Ignore that it looks like every other hack kitchen sponging off the Covent Garden tourist trade—this place predates the recent curry trend, which is why it survived the crest of the popularity wave. Punjab has been cooking since 1947, when it was opened by Gurbachan Singh Maan, a wrestler, and his fourth generation now owns it. It proclaims itself the oldest North Indian restaurant in the U.K., and staff have worked here, beneath the gold silk wallpaper, for decades. Cooking is light on the oil and ghee (clarified butter). Meats and tandoori (the oven was installed in 1962) are well marinated, and so they arrive tender. Ask for something not on the menu: anari gosht, or pomegranate-flavored lamb. (“That’s only for the regulars,” the waiter tells me. “No problem.”) The flavors dovetail gorgeously with every bite, winding up with a slight spicy twang. The menu is cheeky, too: “If you have any erotic activities planned for after you leave us, perhaps you should resist this sensational garlic naan.” Reserve ahead on weekends or face the queue.
80 Neal St., WC2
Our Rating Neighborhood Covent Garden & the Strand Hours Mon–Sat noon–11:30pm, Sun noon–10:30pm Transportation Tube: Covent Garden Phone 020/7836-9787 Prices Mains £8–£10 Cuisine Type Indian Web site Punjab Restaurant
Map80 Neal St., WC2 London
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