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A selection of Awadhi dishes at Lucknow 49 in Mayfair — one of the best North Indian restaurants in London
A selection of Awadhi dishes at Lucknow 49 in Mayfair
Cole Wilson/for Eater London

London’s Best North Indian Restaurants

Punjabi, Lucknowi, Kashmiri, and North East Indian cuisines in all their glory

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A selection of Awadhi dishes at Lucknow 49 in Mayfair
| Cole Wilson/for Eater London

When people outside India talk about Indian food, they usually mean North Indian, and specifically Punjabi. Other than pure deliciousness, and the universal appeal of food cooked in a tomato, onion, and garlic base, it’s not clear why Punjabi is the most popular Indian cuisine both in and out of India — perhaps the proximity of Delhi, the capital, could have something to do with the dominance of this region over others.

Another reason may be the way eating out culture has historically developed in the sub-continent. Until the 20th century, in a conservative society with religious and Ayurvedic rules about what one could and couldn’t eat, many Indians disapproved of dining out — and cheap and cheerful dhabas, the roadside cafés that serve Punjabi truck drivers, were among the very first restaurants in India.

In the U.K., it was largely these dhaba recipes that the early Bangladeshi restaurateurs adapted in the early 1900s combining their own traditions and available ingredients at the time, creating a sort of Punjabi-Bangladeshi-British hybrid that was the mainstay of Indian restaurants for decades.

This round-up of London’s best North Indian restaurants includes 11 Punjabi, one Lucknowi, one Kashmiri, and two restaurants serving North East Indian cuisine.

This is the second article in a seven-part series covering regional Indian cuisine in London. The first is a guide to the best Indian restaurants in London right now. 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. Roxy New Asian Tandoori Centre

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114-118 The Green
Southall UB2 4BQ, UK

Until a decade ago, this Southall stalwart, once known as Sagoo & Takhar, was the area’s most famous Punjabi restaurant. The standards are inconsistent now, and the place is quieter. However, it’s worth coming here for the one classic dish that it does better than anywhere else: sarson ka saag aur makki di roti. This rich, warming winter dish of mustard greens accompanied by sunflower-yellow cornmeal flatbreads, so beloved of Punjabi farmers, gets ex-pats misty-eyed with nostalgia. The leafy greens are ground into a thick paste and cooked in plenty of ghee with turnips or kohlrabi; a shower of ginger juliennes to cut through their bitter, peppery, astringent minerality. The best time to eat here is early in the day when the saag is freshly cooked and at its vibrant best. The large flatbread section is also superb; fenugreek leaf paratha being particularly alluring.

Roti at Roxy’s, one of the best north Indian restaurants in London Harkaran Gill

2. Noormahal Sweets

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135 The Broadway
Southall UB1 1LW, UK

This modest mithai and namkeen shop has only a few tables as it’s primarily a takeaway, with packs of own-made sweets and nibbles stacked high on bright red shelves. Oversized suterfeni sit on countertops like bales of hay, along with pistachio-dressed slabs of mohanthal, halwas and barfis. However, the Punjabi samosas (there are several regional variations) are what everyone comes here for: good-sized but not bloated, with pastry that’s neither too thick nor too thin, and a balanced ratio of potato-to-pea filling. Most importantly, the spicing is as it should be, with whole coriander seeds, fennel seeds, and crushed dried pomegranate seeds (often missing in inferior versions.) The flavour is nuanced, with no over-powering chillies or masalas. There are excellent curries too, notably kidney bean, and spinach — but the samosas are the main draw.

