I may have mentioned it on my blog before, but I am OBSESSED with Indian vegetarian food. And by that I don’t mean the standard potato curry or daal that you get in a normal non-veg restaurant. Apart from a few exceptions, the veg in a traditional curry house is an oily afterthought, but if you go for a specialist Indian vegetarian restaurant, I guarantee you will NOT miss meat.
Like many doubters, I once thought there was only so much you could do with a potato. I lived in Leicester – otherwise known as Gujarati central – while studying for my degree, and discovered a whole street dedicated to Indian Vegetarian food. However, I found the range limiting. Pulses and spuds cooked in as many ways possible didn’t really tickle my palette.
However, it’s only since moving to London two years ago that I found that I’ve been missing out, and there is a whole world of flavour out there is you go to a specialist Indian vegetarian place.
Sweet, sour, tangy and spicy, all these flavours can be found in one starter. And, like many cuisines, it’s all about the starters, mains are a bit of a sideshow – albeit a delicious one – in the world of the veg.
I was going to write individual review of two of my favourite vegetarian restaurants, however as both are equally delicious and have a similar price range, it made sense to talk about them both together.
So here are my quick-fire reviews along with some dishes you just HAVE to try:
The best Indian Vegetarian restaurants in London –
Chawallas, Green St, London
Cheap, cheerful and mouth-watering, Chawallas is a must-try for any vegetarians, or Indian veg lovers. I’m shocked to say I only discovered this recently, after a recommendation from a friend. I often go shopping on Green Street, which is essentially saree-central in London, and I’ve done my Eid shopping there in the last couple of years, but I’ve pretty much opted for the fries and kebab option when shopping there.
However, upon eating at Chawallas, I’ve concluded that this restaurant justifies a visit in its own right, regardless of whether or not you’re shopping in the area. The restaurant itself is a bit basic, with plastic tablecloths and traditional steel beakers to drink from, but with food this good, who cares? In fact, it adds to the rustic authenticity.
Here are just a few of delicious options you should try if you go there:
Chawallas gol guppa
Gol guppa and samosas
Deep fried crisp balls made from rice flour, cracked and filled with spiced chickpeas and potatoes, topped with tangy tamarind sauce. It’s is literally a flavour explosion in your mouth.
Chawallas samosa chaat
The reigning queen of vegetarian starters – samosa chat is one hot mess of a meal, but in the best way possible. A smashed samosa is drowned in a concoction of chickpeas (again) raw and fried onions, yoghurt, tamarind sauce and chutney. Don’t be put off by the toxic-looking green, that’s the chutney which gives the added kick.
Chawallas channa batura (chickpeas with bread)
The famous channa batura
An Indian staple, chickpeas (do you notice a trend here?) are curried in tomaoes and onions and paired with a simple salad and beautiful, unhealthy deep fried bread. The bread I tried at Chawallas is particularly delightful, light, herby and wholesome, and slightly less greasy than others I’ve tried.
Sagar Veg, Covent Garden and West End, London
The legendary potato dosa
Now I could go on about the various different dishes available at Sagar Veg, which is a slightly more upmarket – though still very reasonable – version of Chawallas, but there really is just one BIG DADDY which surpasses them all… make way for the mighty dosa…
If you haven’t tried a dosa I really do question the quality of life you’ve lead. The dosa is basically a crisp rice pancake, filled with spiced potato, with a chutney and coconut dip. Sounds simple and fairly non-consequential. But it is divine. I have no more words. Except to say, if you don’t try this at Sagar Veg, I haven’t done my job in food blogging.
An also ran (though I’m still disracted thinking about that dosa) is the thali, which is a traditional tray of different dishes including rice and sauces. But to me this is a little lacklustre. It’s the dosa where it’s at.
Ravi Shankar, Drummond Street London
If you like your salads plentiful and varied, you need to head to Ravishankar. This restaurant has a sit down menu, but I’m there for their weekend buffet. With an array of colourful salads, vegetable curries, mini dosas, idlis, popadams, Ravishankar really highlights what is great about Indian vegetarian food.
At a bargain of £6.95, Ravishankar has converted many a carnivore (including my husband). It’s weekend buffet is packed out, and it’s anything but boring. Take my word for it, you won’t miss meat.
So I hope you’ve salivated at my vegetarian roundup. And if you’re a die-hard carnivore, I challenge you to try one of these places, you may just change your palette.