Curry - recommendations

Posted by: MichaelC on 29 April 2003

I have a particular liking for curry. Having said that most curry houses are, in my opinion, not up to much.

Last Saturday I ended up in town with a few friends for a meal at the Cinnamon Club - I was most impressed. Although the menu was exceedingly limited the food was absolutely superb. All dishes were superbly marinated, cooked superbly and presented beautifully.The staff were highly attentive without being overbearing. Highly recommended.

Does anyone else have a recommendation for places to eat (and if so why)?


Posted on: 29 April 2003 by Mike Sae
Assuming you're from Surrey British Columbia and not Surrey somewhere in England, I can recommend Mughal's on 128th and 72nd street.
Posted on: 30 April 2003 by Jez Quigley
You have reminded me how lucky we are in West Yorkshire. Asian food places are everywhere and (mostly) fantastic quality and cheap. My favourite take away is the Shajahan in Cleckheaton about 7 miles south of Bradford. They have 4/5 cooks working like demons to try and keep up with the demand. (mmm must get one tonight!)Also, coincidentally, the biggest Asian Restaurant in the world is also in Cleckheaton, good quality and good value too in luxurious surroundings.

"Seek first to understand, then to be understood"
Posted on: 30 April 2003 by matthewr
The Cinnamon Club is infamous as the favourite restaruant of Fire Brigade Union leader Andy Gilchrist who was "caught" eating there and running up a 200+ bill while his members were on strike and stuggling to feed thier families with little or no money.

Personally I think you are better off in your local equivalent of Brick Lane or Rusholme. There's no need to pay 50 for a curry.

Posted on: 30 April 2003 by matthewr
Apparently Britain now boasts 1/5th of the world's 50 best restaraunts.

World's top 10 restaurants

1 French Laundry, California
2 El Bulli, Barcelona
3 Le Louis XV, Monaco
4 Jean Georges, New York
5 Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, London
6 L'Arpege, Paris
7 Comme chez Soi, Brussels
8 Rockpool, Sydney
9 L'Ambroisie, Paris
10 Gramercy Tavern, New York,3604,945641,00.html
Posted on: 30 April 2003 by throbnorth
Surprised that more of the 'world's best' aren't in Brussels....

Curry - Mike, I'm surprised that you've found that most Indian restaurants aren't up to much - in my experience, it's actually quite hard not to get a good meal. Why is it that the Chinese food experience the exact opposite? Logically, you'd think it would be much easier to get right. Anyway, some better than others, of course, but generally you're spoilt for choice. Maybe this is a more urban thing - in the Home Counties perhaps there's less competition, and they're still largely flock-y?

I've worked in the East End for more years than I care to remember with Bengali families, and I often canvas opinion as to the best eating spots [as you would]. Begalis being the chief purveyors of Indian [sic] cuisine in this country, the ultimate treat is to make friends with them [not difficult - they are the sweetest and most hospitable people you could imagine] and be lucky enough to eat in their homes. Women are the custodians of the cuisine, and as you are about as likely to get a woman chef in an Indian restaurant as you are to find Nigella behind the counter at McDonalds, dining out is sadly going to always be a largely second best experience. Having said that, Bengali men are often surprisingly keen on cooking, so you may on occasion be lucky. If you're fortunate enough to experience Bengali home cooking, you're in for a real [if tormentingly sexist] treat. Women don't tend to eat with you, they serve. Your delight is their culinary fulfillment. It's very unnerving, but guiltily delightful.

When eating out, generally, Brick Lane is best avoided, it seems - trading on past glories, and with a few too many health scares for comfort among even the more well known restaurants. The best places proudly show Tower Hamlets Trading Standards certificates in their windows. Top spot elsewhere is a place [senior moment, name escapes me - International, perhaps? In any case there's a branch on Cannon St Road E1 on either side of the Commercial Rd junction - you really can't miss it, trust me] which is similar in feel to a French or Italian family restaurant. There's no menu to speak of, you just have what they're cooking that day, amid acres of spectacularly spotless wood grain Formica and fluorescent tubes with the power of aircraft landing lights. Not exactly intimate, but certainly illuminating. You will probably be the only white face in there, and the serried ranks of Bengali Mothers, Aunties and Grandmas present mount a 24 hr vigil to ensure that standards do not slip in any way, or they'll know the reason why. Initially intimidating, maybe [but nevertheless you'll get a lovely welcome] and rather rootsy. The food is superb. No Kingfisher or any other type of alchoholic refreshment available. As an added bonus, you might get a rare treat - Bengali Rice Pudding [as you may have noticed, Bengalis, who form the greatest proportion of restauranteurs, don't go in for desserts much. At home they go in for 'sweets', bought in at great expense from specialist patissiers [sort of] which are incredibly complicated to prepare [we're talking days] and taste mostly like a combination of condensed milk and cough mixture. They're what you might call an acquired taste, and I expect you have to grow up with it]. The coffee is even nastier, BTW - glass cups, Bird's Mellow etc. However, the rice pudding is something else - apparently, you gradually reduce whole milk and rice for about eight hours over the smallest flame imaginable until it forms this thick junket-y substance. Worth a try, anyway - Ambrosia will never be the same afterwards.