Mithai on the counter at Noormahal Sweets, one of the best north Indian restaurants in London Sejal Sukhadwala

3. Madhu's

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39 South Rd
Southall UB1 1SW, UK

This smart two-floor Southall venue is all clean lines and glossy surfaces. It’s been around for four decades — opened by the then 16- and 17-year-old siblings, Sanjeev and Sanjay Anand, whose grandfather Bishan Das Anand founded the well-regarded Brilliant Hotel in Nairobi. Madhu’s was their father Jagdish Kumar’s nickname; and in the early days, their mother Krishna Kumari was the head chef. Kenyan influences abound in dishes such as yoghurt-marinated baby poussin, and tender lamb ribs laminated with chilli and lemon. Fresh coriander-flecked pakoras in fennel-flavoured yoghurt kadhi, slender aubergines on a stem with baby potatoes, and butter chicken made to an old family recipe are among the most popular dishes. Cauliflower with fenugreek leaves is as good as what might be found in a Punjabi home kitchen; and dal makhani quietly trumps flashier versions found elsewhere. Don’t miss Punjabi samosas made with beautifully flaky ‘khasta’ pastry.

A range of dishes at Madhu’s, one of the best north Indian restaurants in London Madhu’s [Official Photo]

4. African Queen

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315-317 Wellington Rd S
Hounslow TW4 5HL, UK

Located away from the main drag of the High Street in Hounslow, this curiously named Punjabi sports bar (there’s no connection with Africa), can be tricky to find but is well worth the effort. There’s a tiny bar at the front leading to differently sized dining rooms with TV screens showing cricket and football. ‘Punjabi papad’, topped with so many finely chopped tomatoes, onions, coriander leaves (and a sprightly sprinkling of chaat masala) they’re almost like a salad; and deep-fried, battered cubes of Amritsari tilapia are juicy and moreish. Succulent masala lamb chops pop with ginger, garlic, chillies, and black peppercorns; and there’s excellent tandoori paneer tikka made from very soft, freshly made cheese. Feisty curries can be found, too, including red kidney bean, and egg — but like in all Indian pubs, snacks and sizzling mixed grills are the things to go for.

Masala lamb chops and feisty curries at one of the best north Indian restaurants in London, African Queen Sejal Sukhadwala

5. Raunka Punjab Diyan

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464-466 Lady Margaret Rd
Southall UB1 2NW, UK

The immediately striking thing about this friendly, accessible dhaba in a quiet residential Southall street is its look: loud colours and rustic scenes of a Punjabi village, as channelled through the artistic sensibility of 1980s Bollywood movies. There are huge jewel-hued murals of truck drivers and women drawing water from a well, mismatched mirror-work chairs in shades of fuchsia and midnight-blue, a baffling life-size figure of a Sikh Papaji in pink kurta and turban, and sparkling lanterns casting shadows everywhere. A fairly standard but well-executed menu includes succulent cumin-spiked chicken wings; tender lamb with green peppers; glossy aubergine dotted with pickling spices; paneer lababdar in a sturdy tomato-onion sauce; and — best of all — black urad dal slow-cooked with butter on charcoal that gives it a distinctly smoky flavour. 

A range of curries and breads at Raunka Punjab Diyan, one of the best north Indian restaurants in north London Sejal Sukhadwala

6. Chakra

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Bishops Palace House, 1 Riverside Walk
Kingston upon Thames KT1 1QN, UK

The buzzy riverside setting is the biggest draw here — but this contemporary North Indian diner, a new branch of the Kensington original, also benefits from gorgeous colours and textures, feel-good ambience, and a highly enthusiastic staff team. Sharbati atta roti made from wholemeal flour milled from sharbati, a superior golden variety of wheat grown in Madhya Pradesh, is a thinner, crisper, denser option to naan that’s well worth trying as it’s not available anywhere else. It’s perfect for scooping up aloo chana made from tea-infused black chickpeas with potatoes, and pahadi chicken spiked with cinnamon, ginger and fresh fenugreek leaves. Seating, both inside and outside, is an imaginative mix of high bar stools, round tables, and a converted pool table that’s something of a talking point.  

Curry topped with a green chilli at Chakra, one of the best north Indian restaurants in London Sejal Sukhadwala

7. Koolcha

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Unit 21, Wembley Boxpark, 18 Olympic Way
Wembley HA9 0JT, UK

This smart Punjabi canteen, which opened a few months ago in shiny new Boxpark Wembley, is co-owned by chef Rohit Ghai who followed it within days of launching an upmarket restaurant — Kutir — in Chelsea. Tawa parathas now replace the eponymous kulchas on the new menu’s set meals. There’s subtle layering of flavours in paneer tikka masala — impressive here, disappointing almost everywhere else — made from fresh, soft, own-made cheese. It’s served in a dinky bento box-like wooden tray with pickle, raita, salad, and aromatic pulao. North Indian chefs cook everything from scratch in a limited kitchen; and the short menu cleverly makes lamb, chicken, and paneer primary ingredients that turn up in various guises.

