I only worked in London for two years, right after I graduated, but it was an education in Indian food. I was living in Brixton, just down the road from an amazing little curry house called Khan’s*, which was every bit as good as the restaurants on the famed Brick Lane and probably a lot cheaper. So when I moved to the Netherlands in 2006, Indian food was possibly the only thing I missed about the UK. Luckily, 15 years later, a few good Indian restaurants are starting to spring up in Amsterdam serving everything from South Indian dosas to North Indian classics like butter chicken.
*To this day, I’ve never found a chicken green masala as good as the one from Khan’s (my favourite dish on the menu), except possibly at Ravi’s in Dubai. In fact, I never see the chicken green masala on menus in Amsterdam at all. Do you know of a restaurant that serves it? PLEASE TELL ME!
10 of the Best Indian Restaurants in Amsterdam
Before getting into the full list, let me just clarify a couple of things. Firstly, I’ve never been to India; I am definitely no expert on Indian cuisine and my experiences are informed entirely by being British, which comes with its own problematic colonial implications. And secondly, this list is by no means exhaustive: I’ve taken recommendations from plenty of Indian expats along the way, but there are undoubtedly places I’ve missed. I’ll continue to update this article as and when I eat at new restaurants that I think should make the cut. If you have suggestions for me, do let me know!
Best all-round Indian restaurant: The Indian Kitchen
There’s a bit of a catch to this first restaurant recommendation in that it’s actually in Amstelveen. But The Indian Kitchen served me by far the best Indian food I’d experienced in the Netherlands just before lockdown, and I’ve been desperate to go back ever since. To start, we tried the Hara Bhara Paneer Tikka: a skewer of paneer cheese and vegetables, grilled in the tandoori oven and served with a mint and coriander dipping sauce. It sounds simple, but you could taste the tandoori grill in the cheese, while the sauce tasted every bit as fresh and green as it looks. Our second starter was Bharwan Shimla Mirch: a whole red pepper, stuffed with a spicy, potato-based filling and baked. The sauce it came with was sweet from tomato, but creamy and ever so slightly crunchy from nuts.
For main courses, we chose the Murgh Makhni, which described itself as “proudly known as butter chicken worldwide”, and the Pindi Channa – a type of chickpea curry. But neither of those descriptions do the dishes justice at all. We’d been asked if we wanted the curries spicy, so naturally we said yes, and for once these genuinely were. Laced with small but potent green chillies, they blew our heads off but never to the detriment of the flavour. We cooled our mouths down with perfectly cooked rice and the lightest, crispiest garlic naan I’ve eaten this side of the channel.
I’ve also heard great things about Indian Street Food – right next door to the Indian Kitchen in Amstelveen, and (I believe) run by the same people. I have yet to eat there, but if you’ve been I’d love to hear from you in the comments!
Also worth checking out…
- Guru – tucked down the Rijnstraat, Guru is a little off the beaten path from many parts of Amsterdam, but worth it once you get there. The interior is welcoming and only a tad kitsch, and the service is friendly and attentive. Try the Papri Bites, which reminded me of a dish I tried at Dishoom in London: crispy potatoes, pomegranate seeds, herbs, yoghurt, you name it – cool yet spicy, fruity yet savoury. On the curry front, I can also vouch for the Fish Madras, which was beautifully textured and perfectly spiced.
- Ashoka – while Ashoka may be very close to Dam square, don’t let it’s location and tourist clientele put you off. The Chicken Madras and Lamb Nawabi we ate there were delicious – and deliciously different.
Best Indian takeaway in Amsterdam: Dutch DabbaWala
I’m not saying that the chefs at Dutch DabbaWala only serve takeaway – I’m sure they’ve got a perfectly nice restaurant. It’s just that I’ve only (so far) ordered delivery from them. And it’s been fabulous every time. Possibly my favourite, their Chicken Charminar is brilliantly spiced, creamy with cashew and studded with nigella seeds. DabbaWala’s Lamb Madras, on the other hand, is somehow fruity and freshly fragrant with mint, while their Bangain Bharta is smooth and smoky, and their Kashmiri Lal Paneer features fried paneer with a rich, tomato-based sauce. Everything can be ordered spicy, medium or mild (well, possibly not everything, but most things). I have an extremely high tolerance for chilli, and can attest that the hottest version is nuclear – you have been warned!
