Unlike London’s early North Indian restaurants, the ones serving food of Western India —which includes Gujarat, Maharashtra, Mumbai with its own distinct culinary identity, Goa, and the cuisines of the western coast — were largely set up by members of those communities.
The highest number of these are Gujarati, mostly clustered around Wembley, Harrow, Kenton, Kingsbury, and Hounslow in north and west London. They’re modest, inexpensive vegetarian cafés established between the 1960s and 1980s, many by families who’d fled Idi Amin’s Uganda — so they mostly serve Gujarati food with Ugandan and Kenyan influences. Their numbers are dwindling though, and some have lost their shine because younger Gujaratis have moved into white-collar office jobs and no longer want to take over the running of their family businesses. Many survive by providing catering for weddings and other occasions.
The newer Gujarati venues have few traditional dishes and more generic menus that include Gujarati versions of Punjabi, South Indian, and Indian-Chinese — with a smattering of Italian pizza and pasta, Mexican, and Middle Eastern items. These are the most popular non-Indian cuisines in Western India; and Gujaratis often dine together as a family, with young people choosing non-Indian. They also serve Jain and farali (fasting) food cooked according to strict dietary rules omitting several ingredients.
Until relatively recently, Gujarat and Maharashtra were one state — and when they split into two, Mumbai became the capital of Maharashtra. With its cosmopolitan mix of, not only Maharashtrian but also Gujarati, Marwari, Bengali, Goan, Parsi, Sindhi, Punjabi, Bihari, South Indian, and East Indian Catholic communities, it serves uniquely eclectic food that can be found in London’s smart Mumbai restaurants.
There used to be barely one or two Goan restaurants in the capital, but the number of casual cafés has been rising steadily in the last five years. They serve mostly Goan Catholic street food snacks, and meat and fish curries alongside ubiquitous pan-Indian fare.
This collection of Western Indian restaurants includes seven Gujarati, two Maharashtrian, three Bombay, and two Goan places; plus one that showcases Western coastal cuisines.
This is the third 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; the second is a guide to the best North Indian restaurants in London. An article explaining the ingredients, flavours, and preparations of each region will be published when the series is concluded.Read More