• Indian Veg Bhelpoori House: Best vegan value in London

    June 14th, 2011mr meanerlondon, more restaurants (not LA)

    Indian-inspired curries are the national dish of my home country, England. We Brits eat an astonishing 3.5 Indian dishes per person EVERY WEEK, we have over 10,000 Indian restaurants (as opposed to “only” 1,400 McDonald’s outlets) and Tikka Masala is the number one consumed dish by a very wide margin in the UK. Indeed, Fish and Chips have long been relegated to and also-ran in the national culinary identity league.

    As a vegan, I’ve yet to find an Indian restaurant that can’t cater to my preferences. Most can prepare vegan dishes if you ask that they not be cooked with butter ghee, and instead use oil or vegetable ghee and omit any yoghurt or cream. Also, there are many Indian restaurants (often Hindu owned or run) which have a strict lacto-ovo vegetarian policy having no meat anywhere on the premises.

    One such restaurant in London is Indian Veg Bhelpoori House which has stood for over 30 years on picturesque Chapel Market in Islington, a few minutes walk from Angel tube station or a nice stroll from busy King’s Cross station. Chapel Market is a narrow cobbled street that has hosted a daily market since Victorian times. Despite much modernization and full immersion into the cultural smorgasbord of the area, Chapel Market oozes old time London – one could be in the 1940s or the 2000s. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell depending on your viewing angle.

    Crammed into what looks like the ground floor space of three large Georgian houses, Indian Veg Bhelpoori House has loud green banners outside proclaiming things like “A vegetarian diet will save the world!” and “Come and try our £3.95 all-you-can-eat buffet!”. Yes, the restaurant is at the same time lovingly familiar yet absolutely quirky.

    The plot thickens when you get inside – in addition to several (all vegan when we went) curry dishes all laid out in hot pans, the place was covered, wall-to-wall in pro-agenda propaganda including phrases like: “Onion Bhaji’s will cure your cancer”, “Carrots keep you younger” and “The best athletes are vegetarian!”.

    Taking the in-yer-face vegetarian wall decals with the same pinch of salt they put in the Vindaloo, one quickly realizes what a special place Indian Veg Bhelpoori really is. The staff are welcoming and accommodating, and explained to us that almost all the dishes are vegan, except one hot green sauce that has yoghurt in it and they will occasionally make a curry with cream as an ingredient. But not on the day we went.

    And, for only £3.95 (a little over $6), you get to have as many courses and pay as many visits to the food bar as you like. And, that’s exactly what we did.

    First up we sampled the delicious appetizers, starting with vegetable pakora (garam flour batter coated vegetables, deep fried in Indian spices). Next up we got a serving of Onion Bhaji – another battered, deep-fried delicious appetizer that was done to perfection. The highlight, though, were the baked Indian potatoes – dusted with spices and a little oil then baked to a crispy frenzy in the hot tandoor oven. Absolutely stunning.

    After three courses of appetizers we thought we’d already got our money’s worth but felt the need to press on as we were not quite stuffed enough! For the entree selections we built our own plates from the six different curries (potato, okra, vegetable, spinach, chickpea and lentil dahl), on a bed of the three rices (pilau, jasmine and brown), with some Indian salad greens and sauces. There was WAY too much choice to fill up a plate with a little of everything, so we went back a second time so we could sample at least some of each dish.

    The green sauce to the far left was the only non-vegan item when we were there.

    I can honestly say, without exception, that this is tremendously good food. You’re talking honest to goodness British curry here: not the anemic ghost of the great dish that’s available in America. Everything was superb, and it was possible to eat relatively healthy (with rice and the chickpea curry) or go all-out for a massive spicy fry-up as only the Indians can prepare.

    Just as we were getting ready to leave, the chef appeared from the kitchen and swapped two of the nearly-empty curry containers with two brand new dishes — a green bean curry and something that looked like a very hot tomato-based curry – possibly a Vindaloo of Dhansak. We were SO tempted to go back up and have a bit more but were literally full to the brim.

    We arrived a little before lunchtime on a weekday and were the only customers in there until about noon when it started to fill up. By the time we left at about 1pm it was about half full with more people arriving. It looks like (and reviews support this) it gets very busy during buffet times, so get there early and fill on up before all of North London arrives for their fill. Indian Veg Bhelpoori House also has a well-stocked fridge of beer and wine, if you’re feeling like a drink with your meal. We decided to pass on the booze because, of course, were saving ourselves for the nearest pub.

    The vibe (if you could call it that) is a little strange – half traditional curry house and half “greasy spoon” style self-serve cafe/diner, but with the walls covered in magazine clippings like the lair of a serial killer. Overly-attentive staff compliment a somewhat cult-like atmosphere, but the interior is warm, inviting and very spacious – just the kind of place you could bring a bunch of friends for an evening. Talking of evenings, Indian Veg Bhelpoori House goes a-la-carte at night with a huge menu of vegetarian, largely vegan Indian food. The prices are a little higher, but are still some of the best value in the area.

    The buffet, though, is a must-do for any vegan visiting London. The quality of food and value simply cannot be beaten – I don’t think there’s anywhere in Europe where you can get nearly as much good food for your money.

    Indian Veg Bhelpoori House
    92-93 Chapel Market
    London N1 9EX
    020 7833 1167
    Nearest Tube:
    Angel (Northern)
    Mon-Sun 11:30 – 0:00
    020 7833 1167

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8 responses to “Indian Veg Bhelpoori House: Best vegan value in London” RSS icon

  • What’s that in american money? 5 or 6 bucks for all you can eat? Sounds like a great deal.

  • This place looks amazing! I will check it out for sure next time I’m in London.

  • Yes – around $6.10-$6.30 depending on the exchange rate.

  • London is becoming quite the vegetarian/vegan hot spot. I hadn’t even heard of this place prior to this post. It looks glorious.

  • MORE PLACES NEED TO PUSH THE 45 MINUTE AFTERNOON NAP. zzzzzZZZZZ naplet! (i think i shall move to germany)

  • Gauri Radha गौरी राधा

    I’m from India and I love veganized Indian food, this looks fantastic.

    I am very fond of masala dosa and paani puri especially, which can easily be made vegan. Saag dishes are marvelous as well.

    Thanks for the review!!:-)

  • Bhelpuri itself is delicious, I wish more than one restaurant that I know of here made it. I think I might even like it more than samosas (scandalous, I know).

  • Gauri Radha गौरी राधा

    ^ Bhel puri is very good, I agree, and if you’re ever in Artesia (Little India of Los Angeles) it is available there at a few of the shops.

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