Ever since I found out that chicken tikka masala was supposedly the national dish of the UK, I knew I had to explore Indian food in London more. While doing restaurant research for this trip, I became a bit obsessive and actually made five restaurant reservations, including three Michelin-star-rated restaurants and one famous afternoon tea spot that won the 2017 award for best afternoon tea in London, and is also a spot where Princess Diana, Winston Churchill, and Oscar Wilde used to frequent.
The first spot we ate at is The Quilon, a modern South Indian restaurant named after the city where Chris’s dad was born. The decor was chic and refined, and the presentation of the food was much different than what I am accustomed to in Indian restaurants back in New York. Everything is much more formal, artfully presented, and at this specific restaurant, vibrantly fresh. Even the little pappadams came with their own assortment of chutneys, including the true standout, a freshly grated coconut chutney that had a texture I’d never enjoyed before. The Kerala fish curry was so good with different nuanced flavors that I wish we could have packed just the curry gravy to take back with us. And the paratha that they gave us was so flaky and fresh, with each layer of dough distinct from one another.
Chris makes fun of me when I say this, but I think the level of innovation in Indian and Chinese restaurants in London far surpasses that of New York City or San Francisco. In London, they seem to be playing on traditional flavors but making the presentation and techniques a lot more modern, and that’s what has been so fun about reading about the London dining scene… even if it isn’t traditional British pub/white people cuisine. They’re not trying too hard like some places (ahem, Mission Chinese), but trying just enough to be interesting and different.