Benares, Jamawar, Quilon and The Cinnamon Club make our top picks for favorite Indian restaurants in London

Seema Kumar

The British Raj gave India the English language, the Indian Railway, and Cricket and in return, India gave England the “curry” or more specifically, a love for Indian cuisine. Today, Indian food is among the most popular cuisines in the UK;In fact, chicken tikka masala has been added as a national dish of the UK, in addition to fish and chips. From small curry houses three decades ago, the Indian cuisine industry has evolved into top-flight restaurants including some in the heart of London that have earned and maintained Michelin stars. Here are four out of a long list of recognized restaurants that SEEMA recently visited.

Benares

Located at Berkeley Square in the Mayfair section of London, Benares is currently led by Chef Brinder Narula. The restaurant offers an innovative Indian menu with a British flair. Appetizers like khargosh guntur masala and main dishes such as lobster biriyani and smoked tandoori lamb cutlets exemplify the culinary philosophy. The vegetarian-friendly menu includes mouth-watering dishes such as Tandoori Khumb, Shimla Mirch and Haveli Kofta while exotic signature cocktails such as Passion Fruit Chutney Martini and Saffron Daisy are sure to get you in the right mood.  Benares has an extensive wine list and offers a tasting menu with wine pairing options.  Although the restaurant has a substantial seating capacity, it is always in demand, and so make sure to reserve your table ahead of time. 

Jamavar 

Jamavar, also located in Mayfair, opened its doors in 2016 and has rapidly risen to the top. Jamavar refers to the colorful and intricately brocaded Kashmiri shawls and is the brainchild of Dinesh Nair who opened the first Jamavar at the Leela Palace in Bengaluru in India and received top reviews. Over the next few years, Jamavar spread to other locations in India and then to London, with the London venue receiving its first Michelin star a year after its opening.  The venue in London boasts two floors with dark wood paneling that is offset by brass fixtures and fittings and a lovely mirror in the bar area.  Serving a versatile range of both North Indian and South Indian cuisine, the menu is inventive and includes Hyderabadi beef Haleem and the Tellicherry Pepper & Garlic Soft Shell Crab! And if that does not tickle your fancy, step into the main dishes like the Jheenga Moilee (king prawns, curry leaf, mustard seeds & shallots) or the more traditional spicy Laal Maas. Alternately, be bold and go for the tasting menu with the butter chicken coupled with a McLaren Vale Shiraz from Australia or a Pouilly-Fuissé from France accompanying a mouthwatering Masala Poriyal Uthappum.  Samyukta Nair, the daughter of Dinesh Nair and co-founder, has created a Women’s Club at Jamavar that welcomes many inspirational women of stature to celebrate and share their talent, ideas and advice.

Quilon

This is an all time favorite of ours, located adjacent to the Taj 51 Buckingham Gate and in the vicinity of Buckingham Palace, and serving up the best of Kerala and Goa with a modern flair. It opened its doors twenty years ago and won a Michelin star in 2008 that it has retained until today. Inside, Quilon is an elegant and modern mix of muted colors and clean lines, featuring specially commissioned artworks from the highly acclaimed Indian artist Paresh Maity, who received India's Padma Shri award in 2014.  Start at the Q Barwith asignature ‘Qojito’ (green chili infused vodka, mint and lemon) or a glass of champagne beside the candle wall. Chef Sriram Aylur’s menu features contemporary coastal cuisine, blending old traditions updated for the modern palate.Seafood is at the heart of the menu with delicacies such as char-grilled scallops and Quilon fish curry, but as delicious, is the Mangalorean chicken. A vegetarian can indulge in the delightfully light but refreshing coconut with asparagus and snow peas that is accompanied by lemon rice and an okra pachidi.  The establishment has a private dining room capable of seating up to eighteen with its own chef and a private kitchen. This is an experience not to be missed when in London.

The Cinnamon Club

Located in the former Westminster Library and reflecting that Victorian aura through a two-level book-lined gallery, parquet flooring and a high ceiling, The Cinnamon Club exudes a British Gentlemen’s club feel and elegance. Settle down and let Chefs Vivek Singh and Rakesh Nair take you through an amazing experience of contemporary Indian dining artfully crafted from traditional recipes using high grade ingredients. Starters such as smoked lamb fillet and tandoori octopus accompanied by exotic chutneys and dressings can be perfectly complemented with signature cocktails like spiced apricot bellini and mango gimlet. The main course menu spans the culinary styles of north and south India from char-grilled monkfish with Kerala curry sauce accompanied by tomato rice to tandoori venison loin with a black stone flower reduction accompanied by fenugreek potatoes. For the vegetarian, okra-filled with peanut and jaggery, accompanied by green mango chutney, or eggplants and cauliflower fritters and banana chilli filled with fenugreek, raisin and bitter gourdare some of several options. A large selection of wines and a gin trolley featuring hand-picked varieties that can be transformed into a martini are at your beckoning. The Cinnamon Club is a popular venue; reservations are recommended.