Masala Zone is serving up authentic cuisine at The Criterion.
Piccadilly Circus is to London what Times Square is to New York. It’s a place that tourists adore, where American candy stores have opened in record numbers, and where those visiting the city for the first time flock in abundance . If you ask many Londoners, they’ll tell you they avoid it — unless passing through (or heading to the theatre).
Many restaurants in the area aren’t exactly shining examples of culinary excellence, either. So much so, that you’d be forgiven for not knowing it’s home to what we’d describe as one of the best Indian restaurants in London.
From the outside, the building doesn’t look like much , and I’ll admit that I didn’t know it was there for the several years I have lived in the city. It’s neighboured by a Kingdom of Sweets (see above — they truly are everywhere), and several vape and second-hand phone shops. To the untrained eye, this hidden gem is almost undetectable, and it’s only when you enter that you can truly take in its opulence.
Built in 1874 by architect Thomas Verity, the building has been home to a number of restaurants throughout the years, including one headed up by Marco Pierre-White, as well ill-received Italian restaurant Savini, that closed in 2018. Now, it’s Masala Zone, a fine-dining Indian restaurant serving up authentic dishes in a truly spectacular setting.
“Masala Zone launched in 2001, following the remarkable success of our restaurant group, MWEat, and its fine-dining restaurants Chutney Mary and Veeraswamy,” says Ranjit Mathrani, chairman of the MWEat group. “The creation of Masala Zone was born out of a passion for customers to enjoy proper Indian food as eaten by the residents of India on a daily basis, at affordable prices.”
The focus on authenticity is evident from Masala Zone’s menus, with dishes including Jaipur gol guppa pops (deep fried semolina dough), influenced by the capital of India’s Rajasthan state, and a number of ‘thalis’, a platter of food that Indians often eat in their homes.
“The authenticity of our food is fundamental,” says Ranjit. “We focus on real Indian food, made properly without any shortcuts. Our new breakfast menu, for example, contains regional specialities that Londoners are not likely to have tried, such as Gujarat’s wedding scrambled eggs, Punjab’s ginger and tomato bhurji and Temple City favourite, kanchipuram idlis.”
While it might not be your usual spot for brunch, Masala Zone is well worth your attention — and the queue is usually much shorter than Dishoom’s . Indulge in a range of signature toastie naans, or work through regional dishes of India, from Kerala roast eggs to the Bihari cup omelette.
“We’ve spent 34 years combing our way through the sources of the best Indian food, from the regional kitchens of gourmet homes and street stalls to Maharaja’s palaces. We use tightly guarded recipes from the most well-regarded traditional cooks from generations past.”
From the grandeur of the interiors to the warm and hospitable service — as well as, of course, the food itself — it’s evident that this iconic spot has finally found a worthy tenant. masalazone.com