A spread of dishes at Koolcha, one of the best north Indian restaurants in London Koolcha [Official Photo]

8. Dastaan

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447 Kingston Rd
Epsom KT19 0DB, UK

Ex-Gymkhana chefs Nand Kishor and Sanjay Gour’s cosy, contemporary, colourful North Indian in Epsom is extraordinarily popular, and it’s easy to see why: the reassuringly short menu is filled with very well-executed dishes such as guinea fowl and chicken seekh kabab with apple murabba, and lamb chops enlivened by kasundi mustard relish. Green-streaked spinach, potato and onion pakoras don’t just look pretty, they’re freshly fried and not the hard, overcooked ‘double fried’ lumps found in inferior restaurants. There’s more greenery in fragrant vegetable biryani, generously packed with asparagus, peas, and jerusalem artichokes — a combination that works surprisingly well, especially with the crunch of plentiful fried onions.

Dastaan, one of the best north Indian restaurants in London Sejal Sukhadwala

9. Kashmir Restaurant

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18 Lacy Rd, Putney
London SW15 1NL, UK

Chef Razdan and his wife Shweta run this smart, cosy, welcoming restaurant in Putney — the only one in London entirely dedicated to showcasing the refined cuisine of the Kashmir Valley, a region surrounded by the Pir Panjal and Himalayan mountain ranges in North India. After ceremoniously washing hands with a decorative vessel called tashtri, tuck into crisp, black cumin-studded lotus root kababs, aubergines tangy with tamarind, and dum aloo cooked the traditional way — in a spiced yoghurt gravy, not Punjabi-style tomato-onion that’s found everywhere else. Lamb arrives in several guises — on the bone in rogan josh, cooked in milk and deep-fried, and as two types of festive koftas in mellow yoghurt and bright-red chilli gravies. Kashmiri pulao is not the generic horror containing tinned pineapple and glace cherries like at some avoidable venues: here it’s the real thing, bursting with paneer cubes, almond slivers, and pandan flower water.      

A range of dishes at Kashmir, one of the best north Indian restaurants in London Kashmir [Official Photo]

10. Dhaba@49

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49 Chippenham Rd
London W9 2AH, UK

It’s hard to believe that quiet, sleepy Maida Vale hides a pukka Punjabi dhaba — albeit a slightly trendified version complete with cocktails, unconventional lassis, and knowingly kitsch murals of decorative trucks, an old bicycle with fairy lights, and a vintage telephone with rotary dial. The vertical presentation of chaats here is fun: crisp, battered spinach leaves stand upright like soldiers in a battlefield, and samosas with thin ‘patti’ pastry are piled up on a spike. Chunky, coriander-flecked dhaba roti is perfect for scooping up highway chicken curry, fresh and dried fenugreek leaves cooked with sweetcorn, and lamb keema in a hearty onion-tomato sauce. King prawns are grilled very simply in a tandoor, but retain their natural flavour and only require a wedge of lime to neutralise their smokiness.

King prawns at Dhaba 49, one of the best north Indian restaurants in London Sejal Sukhadwala

11. Lucknow 49

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49 Maddox St, Mayfair
London W1S 2PQ, UK

This Mayfair restaurant — the second from Dum Biryani’s Dhruv Mittal — is the only place in London that currently serves Lucknow’s Awadhi food. Its homely décor of block-print fabrics and flower garlands somewhat at odds with the elegant flavours. The tale of the toothless nawab for whom they were invented may be apocryphal, but galawat kababs — lamb patties with the texture between pâtè and mousse — are a pure, skilfully cooked joy. Taar gosht is rarely seen outside Lucknow: here the lamb legs are slow-cooked in (lamb’s) trotter stock for hours and flavoured with a full artist’s palette of several dozen spices. Dal makhani is here made from whole green moong beans simmered in milk, and has a sweeter, brighter taste. Proper Awadhi biryani, less spicy and more perfumed than other varieties, is a rare find; as is layered, puffy gilafi kulcha. Many restaurants claim to serve Mughlai food; this is the real thing.

