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Fancy a bit of spice?

In search of a curry fix? Experience the authentic tastes and flavours of regional Indian cuisine at the newly refurbished Daawat restaurant.


Most of the globe’s great cuisines derive from the foundation of mélange and there’s only one emperor among them.


Indian cuisine is unique in its cooking methods and range of ingredients, the diversity of its regional flavours and heritage of its gastronomic culture. It stems from curiosity, passion and the evocative combination of old and new – it has something to offer every palate.

It is the fascinating end product of over 5,000 years of foreign influences, trade relations and colonialisation, all of which has had a marked impact on modern day sub continental cuisine. Sprinkle in a handful of myriad exotic herbs and spices that India is famed for producing, and you have a beguiling culinary tradition just waiting to be explored.

Britain’s love affair with Indian cuisine began hundreds of years ago when the East India Company cooks started spicing up the dull dishes of the sahibs with local ingredients. It has been more than 200 years since Sake Dean Mahomed opened Britain’s very first curry establishment in London (we’re talking about the Hindoostane Coffee House). Fast-forward to today, and our obsession with spice has continued to grow.

In 1980, there were 3,000 Indian restaurants in Britain. By 2000, there were 8,000. In addition to the engrained Saturday night takeaways, people continue to opt to dine out at Indian restaurants; their food has become one of Britain’s most widely loved indulgences. Chicken tikka masala is the country’s most popular dish don’t you know… 

There are many establishments who claim to deliver fantastic Indian cuisine, it takes however, somewhere rather special to grab your attention – especially in London’s bustling landscape where it seems a new restaurant opens every minute. Deciding what to eat and where can be a minefield.

Enter: the newly refurbished Daawat, the Strand Palace hotel’s authentic Indian restaurant – a welcome South Asian influence to the area.

PA Life attended the relaunch on Wednesday 11th November for a tasting evening to sample the all-new starters, mains and desserts, as well as meeting the culinary star behind the innovative menu and checking out the venue space. FYI – the chocolate samosa was the showstopper (think coconut, milk chocolate, mango sorbet and strawberries marinated in ginger). Bliss. 

At the helm, Sous Chef Asharaff Valappil, reflects a new generation of chefs who are passionate about Indian regional cooking: “The best way to eat in India is to enjoy home cooking wherever possible, and ask the locals where to dine.” This philosophy was at the forefront of his mind when he created the new menu. Serving authentic Indian-style home cooking and street-food dishes, as well as more well-known and traditional biryanis and chicken kormas exploding with aromatic spices and flavours – here, it’s not just about how much spice is used, but how intelligently it is incorporated into the dish. 

“I want to bring the authentic tastes of ‘home’ to Daawat,“ says Ashraaf.

Daawat gets Modern Indian spot on – no heavy dishes, no uncomfortable servility, just terrific nosh in slick surroundings with obliging service. Appealing to customers staying at the hotel, those looking for a restaurant prior to an evening show, a special occasion, business lunch, or a casual bite, it’s sure to please.

If you haven’t had Daawat in your sights, it’s time to zero in. This is set to be a perennial favourite. Thumbs up.

2, Burleigh St, London WC2R 7PX