Saravanaa Bhavan, Rayners Lane, London

Scores out of 5: Veggie friendly : 5/5; Vegan-options available: Yes; Value for money: 4/5, Quality of cooking : 3.5/5; Ambience : 3/5; Service: 3/5 ;Atmosphere: 3.5/5

This Rayners Lane outpost of the quarter-century old Saravana Bhavan chain serves South-Indian vegetarian fare common to Madras (Chennai) and the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. 

The food is a toothsome combination of the myriad and  lesser-known alternatives to Moghul / North Indian -type curries and breads that are in evidence at Indian restaurants in the West.  

The menu lists roughly three pages of variations on the Tamil dietary staples - rice, lentils and spices, and offers authentic dishes ranging from the ubiquitous dosas (pancakes made from ground rice and lentils, of which at least 7 distinct variations are available) and idlis (steamed dumplings) to vadas (rice and lentil savoury doughnuts) right up to the adai avials (lentil pancakes with a coconut gravy), kootus (simmered vegetables in gravy) and thalis (mixed platters consisting of a dozen different southern Indian curries with rice and bread). 

Dosas, vadas, uttappams and idlis are all served with steaming hot sambar (a spicy lentil dip which was unfortunately over-spiced during our visit - too much of the sambar powder had been added and so it was vaguely bitter) and coconut chutney redolent of the hearty, tropical flavours of south India.

The food is authentic and, in the main, well-executed. Our rava masala dosa (semolina pancake stuffed with curried potatoes) had a mouth-watering, crispy outer layer and a well-seasoned filling. The plain dosa was crisped to perfection and the use of sesame seed oil in its preparation, highlighted the beautifully fermented flavours of the ground rice and lentils. Idlis were just on the right side of reasonable. The onion utappam (onion pancake) however, was under-cooked and disappointing. By this time though, we were too full to try anything from the pudding menu. So a very traditional beeda (Indian aftermint made from a stuffed betel leaf) rounded off the meal. 

I must note that the restaurant also serves that unique category known as “Indian-Chinese” food, but like most South Indian restaurants is unable to deliver to a high standard on this count. {I have been hard-pressed to find a single Indian restaurant in London that does proper Indian-Chinese.}

The restaurant and its patrons are child-friendly in a very inclusive, South Asian manner. The decor is quite kitschy Indian and the place is medium-sized. There is also a little display counter so you can choose Indian puddings and savouries to take away in a neat pack. Our total bill for a table for six with a couple of dishes and soft-drinks each, totalled up to a reasonable £53.  Very reasonable, given the quality of food served. Service could be improved as some of the waiting staff appear prompt but disinterested, but this is more than made up for by an ebullient and attentive restaurant manager and general food standards that have allowed this chain to become a household name in Chennai.

403, Alexandra Avenue, Rayners Lane, Harrow-HA2 9SG.


  1. I know this post is old but just wanted to let you know about a great Indo-Chinese eatery I stumbled upon a while ago. It's in Southall (surprise surprise) & called Desi Dragon (opposite Himalaya cinema) - & is a treasure trove of indo-chinese delights! They serve the usual hakka noodles, chilli chicken, schezwan dishes but are honestly the most authentic indo-chinese food I've had outside of India. Only downside is that the restaurant is a small, dimly-lit place, but if you live near, you could always just grab a takeaway!

  2. This is quite an old post. The quality at Sarwana Bhawan has gone done considerably in the recent months. The food is usually just hot, not much taste. The service is quick but not very friendly.
    They now do all sorts of stuff including north indian and chinese which is all rubbish and had diluted thier core south indian food quality.


The author of this blog welcomes your comments.
We do not accept advertising materials. We are unable to publish hyperlinks, webURLs or comments that may (inadvertently) promote other restaurants and links.