Galawat lamb kababs at Lucknow 49 in Mayfair
Galawat kababs at Lucknow 49 in Mayfair
Cole Wilson/for Eater London

12. Zumbura

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36A Old Town, Clapham
London SW4 0LB, UK

Very simple, home-style cooking with austere, nuanced flavours is what makes chef Raju Rawat’s food at his friendly Clapham venue stand out from the crowd. Rawat is originally from Rishikesh in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand, and dishes at this cosy, stylish restaurant — named after the fruit pomelo — showcase the cuisine of that as well as North East Indian regions. There’s lightly spiced cod fried to crispy perfection, and twice-marinated lamb chops with the verdant whack of fresh coriander. Potatoes are lightly crushed and zippy with nigella and ajwain seeds; and this is a rare place that serves ghugni and nimona. The former, a classic with regional variations from Uttar Pradesh to Bengal, here is made from black chickpeas very simply cooked with onions and amchoor powder; and the latter is a Banarasi winter staple made by stir-frying green peas with sliced ginger and garlic.

Curry at Zumbura, one of the best north Indian restaurants in London Zumbura [Official Photo]

13. Kanishka

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17-19 Maddox St, Mayfair
London W1S 2QH, UK

Atul Kochhar’s new Mayfair venue is that extremely rare thing: a Modern North East Indian restaurant; its low-key glamour allows the humble dishes given a contemporary spin to shine. There’s delicate Tibetan-influenced shapta of jackfruit with red chillies and pak choi; and sticky, steaming Sikkim-style lamb momos piled into a bamboo basket. Cumin and black pepper add oomph to a tender, slow-cooked Bengali-inspired goat curry; and there are milder but equally flavourful gems such as eggs with lentil sauce, and Mizoram-style stir-fry of bamboo shoots, green beans and mushrooms. The flavours are much more understated and the dishes lighter than in other regions of North India.   

Vegetables at Kanishka, one of the best north Indian restaurants in London Sejal Sukhadwala

14. Tandoor Chophouse

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8 Adelaide St, Charing Cross
London WC2N 4HZ, UK

The culinary equivalent to ballroom and bhangra dancers moving together in unison, here the looks, attitude, and functionality of a North Indian canteen is combined with the shimmering retro charms of a British chop house. The fast-casual venue near Covent Garden serves multiple purposes: suitable for a quick office lunch, solo meal, post-work dinner, or lingering Sunday lunch with a bunch of mates brave enough to take on the massive thali. Although the flavours are Punjabi, the textures are firmer, crisper, and more British in dishes such as whole tandoor-roasted cauliflower and Amritsari lamb chops. Quirky snacks like smoked cheddar and cassava kababs, and mackerel naan with tarragon cream cheese and green apples are wonderfully imaginative; and regular weekday thalis are good value for central London.

Chicken from the tandoor, served with lemon in a copper dish, at Tandoor Chophouse, one of the best north Indian restaurants in London Tandoor Chophouse [Official Photo]

15. Grand Trunk Road

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219 High Rd, South Woodford
London E18 2PB, UK

Restaurateur Rajesh Suri and chef Dayashankar Sharma’s contemporary South Woodford venue isn’t North Indian as such — its ambitious idea is to showcase cooking inspired by the Grand Trunk Road, an ancient trade route that stretched between Kabul to Kolkata, with a menu spanning North Indian to Bengali dishes. The room is tastefully decorated with antique temple carvings, terracotta figurines, jaali screens, and a shiny bar. There’s vibrancy and freshness of flavour here, whether in own-made coriander or tamarind chutneys that drape Punjabi chaats, ajwain seeds that perk up Amritsari tilapia, or baby okra that somehow manage to keep their grass-green colour and just-firm texture despite being cooked with vinegar and beetroot. There are comforting classics, too, such as slow-cooked Lucknowi lamb shanks aromatic with saffron and cardamom, bottle-gourd koftas soft as velvet pouches, and dhaba dal whose earthiness is a good foil to spicier dishes.

