Those looking for Indian culture in London will most likely visit top-reviewed Indian restaurants or one of the religious temples such as the one In Soho. There are also a few Indian galleries, like the one found in the British Museum. A more authentic experience could be found in actual South Asian areas; one of these is Southall, a West London district which was home to the first pub in the country to accept Rupees as payment. Here you can listen to Bhangra and visit a Gurdwara whilst enjoying a proper curry, if you think you can handle the spice.
Unlike the extravagance of Chinatown, London Southall is a more subdued district. It’s not a tourist destination in the same sense, and is not inherently geared to appeal to travellers. It’s made up mostly of red brick suburbs developed in the early 20th Century – certainly not picturesque in the way you’d expect. But don’t write it off entirely. There are some hidden gems here for those seeking an authentic Indian London.
Though Southall’s broadway may appear to look like any other British high street, there are actually a few interesting places to be found here.
Shahu Nan Kebab is one such place. The lamb is fresh and juicy, and alongside a drink and a side, will be one of the cheapest meals available in the city. You can find it just opposite Southall station, and certainly tastes better than it looks.
The really good stuff is found further away from the main street. There are indoor markets scattered around the area, some of which even open into little spaces that resemble backyards. Exotic fabrics, saris, and other clothing abound, with plenty of jewellery too, ranging from 20 carat gold pieces to the more everyday options.
If there’s something sub-continental you’re seeking, you’ll probably find it. Though most of what populates the area are spice shops, there are sweet shops too, with a range of delicacies for sale: halwa, barfi, ladoo, jalabi, etc. Bombay mixes are also offered for those with more savoury tastes, embodying several combinations of nuts, lentils, chickpeas and rice.
For music there’s Jas Musicals, which sells gig-ready Sitars and Indian Bansaris as well as plenty of CDs covering a range of Indian traditions. There are books and CDs about the history of the music as well as guides to producing it yourself, so you shouldn’t be short of choice, whether it’s sheet music or a snake-charmer’s flute you’re after.
Southall is also home to Sri Guru Sabha Gurdwara – the largest Sikh temple outside of India. You can find this spectacle on Havelock Road, though entry will require you to remove your shoes and cover your head out of respect.
Diwali is almost definitely the best time to visit Southall, with street activities and festivities taking place all over the area. When done, if you’re seeking London Hotels Special Offers, why not try The Marble Arch by Montcalm London?