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Venison doughnut with amaranth at Gunpowder Tower Bridge
Venison doughnut with amaranth at Gunpowder Tower Bridge
Gunpowder [Official Photo]

The Best Modern Indian Restaurants in London

From jackfruit kofta in Chelsea, to butter chicken wings in the City, and Kashmiri morel mushrooms with walnut powder, truffle cream and parmesan crisps in Mayfair

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Venison doughnut with amaranth at Gunpowder Tower Bridge
| Gunpowder [Official Photo]

London’s first Modern Indian — though the term was not in use at the time — was Bombay Brasserie, which opened in 1982. Until then, Indian restaurants were largely cheaper ‘curry houses’. True, there were a few exceptional contemporary venues (most have since closed), but they weren’t game-changers like Bombay Brasserie, which received global fame and attracted Hollywood A-listers.

During the 1990s and early 2000s, sisters Namita and Camellia Panjabi took over and relaunched Veeraswamy, and opened Chutney Mary and Amaya. These two visionary women were extraordinarily influential and changed the face of Indian fine dining, yet younger people know little about their restaurants beyond the Masala Zone chain.

So what is Modern Indian, as opposed to ‘modern Indian’ or ‘contemporary Indian’? It’s about the look and feel of the place, the thought and skill that goes into the cooking, the creativity and storytelling, the attitude and purpose behind it, how influential it is — and, yes, the money that’s been poured into it. This is what makes the term, coined sometime in the 1990s, hard to pin down.

Modern Indian restaurants are currently opening at an alarming rate in London with newer, younger chefs and restaurants making the décor and food lighter, brighter and more eclectic. They have become a playground for recently confident, globalised, wealthy, jet-setting Indians who divide their time between living in Mumbai and Mayfair. Whereas once London’s Indian chefs had to battle conservative attitudes in India and honed their creativity in London instead, now India itself is opening more and more Modern Indian places.

Note that a few restaurants from this category can also be found in the four regional Indian maps.

This is part four in a six-part series to regional Indian cuisine in London. Check out London’s best North Indian, Western Indian, Eastern Indian, and Southern Indian restaurants, too. An article explaining the ingredients, flavours, and preparations of each region will be published when the series is concluded.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Kricket White City

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101 Wood Ln, Shepherd's Bush
London W12 7FR, UK

Will Bowlby and Rik Campbell’s mini-chain started life in a Pop Brixton shipping container, then put down roots in Soho, and opened this White City branch in the revamped Television Centre a year ago. The venue is wrongly billed as ‘Ango-Indian’ — it doesn’t serve food of the Anglo-Indian community and is, in fact, British-Indian. This is the largest branch so far, with bright contemporary interior, comfy booths, open-view kitchen, and plant-filled terrace. There would probably be a riot if samphire pakoras were ever taken off the menu; and it’s easy to see why the tempura-like sticks of saline, bright green minerality, beautifully contrasted with a tamarind drizzle, have been such a hit. Another popular dish of Kerala fried chicken is also available; and the bigger menu at this branch offers rich pork shoulder vindaloo to share. Kricket is a good example of Indian food filtered through non-Indian lenses, done with knowledge and respect.

Indian small plates at Kricket Kricket [Official Photo]

2. Flora Indica

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242 Old Brompton Rd, Earl's Court
London SW5 0DE, UK

Flora Indica is the name of a book published in the 19th century that catalogued plant species discovered by Scottish botanists during the Victorian era. Set over two floors, this cosy, elegant restaurant in Earl’s Court pays tribute to that era, with Victorian glass and brass, Harris tweed, and a subtle yet notable botanical theme that’s most apparent on the extensive drinks menu. Chef Sameer Vasudeva’s cooking turns expectations on their head: a deeply rustic peasant dish of millet roti with stone-ground garlic-red chilli chutney comes on as a masala papad-like crisp, delicate, lacey pancake; and jerusalem artichoke crisps bring smokiness and lightness to an otherwise conventional papdi chaat. There are succulent Malwani king prawns with black radish; rich pulled duck pancakes with red amaranth; clove-spiked spinach and paneer ‘bonbon’; and whole stuffed bitter gourd in pumpkin and yoghurt sauce — with the citric, floral vibrancy of lime leaf pulao bringing all the tastes and textures together.

