Outside of India, London is one of the best places in the world to eat Indian food - and we’re not talking about that chicken bhuna you heated up in the microwave the other day. You can eat at homely curry houses, noisy Punjabi grills, and incredible high-end places that’ll give anything on the subcontinent a run for its rupees.
It’s worth noting that there are loads of great places in areas like Southall, East Ham, and Tooting, but that’s a list for another day. Here, we’re focusing on the best Indian restaurants in central London. Whatever the occasion, you’ll find an excellent option below.
Note: Gymkhana is currently closed for refurbishment.
There are two things you need to know about Trishna. The first is that it leans towards fish and seafood instead of meat, and the second is that it’s in Marylebone, so the price of admission is high. That said, a meal here is worth every penny. And while it will always be associated with its sister restaurant Gymkhana, Trishna is more laid back in appearance and service. It’s definitely one to book when you have a corporate card on hand or when that rich relative that you don’t talk to very often is in town.
Dishoom Carnaby is a 15 minute walk from its original Covent Garden location and we think that wander is a worthwhile one. The food is as reliably tasty as ever here - from that famous bacon naan in the morning to a chicken ruby at night - and the decor, based on a Bombay cafe-bar, splits proper sit down tables with a more comfortable lounge set-up. Making it as good for drinks and snacks as it is for a full slap-up meal.
Hoppers is special because it brings food that you’d normally have to schlep to Tooting for into a situation that’s pure Soho. The menu is drawn from Tamil and Sri Lankan influences, and while it’s hard to go wrong, you absolutely must eat an egg hopper (sort of like a bowl-shaped pancake you use to mop up curry and the bone marrow curry, washed down with a durian cream soda (trust us). Hoppers is always busy, but it’s worth the wait, and you can always grab a drink at one of these bars to pass the time.
Unlike other Indian restaurant options in Mayfair, Lucknow 49 doesn’t fall into the fussy or fancy bracket. It’s a modern, colourful, and cushion-happy restaurant that focuses on Awadhi food, which is a type of Northern Indian cuisine. If you need somewhere for a casual work lunch with a must-order yoghurt and lentil stuffed flatbread thrown in, Lucknow is your place. Or, if you’re after a classy but affordable date night that features a seriously good paneer kofta then you’ve found your spot.
There are plenty of posh Indian restaurants in London that are pretentious or stuffy or both. And while Jamavar is certainly an upmarket Indian restaurant in Mayfair, it’s neither of those things. The service is laidback, and the music will be pumping to the point that you’ll feel like you’re eating in a bling Hindi music video. Jamavar’s seafood game is particularly strong, but make sure not to skip their butter chicken. This is an experience that’s worth gathering your mates and putting on a fresh shirt for.
Restaurants around the corner from Oxford Circus tend to be one of three things: overpriced, overrated, or - worse - both. Bombay Bustle is none of those things. It’s a seriously good restaurant. You want to come with more people rather than less, as the kind of glitzy train carriage vibe suits a group getting a bit of biryani, a bit of dosa, some chops, a curry, and whatever else takes your fancy. Bombay Bustle is an excellent option and probably one of the tastiest as well.
Biryani is usually one of the best dishes on any Indian menu, and at Dum Biryani, it gets a big stage light, a pair of snakeskin trousers, and an epic guitar solo. It’s the star. The biryani you’ll eat at this Soho restaurant is the South Indian kind, and of the several on offer, the lamb shank is the one to get. Hit it with a few friends, and it’s also worth remembering that getting a table here is easier if Dishoom and Hoppers are quoting you a two-hour wait.
The food at Darjeeling Express is like the best home-cooked Indian meal you’ve ever had, but in a restaurant. The owner was simply making food for family and friends before opening the restaurant, and the cooks alongside her in the kitchen were all doing the same before starting here. The methi chicken curry and crunchy puchkas (pani puri) are can’t miss items, and it’s also very popular, so book ahead.
Sagar is a pure vegetarian Indian restaurant that specialises in the kind of food our South Indian friends would make at home, especially when they haven’t had us over for a while. The food is excellent, it’s easy to get a table, and it’s also in central London. The dosas and thalis are particularly fantastic, and order the papadi chat to share, which is a mixed salad of lightly fried bread, potatoes, yoghurt, and tangy tamarind sauce. You didn’t actually think we came here to eat vegetables, did you?
Gymkhana is London’s best Indian restaurant, and an essential restaurant to the city overall. The food is classic Indian that’s elevated, inventive, and absolutely mind blowing - but also stays true to each dish’s origins. The wild muntjac biryani is the standout from the menu, but even a simple dhal or crunchy rice bhel will be better than any you’ve had before. Unfortunately, dinner at Gymkhana is not a cheap affair. But if you want the experience and don’t want to spend loads, the £30 lunch menu is the way to go. However you do it, just do it.