A few years ago, Gordon Ramsay hosted a show in which restaurants all over the country competed for the title of ‘best local restaurant’. And it was an Indian restaurant in Birmingham that won, against stiff competition and a few sweary rants from Gordon.
However, residents of West London don’t have to go that far to experience local Indian cuisine at its best. Instead, Memories of India on Gloucester Road is one of those places that could quite have justifiably laid claim to the same award, being a perfect neighbourhood restaurant.
It’s on the opposite side of the road to the well-known Da Mario: allegedly where Princess Diana regularly went for pizza (although it’s hard to imagine her as an enthusiastic pizza-eater). Curiously, Memories of India is also just a few doors down from another Indian restaurant – so there’s no shortage of dining options around here. But this one, under the watchful eye of manager Imran, is the one to head for. Given that it’s normally always full, most people clearly agree, the service is efficient, friendly and unpretentious: instead, this place is all about the food.
Sure, it may not be competing for any Michelin stars. But every single dish we tried was honest and faultless, even starting with the papadums. Who doesn’t like papadums: one of the greatest inventions known to mankind? But all too often they are greasy to the touch, almost sweating ghee. These ones, instead, are perfectly light, crispy, and massive, with a generous selection of chutneys and pickles that come with them.
On then to the main courses (although there’s a good range of starters too). And we went for a selection of some of the classics – with a twist. For example, the King Prawn Masala. Of course, everyone knows that Chicken Tikka Masala is Britain’s favourite dish. But the prawn version is the one to go for: and Memories of India doesn’t hold back on those prawns, bathing luxuriantly in masala sauce.
As well as that, we went for the chicken biryani, which was one of the highlights of the evening: again, big pieces of fresh chicken breast nestling in succulent rice that is perfectly seasoned (and naturally comes with a vegetable curry side). At this point, you’ll probably be glad that you skipped the starter (although if you’re tempted – or just greedy – the paneer is truly exceptional).
Authentic Indian food is mainly vegetarian, and this is reflected in the Memories of India menu. We also went for the tarka dal – a staple – and the saag on the side. It might be hard to think of spinach as a celebration, but this one was truly perfect and the dish that we actually finished first. It turns out that Popeye had a point. With a bit of chilli to add some warmth (which you find in the dal as well) the sag was again entirely dry and free of grease: something that this restaurant does consistently well. Same applies to the naan bread, which is soft and fluffy and utterly delicious. The naan is an essential element here, as you’ll definitely need it to mop up all those sauces. By the end of the evening, the Memories of India dishwasher was out of a job: pretty much every scrap was consumed, leaving shiny clean plates.
In fact, there was only one disappointment from the whole experience, which was that they had run out of the chocolates that normally come at the end of the meal. There’s a decent enough wine list – although you don’t generally go to an Indian restaurant for the wine. So I went for Kingfisher beer; like the majority of people who walked through the door (one table was an American airline crew, which had come to Memories of India all the way from Heathrow on a stopover).
It’s estimated that there are around 12,000 Indian restaurants in the UK. But how many do you keep on going back to? That’s why places such as Memories of India are so important: solid, local eateries that surprise you every time with their reassuring familiarity and competence. Experiences like these are truly the backbone of eating out, especially post-lockdown. And you don’t need Gordon Ramsay to tell you that.
Memories of India Kensington, 18 Gloucester Road, London, SW7 4RB, England.
Tel: +44 (0)20 7598 6450
The closest stations are Gloucester Road and High Street Kensington Tube stations on the District and Circle lines. The restaurant is open Monday and Wednesday to Friday from 4:00pm to 10:30pm and on Saturday and Sunday from 1:00pm to 10:00pm.
Type of Restaurant: Indian Restaurant
Price Band: Inexpensive to medium
Insider Tip: Pace yourself, there’s going to be a lot of food!
Reviewer’s Rating: 9/10
Anthony Peacock works as a journalist and is the owner of an international communications agency, all of which has helped take him to more than 80 countries across the world.