This guest-post comes to us from Mira Advani Honeycutt, of the Los Angeles Mumbai Sister City Affiliation and author of California’s Central Coast, The Ultimate Winery Guide: From Santa Barbara to Paso Robles.
Outside of India, the best Indian food is in London. So on my recent trip to this exciting city, I discovered two restaurants not serving the popular ‘Balti House’ faire.
Indali on Baker Street is owned by my uncle Dr. Kartar Lalvani who, by profession, is not a chef. He owns a successful vitamin supplement company, and his passion for healthy Indian food encouraged him to open his restaurant as its creative culinary director.
At Indali, Lalvani has created a ghee-free zone. Butter and ghee are replaced by safflower and olive oils used in moderation, Tandoori breads are made with flours of oats, whole wheat and alpine barley. And all the dishes are authentic and delicious.
Chicken tikka masala (UK’s national dish) takes on a whole new personality here cooked with probiotic yogurt (instead of cream) and a blend of spices – secrets of which my uncle will not divulge.
Masala Zone was my next visit. This chain of seven restaurants in London is the brainchild of the Punjabi sisters – Namita and Camelia, aka London’s queens of Indian cuisine (owners of Veeraswamy’s and Chutney Mary).
The food here is far from ghee-free zone. The menu ranges from delicious “chaat”, street food items like gol gappa, bhel and sev puri (took me back to my childhood days on Bombay’s Chowpati Beach savoring “chaat”).
Although there are tandoori dishes and several lamb/chicken/seafood curries (served with rice), the popular item is the Thali – the traditional steel platter lined with bowls of vegetables, lentils, condiments and a non-veg curry.
The decor of the Masala Zone that we visited in Covent Garden was vibrant with Rajasthani puppets hung from the ceiling. Each restaurant is like an art gallery showcasing different forms of tribal and folk Indian art.