Naan, salad, and curry at Grand Trunk Road, one of the best north Indian restaurants in London Sejal Sukhadwala

1. Roxy New Asian Tandoori Centre

114-118 The Green, Southall UB2 4BQ, UK
Roti at Roxy’s, one of the best north Indian restaurants in London Harkaran Gill

Until a decade ago, this Southall stalwart, once known as Sagoo & Takhar, was the area’s most famous Punjabi restaurant. The standards are inconsistent now, and the place is quieter. However, it’s worth coming here for the one classic dish that it does better than anywhere else: sarson ka saag aur makki di roti. This rich, warming winter dish of mustard greens accompanied by sunflower-yellow cornmeal flatbreads, so beloved of Punjabi farmers, gets ex-pats misty-eyed with nostalgia. The leafy greens are ground into a thick paste and cooked in plenty of ghee with turnips or kohlrabi; a shower of ginger juliennes to cut through their bitter, peppery, astringent minerality. The best time to eat here is early in the day when the saag is freshly cooked and at its vibrant best. The large flatbread section is also superb; fenugreek leaf paratha being particularly alluring.

114-118 The Green
Southall UB2 4BQ, UK

2. Noormahal Sweets

135 The Broadway, Southall UB1 1LW, UK
Mithai on the counter at Noormahal Sweets, one of the best north Indian restaurants in London Sejal Sukhadwala

This modest mithai and namkeen shop has only a few tables as it’s primarily a takeaway, with packs of own-made sweets and nibbles stacked high on bright red shelves. Oversized suterfeni sit on countertops like bales of hay, along with pistachio-dressed slabs of mohanthal, halwas and barfis. However, the Punjabi samosas (there are several regional variations) are what everyone comes here for: good-sized but not bloated, with pastry that’s neither too thick nor too thin, and a balanced ratio of potato-to-pea filling. Most importantly, the spicing is as it should be, with whole coriander seeds, fennel seeds, and crushed dried pomegranate seeds (often missing in inferior versions.) The flavour is nuanced, with no over-powering chillies or masalas. There are excellent curries too, notably kidney bean, and spinach — but the samosas are the main draw.

135 The Broadway
Southall UB1 1LW, UK

3. Madhu's

39 South Rd, Southall UB1 1SW, UK
A range of dishes at Madhu’s, one of the best north Indian restaurants in London Madhu’s [Official Photo]

This smart two-floor Southall venue is all clean lines and glossy surfaces. It’s been around for four decades — opened by the then 16- and 17-year-old siblings, Sanjeev and Sanjay Anand, whose grandfather Bishan Das Anand founded the well-regarded Brilliant Hotel in Nairobi. Madhu’s was their father Jagdish Kumar’s nickname; and in the early days, their mother Krishna Kumari was the head chef. Kenyan influences abound in dishes such as yoghurt-marinated baby poussin, and tender lamb ribs laminated with chilli and lemon. Fresh coriander-flecked pakoras in fennel-flavoured yoghurt kadhi, slender aubergines on a stem with baby potatoes, and butter chicken made to an old family recipe are among the most popular dishes. Cauliflower with fenugreek leaves is as good as what might be found in a Punjabi home kitchen; and dal makhani quietly trumps flashier versions found elsewhere. Don’t miss Punjabi samosas made with beautifully flaky ‘khasta’ pastry.

39 South Rd
Southall UB1 1SW, UK

4. African Queen

315-317 Wellington Rd S, Hounslow TW4 5HL, UK
Masala lamb chops and feisty curries at one of the best north Indian restaurants in London, African Queen Sejal Sukhadwala

Located away from the main drag of the High Street in Hounslow, this curiously named Punjabi sports bar (there’s no connection with Africa), can be tricky to find but is well worth the effort. There’s a tiny bar at the front leading to differently sized dining rooms with TV screens showing cricket and football. ‘Punjabi papad’, topped with so many finely chopped tomatoes, onions, coriander leaves (and a sprightly sprinkling of chaat masala) they’re almost like a salad; and deep-fried, battered cubes of Amritsari tilapia are juicy and moreish. Succulent masala lamb chops pop with ginger, garlic, chillies, and black peppercorns; and there’s excellent tandoori paneer tikka made from very soft, freshly made cheese. Feisty curries can be found, too, including red kidney bean, and egg — but like in all Indian pubs, snacks and sizzling mixed grills are the things to go for.

