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Restaurant Review: City Spice

City Spice

Brick Lane’s favourite curry house continues to serve high class Bengali fusion fare

It’s hard to know where to eat on Brick Lane. With countless curry houses on the same stretch, all of them stationing people outside to try and tempt you in, it’s a tough decision. But you can’t go wrong with City Spice. Winner of countless awards and bearer of multiple accolades (home to the best keema naan, the best sag paneer,etc) it’s a place that takes its cooking seriously. Run by Chef Niaz, who regularly appears on television as a master of Indian cookery, it’s always busy, with space for groups and an ongoing “hottest curry challenge” that’s not for the faint-hearted.

“City Spice is winner of countless awards and bearer of multiple accolades”

But we’re not here for that. It’s a bright corner site, with traditional white starched tablecloths and napkins folded into swans. There’s a downstairs dining room too, making it a space for all occasions. The menu is vast, with several pages of ‘all time favourites’, ‘everyday favourites’ and ‘award-winning dishes’. Everything is listed in ascending order of spiciness, and there are a lot of options. We start with king prawn puri – the chef’s choice: tiger prawns cooked in ginger and garlic with turmeric and sweet paprika folded into a tender puri bread that is as velvety and fluffy as promised. It’s excellent – and a generous portion. Along with the moreish poppadoms, pickles and chutneys, I’m almost full already. Another starter of lamb chops is good too – tasty blackened meat marinated in yoghurt, tamarind and spices. We’re offered a welcome pause before our main courses arrive, which is clearly something many people need. Because portions are generous here too: gunpowder chicken is a hearty and unusual dish of marinated chicken stuffed with lamb mince in a spicy bhuna sauce. It’s a tasty, meaty affair. Curryleaf chicken is a citrussy, fresh dish in a rich and spicy sauce with lime and lots of fragrant curry leaves. It’s on the spicier end of the menu so I’m expecting it to be fiery, and it is, but not hugely fiery.

From a long list of naan options we enjoy garlic and chilli flavours, and the bread is pillowy and slightly blackened, with a great texture. Pilau rice is prettily coloured and tasty.

There’s a separate vegan menu too, designed with Michelin star chef Rupert Rowly. It features lots of vegetable dishes as well as a range of Tindle options such as Delhi Railway “chicken”, inspired by first class Indian railway cabins. Since 2022, City Spice has worked with the Food for a Brighter Future Foundation, donating £1 for each person dining to feeding children who would otherwise go hungry. So if you’re in Brick Lane, dodge all other invitations and head to number 138.

City Spice, 138 Brick Lane, E1 6RU; 020 7247 1012;

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Picture of Pendle Harte

Pendle Harte

Pendle Harte joined Zest in 2012 as launch editor of Absolutely Notting Hill, Zest's first London title, and then became launch editor of Absolutely Home magazine in 2018. Now she edits the London portfolio, sourcing content on all things London related, from food to culture via fashion, interiors and health. Pendle is a lifelong Londoner whose interests include books, clothes, theatre and spelling. She lives with her partner and their two teenage daughters in north west London.
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