Diwali, the festival of lights, symbolises the triumph of good over evil. This year Diwali day, which is part of a five-day festival, is on 30 October according to the Indian lunar calendar.
Diwali food is all about sharing with loved ones. What Indians eat depends on which region they originate from, and their family's own traditions. There isn’t a single dish that’s specific to the festival, such as turkey at Christmas: many people simply eat their favourite foods. One thing that unites everyone, however, is the (over) indulgence of ‘mithai’ – sweet, sticky Indian confectionery that’s become increasingly popular in London.
Here we have rounded up restaurants serving special Diwali menus this year; plus a few other festive food events.
The Cinnamon Club
What: Four-course Diwali menu.
Cost: £48 per person; must be ordered by the entire table.
When: 24 October – 4 November 2016.
Housed inside the Old Westminster Library, chef Vivek Singh’s beautiful Modern Indian restaurant is serving up a lavish Diwali menu. Dishes include round pastries of green pea kachori, chargrilled mallard breast with masala rice and smoky paprika raita, and saffron-pistachio kulfi served in a crisp rice vermicelli nest.
If you’re booking on 30 October, you’re in for a real treat. At lunchtime, there’s a live performance of traditional Indian music by the Shama Rahman Trio, who play the sitar, guitar and tabla. In the evening, dinner guests will be led into a lobby illuminated by oil burning candles, before dining by candlelight. The atmosphere promises to be enchanting.
The Cinnamon Club, The Old Westminster Library, 30-32 Great Smith Street, SW1P 3BU.
What: A la carte Diwali menu; five-course ‘Taste Of Trishna’ Diwali menu; and seven-course ‘Taste Of Trishna’ Diwali menu
Cost: Five courses: £65 per person/ £120 including wines; seven courses: £75 per person/ £145 including wines.
When: 24 October – 27 November 2016.
Karam Sethi’s smart Modern Indian in Marylebone specialises in south-west coastal cuisine. For Diwali, there’s a choice of festive a la carte, and five- and seven-course menus, with or without wine.
There’s a mind-boggling choice of dishes, including pumpkin samosa, tandoori grouse with whisky and plum chutney, and rice pudding with figs, raisins, pistachios and cardamoms.
Vegetarian options are also available, and diners will be given a box of mithai to take home. A private dining room is also available if you’re looking for a more intimate celebration.
Trishna, 15-17 Blandford Street, W1U 3DG.
What: Seven-course Diwali tasting menu; Diwali vault menu; Diwali feast; and Diwali a la carte.
Cost: Seven course tasting menu £70 per person/ £140 with wines; seven-course vault menu £75 per person/ £145 with wines; multi-course Diwali feast for minimum six people: £90 per person.
When: 24 October – 27 November 2016.
Also owned by Karam Sethi, this sumptuous Modern Indian offers a fabulous choice of festive menus. You can’t go wrong with tempting treats such as samosa papdi chaat, wild muntjac biryani, and ras malai with spiced apple jam.
There are several veggie options, and here, too, diners will be given a box of mithai to take home. The vault rooms are available for private celebrations.
Gymkhana, 42 Albemarle Street, W1S 4JH.
What: Multi-course tasting and vegetarian tasting menus
Cost: Tasting menu £98 per person; vegetarian £89 per person. Matching wines £55 per person/ £83 per person for ‘Prestigious’ wines.
When: 24 – 30 October 2016.
At Atul Kochhar’s glamorous Modern Indian in Mayfair, you have a choice of vegetarian and non-vegetarian Diwali tasting menus. Try tandoori chicken tikka pie with redcurrant and plum chutney; or vegetable and green chilli kofta with sautéed spinach, peanut and poppy seed sauce, served with pilau rice.
For pudding, there’s passion fruit semolina cake; plus a range of special Diwali mithai. The first fifty diners to book quoting ‘Diwali candle’ are promised a special exotically scented candle.
Benares, 12A Berkeley Square House, Mayfair, W1J 6BS.
What: Diwali tasting menu.
Cost: £60 per person.
When: 24 October – 2 November 2016.
Namita and Camellia Panjabi’s gorgeous contemporary Indian was groundbreaking when it first opened. It was heaped with accolades, and it spawned endless imitators. It specialises in grilled dishes, cooked using a variety of traditional grilling techniques.
On its tempting Diwali menu you’ll find clove-smoked chicken tikka, tandoori potatoes cooked Benarasi-style, and a selection of Diwali mithai.
Amaya, Halkin Arcade, Motcomb Street, SW1X 8JT.
What: Four-course Diwali tasting menu.
When: 24 October – 2 November 2016.
Also owned by the Panjabi sisters, this glittering venue, which has gone through several incarnations over the years, is London’s oldest surviving Indian restaurant. There’s a special reason to visit this year: it’s celebrating its 90th anniversary.
