all other Indian takeaway food".

                                      I did not say I had eaten Keralite food cheaper elsewhere - I just said it was expensive. Obviously it is much cheaper to eat out in Kerala and therefore I would not compare the price between the two places! But Quilon is quite a high class restaurant and the prices reflect that. I can say now that it is the single most expensive meal I have had in my life, because we do not dine out at "classy" places often. It was a treat for my birthday. As mentioned above, the service and atmosphere was just what you would expect for that price - excellent.

                                      My problem is that I did not think the food matched up to that. Some of it was like takeway food - north indian style, tasting very samey and oily. Some of it was an attempt at South Indian style (not just dishes from Kerala but also Tamil Nadu) but the dishes were very ordinary and lacking in flavour. Possibly we were unlucky in the selection of dishes we had, who knows - the menu was a set menu. A few things were pretty tasty but they could not make up for the less good dishes.

                                      I am not writing Quilon off completely. It is clear to me that they are going for a Michelin feel (I think they have a michelin star, no?) and their focus is not necessarily to always be serving South West Indian dishes. That's fine, and perhaps if I had understood that from the beginning, my experience would have been less disappointing. Who knows, I just wanted delicious food and a nice time.

                                      If it wasn't so out of my price range (and in the wrong country atm) I would definitely give it another shot. Perhaps I will explore their lunchtime options to see if something is cheaper. I still stand by my original comment that I was disappointed by the meal and did not think it was a shining example of Keralite food. And I also stick by my comment that such food is very easy to make at home and I am happy to recommend some books to anyone who is interested.

                                      -----
                                      Quilon
                                      41 Buckingham Gate, London, Greater London SW1E 6, GB

                                      1. re: Muchlove
                                        howler Aug 13, 2011 09:07 AM

                                        Here's your first post:

                                        "Contrary to what some people have said upthread, I just want to say here that I found Quilon to be overpriced and pretty bad. Supposedly Keralite food...hmm. As someone who has spent a lot of time in Kerala, I can say I have had MUCH better for MUCH cheaper. Not worth it at all."

                                        i don't know what you intended, but it very much reads that you've eaten better for less doesn't it?

                                        "therefore write off all food from Kerala as fairly ordinary or even perhaps the "same as all other Indian takeaway food"... - north indian style, tasting very samey and oily."

                                        are you really suggesting that someone eating at quilon might think its the same as all other indian takeaway food?! i find that quite incredible, with all due respect. and in the many, many times i've eaten there, i haven't seen a single north indian dish on the menu. if there is style drift, its an inclusion of some mangalorean or goan dishes, but to assert that quilon served you dishes that were "takeway food - north indian style, tasting very samey and oily" shocks me profoundly. which dishes, do you remember? i have had nothing but fresh, vibrant dishes deftly spiced.

                                        as for the expense issue, you should try the thali at lunch - very reasonably priced and utterly delicious. in fact, if you go and look at my earlier posts, you'll see that i always urge posters to try the veg thali, because vegetarian food is the glory of regional indian cuisines.

                                        we seem to have gone to utterly different restaurants.

                                        -----
                                        Quilon
                                        41 Buckingham Gate, London, Greater London SW1E 6, GB

                                        1. re: howler
                                          m
                                          Muchlove Aug 13, 2011 11:12 AM

                                          Two particular dishes smacked of typical takeaway food to me. There was chana masala and gobhi aloo that both tasted as if they were made with exactly the same gravy. Their inclusion in the meal surprised me as I was expecting specifically southern dishes but these had very northern spicing to them. We were also served very greasy paratha - not porotta which would have been a wonderful addition to a meal from Kerala. I can imagine that they included these dishes because they are familiar to most Westerners and are also popular - an understandable reason but not what I had hoped for.

                                          I'd have to dig out my notes to fully cover all the other dishes but I can remember a few off the top of my head that were disappointing. First the rasam - had almost no spicing to it and no sourness either. Rasam of all dishes should be a little punchy, or a lot if possible! I suspect this was toned down for western palates - again understandable but they could have given it spice and sourness and just made it less chilli hot. What we had was bland and salty. Then there was spinach poriyal. The spinach was very fresh but underseasoned (in terms of salt). In addition, it was missing the thing that makes poriyal so interesting - the urad and/or chana dal in the poppu that would have added texture and a nutty flavour to a very plain dish. Also interested that they went with a Tamil dish here. Spinach thoran would have been excellent - the meal was crying out for some coconut, as it was bizarrely used hardly at all. A nice thoran could have got the ball rolling - would have liked to see aviyal and erissery too.

