How to Eat in London and Gain Pounds
Try the city's cheap Indian restaurants; a little spice is a sure way to brighten up a foggy day.
Star Kebab House 178 Earl's Court Rd., 020/7370-4051. This carryout bills itself as a kebab house (kebabs are $4 to $7.20, if you're interested), but it also serves a variety of Indian meals. All food here is halal-prepared according to Muslim dietary law. Curry dishes with rice range from $5.20 for lentils to $8.80 for meat and chicken, but the snacks are a better value (from $1.15 for a samosa to $4.80 for chicken tikka). In the backpacker's haven that is Earl's Court, Star Kebab closes at 3 a.m. Sunday to Wednesday, 4 a.m. Thursday, and 5 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Eat at the counter if it's raining; otherwise get your food to go.
Masala 4 Hogarth Rd., 020/7370-4483. Masala hews to more traditional dishes cooked according to halal standards, such as chicken tikka masala for $7.85 and mattar paneer (curried peas with homemade cheese) for $5.75, and starters like aloo tikki (potato cakes) for $2.40 and nan bread for $1.45. The room is small and unpretentious; you choose from a deli-counter display and the server brings the food to your table. Prices are higher than at Star Kebab House, but the atmosphere is more soothing.
Salwa Restaurant 4 Crawford Pl., 020/7262-3356. It's more of a halal deli than a proper restaurant, but the surroundings on the ground floor are clean and decent (alas, the seating area, with only a few tables, is a bit cramped). There are more places to sit upstairs, but you have to brave a dingy, narrow staircase in the back. Not recommended for a full sit-down meal, Salwa will do for a quick nosh. The curry dishes start at about $9.60, or you can load up on a variety of samosas at $1.50 a pop.
YMCA Indian Student Hostel 41 Fitzroy Sq., 020/7387-0411, www.indianymca.org. This hostel for expat students was founded in 1920 as a London satellite of the YMCA of India. The dining hall offers cafeteria-style Indian food to residents and visitors alike. On weekdays, lunch is served ^ la carte, with dishes costing less than $4. Dinners daily and weekend lunches are a buffet. Included in the $7.20 price is a curry, rice, and chapati (unleavened whole-wheat bread). Pay at the front desk, then bring your receipt to the dining hall and line up, tray in hand, for whatever the cook dishes out. Lunch, popular with non-Indian students from the nearby universities, is served from noon to 2 p.m. (12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. on weekends); an Indian crowd predominates at the dinner service, daily from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Majli's 32 Gloucester Rd., 020/7584-3476. Cheap Indian restaurants are almost nonexistent in this neighborhood of "bright young things." That said, Majli's has a two-course set-lunch menu ($11.15), and you can pull off a bargain at dinner if you choose carefully from the vegetarian options. Appetizers cost $4 to $4.80, and they can be combined with nan bread ($2.40 to $2.80), raita (spiced yogurt with cucumber or other vegetables, $4), or one of the veggie side dishes ($5.60). The restaurant is small but comfortable; on nice days there may be an outdoor table or two on the street.
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