This month you’ll find us tucking into Dishoom’s Jackfruit Biryani and the creamy Lahsuni Fish Tikka served at Mayfair’s Jamavar
Words Sophie Jean-Louis Constantine
Every autumn, Diwali – the Jain, Sikh and Hindu ‘Festival of Lights’- honours light triumphing over darkness and knowledge over ignorance. The festival is a riot of kaleidoscopic colour, and the special dishes served at this time of year are no less vibrant. From sizzling street food in Shoreditch to a traditional vegetarian menu served in Neasden, here’s our pick of the London restaurants where you can plate up and join in the festivities.
Jamavar’s menu spans cuisine from the North of India to coastal dishes from the Southern states, all served in fine dining surroundings. The setting is opulent, with dark wood finishes, marble and chaturanga (an Indian board game) decorations on the tabletops. Executive Chef Surender Moha’s Diwali menu pairs showstopper dishes with whisky accompaniments, such as the Sabz Mewa Seekh, a type of kebab originating in India, made with minced vegetables, raisins, nuts and roasted spices, matched with the green apple and vanilla notes of a Paul John single malt. Meanwhile, the Lahsuni Fish Tikka, marinated in golden garlic, cream cheese, yoghurt and chillies, is paired with Ardbeg 10 Year Old whisky. Explosive flavour combinations showcased in a thoroughly stylish setting. Menu runs throughout October.
For truly authentic Diwali dishes, it has to be Shayona. The restaurant is attached to the marble and limestone structure of the Neasden temple, whose walls are elaborately carved with Hindu motifs. In the days leading up to the festival, a variety of sublime vegetarian dishes will be on offer. We love the Paneer Jalfrzi, with stir-fried chunks of paneer cheese marinated in a rich sauce spiced with green chilli peppers, onions and tomatoes, creating a zingy, zesty curry. For dessert, try the Gulub Jamun, a sweet treat of deep-fried doughnut balls covered in sugary syrup, commonly eaten at this time of year and an indulgent way to end the meal. Menu runs 21-25 October.
Covent Garden’s Masala Zone comes from the group to give you the much-lauded Chutney Mary and Veeraswamy fine dining Indian restaurants. Masala Zone however has its own distinctive feel, offering Indian food as eaten by Indians. Look up at the ceiling to find intricately designed Rajasthani puppets and stunning carvings on the walls. The memorable Diwali menu, available in all branches, concentrates on cuisine from the Bengal region of India, such as the Tawa Paturi Maach, a delicacy of succulent sea bass marinated in masala, wrapped in banana leaves and pan-fried on a griddle. Carnivores will adore the Hyderabadi Lamb, which sees lamb loin chops cooked in a Hyderabadi potli masala, a fragrant mixture of herbs and spices, and served with baby potatoes. From the drinks menu we recommend the Chai Negroni, a twist on the classic, infused by chai spice, made with Campari, Martini Rosso, and Bombay Dry Gin. Menu runs 19 October – 3 November.
Dishoom and Dinerama
People’s favourite Dishoom, modelled on the old Irani cafés of Bombay, and Shoreditch food market Dinerama are linking up to throw a festive Diwali celebration in East London. Expect an array of vegetarian street food and a fantastic line-up of South Asian talent, including live music and spoken word poetry from East Londoner Jaspreet Kaur. Dishoom themselves will be serving an enormous Biryani (a spiced rice dish) with jackfruit, a fleshy fruit found in Southern India often substituted for pulled pork. There’s also Chef Naved’s take on Shakarhandi Chaat, a sweet potato dish with a flavourful kick. Snap up a ticket and get involved in the merrymaking. Tuesday 22 October 6pm – 10.30pm, tickets £8.
Prefer to celebrate Diwali in low-key fashion and steer clear of set menus? Darjeeling Express in Soho’s Kingly Court would be our choice. The all-female chefs have no formal training (all were taught by their grandmothers), giving dishes a homely feel, and the backdrop is suitably inviting, dotted with potted plants and low-hanging lights. Order the Khatte Baingan Aubergine, a stand-out vegan dish of aubergines cooked in a tamarind, coconut, almond and peanut base, and the Goat Kosha Mangsho, with Bengali goat slow-cooked to perfection and served with potatoes. Round off the night with a Darjeeling Old Fashioned, combining Darjeeling Tea syrup with Four Roses bourbon, lime and bitters. Owner Asma Khan has made this central London gem a place of easy-going fun, with excellent food to boot.
Sophie Jean-Louis Constantine
Sophie is a freelance fashion, lifestyle and travel writer. An alumna of the University of Manchester, where she earned a BA in English Literature, Sophie went on to work at Conde Nast Traveller. She is a fervent North Londoner and happiest curled up with a book.