Lobster on a white plate with black sauce at Flora Indica Flora Indica [Official Photo]

3. Kutir

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10 Lincoln St, Chelsea
London SW3 2TS, UK

One of London’s best-known Indian chefs Rohit Ghai opened this impressive venue at the end of 2018, replacing was once another famous Modern Indian: Vineet Bhatia’s Rasoi (and later VBL). Alluding to themes of countryside, wildlife, and game hunting, Kutir means ‘a small cottage with thatched roof in the middle of a forest’ — a description somewhat at odds with the chintzy townhouse location in Chelsea, its elaborately printed wallpaper, heavy gilded mirrors, and artfully painted tiles. Any presuppositions are turned on their head when Gujarati dhokla arrive with apple slices and an entourage of salad leaves, a combination that works magnificently; and deep, dark venison cooked in mustard oil is paired with a decoratively scrunched-up paratha. Kashmiri lamb rogan josh, with an intriguing back note of stone flower spice, is served with Bihari-style mashed purple potato chokha; and jackfruit kofta startles with a tomato-onion sauce of a breathtaking depth of flavour.

Kashmiri lamb rogan josh at Kutir, a Modern Indian restaurant by chef Rohit Ghai in Chelsea
Kashmiri lamb rogan josh at Kutir
Stuart Milne

4. Kahani

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1 Wilbraham Pl, Belgravia
London SW1X 9AE, UK

While Mayfair’s Modern Indian restaurants are lively with bustle and chatter, not many people appear to have discovered this basement venue opposite Cadogan Hall in Chelsea: the spacious, attractively designed split-level restaurant had few customers on a recent visit. Reflecting the background of Chennai-born Peter Joseph, previously of Tamarind and Tamarind Kitchen, there are several South Indian-inspired plates on the menu, with an emphasis on dishes cooked in the tandoor and on a robata grill, to be served with minimal, but considered accompaniment. Octopus and calamari chaat balances sweet, tangy, bitter and sharp with its combination of grapefruit, sweet potatoes and kasundi mustard, while aubergine steak comes in peeled, mustard-crusted barrels topped with avocado chutney, the look and texture similar to pearlescent fish. Nagercoil cloves, grown in the Western Ghats outside Tamil Nadu, are noted for their heady perfume; here they lend their distinct flavour to tandoori lamb chops.

Spiced sea bream at Kahani, one of London’s best Modern Indian restaurants Kahani [Official Photo]

5. Amaya Grill and Bar

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Halkin Arcade, Off Lowndes St, Belgravia
London SW1X 8JT, UK

Namita and Camellia Panjabi’s Knightsbridge venue opened to exceptionally effusive reviews 15 years ago, and was the first Indian to make a feature of three major cooking techniques: tandoor, sigri grill, and tawa — an idea subsequently copied by several other restaurants. Chefs cooking theatrically line the entire back wall, bringing smoke, flame and drama to a sexy room that’s moodily lit with glass droplet chandeliers, candles and tealights. On a regularly-changing menu there might be khaki-green kababs with watercress, tangy with its stuffing of concentrated yoghurt and pickling spices; or whole masala lobster grilled and then stuffed back into its shell. Don’t miss gulab jamun cheesecake if available: a baroque extravaganza of puff pastry base and creamy cheesecake studded with pieces of own-made jamuns, crowned with toffee popcorn, cocoa powder, purple pansies, spun sugar straws, and rose syrup.

An elaborate dessert on a plate dusted with cocoa powder and fruit at Amaya in Belgravia

6. Jikoni

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19 - 21 Blandford St, Marylebone
London W1U 3DG, UK

Meaning ‘kitchen’ in Swahili, Ravinder Bhogal’s three-year old Marylebone gem has been a blast of fresh air in the male-dominated world of Modern Indian. Firstly there’s the imaginatively homely, unapologetically feminine look of pink walls, printed tablecloths and mirrorwork cushions that’s a far cry from ‘gentlemen’s club’ or ‘colonial’. Then there’s the menu full of influences and ingredients from South East Asia, Middle East, East Africa, and Britain. Bhel with sweet potatoes and apples is a marvellous balance of crunchy and tender, sweet and spicy. On a regularly changing menu, there might be delicate courgette flower tempura stuffed with Kerala-style crab and coriander-coconut chutney; and brightly spiced aubergine salad with caramelised (and currently fashionable) foxnuts. Warm, paan-flavoured madelines, served with Kenyan chai, are worth the wait it takes to bake them fresh. While many Modern Indian restaurants are stuck in the era of truffle oil and sun-dried tomatoes, the cooking here pushes the cuisine into the 21st century.