You can tell a lot about a place from its rice, and this is excellent too: none of those weird fluorescent bits or grains sticking together. Just great flavour and texture – plus, portions are huge so I always turn the leftover rice into kedgeree or fried rice the next day.
Best vegetarian Indian restaurant: Saravana Bhavan
Although there’s only one in Amsterdam, Saravana Bhavan is in fact a global chain of vegetarian Indian restaurants. The décor is bright and spartan, which means the ambience isn’t great. But the dosas are what you’re here for, and I’ve been raving about them ever since I first visited Saravana Bhavan back in 2017. If you’ve never had a dosa before (or even if you have), this is the place to try one: enormous crepe-like discs are filled with everything from cheese to potatoes to lentils. One of those to yourself would probably fill you up till your next meal for just a few euros. But if you do have room left (I suggest sharing), order one of the thalis for a full gamut of veggie-tastic Indian flavours.
Note: Saravana Bhavan briefly closed down due to some fairly dubious labour issues. According to Google, it is now open as normal and I hope that it’s cleaned up its act. But I’ve not cycled past lately so I can’t 100% guarantee that it’s open and operational.
Best South Indian food in Amsterdam: The Madras Diaries
I don’t understand enough about regional Indian cuisine to go into much detail about the different specialities. But I do know enough to realise that the majority of “classic Indian” dishes that we eat in the West are basically from North India. There are exceptions, of course, but South Indian cuisine tends to be far less well represented here, which is why I wanted to give it a separate entry.
Close to Leidseplien but hidden up a flight of stairs, you’ll find The Madras Diaries. And although their menu does feature plenty of dishes the average European would recognise, it also includes others that were pretty new to me and very much worth a try. Right at the end of the menu, we found the Kothu Parotta dishes that I’d had recommended to me by an Instagram follower. We tried the chicken version, which was very hard to describe: flatbread is shredded and then mixed with small pieces of chicken, scrambled egg, lots of spices, and presumably some stock as the texture was wetter than this description would imply. It also came with a couple of sauces on the side to elevate the flavours even further. Extremely filling, but extremely good. Also interesting were the “Tiffin” dishes (light, tuckbox-style meals), of which we tried the Thattu Idly – essentially two rice cakes with various sauces in which to dip them. One was green and minty, another a classic dal, another creamy and coconut rich, and another bright and spicy. I loved the flavours of them all!
Also worth checking out…
- Junior Kuppana – another global chain, and in ambiance a little like Saravana Bhavan (i.e. rather cold and not very gezellig) but serving some very interesting dishes. I particularly liked the Cauliflower Manchurian: I’m not sure where the name comes from, but it turned out to taste a bit like cauliflower wings (i.e. battered, fried and spicily-sauced) but then with Indian spices rather than American-style hot sauce. I’m not really doing it justice so you’ll have to try it for yourself. The Mutton Pepper Fry was also delicious: a dry curry with warm spices and falling-apart tender meat (which the menu said was goat but, given the name, was perhaps mutton?!).
Best Nepalese food in Amsterdam: Surya
Clearly Nepal is a completely different country, but being right on the northeast border of India I can see why some Indian restaurants serve Nepalese food too. My favourite of these (so far) is Surya on Ceintuurbaan, which is dark and atmospheric and probably good for a date night. Try the Momos – the Nepalese answer to steamed dumplings, in this case served with a spicy dip. But my favourite was, without a doubt, the Nepalese Gurkha curry – lighter than the other curries we tried, it was prepared using a different blend of herbs and spices that made a refreshing change from the classic North Indian cuisine.
Best Indian restaurant for a fancier night out: Mayur
Of course, like with most national cuisines, Indian food can be cheap and cheerful or more upscale. While I’ve not encountered a genuinely fine-dining Indian restaurant in Amsterdam yet, some are a little fancier than others. And Mayur falls more into the special occasion category. The décor, atmosphere and service are a cut above, making it a good spot to take your parents, your boss or a date. Mayur offers a nice range of cocktails, plus a shared dining menu that makes it a lot easier to order than picking from one of the hundreds of dishes. I’ve been to Mayur several times, tasting a different range of dishes on every visit, and always had a good time.
Meanwhile, there are a few more Indian restaurants in Amsterdam that I’ve tried and enjoyed, but so long ago that I’m not sure I’m qualified to really recommend them anymore… They may still be good, but it’s been such a long time that the menu/chef/everything may well have changed: