The Desi Digest: Hot Indian food finds for December


Christmas is coming and the goose is getting fat – and, in all likelihood, so is the Indian food fan who heeds this month’s guide to all of London’s most delectable Desi happenings. But don’t let the fear of a few pounds stop you from digging in with gusto; after all, ’tis the season to eat, drink and make as merry as Santa jacked up on a bunch of barfi and a fair few toddies of Amrut whisky…

The on-the-go eat: Pilau


All that dashing through the snow (or, at least, around town in search of the perfect present for every Tom Dick and Hari of your acquaintance) is bound to build an appetite, so you’ll need to refuel – and this hotspot co-founded by restaurateur Russell Norman’s son Ollie and his childhood friend George Pitkeathley is a great place to do so.

Pilau’s rice referencing-name is deceptive – the menu features everything from spiced-up overnight oats to Indian spins on burritos. Feeling gluttonous? Good: the restaurant supports the Mumbai-based Akshaya Patra foundation – and your greed helps feed a child in need of a square meal.

PSST > A Soho branch will join Pilau’s Goodge Street flagship in December.

  • Pilau, 34 Goodge Street, London W1T 2QL. For more information, click here

The adventure: Tour & Thali in Little India


About as far away from a trip to the North Pole as you can get (and equally as exciting for any Indophile), Shared City’s whistle-stop tour of the Ealing Road area incorporates fashion, food, and damn fine architecture in the form of the iconic Wembley temple. The perfect pre-Chrimbo treat for culture vultures – especially those with an appetite for traditional Gujarati street eats.

Hungry for more? Check out Sejal Sukhadwala’s guide to eating in Wembley on Londonist

  • Shared City’s Tour & Thali experience costs £25 and takes place on 16 December. For more information, click here

The hot new restaurant: Jamavar

Jamavar London With RGB

If you’re into fine Desi dining, make a trip to Jamavar on Mayfair’s Mount Street, where ex-Gymkhana-and-Trishna chef Rohit Ghai is at the helm. Designed by Fabled Studios with the Viceroy’s New Delhi house in mind, you can expect the first Brit outpost of India’s luxury Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts group to be a sumptuous dining spot.

A menu of authentic classics from across the country looks set to put Indian regional food on the culinary map; think lobster neeruli, Sindhi gosht and coconut payasam. Fay Maschler is a known fan of the Chennai branch – will Jamavar’s London incarnation curry similar favour with the esteemed India-born critic?

Did you know? Jamavar takes its name from Kashmir’s intricate 16th-century shawls.

  • Jamavar, 8 Mount Street, London W1K 3NF. For more information, click here 

The cookery class: Indian Street Food


Monisha Bharadwaj is a warm host with red-hot kitchen skills – and, handily, she’s your guide for this full-day cookery class. A shopping trip clues you in on Indian ingredients before a hands-on session during which you’ll master (or at least, make) a whole host of authentic street treats without a morsel of meat in sight. From pav bhaji to fruit chaat, you’ll learn to turn out dishes that’ll make you the talk of the town – not to mention the envy of fellow foodie friends.

Meet Monisha Click here to read about Monisha’s approach to ayurvedic eating

  • Cooking With Monisha’s Indian Street Food course costs £135 and takes place on 3 December. For more information, click here

The curry in a hurry: Motu Indian Kitchen delivery 


Feeling quite at home snuggled up on the sofa but rather craving a curry? No worries – if you’re in Southwest London, simply call upon the services of a fat man (or, rather, a new Indian food delivery service whose moniker means just that in Hindi). Take away your takeaway preconceptions: Motu comes from the JKS Group stable, so you can expect the kind of calibre you should from the minds behind Michelin favourites Gymkhana, Trishna, and Hoppers.

Inspired by India’s almost-flawless dabbawalla delivery service and the great British love of ‘a ruby’, Battersea-based Motu’s branded Feast Boxes feature a stack of dishes with stacks of flavour. Choose a main event (the likes of bone marrow methi goat keema, chicken biryani or a mixed grill) which is supplemented with set sides like saag aloo and samosa chaat. You’ll even find a portion of rasmalai packed in for pud; guaranteeing a sweet end to the occasion.

Thirsty? Lager-lovers can order Cobra Beer or 8% King Cobra, with ThumsUp cola and Limca available for those after a softer option. 

  • Motu’s Feast Boxes start at £20, with delivery currently available throughout Southwest London. For more information, click here

The comeback king: Vineet Bhatia


His eponymous Chelsea venue has long been a Desi dining destination for those in the know, but now international superchef Vineet Bhatia and his wife Rashima have refreshed his flagship Rasoi, renaming it Vineet Bhatia London – and giving the Georgian townhouse a lovely new look.

A 23-year culinary career might give you an inkling that this chef knows his stuff, and you’d be right. Vineet knows how people like to eat, and, accordingly, doesn’t mess around with mile-long menus. Set tasting menus demonstrate a man with an eye for innovation but a hearty respect for tradition – dishes like smoked salmon, white tomato butter chicken and coffee lamb chop might sound strange on paper, but make perfect sense in the mouth.

Great grapes Forget about beer here – it’s well-worth sampling one of the menu-matching wine flights.

VBL, 10 Lincoln St, Chelsea, London SW3 2TS, For more information, click here

The (not so) indulgence: Gourmosa


Mad for mithai? I feel your pain – and your weight gain. But don’t despair: there is a way you can indulge without quite so much bulge. Gourmosa’s chilled halwa pots come in carrot and beetroot varieties (meaning that partaking of pudding puts you well on your way to five-a-day), both containing fewer calories and less fat than their classic counterparts. Scoff them hot if you can spare (or bare to wait) 1½ minutes, or, when willpower deserts you, just eat your dessert directly from the fridge.

Sweet on Indian desserts? Read my great big guide to all kinds of treats here.

  • Gourmosa’s Carrot and Beetroot halwas are available from Ocado. For more information, click here

The food-fuelled afternoon: East Meets West


Hungry in Hounslow? You will be once you’ve been taken on a tasty tour of a local Indian food emporium. Once you’ve gone wild in the aisles exploring exotic edibles from all over the subcontinent, you’ll have ample opportunity to sate all your sweet teeth at a mithai mart, then see off seasonal chills with a warming Indian lunch.

  • The East Meets West experience takes place on 11 December and costs £27.15. For more information, click here

The festive feast: A Maharajah Christmas

That Hungry Chef Pratap Chahal Maharajah Christmas

That Hungry Chef’s festive beano is always a sell-out, so you better get your skates on if you want to get your feet under the table. Raj-era India is the inspiration for Michelin-trained chef Pratap Chahal’s at-home pop-up, where you’ll be welcomed by your host and his wife for an evening encompassing history, mystery and a supper that’s nothing short of splendid. Each item on the multi-course menu is tied to a particular palace; think pomegranate lamb from Kashmir’s Dogra Palace, chickpea pulao from the Red Fort in Delhi, and the Nizam of Hyderabad’s  ‘Seven Dynasty dessert’.

Toast your host Like a drink with your Desi Christmas dinner? No problem – it’s BYOB.

That Hungry Chef’s A Maharajah Christmas costs £55 and takes place on various dates through December. For more information, click here

  • For more on the work of the Akshaya Patra foundation, click here
  • For a great big guide to Indian sweets, click here
  • For more on Monisha Bharadwaj and ayurvedic eating, click here
  • For an interview with That Hungry Chef Pratap Chahal, click here

Image credits: VBL by Alice Griffiths for Good Things magazine; chilli wreath by Tregothnan


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