Jikoni, one of London’s best modern Indian restaurants

7. Benares

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12a Berkeley Square, Mayfair
London W1J 6BS, UK

Atul Kochhar was recently sacked by the restaurant that he founded; but Sameer Taneja, previously of Talli Joe and Kanishka, has recently joined the team. Otherwise this first floor Mayfair venue looks the same as ever: a lavish bar with a small pool of floating gerbera that’s a design motif copied by other Indian restaurants; and a spacious dining room with crisp white napery and wavy white walls, leading off to numerous plush private rooms. Pani puri, filled with sprouted beans and a squeezy bottle of fermented black carrot water on the side, is unusually displayed on a platter of dry urad beans and whole spices, street vendor-style. The unconventional addition of spiced buttermilk dressing livens up baby poussin cooked Chettinad-style; and a new dish of stuffed savoy cabbage moilee with coconut sauce and ridge gourd chutney is spectacular.

A delicate modern Indian dish at Benares in Mayfair Benares [Official Photo]

8. Chutney Mary

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73 St James's St, St. James's
London SW1A 1PH, UK

Ostentatious as a Bollywood babe’s wedding trousseau, this restaurant and bar is one of the most glamorous places to drink and dine in London. It moved to its current St James’s site a few years ago; but the original opened in Chelsea in a blaze of positive publicity in 1990. Owners Namita Panjabi and Ranjit Mathrani called it ‘Anglo-Indian’, a term used for someone with a mixed British and Indian ancestry, or their culture and cuisine, but here meant what eventually came to be known as Modern Indian. ‘Chutney Mary’ was a curious choice for a name though: a derogatory term for a girl from Bombay’s lower class who wears gaudy clothes and speaks in a fake accent to appear more sophisticated. It was the first restaurant to highlight the regional origin of every dish it served. Today, instead of breaking new ground, the menu is littered with items found in other Indian restaurants, like as tokri chaat and truffle khichdi — though they’re done very well. There’s a Goa On The Rocks cocktail from the original 1990 drinks list, but barely any food from that era.

Chutney Mary’s thali, one of the best Modern Indian restaurant dishes in London

9. Veeraswamy

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Victory House, 99-101 Regent St, Mayfair
London W1B 4RS, UK

Open in its current location since 1926, this opulent first floor venue overlooking Regent Street is London’s oldest surviving Indian restaurant. It didn’t come into prominence until it was taken over by Namita and Camellia Panjabi’s Chutney Mary Group in 1997; and, in particular, after it was refurbished and relaunched in 2006. The historic site was originally set up by retired army officer Edward Palmer — its story is the stuff of legend that needs to be told another time, and perhaps turned into a BBC costume drama. Strikingly coloured glass chandeliers and decorative screens of maharajas’s palaces of the 1920s is the perfect backdrop to mulligatawny soup with an amazing depth of flavour, and fragrant lamb biryani — both of which are cooked to recipes from the original 1926 menu. More contemporary dishes include tamarind-varnished venison and quail scotch eggs.

Dal at Veeraswamy, one of London’s best Modern Indian restaurants Veeraswamy [Official Photo]

10. Tamarind Kitchen

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167-169 Wardour St, Soho
London W1F 8WR, UK

A cheaper, more casual offshoot of the famous Tamarind, the best thing about this restaurant is that it welcomes walk-ins with open arms. It’s a dimly lit space, with dark wood, ornate artwork, and an extravagant display of fresh flowers. Although the menus at the two venues are different, some items overlap and are less expensive here than at the Mayfair original. Mini raj kachori is vigorously spiced and over-stuffed with sev, pomegranate seeds and sweetened yoghurt, just as it should be; and there’s wonderfully nuanced Hyderabadi kofta in almond and white poppy seed gravy. Hot, sweet pickled prawn balchao has been reimagined as a tandoori grill; and Chettinad chicken reimagined as biryani — but it all works beautifully. A simple side dish of ‘Jaipuri’ fried baby potatoes with a light dusting of chaat masala steals the limelight from some of the fancier items.