315-317 Wellington Rd S
Hounslow TW4 5HL, UK

5. Raunka Punjab Diyan

464-466 Lady Margaret Rd, Southall UB1 2NW, UK
A range of curries and breads at Raunka Punjab Diyan, one of the best north Indian restaurants in north London Sejal Sukhadwala

The immediately striking thing about this friendly, accessible dhaba in a quiet residential Southall street is its look: loud colours and rustic scenes of a Punjabi village, as channelled through the artistic sensibility of 1980s Bollywood movies. There are huge jewel-hued murals of truck drivers and women drawing water from a well, mismatched mirror-work chairs in shades of fuchsia and midnight-blue, a baffling life-size figure of a Sikh Papaji in pink kurta and turban, and sparkling lanterns casting shadows everywhere. A fairly standard but well-executed menu includes succulent cumin-spiked chicken wings; tender lamb with green peppers; glossy aubergine dotted with pickling spices; paneer lababdar in a sturdy tomato-onion sauce; and — best of all — black urad dal slow-cooked with butter on charcoal that gives it a distinctly smoky flavour. 

464-466 Lady Margaret Rd
Southall UB1 2NW, UK

6. Chakra

Bishops Palace House, 1 Riverside Walk, Kingston upon Thames KT1 1QN, UK
Curry topped with a green chilli at Chakra, one of the best north Indian restaurants in London Sejal Sukhadwala

The buzzy riverside setting is the biggest draw here — but this contemporary North Indian diner, a new branch of the Kensington original, also benefits from gorgeous colours and textures, feel-good ambience, and a highly enthusiastic staff team. Sharbati atta roti made from wholemeal flour milled from sharbati, a superior golden variety of wheat grown in Madhya Pradesh, is a thinner, crisper, denser option to naan that’s well worth trying as it’s not available anywhere else. It’s perfect for scooping up aloo chana made from tea-infused black chickpeas with potatoes, and pahadi chicken spiked with cinnamon, ginger and fresh fenugreek leaves. Seating, both inside and outside, is an imaginative mix of high bar stools, round tables, and a converted pool table that’s something of a talking point.  

Bishops Palace House, 1 Riverside Walk
Kingston upon Thames KT1 1QN, UK

7. Koolcha

Unit 21, Wembley Boxpark, 18 Olympic Way, Wembley HA9 0JT, UK
A spread of dishes at Koolcha, one of the best north Indian restaurants in London Koolcha [Official Photo]

This smart Punjabi canteen, which opened a few months ago in shiny new Boxpark Wembley, is co-owned by chef Rohit Ghai who followed it within days of launching an upmarket restaurant — Kutir — in Chelsea. Tawa parathas now replace the eponymous kulchas on the new menu’s set meals. There’s subtle layering of flavours in paneer tikka masala — impressive here, disappointing almost everywhere else — made from fresh, soft, own-made cheese. It’s served in a dinky bento box-like wooden tray with pickle, raita, salad, and aromatic pulao. North Indian chefs cook everything from scratch in a limited kitchen; and the short menu cleverly makes lamb, chicken, and paneer primary ingredients that turn up in various guises.

