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A pot of golden rice in a handi, a large aluminium cooking vessel, foil peeled back to reveal its cargo.
The majority of restaurants use a handi and/or aluminium vessels for biryani, such as the one here at Hyderabadi Zaiqa.
Advika Reddy

Where to Find the Best Biryanis in London

Rice, meat, spices, and vegetables — all layered to perfection

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The majority of restaurants use a handi and/or aluminium vessels for biryani, such as the one here at Hyderabadi Zaiqa.
| Advika Reddy

This isn’t just rice with some masala and garnishes. This is an emotion. This is the regal biryani. While the word “biryani” itself is said to be from the Persian “birian,” meaning “fried before cooking,” and “birinj,” meaning rice, the dish has numerous origins. One of the most popular stories can be traced back to the kitchen of Mumtaz Mahal, the wife of Shah Jahan who was the fifth Mughal emperor of India. When she visited the army barracks and saw the soldiers looking weak and undernourished, she asked the chef to make a dish with meat and rice for their balanced nutrition. And this very dish was spiced up and cooked over a wood fire.

In Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors, Lizzie Collingham writes that the modern-day biryani came from the Mughal empire’s royal kitchens, while historian Pushpesh Pant writes that biryani, which evolved in India, travelled with pilgrims and soldiers to Deccan in south India. Pratibha Karan in Biryani also writes that biryani originated from south India when varieties of pilaf were brought in by Arab traders.

Wherever the biryani came from, India has certainly embraced it. The subcontinent celebrates a wide variety of biryanis, with almost every state having its very own style and instilling a very deep passion for it in its people. And these very people have brought several such variations here, for the eaters of London.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Posto Indian

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Restaurateur Pritha Mukherjee’s mission is to serve food with a Kolkata vibe. And Posto Indian does just that. Tucked away in northwest London, this modern restaurant is known for its dum cooked Kolkata chicken and mutton biryani, which are heady with aromas of saffron, kebab chini (tailed pepper), and kewra essence (fragrant screw pine), and are served with boiled egg, salad, and masala jeera raita. The Kolkata style of biryani is unique in its addition of the potato, and well, who doesn’t love a soft potato basking in biryani spices.

Hyderabadi Spice

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A modest family restaurant where all the meat is halal, where every biryani order is made fresh using the dum style of cooking and served in handis along with raita and masala salan (gravy with no meat). Raw meat is marinated with their signature ground masala, including shahi jeera, cinnamon, fried onions, and cardamom. The special chicken biryani for two is an absolute whopper and comes decked with juicy chicken tikka pieces and boiled egg, while the regular dum biryani for one is served with rice and meat on the bone. It also serves fish, egg, vegetable, and prawn biryani, and, if too much spice is not someone’s game, the cooks will gladly alter the levels. 

Priya Maamala's

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This small eatery on the East Ham High Street is unassuming, not just because it’s sandwiched between two shops but because it resides beside the ornate golden gopuram (towered entrance) of the Sri Mahalakshmi Temple. For 10 years now, owner Bhaskar Rajmohan has tried to recreate what it is like to step into a local restaurant in Tamil Nadu featuring a backdrop of Tamil songs. Their biryani is cooked in the dum style for an hour using large aluminium pots, and as a result is moderately spicy, slightly moist, and soft. The chunky pieces of meat and vegetables are cooked just right and are laced with flavours of cardamom, ginger and garlic, a tinge of tomato, and fried onions, served with chicken curry, a boiled egg and onion raita. Maamala’s also offers a 50 percent discount for students on any main course. 

Thattukada

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The doors to Thattukada open up to huge photographs of vallam kali, the traditional boat race of the state. Husband-wife duo Biju Gopinath and Preethy Biju bring their state to life on the plate through their chicken biryani cooked in coconut oil, which is generously garnished with raisins, cashew nuts, and mint. This mild biryani is served with a boiled egg, onion and tomato raita, lemon pickle, and pappadam. Cooked fresh in the dum style for around 30-40 minutes in an aluminium vessel, the meat is tender and juicy and the long grain basmati rice is soft and fluffy, with the flavours of pepper, cardamom, cloves, and chilli powder in every bite. 