Lamb chop at Tamarind Kitchen Tamarind Kitchen [Official Photo]

11. Farzi Cafe

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8 Haymarket
London SW1Y 4BP, UK

The curiously-named Farzi — the word means ‘fake’ in Urdu — is a renowned Modern Indian chain in India owned by Zorawar Kalra, the son of the late, legendary food expert Jiggs Kalra. It launched with fanfare in Piccadilly’s touristy Haymarket early in 2019; but the unusual choice of location gives it a casual walk-in-off-the-street, all-comers-welcome feel. There’s dark wood, bright lights, and shiny surfaces everywhere, including a glittery cocktail bar. Early reviews were lukewarm; but since then the chef has changed, and so has some of the menu. Recently appointed Nikhil Mahale’s cooking is vibrant, often thrilling, with layers of complex spicing in tamarind and coriander water that comes with pani poori; and Andhra-style red chilli and lentil chutney that makes ‘paneer popcorn’ moreish. Western menu staples like roast beef marrow, tuna tartare, and fish and chips have been given a masala makeover.

Puri at Farzi Cafe on Haymarket in London

12. The Cinnamon Club

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The Old Westminster Library, Great Smith St, Westminster
London SW1P 3BU, UK

Iqbal Wahhab launched this upscale Indian in 2001, but it wasn’t long before he left; it’s now very much executive chef Vivek Singh’s baby. Located in a magnificent Grade II listed building of the former Westminster Library, a large space with two bars set over two floors, the book-lined dining room has a cinematic feel, with bright white walls, bright white tablecloths and bright lights. The former gentlemen’s club décor, beloved of the MPs who regularly dine here, has given way to lighter space that makes diners feel like they’re in a movie. ‘Bombay-style vegetables’ with truffled pao and jerusalem artichoke crisps is essentially pao bhaji with a culinary college education. The restaurant is famous for game and fish dishes, such as lobster with kokum dip and dried shrimp chutney; and tandoori venison loin with fenugreek and robust black stone flower reduction. The spicing is spirited, and the sheer variety of speciality ingredients and techniques is dazzling.

13. Brigadiers

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1-5 Bloomberg Arcade
London EC4N 8AR, UK

Probably the best place to eat and drink in the City’s renowned Bloomberg Arcade, this smart sports bar is inspired by Indian army mess bars popular with military regiments — but also has the good looks, shiny surfaces, and sturdy furniture of classic British gentlemen’s clubs. Like other Indian pubs and bars, the emphasis is on kababs, chops, chaats, sandwiches, and barbecue dishes that are handy to pick up and eat while eyes are focused on the screen. Glazed puff pastries filled with gorgeously spiced guinea fowl come with fragrant green chutney for dipping; and a chaat of lotus root slices and puffed lotus seeds balances the tangy with the savoury. Mashed aubergines with toasted sweetcorn on miniature Rajasthani chickpea flour flatbreads have a deep smokiness that doesn’t overpower the spicing; and lamb kababs are juicy and properly charred on all sides. This is superlative snacking.

Kebabs on a white plate at Brigadiers, one of London’s best Modern Indian restaurants — owed by JKS Restaurants, the group behind Michelin-starred Gymkhana and Trishna, as well as Hoppers in Soho and Marylebone
Kababs at Brigadiers
Tomas Jivanda/Eater London

14. Gunpowder Tower Bridge

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4 Duchess Walk
London SE1 2SD, UK

Harneet and Devina Baweja’s widely trumpeted Kolkata-style bakery called Custard didn’t quite come off, but this second branch of Gunpowder has opened in its place at the One Tower Bridge development. Yes, soft-serve custard is still on the menu, if anyone wants a taste of what might have been, but before getting to it, there’s a succession of lively small plates. Grilled wild blackwater oysters are successfully paired with curry leaf butter, fish roe, and garlic; glorious venison and vermicelli doughnuts are pepped up with fennel and chilli chutney. A vivid red pepper sauce brings out the smokiness of grilled artichoke hearts; and the richness of whole duck leg is offset by the sweetness of parsnips and the animated spicing of Andhra tomato sambal. The bright venue is noisy and crowded but a lot of fun, and is a rare Indian to serve orange wine.

