Introducing someone to South Asian cuisine in London
Am racking my brains trying to think of the best place to introduce my (Greek) girlfriend to Indian and Pakistani cuisine. Amazingly, after 6 years of living in London she claims never to have sampled proper South Asian food. Should I just drop her in the deep end and take her to Tayyabs or Mirch Masala, or can someone name a good "gateway curry house"? Does anyone have any suggestions? I was thinking maybe Keralan restaurant might be a good starting point?
To make matters more complicated she's vegetarian so ideally somewhere with a good veggie selection would be appreciated. Damn it, why did Kastoori have to close?
As a Punjabi vegetarian who has lots of Greek (or should that be Hellenic) friends, I would offer a North Indian alternative to all the South Indian options mentioned.
North Indian cuisine has far more in common with Greek cuisine that South India. The problem is that most of the North Indian restaurants showcase non-veg. dishes. There are some excellent Gujarati restaurants in Harrow/Kenton, a couple of excellent Punjabi cafes in Southall but as Howler suggests the buffet at the Bombay Brasserie would be a great start.
Please do let us know how it goes and if you need any more info.
for keralan food what about rasa? the original restaurant in stoke newington was (is) vegetarian and i always think their veggie dishes are better than the fish or meat versions. however, i do think it's best to go in a group so you can try a mix of dishes including the pre-meal snacks with fresh pickles.
re: abby d
If you're going to go for Keralan and you wanted something more downmarket than Quilon than you might as well go to Thattukada. It looks far, but it's more accessible than Stoke Newington and the food is extremely good. Plenty written about it on the board, but I don't know if it's quite right for a full fledged beginner. Quilon seems perfect in this situation.
if your girlfriend is vegetarian, for goodness sakes dont take her to tayyabs or any 'curry house' (whatever that is).
take her to quilon for the lunch vegetarian thali. or take her to woodlands for tamilian iddli dosa. the bombay brasseries buffet on weekends is excellent, a steal, and has a proper vegetarian section that is reliably delicious. she'll be very happy.
truth to tell, the quality of vegetarian cooking is how one distinguishes gifted from average cooks in most indian cuisines.