When it comes to Indian food there is nobody we trust more than the Oakham Curry Club, or OCC, who in the past have helped out our sister site Urban Family over Diwali, as well as telling That's Shanghai about their 6 of the Best Indian Curry Restaurants in Shanghai of 2017.
With the motto, "May your poppadoms be crispy, your sauces be tasty and your curry spicy," they visit one Indian restaurant a month, grading each restaurant anonymously over five categories – service, quality, customer care, atmosphere and value – with an average score worked out from that.
Over to OCC Vice-Chairman Andrew Cameron...
The Oakham Curry Club (OCC) is a well-respected international institution; a collection of curry enthusiasts that takes pride in searching out the finest Indian restaurants and providing an impartial review of curry houses all over the world.
Having established the Shanghai branch in 2017, 2018 was the year the OCC really hit its straps," says Vice-Chairman Andrew Cameron. "As part of solidifying its reputation as the world’s premier curry club, the OCC opened up two new chapters in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, to go with the existing UK, Hong Kong and Shanghai branches.
For the Shanghai branch, 2018 was another successful year. Our membership grew to 18 members – with two others transferring to sister branches in the UK and Singapore – and we reviewed 11 curry houses throughout the city. It is now time for the 2018 Curry House of the Year (CHOTY) announcement.
Each year we award the coveted CHOTY award to the highest ranked restaurant, with 2017’s honour deservedly going to Kebabs on the Grille at Cool Docks.
In addition to the overall CHOTY, any restaurant that scores above 7 out of 10 also received the official OCC mark of approval; a sticker to be displayed proudly on the front of the venue. We’d compare it to a Michelin star, but with only 13 in existence, they’re statistically much rarer. It is the OCC’s hope that these stickers will serve as beacon to guide Shanghai residents towards the best curry the city has to offer.
Before unveiling the official Shanghai OCC 2018 CHOTY, then, we’ll first detail all of these OCC-approved venues in ascending order. For each of these curry houses, members generally paid in the vicinity of RMB250-350 a head.
It should be pointed out that the OCC is of the firm belief that a curry is a social meal and should be enjoyed heartily with an abundance of good company and good drinks. This often plays a large factor in the final price, so less thirsty curry enthusiasts should expect to pay considerably less.
Lotus Land - OCC Score: 7.1
Lotus Land was already approved by the OCC in 2017; our 2018 visit was due to us hosting members from the Hong Kong branch. Lotus Land’s reputation in Shanghai is well deserved and you always know what you’re going to get here – consistently quality curries, reliably served up in the delightful setting of Tianzifang. We particularly enjoyed the lamb chops from the appetizers and the vindaloo, which had enough spice to get us going without overdoing it.
Dish to order: Lamb chops and chicken vindaloo
Vedas (Hongmei Lu) - OCC Score: 7.1
Vedas’s Changshu Lu location is already a tried, tested and OCC approved location from our 2017 hunt for the CHOTY, and our trip to the Hongmei Lu branch this year showed this was no mistake. In somewhat of a rarity for Shanghai, Vedas’ curries exhibit a wide variety of spices and heat, while the customer care and service are similarly on point.
Dish to order: Bombay prawn curry and Afghani chicken
Currify (Taixing Lu) - OCC Score: 7.3
One of 2018’s new entrants to the curry scene in Shanghai, Currify has quickly established a formidable presence across seemingly all of the food delivery apps the city has to offer. The food itself is decent, if not spectacular, but Currify really comes into its own on value. Our meal was one of the cheapest we had all year, while online, their meal deals of curry and rice or naan for under RMB50 represent arguably the best value curry on offer in the city.
Dish to order: Butter chicken meal deal
Masala Art (Kangding Lu) - OCC Score: 7.3
2018 truly was the year of sequels as the OCC headed to the Kangding Lu branch of Masala Art, having previously experienced and approved the Dagu Lu location. Across all branches of the Masala empire, the customer care and service are standouts and this venue is no different, with the smiling staff always ready to go the extra mile to make you feel welcome. Likewise, as we’ve come to expect from the Dagu Lu venue, the food itself was fantastic, with the masala mixed grill starter - a lovely platter of lamb, fish, chicken and prawns – particularly recommended.