Venison doughnut with amaranth at Gunpowder Tower Bridge Gunpowder [Official Photo]

1. Kricket White City

101 Wood Ln, Shepherd's Bush, London W12 7FR, UK
Indian small plates at Kricket Kricket [Official Photo]

Will Bowlby and Rik Campbell’s mini-chain started life in a Pop Brixton shipping container, then put down roots in Soho, and opened this White City branch in the revamped Television Centre a year ago. The venue is wrongly billed as ‘Ango-Indian’ — it doesn’t serve food of the Anglo-Indian community and is, in fact, British-Indian. This is the largest branch so far, with bright contemporary interior, comfy booths, open-view kitchen, and plant-filled terrace. There would probably be a riot if samphire pakoras were ever taken off the menu; and it’s easy to see why the tempura-like sticks of saline, bright green minerality, beautifully contrasted with a tamarind drizzle, have been such a hit. Another popular dish of Kerala fried chicken is also available; and the bigger menu at this branch offers rich pork shoulder vindaloo to share. Kricket is a good example of Indian food filtered through non-Indian lenses, done with knowledge and respect.

101 Wood Ln, Shepherd's Bush
London W12 7FR, UK

2. Flora Indica

242 Old Brompton Rd, Earl's Court, London SW5 0DE, UK
Lobster on a white plate with black sauce at Flora Indica Flora Indica [Official Photo]

Flora Indica is the name of a book published in the 19th century that catalogued plant species discovered by Scottish botanists during the Victorian era. Set over two floors, this cosy, elegant restaurant in Earl’s Court pays tribute to that era, with Victorian glass and brass, Harris tweed, and a subtle yet notable botanical theme that’s most apparent on the extensive drinks menu. Chef Sameer Vasudeva’s cooking turns expectations on their head: a deeply rustic peasant dish of millet roti with stone-ground garlic-red chilli chutney comes on as a masala papad-like crisp, delicate, lacey pancake; and jerusalem artichoke crisps bring smokiness and lightness to an otherwise conventional papdi chaat. There are succulent Malwani king prawns with black radish; rich pulled duck pancakes with red amaranth; clove-spiked spinach and paneer ‘bonbon’; and whole stuffed bitter gourd in pumpkin and yoghurt sauce — with the citric, floral vibrancy of lime leaf pulao bringing all the tastes and textures together.

242 Old Brompton Rd, Earl's Court
London SW5 0DE, UK

3. Kutir

10 Lincoln St, Chelsea, London SW3 2TS, UK
Kashmiri lamb rogan josh at Kutir, a Modern Indian restaurant by chef Rohit Ghai in Chelsea
Kashmiri lamb rogan josh at Kutir
Stuart Milne

One of London’s best-known Indian chefs Rohit Ghai opened this impressive venue at the end of 2018, replacing was once another famous Modern Indian: Vineet Bhatia’s Rasoi (and later VBL). Alluding to themes of countryside, wildlife, and game hunting, Kutir means ‘a small cottage with thatched roof in the middle of a forest’ — a description somewhat at odds with the chintzy townhouse location in Chelsea, its elaborately printed wallpaper, heavy gilded mirrors, and artfully painted tiles. Any presuppositions are turned on their head when Gujarati dhokla arrive with apple slices and an entourage of salad leaves, a combination that works magnificently; and deep, dark venison cooked in mustard oil is paired with a decoratively scrunched-up paratha. Kashmiri lamb rogan josh, with an intriguing back note of stone flower spice, is served with Bihari-style mashed purple potato chokha; and jackfruit kofta startles with a tomato-onion sauce of a breathtaking depth of flavour.

