Ever visited London’s Indian restaurants for breakfast or brunch? You’ll find fluffy dosas from South India, substantial parathas from Punjab, an impressive array of Parsi egg dishes, plus a Brit-Asian modern classic: the full English with extra masala and added oomph. So don’t confine Indian food to dinnertime; wake up your palate with these morning restaurant menus.
The Cinnamon Club
Chef Vivek Singh’s smart, ground-breaking venue was one of the first to serve a separate Indian breakfast menu. The current offerings are more eclectic than the early days; enjoy Indian-style scrambled eggs with paratha (flatbreads), spiced omelette, and classic Anglo-Indian kedgeree with smoked haddock and poached egg. To drink, there’s breakfast bellini, a small selection of carefully chosen teas, and freshly squeezed juices.
The Cinnamon Club, The Old Westminster Library, 30-32 Great Smith Street, SW1P 3BU. Breakfast: Monday-Friday, 7.30am-10am.
Styled after the retro Parsi-owned cafés of Bombay, this popular mini-chain was arguably the first to make Londoners really sit up and take notice of Indian breakfast dishes. Much has already been written about its legendary bacon naan roll — but don’t miss the delicious Parsi-style egg dishes.
There are spicy omelettes and scrambled eggs, plus chicken mince and liver topped with fried eggs — or try fried eggs on chilli cheese toast. No daytime visit to a Parsi café would be complete without hot buttered buns to dip into masala chai. You’ll also find chargrilled toast with spiced jams, and ‘the big Bombay’ – an urban Indian twist on the full English. Raise a glass to breakfast lassi, breakfast cocktails, and a selection of colourful juices.
Dishoom King’s Cross, 5 Stable Street, N1C 4AB. Breakfast: Monday-Friday, 8am- 11.45am; Saturday-Sunday 9am-11.45am. Other branches in Covent Garden, Shoreditch and Carnaby.
Looking like an Indian Aunty-ji’s front parlour (in a good way), Ravinder Bhogal’s Marylebone restaurant is a far cry from the gentlemen’s club décor of many Indian restaurants. We love its charmingly domestic look, with block-printed tablecloths, mismatched mirrorwork cushions, and beautiful crockery. This is where we would host the ‘kitty party’ of our dreams (Indian housewives’ social gatherings that are similar to 1950s bridge parties).
The weekend brunch menu is a breath of fresh air. Imaginative dishes on a regularly changing menu may include parathas, pancakes, and Bombay sandwiches, yes, but also mutton keema sloppy joes, fenugreek waffles and spicy fishcakes. Don’t miss handvo (savoury lentil and vegetable 'cake') if it’s on the menu – it’s rarely seen outside a Gujarati mama’s kitchen. Save room for the delicious breakfast cocktails, Lalani teas, and desserts, too. The highly original menu has influences from around India, South Asia, Kenya and the Middle East, reflecting Bhogal’s cosmopolitan upbringing and travels.
Jikoni, 19-21 Blandford Street, W1U 3DH. Brunch: Saturday-Sunday from 10am.
Many Bollywood films feature a long-lost son returning from abroad – and the first thing the mother will invariably do is whip up aloo paratha for breakfast. You can indulge your cinematic fantasy (and north Indian home-style food cravings) with this restaurant’s excellent paratha menu. In addition to the potato paratha of Bollywood dreams, there’s a choice of other fillings; white mooli radish, cauliflower, minced lamb, or coconut and jaggery. Why not try a little bit of everything with the ‘big kitchen mash-up’ (or its delicious veggie equivalent) — a spicy take on the full English.
Other dishes include kedgeree, spiced mushrooms on sourdough toast, and masala omelette on a brioche bun. There are a few sweets like Malabar plum cake; plus a great selection of breakfast drinks, including lassi, cocktails, coconut water, juices and champagne.
Cinnamon Soho, 5 Kingly Street, W1B 5PF. Breakfast: Monday-Saturday 9am-11.30am; brunch: Sunday 11am-5pm.
If you’re still drooling at the thought of Punjabi paratha for breakfast, this no-frills Southall eatery – whose name translates rather romantically as ‘moonlight plaza’ – is another great option. There’s a wide selection here, including fenugreek leaves and paneer fillings.