Unit 21, Wembley Boxpark, 18 Olympic Way
Wembley HA9 0JT, UK

8. Dastaan

447 Kingston Rd, Epsom KT19 0DB, UK
Dastaan, one of the best north Indian restaurants in London Sejal Sukhadwala

Ex-Gymkhana chefs Nand Kishor and Sanjay Gour’s cosy, contemporary, colourful North Indian in Epsom is extraordinarily popular, and it’s easy to see why: the reassuringly short menu is filled with very well-executed dishes such as guinea fowl and chicken seekh kabab with apple murabba, and lamb chops enlivened by kasundi mustard relish. Green-streaked spinach, potato and onion pakoras don’t just look pretty, they’re freshly fried and not the hard, overcooked ‘double fried’ lumps found in inferior restaurants. There’s more greenery in fragrant vegetable biryani, generously packed with asparagus, peas, and jerusalem artichokes — a combination that works surprisingly well, especially with the crunch of plentiful fried onions.

447 Kingston Rd
Epsom KT19 0DB, UK

9. Kashmir Restaurant

18 Lacy Rd, Putney, London SW15 1NL, UK
A range of dishes at Kashmir, one of the best north Indian restaurants in London Kashmir [Official Photo]

Chef Razdan and his wife Shweta run this smart, cosy, welcoming restaurant in Putney — the only one in London entirely dedicated to showcasing the refined cuisine of the Kashmir Valley, a region surrounded by the Pir Panjal and Himalayan mountain ranges in North India. After ceremoniously washing hands with a decorative vessel called tashtri, tuck into crisp, black cumin-studded lotus root kababs, aubergines tangy with tamarind, and dum aloo cooked the traditional way — in a spiced yoghurt gravy, not Punjabi-style tomato-onion that’s found everywhere else. Lamb arrives in several guises — on the bone in rogan josh, cooked in milk and deep-fried, and as two types of festive koftas in mellow yoghurt and bright-red chilli gravies. Kashmiri pulao is not the generic horror containing tinned pineapple and glace cherries like at some avoidable venues: here it’s the real thing, bursting with paneer cubes, almond slivers, and pandan flower water.      

18 Lacy Rd, Putney
London SW15 1NL, UK

10. Dhaba@49

49 Chippenham Rd, London W9 2AH, UK
King prawns at Dhaba 49, one of the best north Indian restaurants in London Sejal Sukhadwala

It’s hard to believe that quiet, sleepy Maida Vale hides a pukka Punjabi dhaba — albeit a slightly trendified version complete with cocktails, unconventional lassis, and knowingly kitsch murals of decorative trucks, an old bicycle with fairy lights, and a vintage telephone with rotary dial. The vertical presentation of chaats here is fun: crisp, battered spinach leaves stand upright like soldiers in a battlefield, and samosas with thin ‘patti’ pastry are piled up on a spike. Chunky, coriander-flecked dhaba roti is perfect for scooping up highway chicken curry, fresh and dried fenugreek leaves cooked with sweetcorn, and lamb keema in a hearty onion-tomato sauce. King prawns are grilled very simply in a tandoor, but retain their natural flavour and only require a wedge of lime to neutralise their smokiness.

49 Chippenham Rd
London W9 2AH, UK

11. Lucknow 49

49 Maddox St, Mayfair, London W1S 2PQ, UK
Galawat lamb kababs at Lucknow 49 in Mayfair
Galawat kababs at Lucknow 49 in Mayfair
Cole Wilson/for Eater London

This Mayfair restaurant — the second from Dum Biryani’s Dhruv Mittal — is the only place in London that currently serves Lucknow’s Awadhi food. Its homely décor of block-print fabrics and flower garlands somewhat at odds with the elegant flavours. The tale of the toothless nawab for whom they were invented may be apocryphal, but galawat kababs — lamb patties with the texture between pâtè and mousse — are a pure, skilfully cooked joy. Taar gosht is rarely seen outside Lucknow: here the lamb legs are slow-cooked in (lamb’s) trotter stock for hours and flavoured with a full artist’s palette of several dozen spices. Dal makhani is here made from whole green moong beans simmered in milk, and has a sweeter, brighter taste. Proper Awadhi biryani, less spicy and more perfumed than other varieties, is a rare find; as is layered, puffy gilafi kulcha. Many restaurants claim to serve Mughlai food; this is the real thing.