10 Lincoln St, Chelsea
London SW3 2TS, UK

4. Kahani

1 Wilbraham Pl, Belgravia, London SW1X 9AE, UK
Spiced sea bream at Kahani, one of London’s best Modern Indian restaurants Kahani [Official Photo]

While Mayfair’s Modern Indian restaurants are lively with bustle and chatter, not many people appear to have discovered this basement venue opposite Cadogan Hall in Chelsea: the spacious, attractively designed split-level restaurant had few customers on a recent visit. Reflecting the background of Chennai-born Peter Joseph, previously of Tamarind and Tamarind Kitchen, there are several South Indian-inspired plates on the menu, with an emphasis on dishes cooked in the tandoor and on a robata grill, to be served with minimal, but considered accompaniment. Octopus and calamari chaat balances sweet, tangy, bitter and sharp with its combination of grapefruit, sweet potatoes and kasundi mustard, while aubergine steak comes in peeled, mustard-crusted barrels topped with avocado chutney, the look and texture similar to pearlescent fish. Nagercoil cloves, grown in the Western Ghats outside Tamil Nadu, are noted for their heady perfume; here they lend their distinct flavour to tandoori lamb chops.

1 Wilbraham Pl, Belgravia
London SW1X 9AE, UK

5. Amaya Grill and Bar

Halkin Arcade, Off Lowndes St, Belgravia, London SW1X 8JT, UK
An elaborate dessert on a plate dusted with cocoa powder and fruit at Amaya in Belgravia

Namita and Camellia Panjabi’s Knightsbridge venue opened to exceptionally effusive reviews 15 years ago, and was the first Indian to make a feature of three major cooking techniques: tandoor, sigri grill, and tawa — an idea subsequently copied by several other restaurants. Chefs cooking theatrically line the entire back wall, bringing smoke, flame and drama to a sexy room that’s moodily lit with glass droplet chandeliers, candles and tealights. On a regularly-changing menu there might be khaki-green kababs with watercress, tangy with its stuffing of concentrated yoghurt and pickling spices; or whole masala lobster grilled and then stuffed back into its shell. Don’t miss gulab jamun cheesecake if available: a baroque extravaganza of puff pastry base and creamy cheesecake studded with pieces of own-made jamuns, crowned with toffee popcorn, cocoa powder, purple pansies, spun sugar straws, and rose syrup.

Halkin Arcade, Off Lowndes St, Belgravia
London SW1X 8JT, UK

6. Jikoni

19 - 21 Blandford St, Marylebone, London W1U 3DG, UK
Jikoni, one of London’s best modern Indian restaurants

Meaning ‘kitchen’ in Swahili, Ravinder Bhogal’s three-year old Marylebone gem has been a blast of fresh air in the male-dominated world of Modern Indian. Firstly there’s the imaginatively homely, unapologetically feminine look of pink walls, printed tablecloths and mirrorwork cushions that’s a far cry from ‘gentlemen’s club’ or ‘colonial’. Then there’s the menu full of influences and ingredients from South East Asia, Middle East, East Africa, and Britain. Bhel with sweet potatoes and apples is a marvellous balance of crunchy and tender, sweet and spicy. On a regularly changing menu, there might be delicate courgette flower tempura stuffed with Kerala-style crab and coriander-coconut chutney; and brightly spiced aubergine salad with caramelised (and currently fashionable) foxnuts. Warm, paan-flavoured madelines, served with Kenyan chai, are worth the wait it takes to bake them fresh. While many Modern Indian restaurants are stuck in the era of truffle oil and sun-dried tomatoes, the cooking here pushes the cuisine into the 21st century.

19 - 21 Blandford St, Marylebone
London W1U 3DG, UK

7. Benares

12a Berkeley Square, Mayfair, London W1J 6BS, UK
A delicate modern Indian dish at Benares in Mayfair Benares [Official Photo]

Atul Kochhar was recently sacked by the restaurant that he founded; but Sameer Taneja, previously of Talli Joe and Kanishka, has recently joined the team. Otherwise this first floor Mayfair venue looks the same as ever: a lavish bar with a small pool of floating gerbera that’s a design motif copied by other Indian restaurants; and a spacious dining room with crisp white napery and wavy white walls, leading off to numerous plush private rooms. Pani puri, filled with sprouted beans and a squeezy bottle of fermented black carrot water on the side, is unusually displayed on a platter of dry urad beans and whole spices, street vendor-style. The unconventional addition of spiced buttermilk dressing livens up baby poussin cooked Chettinad-style; and a new dish of stuffed savoy cabbage moilee with coconut sauce and ridge gourd chutney is spectacular.