Other typical breakfast items include halwa chana puri (chickpea curry with fried puffy breads and semolina pudding), and chana bhatura (another type of chickpea curry with large fried puffy breads). The food is substantial and some of the dishes are rich with ghee, but they’re marvellously rustic and flavoursome.
Chandni Chowk, 106 The Broadway, Southall, UB1 1QF. Open daily from 9am.
La Porte des Indes
Notable for its extravagant colonial-style décor complete with spectacular palm trees, wicker chairs and water features, this long-established restaurant is renowned for its Sunday jazz brunch. It’s a £35 self-service buffet, with drinks and hot naan brought to the table. Starters and desserts are laid out on the ground floor, and the mains on the first. There are lots of snacks, street food items, curries, dahl and sweets to choose from. Everything is clearly labelled; and there’s a separate vegetarian section for the main dishes.
A few of the highlights on a recent visit included mini masala dosa, potato patties with chickpea curry, vibrantly green and very fresh-tasting spinach with paneer, beautifully spiced cauliflower, hot mini gulab jamuns, and mousse-like mango yoghurt. The brunch is particularly suitable for special occasion dining with friends and family. The price includes a drink and live music.
La Porte des Indes, 32 Bryanston Street, Marylebone, W1H 7EG. Sunday jazz brunch: 12 noon-3.30pm.
Tucked away in a corner of Canary Wharf, this contemporary Indian canteen and bar is worth tracking down. It overlooks the canal, and has a pretty roof garden at the top.
For breakfast, there's delicious aloo tikki bun, pancakes made with Indian-style ‘chhaas’ buttermilk, and spicy scrambled eggs and omelette. You’ll also find idli sambhar (South Indian steamed rice cakes with lentil and vegetable stew), a spicy version of the full English, and not-to-be-missed mango shrikand made from labneh-like yoghurt. Any restaurant that puts a classic dessert on its breakfast menu gets a gold star. There’s also an enticing selection of hot and cold beverages, including spiced hot chocolate and Sri Lankan arrack-based toddy.
Chai Ki, Crossrail Place, E14 5AR. Breakfast: Monday-Friday 7am-10.30am; brunch: Saturday-Sunday 10am-4pm.
This no-frills vegetarian café chain originated in Chennai (formerly Madras) over 35 years ago. Although it doesn’t serve a separate breakfast menu, the Wembley branch is open early, so you can visit for a good selection of classic South Indian breakfast dishes.
These include many types of dosa, idli, vada and bonda (varieties of fritters), uttapam (pancakes with pizza-style toppings), and rava khichadi (savoury semolina ‘risotto’). Other traditional breakfast items feature too, such as curries made from potatoes or chickpeas paired with pooris or parathas. To drink, there are freshly pressed juices, lassis, chilled milks flavoured with rose syrup or almonds, and latte-like South Indian filter coffee.
Saravanaa Bhavan Wembley, 22 and 22A Ealing Road, Wembley HA0 4TL. Open daily from 9.30am. Other branches in Southall, Tooting, Harrow, East Ham and Ilford.
This cheap and cheerful eatery doesn’t have a separate breakfast menu, but is open early for the classic South Indian breakfast fix known as ‘tiffin’. Dosas, idlis and uttapam are all present and correct; plus there’s pongal, a mildly spiced rice and lentil ‘porridge’ that’s perfect first thing in the morning.
Vasanta Bhavan, 206 High Street North, East Ham, E6 2JA. Open daily from 9am.
- Bangalore Express: a choice of vegetable dosa or eggy ‘omelette paratha’ with masala tea or coffee.
- Indian YMCA: Fitzrovia’s Indian student hostel’s restaurant serves a £4 breakfast, with a daily-changing Indian dish like Keralan appam with vegetable stew, or South Indian rice noodles.
- Sakonis Wembley: a £6 weekend breakfast that features dosa, idli, upma (savoury semolina ‘risotto’) poori and jalebi (sweet sticky spirals), accompanied by masala chai.
- Gupta’s Hendon: Not a restaurant, but a popular takeaway joint, which sells delicious ‘hing kachori’ that’s worth seeking out in north-west London. This regional specialty, rarely found elsewhere in the capital, comprises urid lentil-stuffed puffy fried breads with a pronounced asafoetida flavour, accompanied by spiced potato curry.