I enjoyed previewing and reviewing events; music, film, theatre etc for this weekly listings magazine from its inception in 2007, aswell as contributing several entries for LeCool’s ‘A Weird and Wonderful Guide to London’ (2008). Here’s a piece I wrote about the never-ending search for authentic curry in the city:
London is the best place to get a ruby outside the Indian subcontinent, due to the wide diaspora of different folk who’ve moved to the smoke from Kathmandu to Colombo, curry is as ubiquitous here as fish ‘n’ chips . However, on every street corner lurks a stinker with pretensions to serving edible food so we suggest you chose your eatery wisely, remembering that ‘curry-in-a-hurry’ is never a good thing – here’s our trusty guide to the curry capital.
3 Lower Grosvenor Place, Victoria SW1W, 020 7834 0722
I’m Sri Lankan, and a fussy foodie so this place had a lot to live up to but totally delivered. The menu is cheap as chips but décor’s not drab and regulars come in droves. Nibble on fish patties, mutton rolls and vadai, just like my aunty makes. The chef goes home regularly to stock up on authentic spices and even the dhal is different, flavoured with lemongrass. For unique Sri Lankan dishes, sample the string hoppers or kothu roti – roti is shredded and stir-fried with a choice of meat or veg but watch the chilli – in ‘columbu’, the hotter the better. To cool down get sweet on wattalapam, a dessert with coconut milk, juggery, cashew nuts and nutmeg. Yep the chef here comes a close second to my mum when it comes to food from the homeland.
Palms of Goa 12 Charlotte Street, London W1 0207 636 1668
Situated on NOHO’s ‘romance’ row sits this popular exponent of Indian cuisine, visit in summer and you can enjoy a summer breeze on the terrace outside. London’s first Goan restaurant has been blending Indian cuisine with the subtle flavours born of the state’s Portuguese colonial heritage since 1994. For your starter try prawns cooked with medium hot Goan balchao spices, rolled in chapatti but then progress to the lamb xacutti – a speciality prepared with coconut, vinegar, garam masala and spices – along with the pumpkin curry. Goan, Goan!
784 Holloway Road, Archway N19 020 7281 0649
I’ve got a sneaking feeling that Raj Parikh is the only man fusing curry and jazz in London today. This operation oop north has won many awards and the deep red walls, with photos of jazz artists and the music makes this the most atmospheric place for a masala I know. The service can be slow but when you get your orders you’ll forget about it – the prawn bhuna is the talk of the town, or you could plump for vegetarian dishes – the mutter paneer is exceptionally mouth-watering.
22 Camberwell Church St, SE5 020 7252 4800
The jewel in Camberwell’s culinary crown, this sleek, contemporary curry house serves fare that represents Delhi and Mumbai. I’m also due a big shout-out to the waiters, as their patience in taking my convoluted orders knows no bounds. I always start with the crispest spicy poppadoms and mint sauce, then onto the exquisite chickpea curry seasoned with red onions along with tender paneer chilli masala. The chef’s speciality, tiger prawn balchou, is also a must as you get the most succulent prawns in a fragrant masala sauce.
157 King Street, Hammersmith, W6 020 8741 8563
For a South Indian vegetarian feast, Sagar is second to none with its plush interior and friendly staff. To start you gotta eat the idli – usually pretty tough to get right but these come the right side of fluffy and are best dipped in coconut chilli chutney. For a light bite, dunk a dosai into the lentils, aubergine and tamarind sambar. If you’re homesick, tucking into a Mysore masala thali conjures up vestiges of the city’s Royal Palace in seconds, while the rasam is to die for.
Radha Krishna Bhavan
86 Tooting High Street, SW17 020 8682 0969
Radha and Krisha are the Romeo and Juliet of Hinduism, so the décor here is full-on romantic-kitsch, with giant sunset and palm tree friezes. The place also gets the Keralan seal stamped on it in the form of a costumed, statue of a kathakali dancer in the corner. To try food from the spice capital of India, sample cashew nut pakoda, uthappam, dry stir-fried vegetables (thoran) or black chickpea curry (kadala).
118-122 Brick Lane London E1 020 7247 0397
Murad rocks – he’s the genial host with the crazy Hoxton-style mullet at the best balti house in Banglatown. Now I would give most restaurants on Brick Lane a miss as the food is bland and swills in oil but Preem is different, hence why there are no touts outside. The food here is healthier and flavoured well compared to their competitors, try a sizzling dish of roast leg of lamb or any of the standard dishes that are on the menu and you’ll agree that a night of boozing on Brick Lane should always end in a visit to Preem.