12a Berkeley Square, Mayfair
London W1J 6BS, UK

8. Chutney Mary

73 St James's St, St. James's, London SW1A 1PH, UK
Chutney Mary’s thali, one of the best Modern Indian restaurant dishes in London

Ostentatious as a Bollywood babe’s wedding trousseau, this restaurant and bar is one of the most glamorous places to drink and dine in London. It moved to its current St James’s site a few years ago; but the original opened in Chelsea in a blaze of positive publicity in 1990. Owners Namita Panjabi and Ranjit Mathrani called it ‘Anglo-Indian’, a term used for someone with a mixed British and Indian ancestry, or their culture and cuisine, but here meant what eventually came to be known as Modern Indian. ‘Chutney Mary’ was a curious choice for a name though: a derogatory term for a girl from Bombay’s lower class who wears gaudy clothes and speaks in a fake accent to appear more sophisticated. It was the first restaurant to highlight the regional origin of every dish it served. Today, instead of breaking new ground, the menu is littered with items found in other Indian restaurants, like as tokri chaat and truffle khichdi — though they’re done very well. There’s a Goa On The Rocks cocktail from the original 1990 drinks list, but barely any food from that era.

73 St James's St, St. James's
London SW1A 1PH, UK

9. Veeraswamy

Victory House, 99-101 Regent St, Mayfair, London W1B 4RS, UK
Dal at Veeraswamy, one of London’s best Modern Indian restaurants Veeraswamy [Official Photo]

Open in its current location since 1926, this opulent first floor venue overlooking Regent Street is London’s oldest surviving Indian restaurant. It didn’t come into prominence until it was taken over by Namita and Camellia Panjabi’s Chutney Mary Group in 1997; and, in particular, after it was refurbished and relaunched in 2006. The historic site was originally set up by retired army officer Edward Palmer — its story is the stuff of legend that needs to be told another time, and perhaps turned into a BBC costume drama. Strikingly coloured glass chandeliers and decorative screens of maharajas’s palaces of the 1920s is the perfect backdrop to mulligatawny soup with an amazing depth of flavour, and fragrant lamb biryani — both of which are cooked to recipes from the original 1926 menu. More contemporary dishes include tamarind-varnished venison and quail scotch eggs.

Victory House, 99-101 Regent St, Mayfair
London W1B 4RS, UK

10. Tamarind Kitchen

167-169 Wardour St, Soho, London W1F 8WR, UK
Lamb chop at Tamarind Kitchen Tamarind Kitchen [Official Photo]

A cheaper, more casual offshoot of the famous Tamarind, the best thing about this restaurant is that it welcomes walk-ins with open arms. It’s a dimly lit space, with dark wood, ornate artwork, and an extravagant display of fresh flowers. Although the menus at the two venues are different, some items overlap and are less expensive here than at the Mayfair original. Mini raj kachori is vigorously spiced and over-stuffed with sev, pomegranate seeds and sweetened yoghurt, just as it should be; and there’s wonderfully nuanced Hyderabadi kofta in almond and white poppy seed gravy. Hot, sweet pickled prawn balchao has been reimagined as a tandoori grill; and Chettinad chicken reimagined as biryani — but it all works beautifully. A simple side dish of ‘Jaipuri’ fried baby potatoes with a light dusting of chaat masala steals the limelight from some of the fancier items.

