I've got to be honest, whenever we told anyone we were traveling to London, and the subject of food came up, someone would inevitably say something like, "Well, the Brits are good at a lot of things, but they're not really known for good food." And just as day follows night, someone else would chime in, "Yes, but the curry!" So when we got to London, we were craving that London curry we'd heard so much about. Just so happened, there was a Spice Hut across the street from our flat - curry fast-food chain. It was surprisingly good - we had some that night and ordered take-out a second night. It had a more concentrated flavor than any curries we'd had in a long time. It's quick, it's inexpensive, and it's right across the street!
But we'd been looking for a nicer sit-down restaurant, and found one just a few blocks away. Namaaste Kitchen in Camden Town was just what we were hoping for. The waitstaff were friendly and helpful - I needed some guidance to help translate spice levels - and the advice was spot on. I ordered the "two-chili pepper" Nimboo Kali Mirch Chicken (chicken cooked with ginger, garlic, lemon zest, tomatoes, onion, crushed peppercorn and fresh lemon juice) with onion and green chili naan, cucumber raita, and cider. Paul got the "3-chili pepper" Rajasthan Laal Maas (spicy lamb, roasted red chillies from the land of forts & palaces) with garlic naan and a Kingfisher beer. We also ordered a side of rice.
We did share the dishes, but the 2-chili level was plenty spicy for me, and I could only eat the 3-chili dish with heaps of raita! This food was definitely a cut above what we've eaten before: complex layers of flavors in focused bites. The raita was excellent - the yogurt nicely balancing the spice. Likewise, the naan was flavorful, crisp in spots and the perfect dipping tool in the curry sauce. Truly delicious! Later, I looked up this restaurant It gets excellent reviews, and is known for being a bit more modern than some, sourcing local foods and healthier recipes. Their menu has lots of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free choices. The prices are reasonable - about £60 for everything, including the drinks. We returned when our son and daughter-in-law came to visit, and had additional curries. They were all good, but especially the Chicken Jalfrezi, which was recommended by the waiter, and the baby eggplant (aubergine) dish, Achari Bainjan.
When talking to a local, we were told the best curries are in the southern suburbs, but that there are some excellent, if touristy, places in Covent Garden. We haven't made it to the south suburbs for curry, but we did have tickets to an opera at Covent Garden, so we visited Masala Zone for supper before the opera. This meal surprised us!
Masala Zone is known for bringing Indian street food to London. We had a few of the street food choices, along with a curry, that night. The curry was flavorful and the chicken was extremely tender, but even though it had one "spicy" pepper on the menu, it seemed overly mild.
But, we enjoyed the street food so much we opted to go back (but to a nearer one of their restaurants, in Camden Town (a few blocks from our flat) to try the other street food options. The second time, we ordered the mixed (meat and vegetarian) street food series. We ordered 7 different plates, but were actually brought 10. It has been a long time since we've tasted food that so thoroughly surprised us. Each plate had a mix of flavors and textures that were first-time bites for us. The first plates were vegetarian, saving the meat dishes for last.
We started with this lovely salad. It had crunchy toasted rice, tamarind, tomatoes, onions and other flavors mixed in.
Next up were two similar dishes consisting of crunchy pockets. The one on top had a creamy, savory, spicy filling; for the ones on the bottom, you poured the liquid into the puff ball, then ate it in one bite. The liquid had savory Indian spices.
Next were two different types of vegetarian "sliders" - on top, fried patties with a smooth, seasoned potato filling, and on bottom a mixed mash that tasted of lentils. The peppers on top of the potato selection were extremely spicy!!!
The final group were three meat dishes - a fish cake, chicken wings, and a crunchy ball with chopped meat and a dipping sauce. We also had lamb sliders at the Covent Garden location.
Prices were very reasonable, even with wine, the 7-course street food sampler and a carafe of French wine was £75.
Bottom line: for pure convenience and a quick curry fix, Spice Hut is just fine. For a complex, focused and healthy curry experience, we loved Namaaste Kitchen. For a surprising set of unique flavors, Masala Zone is a winner.