Taste of Punjab

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A Bhatti family has been serving the traditional taste of Punjab in North Kensington since 1991. This well-kept local secret is mostly for takeaways and a few seats remain for those who wish to eat in. The family chefs have their own style of making Punjabi biryani with chicken, lamb, vegetables, prawn, or paneer and is one of the few places that does not use the dum cooking and layering method. Instead, a regular pan, mixing the masalas with the meat and rice in a handi. The biryani is garnished with fried onions, coriander, tomato, and green peppers to add a pop of colour to the otherwise basic brown. Taste of Punjab also does a special Sindhi-style biryani for those who want a blend of hot, sour, and sweet flavours.

Chourangi

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A modern white exterior, large awning, and outdoor seating lead into a spacious cafe-like setting with enormous framed photographs of old Calcutta. Entrepreneur Aditya Ghosh and his childhood friend chef Anjan Chatterjee have been serving flavours from their hometown of old Calcutta right around the corner from Marble Arch station. Their chicken and mutton biryani, served in a black pot, brings old Calcutta to life on the palate. This is a mildly spiced biryani laden with potatoes, fried onions, and chunky pieces of meat, and the addition of boiled egg, vetiver, rose petals and saffron are a unique touch. The duo also does an Awadhi biryani, but the true speciality will always be the Kolkata biryani.   

Cinnamon Bazaar

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Chef Vivek Singh’s Cinnamon Bazaar adds to the colourful charm of Covent Garden with its Indian market-inspired decor. Their Lucknowi chicken biryani will make you feel like a member of royalty. Unlike other biryanis, their Lucknowi-style biryani cooks chicken that has been marinated in yoghurt, fried onions, and spices in its stock. Additions include Himalayan screw pine essence, saffron, ghee and rose water to the meat before being layered with rice for dum cooking to give it that rich taste. Cinnamon Bazaar also does away with the usual onion raita and the biryani is instead served with burani raita made with thick yoghurt, garlic, and red chillies. For even more indulgence, Cinnamon Bazaar runs bottomless biryani brunches. 

Silka Borough Market

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A set of stairs right beside Borough Market’s entrance lead to this modern Indian restaurant with contemporary minimalist decor, white tablecloths, and mellow lighting. Their Lucknowi biryani is rich and colourful with layers of masala, saffron, and tender chicken pieces, and is garnished with coriander and fried onions. Whole spices used in the dum cooking give the rice and chicken (or lamb/vegetables) a subtle yet rich flavour.

Rangrez Indian Restaurant

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While this restaurant’s Ealing branch has a modern Punjabi vibe, there is something quite charming about Hammersmith branch that has been running strong since 2013. There are upbeat Punjabi songs in the background and the restaurant is decked with colourful cushions and pillows that announce comfort. While Punjabi biryani is a new thing, chefs and restaurateurs Sushil Gupta and Harman Singh Kapoor have brought unique flavours from their home to the table. There is a refreshing freshness and a strong aroma in the Rangrez biryani due to the addition of saffron and kewra water, while the Indian Golden Sella Basmati rice brings a rich taste. To soothe the tongue after, there is always an accompaniment of the cooling cucumber raita.  

Pathiri

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Chef and owner Ameer Kutty has been running this humble restaurant for about eight years, which offers a taste of Malabari biryani. Abundant with raisins and cashew nuts, this dum-style biryani is rich in fried onions, and layers of white, yellow, and orange peek through thanks to the ground masala of the standard biryani spices. Also cooked in an aluminium vessel, the biryani is served with boiled egg, raita, pappadam, and lemon pickle. Delicately spiced, it is perfect for those who prefer something light.

Hyderabadi Zaiqa Indian Restaurant

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Tooting is a haven for South Asian food and this small restaurant on Upper Tooting Road has only been here for a little over a year and a half but captures Hyderabad in all its glory, including old-fashioned pictures of the city. Chef and owner Furkhanul Haque brings home the taste of Hyderabad through a single pot of biryani — choose from chicken, lamb, egg, vegetable, or prawn. Bigger portion sizes come with boiled eggs and pieces of soft chicken tikka or gobi 65. On weekdays between 12 p.m. and 5 p.m., the restaurant does a lunch deal of biryani and a cold drink for a lower price.