Dish to order: Masala mixed grill and taar korma
Pera - OCC Score: 7.5
Located in Found 158, Pera is operated by the same management as last year’s CHOTY winner Kebabs on the Grille. Part Indian and part Turkish, they serve a variety of dishes from both cuisines. While the curry selection was a little limited and lacked the stand out qualities of Kebabs on the Grille, Pera stood out in other factors.
What really took Pera over the edge for us though is its customer care – the measure of how willing a venue is to go the extra mile to entertain guests. With two different performances, including a belly dancer throughout the evening, it’s safe to say that in this regard, Pera straps on its boots and goes a couple of miles. Worth a visit for those looking to partner their curry with something a little exotic for the evening.
Dish to order: Chicken tikka masala
Bombay Bistro - OCC Score: 7.7
If ever there was proof of the importance of the OCC on Shanghai’s curry scene, it is Bombay Bistro. Having scored a lackluster 5.9 in 2017, Bombay Bistro relocated to Found 158 and revamped its offerings. With a large bar, soft lighting and a killer Indian-inspired cocktail list, the Found 158 location is suitable both for dinner or for drinks before a night out. The menu boasts some dishes rarely found on menus in Shanghai, and all the food comes delightfully presented, making Bombay Bistro probably the best curry house to take a date in Shanghai
Dish to order: Soft shell crab starter and Sharabi Lassia cocktail
Desi Dhaba (Private Dining) - OCC Score: 8.9
Okay, not a restaurant. Desi Dhaba is the alias for Anu Aggarwal’s sensational, home-cooked private dining experience. Serving authentic North Indian food, Anu takes great care in putting together tailored experiences for her guests. The OCC’s meal was simply superlative (one member remarked it was the best meal he’s had in Shanghai), to the point where we felt it unfair to compare it to other actual restaurants in Shanghai.
Hence – despite comfortably outscoring all other venues on this list – Desi Dhaba is not in the running for the CHOTY, but comes enthusiastically recommended from the OCC (the score blew everyone else out of the water). Contact her on WeChat at anu_aggs to find out more:
Dish to order: Whatever Anu serves you up – but the cheesecake is a showstopper
Indian Kitchen - OCC Score: 8.0
Overall in 2018, the OCC trialed 11 curry houses than ran the gamut from poor to fantastic – but none were more deserving (except Desi Dhaba, of course) of the 2018 CHOTY award than Indian Kitchen, the longstanding favourite in Hongmei Lu.
In Shanghai’s notoriously fickle food and beverage scene, restaurants don’t stay open for long without getting things right, and Indian Kitchen takes care to ensure all aspects of the dining experience are well addressed. Despite a booking mistake on our part, and the fact that a Bollywood actress was dining upstairs at the same time, our table of 10 members were seated with minimal fuss and waited upon expertly.
Service aside, the high quality of the food showed why Indian Kitchen is a favourite of curry clubs and movie stars alike. Our starters of samosas, paneer tikka and kebabs had members buzzing for the main course; the mains of rogan josh, chicken madras, garlic beef and palak paneer proved this excitement well founded.
All the dishes were superb; generous heapings of succulent pieces of meat and paneer, and with a pleasing level of spice often wanting in Shanghai. Perhaps most surprisingly, the final bill was one of the cheaper we had experienced for the year.
Dish to order: Chicken madras
With this in mind, the Shanghai branch of the Oakham Curry Club is very pleased to present the Curry House of the Year award for 2018 to Indian Kitchen at Hongmei Lu. The OCC is happy to recommend the venue to the people of Shanghai, and we look forward to casting our eyes over the curry world in this fare city in 2019.
To find out more, follow the OCC on WeChat and keep up with their Shanghai adventures, your taste buds will thank you for it!
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of That's Shanghai.