For the more Western palette, the other Top Spot is Cafe Spice in Leman St E1. This is fairly glam, with prices to boot [30-ish a head], but again delightful and more importantly, interesting. The head chef is the husband of my outrageous dinner lady, Forida [if there were such things as Muslim drag queens, she'd be showing them the way]. They're Pakistanis, and thus slightly out of kilter with the area's predominant culinary worldview. The food is exquisite, interesting, and comparatively reasonably priced. The restaurant has sophisticated decor [Changing Rooms stylee] and thus is not as cheap as your usual. Iqbal [Forida's hubby] is generally considered to be one of London's best, and is subject to frequent poaching attempts. So far he has resisted, because he hates tubes. [actually, for the next cople of months he's back in Pakistan having a heart operation - he was offered an eighteen month wait here, so thought it better to cough up and get it done back home]. However, from what I gather, standards are unlikely to drop. The dining experience is stylish and comfortable.

Indian cuisines from outside Bangladesh are more difficult to come by. For a taste of Southern Indian food, I'd recommend Veejay's in Willesden Lane. Here you get a whole different set of dishes - including the scrumptious dosai - a sort of rice flour pancake stuffed with onions and mashed potato, served wih coconut gravy. It's bliss, but I would suggest one between two, or you'll never make it to the end of the menu. It's a refreshing change to come across a completely different type of dish - e.g. Bengali cuisine should have a lot of fish dishes to choose from [that being the major source of local protein] but you don't often come across it [in home cooking, it will looom large].

For inscrutable historic reasons, in the UK, Indian [Bengali] cooking has always been undervalued, and costs ludicrously little accordingly. If the time and care lavished on your average post-pub takeaway were costed on something European, we'd be talking the stupid amounts of cash which our US cousins are prepare do pay for equivalent delights. This is an area of culinary delight which we consistently undervalue. Support your local takeaway!

Posted on: 30 April 2003 by MichaelC
Originally posted by J. A. Toon:
For those of you who are man enough, next time you go to an Indian restaurant or takeaway, ask for a "Phal".

Twittering and ring and piece all come to mind Big Grin

My better half often requests a side plate of chillis to accompany dishes - instant respect generator.

I on the other-hand prefer milder but spicy dishes - wimp some may say.


Posted on: 30 April 2003 by MichaelC
A simple curry dish - but worth a try and is really easy to make:

Take (half) shoulder of lamb - cut into cubes.

Fry in large pan with a little oil until sealed.

Add finely chopped onions (two) and garlic (three/four cloves) and continue to fry for a while - five/ten minutes.

Add curry powder (to taste) or make up your combination of spices (experiment - many variations possible) and add chopped tomatoes (four). Season with salt and pepper.

Add chopped potatoes and carrots and continue to cook for twenty/thirty minutes.

Leave to stand and eat the next day - more taste.

A dish from Reunion.


Posted on: 30 April 2003 by Andrew L. Weekes
The problem with so many Indian meals is that a huge percentage come from a Patak's pot.

They are the biggest supplier to UK-based Indian restaurants.

If you ask nicely you will often find that there is a staff curry available, which will be the most authentic thing in restaurant, and often the nicest.

Posted on: 01 May 2003 by JeremyB
Like Mike my suggestion is to cook your own. I've had great success with Madhur Jaffrey's book (the original one - I think it's called Indian Cooking). If you simply follow all her straightforward instructions to the letter everything turns out really good - better than any restaurant.
Posted on: 01 May 2003 by Mick P

There is reputed to be a "curry club" somewhere near westminster and membership is by invitation only. Evidently the tables are set out in rows and you sit down with your guests and you eat whatever is put in front of you.

The choice may be limited but the standard is very high. I have been told that the menu is 90% vegetarian.

I have been trying for years to find out how to join but I cannot find any members to "tap up".

It seems to be men only and talking shop is strictly banned. Because the tables are laid out in rows, it atmosphere is very conviveable and it seems a great place to have lunch whilst in London.


Posted on: 01 May 2003 by Robbie

What is Phal ? Vindaloo is one of the hottest curry's there is.

Posted on: 01 May 2003 by seagull
A Phaal is a seriously hot curry, I think it was invented as revenge on the English for the Empire days.

We used to be neighbours with the owners of Farnborough's best Curry House. Always very friendly and excellent service at the restaurant. They will always do 'specials' if requested. I have had many meals there over the years and never had a duff one.

I think the distinction between genuine regional meals and generic ones is becoming increasingly blurred. Try finding a 'Balti' or a 'Chicken Tikka Massala' on the sub-continent. Why is CTM so popular?

