Diwana Bhel Puri House
Tucked away down an unassuming street by Euston station, this stalwart of Indian vegetarian diners hasnt changed its winning formula since it opened decades ago. Youll forgive the worn decor for the exceptional food at bargain prices; the daily £6.95, all-you-can-eat lunch time buffet has a feast of favourites like tarka dal (tempered lentils), aloo ghobi (cauliflower and potato curry) and palak paneer (spinach and cheese), alongside the odd unexpected treat like their surprisingly delicious Brussel sprout curry (yes, really). Evening specials of veggie classics from all over India change daily, and, like their regular choice of South Indian dosas (rice flower pancakes with savoury fillings), are consistently good. As it is unlicensed, youre allowed to bring your own alcohol (the Indian deli next door has lots of Indian beers), and theres no booking, so get there early to be sure of a table.
Address: 121 Drummond Street NW1 2HL 020 7387 5556
There are now three branches of Sagar (Hammersmith, Covent Garden and Fitzrovia), all specialising in the south India vegetarian favorites of dosas and uthappams (lentil pizzas), both with an extensive menu of styles and fillings all of them fabulous. Check out the lunchtime deals of thalis from only £3.50, but gourmet evening versions include a robust, north Indian Rajdani thali. Sagar is one of the few places in London serving mulga podi, an explosive mixture of ground lentils and spices with melted ghee known as gunpowder. Unlike most Indian vegetarian eateries, they serve alcohol, and even have vegetarian wine on the international wine list.
Address: 31 Catherine St. WC2B 5JS/ 157 Kings St W6 9JT/ 17a Percy St. W1T 1DU, sagarveg.co.uk
Das Sreedharan is a one- man food ambassador for the south Indian state of Kerala, but of his several excellent restaurants in London, only the original Rasa in N16 is pure vegetarian. Here you can discover a whole new world of vegetarian delights like avial (vegetables steamed in turmeric water with coconut and chili), moru kachiathu (mango and green banana in spiced yoghurt) and rasa vangi (aubergines with curry leaves), all with tempting lists of familiar and exotic ingredients for less than £4 a dish. If you want to try them all, order a bespoke feast of taster portions for £16, all richly flavoured with authentic combinations of fresh spices. Whatever you have, make sure you try the £2 selection of delicious home-made pickles and chutneys.
Address: 55 Stoke Newington Church Street, N16 OAR, 020 7249 0344, rasarestaurants.com
If you want a taste of Mumbai in London, book a table at this buzzing, family- run restaurant in the heart of the little India stretch of the Ealing Road, always packed with local Gujarati families. The East-African/ Asian- influenced menu offers an array of tangy, spicy starter snacks like pani puri (puffed wheat with chick peas and coriander in spiced tamarind water) and aloo papri chat (potatoes with mustard seeds, crunchy fried chickpea flour and yoghurt) all around £3.50. Main dishes, between £ 5- £7, include Mumbai favorites like pau bhaji (a spicy veg curry with toasted buns), and several typically Indian versions of vegetarian Chinese dishes. The big draw here is always the sensational lunch and dinner buffets at £9, and for an utterly authentic Mumbai experience, there is a weekend breakfast buffet for £ 4.50, with rocket -fuel curries and masala tea. Unlicensed.
Address: 127 Ealing Rd, Wembley, HA0 4BP, 020 8903 1058, sakonis.co.uk
In the grounds of the magnificent Swaminarayan Mandir Hindu temple, Shayona brings an exotic touch of the sub-continent to this residential Neasden backstreet. The menu has authentically spiced Indian vegetarian fare like South Indian dosas and Punjabi channa masala (spiced chick peas), with a few unusual additions such as a 1/4 pounder veggie burger with fries and a paneer sizzler of tandoori roasted cottage cheese served with peppers on a sizzler dish, and a shayona curry made with curried soya mince. Expect to pay around £25 a head for a full dinner or just £7.99 for the fabulous lunchtime Gujarati Buffet (between noon and 4pm every weekday). Dont go home without a peek inside the sublime, hand-carved marble Hindu temple (the largest outside India, open until 6.30pm). Its proximity means no booze in Shayona, but there are refreshing lassis (fruit, salt and sweet yoghurt drinks).
Address: 54 Meadow Garth NW10 8HD, 020 8965 3365, shayonarestaurants.com