49 Maddox St, Mayfair
London W1S 2PQ, UK

12. Zumbura

36A Old Town, Clapham, London SW4 0LB, UK
Curry at Zumbura, one of the best north Indian restaurants in London Zumbura [Official Photo]

Very simple, home-style cooking with austere, nuanced flavours is what makes chef Raju Rawat’s food at his friendly Clapham venue stand out from the crowd. Rawat is originally from Rishikesh in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand, and dishes at this cosy, stylish restaurant — named after the fruit pomelo — showcase the cuisine of that as well as North East Indian regions. There’s lightly spiced cod fried to crispy perfection, and twice-marinated lamb chops with the verdant whack of fresh coriander. Potatoes are lightly crushed and zippy with nigella and ajwain seeds; and this is a rare place that serves ghugni and nimona. The former, a classic with regional variations from Uttar Pradesh to Bengal, here is made from black chickpeas very simply cooked with onions and amchoor powder; and the latter is a Banarasi winter staple made by stir-frying green peas with sliced ginger and garlic.

36A Old Town, Clapham
London SW4 0LB, UK

13. Kanishka

17-19 Maddox St, Mayfair, London W1S 2QH, UK
Vegetables at Kanishka, one of the best north Indian restaurants in London Sejal Sukhadwala

Atul Kochhar’s new Mayfair venue is that extremely rare thing: a Modern North East Indian restaurant; its low-key glamour allows the humble dishes given a contemporary spin to shine. There’s delicate Tibetan-influenced shapta of jackfruit with red chillies and pak choi; and sticky, steaming Sikkim-style lamb momos piled into a bamboo basket. Cumin and black pepper add oomph to a tender, slow-cooked Bengali-inspired goat curry; and there are milder but equally flavourful gems such as eggs with lentil sauce, and Mizoram-style stir-fry of bamboo shoots, green beans and mushrooms. The flavours are much more understated and the dishes lighter than in other regions of North India.   

17-19 Maddox St, Mayfair
London W1S 2QH, UK

14. Tandoor Chophouse

8 Adelaide St, Charing Cross, London WC2N 4HZ, UK
Chicken from the tandoor, served with lemon in a copper dish, at Tandoor Chophouse, one of the best north Indian restaurants in London Tandoor Chophouse [Official Photo]

The culinary equivalent to ballroom and bhangra dancers moving together in unison, here the looks, attitude, and functionality of a North Indian canteen is combined with the shimmering retro charms of a British chop house. The fast-casual venue near Covent Garden serves multiple purposes: suitable for a quick office lunch, solo meal, post-work dinner, or lingering Sunday lunch with a bunch of mates brave enough to take on the massive thali. Although the flavours are Punjabi, the textures are firmer, crisper, and more British in dishes such as whole tandoor-roasted cauliflower and Amritsari lamb chops. Quirky snacks like smoked cheddar and cassava kababs, and mackerel naan with tarragon cream cheese and green apples are wonderfully imaginative; and regular weekday thalis are good value for central London.

8 Adelaide St, Charing Cross
London WC2N 4HZ, UK

15. Grand Trunk Road

219 High Rd, South Woodford, London E18 2PB, UK
Naan, salad, and curry at Grand Trunk Road, one of the best north Indian restaurants in London Sejal Sukhadwala

Restaurateur Rajesh Suri and chef Dayashankar Sharma’s contemporary South Woodford venue isn’t North Indian as such — its ambitious idea is to showcase cooking inspired by the Grand Trunk Road, an ancient trade route that stretched between Kabul to Kolkata, with a menu spanning North Indian to Bengali dishes. The room is tastefully decorated with antique temple carvings, terracotta figurines, jaali screens, and a shiny bar. There’s vibrancy and freshness of flavour here, whether in own-made coriander or tamarind chutneys that drape Punjabi chaats, ajwain seeds that perk up Amritsari tilapia, or baby okra that somehow manage to keep their grass-green colour and just-firm texture despite being cooked with vinegar and beetroot. There are comforting classics, too, such as slow-cooked Lucknowi lamb shanks aromatic with saffron and cardamom, bottle-gourd koftas soft as velvet pouches, and dhaba dal whose earthiness is a good foil to spicier dishes.

219 High Rd, South Woodford
London E18 2PB, UK

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