                                          Well I've waffled on plenty about this. I was disappointed, and I've clearly stated why. It seems you have eaten there many more times than me and are clearly extremely passionate about the place. Perhaps we went on a bad night, or maybe we just didn't try their best dishes. Who knows. I can only tell you what happened to me. If a friend told me they were going to visit there and asked my advice I would caution them and tell them the same thing - it's a fair bit of money so I would want them to consider carefully.

                                          1. re: Muchlove
                                            howler Aug 13, 2011 02:14 PM

                                            that's better than an assertion. now we're getting somewhere, even though you really haven't explained the 'much better for much less' statement.

                                            why do you think that chickpeas masala is a north indian dish exclusively? it is a popular dish in kerala, for example

                                            http://recipes.malayali.me/veg-recipe...

                                            and similarly for potatoes and cauliflower.

                                            1. re: howler
                                              m
                                              Muchlove Aug 13, 2011 10:02 PM

                                              Sorry but this was definitely chana masala - aka not just chickpeas cooked with spices but chickpeas cooked with north Indian spices. That's why I identified it with a Hindi name. Kadala would have been an excellent and authentic Kerala dish to serve but this was not that. Actually it would have been fab to have been served puttu kadala but you can see why they're nervous about serving puttu to most Westerners - could still have served the kadala though.

                                              Same with the aloo gobhi. It was not cooked in a style that is native to the South West. It is true that you can eat these dishes in Kerala - in restaurants because people like to go out and eat generic North Indian food for a meal out ALL over India. Please also note that I also mentioned that these North Indian style dishes were not even tasty. I am happy to eat well cooked North Indian food!

                                              I'm not quite sure what you expect from me now. It seems clear to me that whatever I say you will challenge it, which I suppose is fair enough. You can question my retelling of the meal, you can be scornful about my knowledge of Indian food - I'll disagree with you but I can't actually stop you or change your mind. So at this stage I feel I should point out that you can't the fact that I had a bad experience at Quilon, for whatever reason. It's just the way it happened for me.

                                              -----
                                              Quilon
                                              41 Buckingham Gate, London, Greater London SW1E 6, GB

                                              1. re: Muchlove
                                                t
                                                t_g Aug 15, 2011 07:17 AM

                                                muchlove i appreciate yr input, you've been v patient! i would have given up w/ that conversation

                                        2. re: Muchlove
                                          j
                                          JFores Aug 13, 2011 06:55 PM

                                          Try Thattukada. Their rasam is nothing special though.

                                          1. re: JFores
                                            m
                                            Muchlove Aug 13, 2011 10:11 PM

                                            Thanks for the rec, I am interested in this place. The name itself signifies the stalls you get fast food from in Kerala so I would expect them to have killer dosa and parotta and would not necessarily even expect them to serve rasam. I will definitely try and check this place out when in the UK.

                                            1. re: Muchlove
                                              j
                                              JFores Aug 14, 2011 11:58 AM

                                              There's an immense thread on it.

                                            2. re: JFores
                                              s
                                              ShekhaV Aug 15, 2011 07:11 AM

                                              honestly I am astounded that this didn't get mentioned sooner throughout this debate. Thattukada is the obvious go-to for CHEAP authentic Keralan.

                                              just read your post Lord Brazing - that's surprising, as I am sure their (one) chef is the same! Will have to check it out, but will be very disapopinted if you're right :-(

                                    2. re: Muchlove
                                      j
                                      JFores Aug 12, 2011 07:21 PM

                                      .........

                                      Quilon, Thattukada and Aswathi are all incredible in their own way.

                                      -----
                                      Quilon
                                      41 Buckingham Gate, London, Greater London SW1E 6, GB

                                      1. re: JFores
                                        s
                                        ShekhaV Aug 15, 2011 07:42 AM

                                        Jus, what's incredible at Aswathi? Im sure you've told me before but refresh my memory?

                          2. l
                            Lord Brazing Aug 15, 2011 07:06 AM

                            My current favourite Indian is delivery-only Holy Cow. Lovely, chewy rotis, a great dish called parbate lamb (anyone know what parbat means? I think it refers to a Nepalese dialect). Prompt delivery too.

                            Not cheap at all, though, but I suppose you get what you pay for.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Lord Brazing
                              g
                              gembellina Aug 15, 2011 08:34 AM

                              Holy Cow does GREAT deliveries! Packed with meat, rather than the few stingy pieces you get from some places. As you say, it is expensive, but one dish is easily two meals.

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