On a slightly different note, my sister in law is from Thailand and is an excellent cook. Mrs S learnt the hard way about Thai food when we first had dinner there. Superb food, much more delicate flavours than 'Indian' but much hotter than most 'Indian' curries. A loo roll in the fridge was required for the next day!
Posted on: 01 May 2003 by Robbie
Once I was invited by a surinam family to eat roti.Roti is a meal with potatoes,beans and chicken ,and a sort of pancake (like nan).
They promised me to make it mild.
I've never had a hotter meal in my life !
Drunk several pints and took me two days to recover.

Posted on: 01 May 2003 by Chris Brandon
You lot really need to have a curry-outing to Bradford ( West-Yorkshire in th' uk)

Very cheap and mostly excellent.

It takes me 30 mins from sitting in my house,up the M62/M606 into the centre of "curry town"

Yes,there are plenty near to where i live,but Bradford's offerings are waayyyy better !

Posted on: 01 May 2003 by Mekon
Seagull, if you are ever on the Upper Lewes Road, stop at Bradleys. The family that run it make their own curries, and sell them frozen in tin foil containers. I haven't found a curry house that comes close. Their 'spinach and paneer' and 'okra and yoghurt' curries are particularly special. I haven't found anywhere in Brighton that comes close.
Posted on: 01 May 2003 by matthewr
If you like The Cinnamon Club you will also like Zaika, Tamarind, Vama, Chutney Mary's and Les Portes Des Indes. All are in West London in Mayfair, KHS, King's Road, etc. and are of the "stylish and expesinve modern Indian cuisine" school and should be easy enough to Google for.

Posted on: 01 May 2003 by Bhoyo
Originally posted by throbnorth:
[actually, for the next cople of months he's back in Pakistan having a heart operation - he was offered an eighteen month wait here, so thought it better to cough up and get it done back home].

Now THAT is truly an indictment of the poor old NHS.
Posted on: 01 May 2003 by MichaelC
Originally posted by J. A. Toon:
Some of the supermarket sauces are pretty good, but they offer no comparison to the takeaway's curries.

In my humble opinion the supermarket sauces are shite.

Posted on: 02 May 2003 by Willito
My personal fave is the Lahore Kebab House on Umberton Street just off of Commercial Road. If you are going East from the City, just turn right at the club Tropicana (where unfortunately drinks are not free!).

Though purists claim it has gone down hill since they introduced menus, I think that you will be hard pressed to find better food at surprising value. It appears no matter how much is on the table, it is always works out to fifteen quid a head. Their selection of grills are fantastic, with the sheek kebab a particular delight. It is strictly BYOB, no charge for corkage, and the newsagent across the street on Commercial road stocks a fine selection of Cobra and its like.

If the food was not enough, the clientele are fascinating. A happy mix of city types, Kray aspirationals, the local Bengali community (I agree with the throbnorth -- some of the friendliest people you could ever meet!), and reputedly, for the Hello readers, Imran Khan and various members of his set, nestle shoulders.
Posted on: 02 May 2003 by JeremyD
Originally posted by throbnorth:

...Begalis being the chief purveyors of Indian [sic] cuisine in this country, the ultimate treat is to make friends with them [not difficult - they are the sweetest and most hospitable people you could imagine] and be lucky enough to eat in their homes...

If you're fortunate enough to experience Bengali home cooking, you're in for a real [if tormentingly sexist] treat. Women don't tend to eat with you, they serve. Your delight is their culinary fulfillment. It's very unnerving, but guiltily delightful.
How delightfully patronising.


PS sorry: I don't seem to be my sweet, hospitable self today Wink
Posted on: 02 May 2003 by Naheed
Mike, your opening statement is true, many 'mainstream' curry houses in the UK, tailor their curries and tend to use the same base for everything, hence it all tastes the same (like mush)... Most non-Asians, aren't bothered as long as its hot and there's beer - no problem.

However, if your keen on the pukkah stuff, get yourself to Mumtaz's in Bradford, they have also signed up with ASDA to sell ready made meals, others closer to home includes Tayyab's in Whitechapel, beyond that, its less glitzy types based around Ilford, Upton Park, and Southall...

Places like Brick Lane fall into the opening statement, the foods not pukkah its just tailor for southern shandy drinking softies

The staff in these places however tend to be useless and most can't speak english - but the food makes up for it.

My recommendation would be to try [URL= ]Tayabb's[/URL] I frequent it periodically and the mixed grills/mango lassi are awesome - however they run a no alcohol policy.

naheed. . .
Posted on: 02 May 2003 by throbnorth

You're quite right - it was nauseatingly patronising. I read it again, and cringed. This is what comes of dashing off posts with a large gin & not re-reading them. Consider me justly reprimanded Red Face

Posted on: 02 May 2003 by JeremyD

Well, I suppose I could have pointed it out less sarcastically - I realise you didn't mean to offend.

Posted on: 02 May 2003 by throbnorth

I know you know I didn't, but it really shocked me to be shown that in spite of countless anti-racist courses, policies etc that I have been on / drawn up, such a slack bit of prose could have dribbled from my keyboard. I'm still appalled at myself, and thank you for noticing. Just goes to show .... all sorts of things.

Posted on: 02 May 2003 by Mick P
Matthew is