There’s paneer tikki with garlic and smoked pepper on its Diwali menu, along with tandoori lobster, almond and apple halwa tart, and Diwali mithai petit fours.
Veeraswamy, Mezzanine Floor, Victory House, 99 Regent Street, W1B 4RS.
What: Three-course Diwali set menu.
Cost: £19 per person.
When: 25 – 30 October 2016 (28 and 29 October lunch only; 30 October dinner only).
Manoj Karnavar’s popular eponymous restaurant in Croydon has won many awards and accolades. There are several traditional dishes presented contemporary-style on its Diwali menu.
You’ll want to try the yoghurt and cardamom-marinated Punjabi chicken tulip with avocado, green salad and mint chutney; and millet and green moong bean khichadi with aubergines in peanut-sesame sauce. For the sweet-toothed, there’s ‘decontructed falooda’ – a modern take on an indulgent drink-dessert that has roots in Persian and Turkish cuisines.
Karnavar, 62 South End, Croydon, CRO 1DP.
What: Diwali menu.
Cost: £26.95 per person.
When: 27 October – 3 November 2016.
Part of the Strand Palace Hotel, this contemporary Indian is helmed by acclaimed chef Asharaf Valappil. There’s a pan-Indian, multi-course Diwali menu with a south Indian slant that makes it somewhat different from others.
Try the chef’s signature dish ‘grandma kodi kura’ – a spicy curry from Andhra Pradesh with black peppercorns and shallots, and spinach with tandoori paneer cooked in a clay oven. A sharing platter of Diwali desserts includes mini gulab jamun, saffron falooda, and chocolate samosa – a delightful treat that was served in almost all Modern Indian restaurants 10-15 years ago, but is rarely found these days.
Daawat, Strand Palace Hotel, 372 Strand, WC2R 0JJ.
What: Three-course Diwali dinner menu.
Cost: £35 per person
When: 29 October 2016.
Abdul Yaseen’s spacious contemporary Indian in the City will serve a Diwali menu for one night only, on 29 October. Choose from dishes such as tandoori salmon tikka with kokum berries and coconut, tandoori paneer and peppers in kadhai gravy, and lamb mince cooked with spinach and red onions. Diwali sweets include carrot halwa, pistachio rice pudding, and saffron kulfi.
Darbaar, 1 Snowden Street, Broadgate Quarter, EC2A 2DQ.
Fire & Ice – Diwali Celebration at Green Rooms Hotel
What: Asma Khan and Darjeeling Express’ Diwali supperclub.
Cost: £42 per person.
When: 7 November 2016, 7.30pm.
How to book: via Edible Experiences.
Asma Khan and Darjeeling Express’ regular Mughlai/ Nawabi supperclubs are no stranger to the capital’s dining out scene. This year, they’re hosting a Diwali celebration at Wood Green’s new Green Rooms Hotel.
There will be food stations where you can help yourself to dishes such as Bengali curry with butternut squash, Calcutta chicken chaap, and beetroot halwa with cream. A cash bar will sell Indian-inspired cocktails and mocktails, including the festive classic ‘thandai’ – a chilled milk drink flavoured with sweet spices, nuts and rose petals.
Green Rooms Hotel, 15-27 Station Road, Wood Green, N22 6UW.
A Big Diwali Celebration with Maunika Gowardhan
What: Cookery class and demo with chef Maunika Gowardhan
Cost: £75 per person.
When: 28 October, 7pm-10pm.
How to book: via The Jamie Oliver Cookery School.
This is a rare opportunity in London to see Newcastle’s popular Mumbai-born chef and cookery writer, Maunika Gowardhan.
In this hands-on cookery class and demonstration at Jamie’s Italian in Shepherd’s Bush, you’ll learn to make a three-course menu of Indian classics. Dishes include lamb kathi rolls, Hyderabadi chicken korma, mattar paneer and masala chai.
The Jamie Oliver Cookery School, Jamie’s Italian, 1078 Westfield London, Westfield White City Shopping Centre, Ariel Way, Shepherd’s Bush, W12 7GB.
Diwali food walk of Southall with Monisha Bharadwaj
What: A festive food walk in Southall with cookery writer Monisha Bharadwaj.
When: 29 October 2016, 2pm-4pm.
How to book: via Eventbrite
Cookery writer and tutor Monisha Bharadwaj runs regular food walks in Southall in west London, a vibrant area with a large Punjabi population. She takes you to Indian supermarkets, shows you unusual ingredients explaining what to do with them, and organises tastings of sweets and other traditional foods.
The special Diwali walk is an opportunity to see how Southall prepares for the festival of lights; and experience the sights, sounds, tastes and colours that are brighter and livelier at this time of the year.
Do you know of any other Diwali food and drink menus and events in London this year? Tell us in the comments below.