Eating out in England isn’t all about fish and chips or bangers and mash (or any other classically British combination of protein and potatoes!). In fact, one of the most popular cuisines in the country is Indian food - to the extent that Chicken Tikka Masala is actually one of the national dishes of England (along with some more predictable fare like roast beef with Yorkshire puddings). Although more traditional curries are also hugely popular here, Tikka Masala is especially noteworthy because it wasn’t brought over from India, but created for the British as a way for them to enjoy the more traditional chicken Tikka… but with a masala sauce similar to the gravy that the Brits love to pour on everything. It’s grown to become a foodie favorite, and if you happen to be looking for some next time you are in London, we’ve got two of the best places for you to check out.
Punjab, Covent Garden
If you are looking for truly authentic Chicken Tikka Masala… you’d be out of luck because it’s not a traditional dish, so there’s really no ‘authentic’ way to make it! However, the closest that you will get would be the Chicken Tikka Masala at Punjab, in Covent Garden; the oldest North Indian restaurant in the UK (that’s still serving today). Established in 1946, this cozy spot is a riot of color and has been run by the same family for four generations.
The Chicken Tikka Masala here has been the restaurant’s signature dish since 1973, and it’s easy to see why. It’s not just the incredibly reasonable price (under twelve quid for dinner in Covent Garden?!), but the delicious blend of spices that the restaurant describes as ‘addictive… stimulate your endorphins and electrify your nerves’. High praise for this creamy orange sauce and soft, warm naan to eat it with.
Looking for a uniquely London experience? Pick up some of the Chicken Tikka Masala at the Harrods Food Hall. Harrods is a world-famous department store, and their food hall is the stuff of legends. And don’t let the ‘department store’ label fool you - Harrods is about as far from JC Penny as you can get, and plenty of tourists come here just to marvel at the place (although of course, shopping is encouraged!). Located in Knightsbridge, the Art Deco food hall looks like it could be a museum… if it weren’t for the throngs of shoppers and the display cases piled high with delicious (and very high end) foods from all over the globe.
With over 150 in-house chefs, it’s no surprise that the fresh food at the Harrods marketplace is absolutely stunning - and their tikka masala can rival that of many sit down restaurants in the city. When it comes to Indian food, Harrods has even got famed chef Vineet Bhatia to create a range for them (although you can also visit his sit-down restaurants, of course).
Of course, London is also home to some phenomenal Michelin-starred Indian restaurants that you don’t want to miss, including Gymkhana, Tamarind, and Benares. You won’t find Chicken Tikka Masala on these menus, though; because it’s a British/Indian dish, many of the higher-end restaurants won’t serve it. Instead, they prefer to serve Chicken Makhani or Murgh Makhani, a more traditional dish (also known as Butter Chicken) that is similar. Try both, and see if you can taste the subtle differences!