NPR

What's The Difference Between A Curry House And An Indian Restaurant?

The chicken tikka masala and Anglicized korma at most British curry houses are unrecognizable to many Indians. Now a new wave of Indian restaurants is focusing on their food's provenance and history.
Brick Lane is a street in the London borough of Tower Hamlets. It is famous for its many curry houses. Source: Victor Cardoner

"I hate the term curry house," says Ranjit Mathrani, who co-owns Veeraswamy restaurant in London. "We are not a curry house."

Veeraswamy has been around since 1926 — it is London's oldest surviving Indian restaurant. Founded by Edward Palmer — the great-grandson of an English general and an Indian princess — the restaurant served not quite Indian food, but an Anglicized version of it, catering to an English clientele that craved something a bit spicy, but not overly so.

But when Mathrani, along with his wife, Namita Panjabi, and his sister-in-law, Camellia Panjabi, bought Veeraswamy in 1997, they completely overhauled the menu, making it their mission to serve what they call "real Indian food" — dishes you'd actually find in Indian homes.

"Our starting point is that the term 'Indian food' is actually only

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