Madras Accent

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A cute little place with the ambience of a modern cafe, Madras Accent is only a 10-minute walk from Bromley South station. From paintings of the IPL team Chennai Super Kings to superstar actor Rajnikanth and an autorickshaw on its walls, Madras Accent seems to firmly root its ground to the city of Chennai. No doubt, its food does the same. Find chicken and mutton dum biryani cooked with freshly ground biryani masala, topped with coriander and a boiled egg and served with an onion raita and a mild aubergine curry. The succulent meat is entirely halal and soaks in the flavours of fragrant garam masala, tamarind, chilli powder, yoghurt and ghee. 

Posto Indian

Restaurateur Pritha Mukherjee’s mission is to serve food with a Kolkata vibe. And Posto Indian does just that. Tucked away in northwest London, this modern restaurant is known for its dum cooked Kolkata chicken and mutton biryani, which are heady with aromas of saffron, kebab chini (tailed pepper), and kewra essence (fragrant screw pine), and are served with boiled egg, salad, and masala jeera raita. The Kolkata style of biryani is unique in its addition of the potato, and well, who doesn’t love a soft potato basking in biryani spices.

Hyderabadi Spice

A modest family restaurant where all the meat is halal, where every biryani order is made fresh using the dum style of cooking and served in handis along with raita and masala salan (gravy with no meat). Raw meat is marinated with their signature ground masala, including shahi jeera, cinnamon, fried onions, and cardamom. The special chicken biryani for two is an absolute whopper and comes decked with juicy chicken tikka pieces and boiled egg, while the regular dum biryani for one is served with rice and meat on the bone. It also serves fish, egg, vegetable, and prawn biryani, and, if too much spice is not someone’s game, the cooks will gladly alter the levels. 

Priya Maamala's

This small eatery on the East Ham High Street is unassuming, not just because it’s sandwiched between two shops but because it resides beside the ornate golden gopuram (towered entrance) of the Sri Mahalakshmi Temple. For 10 years now, owner Bhaskar Rajmohan has tried to recreate what it is like to step into a local restaurant in Tamil Nadu featuring a backdrop of Tamil songs. Their biryani is cooked in the dum style for an hour using large aluminium pots, and as a result is moderately spicy, slightly moist, and soft. The chunky pieces of meat and vegetables are cooked just right and are laced with flavours of cardamom, ginger and garlic, a tinge of tomato, and fried onions, served with chicken curry, a boiled egg and onion raita. Maamala’s also offers a 50 percent discount for students on any main course. 

Thattukada

The doors to Thattukada open up to huge photographs of vallam kali, the traditional boat race of the state. Husband-wife duo Biju Gopinath and Preethy Biju bring their state to life on the plate through their chicken biryani cooked in coconut oil, which is generously garnished with raisins, cashew nuts, and mint. This mild biryani is served with a boiled egg, onion and tomato raita, lemon pickle, and pappadam. Cooked fresh in the dum style for around 30-40 minutes in an aluminium vessel, the meat is tender and juicy and the long grain basmati rice is soft and fluffy, with the flavours of pepper, cardamom, cloves, and chilli powder in every bite. 

Taste of Punjab

A Bhatti family has been serving the traditional taste of Punjab in North Kensington since 1991. This well-kept local secret is mostly for takeaways and a few seats remain for those who wish to eat in. The family chefs have their own style of making Punjabi biryani with chicken, lamb, vegetables, prawn, or paneer and is one of the few places that does not use the dum cooking and layering method. Instead, a regular pan, mixing the masalas with the meat and rice in a handi. The biryani is garnished with fried onions, coriander, tomato, and green peppers to add a pop of colour to the otherwise basic brown. Taste of Punjab also does a special Sindhi-style biryani for those who want a blend of hot, sour, and sweet flavours.