167-169 Wardour St, Soho
London W1F 8WR, UK

11. Farzi Cafe

8 Haymarket, London SW1Y 4BP, UK
Puri at Farzi Cafe on Haymarket in London

The curiously-named Farzi — the word means ‘fake’ in Urdu — is a renowned Modern Indian chain in India owned by Zorawar Kalra, the son of the late, legendary food expert Jiggs Kalra. It launched with fanfare in Piccadilly’s touristy Haymarket early in 2019; but the unusual choice of location gives it a casual walk-in-off-the-street, all-comers-welcome feel. There’s dark wood, bright lights, and shiny surfaces everywhere, including a glittery cocktail bar. Early reviews were lukewarm; but since then the chef has changed, and so has some of the menu. Recently appointed Nikhil Mahale’s cooking is vibrant, often thrilling, with layers of complex spicing in tamarind and coriander water that comes with pani poori; and Andhra-style red chilli and lentil chutney that makes ‘paneer popcorn’ moreish. Western menu staples like roast beef marrow, tuna tartare, and fish and chips have been given a masala makeover.

8 Haymarket
London SW1Y 4BP, UK

12. The Cinnamon Club

The Old Westminster Library, Great Smith St, Westminster, London SW1P 3BU, UK

Iqbal Wahhab launched this upscale Indian in 2001, but it wasn’t long before he left; it’s now very much executive chef Vivek Singh’s baby. Located in a magnificent Grade II listed building of the former Westminster Library, a large space with two bars set over two floors, the book-lined dining room has a cinematic feel, with bright white walls, bright white tablecloths and bright lights. The former gentlemen’s club décor, beloved of the MPs who regularly dine here, has given way to lighter space that makes diners feel like they’re in a movie. ‘Bombay-style vegetables’ with truffled pao and jerusalem artichoke crisps is essentially pao bhaji with a culinary college education. The restaurant is famous for game and fish dishes, such as lobster with kokum dip and dried shrimp chutney; and tandoori venison loin with fenugreek and robust black stone flower reduction. The spicing is spirited, and the sheer variety of speciality ingredients and techniques is dazzling.

The Old Westminster Library, Great Smith St, Westminster
London SW1P 3BU, UK

13. Brigadiers

1-5 Bloomberg Arcade, London EC4N 8AR, UK
Kebabs on a white plate at Brigadiers, one of London’s best Modern Indian restaurants — owed by JKS Restaurants, the group behind Michelin-starred Gymkhana and Trishna, as well as Hoppers in Soho and Marylebone
Kababs at Brigadiers
Tomas Jivanda/Eater London

Probably the best place to eat and drink in the City’s renowned Bloomberg Arcade, this smart sports bar is inspired by Indian army mess bars popular with military regiments — but also has the good looks, shiny surfaces, and sturdy furniture of classic British gentlemen’s clubs. Like other Indian pubs and bars, the emphasis is on kababs, chops, chaats, sandwiches, and barbecue dishes that are handy to pick up and eat while eyes are focused on the screen. Glazed puff pastries filled with gorgeously spiced guinea fowl come with fragrant green chutney for dipping; and a chaat of lotus root slices and puffed lotus seeds balances the tangy with the savoury. Mashed aubergines with toasted sweetcorn on miniature Rajasthani chickpea flour flatbreads have a deep smokiness that doesn’t overpower the spicing; and lamb kababs are juicy and properly charred on all sides. This is superlative snacking.

1-5 Bloomberg Arcade
London EC4N 8AR, UK

14. Gunpowder Tower Bridge

4 Duchess Walk, London SE1 2SD, UK
Venison doughnut with amaranth at Gunpowder Tower Bridge Gunpowder [Official Photo]

Harneet and Devina Baweja’s widely trumpeted Kolkata-style bakery called Custard didn’t quite come off, but this second branch of Gunpowder has opened in its place at the One Tower Bridge development. Yes, soft-serve custard is still on the menu, if anyone wants a taste of what might have been, but before getting to it, there’s a succession of lively small plates. Grilled wild blackwater oysters are successfully paired with curry leaf butter, fish roe, and garlic; glorious venison and vermicelli doughnuts are pepped up with fennel and chilli chutney. A vivid red pepper sauce brings out the smokiness of grilled artichoke hearts; and the richness of whole duck leg is offset by the sweetness of parsnips and the animated spicing of Andhra tomato sambal. The bright venue is noisy and crowded but a lot of fun, and is a rare Indian to serve orange wine.

4 Duchess Walk
London SE1 2SD, UK

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