Forget trite turkey dinners – gather your nearest and dearest and book in for an Indian festive feast this Christmas.
Where? Bromley, Kent
Why? This family-run fine diner presents plates sleek enough to woo Michelin into recommending the venue, but remains true to tradition with authentic recipes and warm hospitality.
What to order: My pick would be Seasonal Party Menu B, priced at £30 for 3 courses, from which I’d start with a ‘Meaty Trio’ of morsels comprising salt cod fritters with Creole sauce, five-spiced black leg chicken drumstick and venison tava tikki, followed by smoky tandoor-kissed sea bream preceding a grand finale of saffron kheer and coconut ice cream. Sides of steamed rice, dal, naan and jeera aloo are served to the whole table, meaning you won’t want for anything more.
Word to the wise… Vegan? On Christmas Day you can enjoy a dinner just as decadent as the carnivores – just pre-book CC’s dedicated, delicious menu.
Look and book: cinnamonculture.com
Darbaar by Abdul
Where? East London
What to order: At £45 per head, The Royal Christmas Feast menu is designed to share. After the included cherry bellini, I’d tuck into Keralan crab & coconut soup, dunk the paneer, aubergine, and spinach & aubergine cake on the veggie grill into the supplied chutneys and raita, make my main the Goan-spiced goose breast and a hearty helping of the black dal, naan and butter chicken served to the whole table, and squeeze in a few spoonfuls of rose custard-lashed spiced fruit & nut pud.
Word to the wise… Still a little peckish? At Dabaar, chai comes with nankhatai – sweetly spiced, melt-in-the-mouth Indian shortbread cookies.
Look and book: darbaarrestaurants.com
Cafe Spice Namaste
Where? East London
Why? Cyrus and Pervin Todiwala’s flagship restaurant is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year and remains as enduringly popular as ever. Arrive as a stranger, leave as family.
What to order: The £35 per person Festive Menu A (for parties of 8+) – then you need not make any more choices, because you get to eat everything. After papads, chutneys and the exotic-sounding ‘sopa de legumesh grosa’ soup comes a quartet comprising aloo papri chaat, Goa-style duck sausage, chicken tikka and a seafood fritter; a family-style feast involving Cyrus’s signature turkey jahlfarzi and that classic Keralite celebration stew, avial; and, finally, a fine Equatorial chocolate praline crisp.
Word to the wise… Pick up a few Mr. Todiwala’s-branded pickles and chutneys to take home. Perfect cracked open to accompany Boxing Day cold cuts.
Look and book: cafespice.co.uk
Where? Central London
Why? Imagine an Anglo Indian festive feast in 1960s Bombay would be a blast? That’s what you’re in for here. Carl Anthony Brown’s slick cocktail menu is a huge part of the allure.
What to order: If you’re craving calamari and the thought of kicking off your meal with a tipple appeals, the £40 feasting menu is for you (as it is me). Make merry with mulled wine and sharing starters of that sensational squid, keema pau and bhel, then tuck into whole-day-cooked turkey raan’n’all the trimmings, Britannia-style chicken berry biryani, lamb boti kebabs, grilled paneer slabs, black dal and fresh-baked flatbread. Oof. Then there’s some rather nice ices on offer for pud…
Word to the wise… If you’re a chai guy (or gal), pre-order a ‘Naughty’ version with your pud for £5 per person; choose from eggnog, cognac, baileys or chocolate.
Look and book: dishoom.com
Where? West London
Why? Not for nothing does Potli call itself an ‘Indian market kitchen’. Chef Jay Ghosh’s cuisine is a rich regional melting pot of eye-opening eats from all over the country.
What to order: Go big or go home: 5 fine courses await those with a healthy appetite for just £35 per person. A celebratory cocktail is fast followed by pickles, papads and chaat, then a selection of sharing starters which includes Potli’s unrivalled Kentish lamb shammi kebabs, your choice of main (your choice should be either the gobsmackingly-good, highly indulgent rattan manjusha kofta or coconutty Bengali-style prawn narkel diye), and seriously good sides. Hot gulab jamun is a good, good pud.
Word to the wise… Don’t spend Christmas Eve night tangling with tape and unpleasantly-shaped presents; head to Potli for an evening of festive food and live music.
Look and book: potli.co.uk
La Porte des Indes
Where? Central London
Why? The majestic dining room, complete with domed glass roof and 40ft waterfall, will transport you to the subcontinent – as will chef Mehernosh Mody’s pan-Indian cuisine.
What to order: Christmas is for feasting, so go for the Festive Tasting Menu (£59) which bills itself alluringly as offering ‘a little of everything’. And that ‘everything’ entails some rather rare dishes and multiple species from both land and sea – including but not limited to guinea fowl tikka, venison curry puffs, lamb irachi olathiu, Parsi fish, and rubiyan jhinga. The restaurant recommends adding in an ‘optional’ middle course of lobster or roast black cod, and I’d heartily concur that you should most certainly take this sage advice.
Word to the wise… Want to be very, very merry indeed? Go for the 4-course wine pairing bolt-on and enjoy a quartet of gorgeous glassfuls with your dinner.
Look and book: laportedesindes.com
Curry Leaf Cafe
Where? Brighton, East Sussex
Why? The joint brainchild of Euan Sey and chef Kanthi Kiran Thamma, CLC’s popularity keeps on skyrocketing. Fun modern inflections take South Indian street eats to a new level.
What to order: Go for the full 3 courses (plus pre-prandial nibbles), priced at £28. To start, parsnip & kale pakoras with clove-spiked mango chutney are a West-meets-East feast, whilst a thali-type main offers the opportunity to try a Keralite delight of coconut vegetable stew and Goa’s festive vindalho. Created in collaboration with local Boho Gelato, Christmas pudding and cinnamon ice cream makes a fine finale.
Word to the wise… Prefer the pub? CLC has masterminded the festive menus at Temple Bar, where Indian fare shares space with a fine selection of craft ales.
Look and book: curryleafcafe.com
- For Indian gift inspiration, click here
- For an Indian Christmas dinner menu from top chefs, click here
- To read about Christmas in Kerala, click here
- For great regional Indian Christmas recipes, click here