Chourangi

A modern white exterior, large awning, and outdoor seating lead into a spacious cafe-like setting with enormous framed photographs of old Calcutta. Entrepreneur Aditya Ghosh and his childhood friend chef Anjan Chatterjee have been serving flavours from their hometown of old Calcutta right around the corner from Marble Arch station. Their chicken and mutton biryani, served in a black pot, brings old Calcutta to life on the palate. This is a mildly spiced biryani laden with potatoes, fried onions, and chunky pieces of meat, and the addition of boiled egg, vetiver, rose petals and saffron are a unique touch. The duo also does an Awadhi biryani, but the true speciality will always be the Kolkata biryani.   

Cinnamon Bazaar

Chef Vivek Singh’s Cinnamon Bazaar adds to the colourful charm of Covent Garden with its Indian market-inspired decor. Their Lucknowi chicken biryani will make you feel like a member of royalty. Unlike other biryanis, their Lucknowi-style biryani cooks chicken that has been marinated in yoghurt, fried onions, and spices in its stock. Additions include Himalayan screw pine essence, saffron, ghee and rose water to the meat before being layered with rice for dum cooking to give it that rich taste. Cinnamon Bazaar also does away with the usual onion raita and the biryani is instead served with burani raita made with thick yoghurt, garlic, and red chillies. For even more indulgence, Cinnamon Bazaar runs bottomless biryani brunches. 

Silka Borough Market

A set of stairs right beside Borough Market’s entrance lead to this modern Indian restaurant with contemporary minimalist decor, white tablecloths, and mellow lighting. Their Lucknowi biryani is rich and colourful with layers of masala, saffron, and tender chicken pieces, and is garnished with coriander and fried onions. Whole spices used in the dum cooking give the rice and chicken (or lamb/vegetables) a subtle yet rich flavour.

Rangrez Indian Restaurant

While this restaurant’s Ealing branch has a modern Punjabi vibe, there is something quite charming about Hammersmith branch that has been running strong since 2013. There are upbeat Punjabi songs in the background and the restaurant is decked with colourful cushions and pillows that announce comfort. While Punjabi biryani is a new thing, chefs and restaurateurs Sushil Gupta and Harman Singh Kapoor have brought unique flavours from their home to the table. There is a refreshing freshness and a strong aroma in the Rangrez biryani due to the addition of saffron and kewra water, while the Indian Golden Sella Basmati rice brings a rich taste. To soothe the tongue after, there is always an accompaniment of the cooling cucumber raita.  

Pathiri

Chef and owner Ameer Kutty has been running this humble restaurant for about eight years, which offers a taste of Malabari biryani. Abundant with raisins and cashew nuts, this dum-style biryani is rich in fried onions, and layers of white, yellow, and orange peek through thanks to the ground masala of the standard biryani spices. Also cooked in an aluminium vessel, the biryani is served with boiled egg, raita, pappadam, and lemon pickle. Delicately spiced, it is perfect for those who prefer something light.

Hyderabadi Zaiqa Indian Restaurant

Tooting is a haven for South Asian food and this small restaurant on Upper Tooting Road has only been here for a little over a year and a half but captures Hyderabad in all its glory, including old-fashioned pictures of the city. Chef and owner Furkhanul Haque brings home the taste of Hyderabad through a single pot of biryani — choose from chicken, lamb, egg, vegetable, or prawn. Bigger portion sizes come with boiled eggs and pieces of soft chicken tikka or gobi 65. On weekdays between 12 p.m. and 5 p.m., the restaurant does a lunch deal of biryani and a cold drink for a lower price.

Madras Accent

A cute little place with the ambience of a modern cafe, Madras Accent is only a 10-minute walk from Bromley South station. From paintings of the IPL team Chennai Super Kings to superstar actor Rajnikanth and an autorickshaw on its walls, Madras Accent seems to firmly root its ground to the city of Chennai. No doubt, its food does the same. Find chicken and mutton dum biryani cooked with freshly ground biryani masala, topped with coriander and a boiled egg and served with an onion raita and a mild aubergine curry. The succulent meat is entirely halal and soaks in the flavours of fragrant garam masala, tamarind, chilli powder, yoghurt and ghee. 

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