The 3 Best Indian Restaurants In Budapest

Budapest's Indian restaurants aren't about to set the food world on fire but this isn't surprising: the city has a small Indian expat community, and few locals seek out Indian food (though tourism from India is rising). The restaurants below serve the usual suspects of northern Indian fare, including reliably prepared tandoori chicken, korma dishes, butter chicken, biryani, saag paneer, and dal makhani.

Located a bit outside the city center in District 6, Taj Mahal is one of the top Indian restaurants in Budapest specializing in north-Indian fare. They serve food from delicate copper tureens, there are Indian art pieces on the walls, and, somewhat bizarrely, the Hungarian waitresses wear saris in an effort to fill the high-ceilinged room with Indian vibes.

For starters, I've enjoyed the onion bhaji, the pakora fritters stuffed with vegetables, and the hara bhara kabab, a "vegetarian kebab" snack made from spinach, peas, and potatoes. The sizzling tandoori chicken is perfectly smokey with splotches of char, but best of all is the chicken korma, boneless pieces of chicken swimming in a luscious, cashew-infused sauce. Taj Mahal is one of the few restaurant in Budapest that serves a masala dosa — a classic south-Indian rice-lentil pancake filled with curried potatoes, onion, and a side of lentil stew. Mains are €10-16.

Many Indian expats in Budapest would tell you that their go-to restaurant is Indigo — an Indian restaurant hardly needs a better endorsement than that. Indigo, which opened in 2005 and also has a sister location in Buda, is a casually elegant sit-down venue not far from downtown in District 6.

You'll find typical North Indian fare here including samosas, tandoori chicken, lamb biryani, and butter chicken. Of the meat dishes, the fragrant chicken korma and the light and flavorful butter chicken stood out most. Vegetarians should opt for the creamy dal makhani, a buttery dish from Punjab made from black lentils and beans, and the saag paneer, a plate of flavored spinach — infused with ginger, cumin, coriander, turmeric, and chiles — and pieces of soft Indian cheese. Compared with nearby Taj Mahal restaurant, spice levels here are milder. Save some stomach space for the pistachio-studded kulfi, a traditional Indian milk-based frozen dessert. Mains are €10-12.

Your first impulse might be to turn around as soon as you step inside the uninviting waiting area of Punjab Tandoori restaurant in Budapest’s Újlipótváros neighborhood, a bit away from the city center. But you shouldn’t. Instead, climb the steep stairs leading to the low-ceilinged, cluttered dining room, where you'll sit elbow-to-elbow with fellow diners. Somehow this humble and sweltering space manages to be cozy, almost intimate. This isn't the best Indian restaurant in Budapest, but it's definitely the quirkiest (the pretense-free service is direct to the point of rudeness but somehow also well-meaning).

Punjab Tandoor opened in 2005, back when few Indian places existed in Budapest and it's still the go-to choice for curries to many locals, hence the Hungarian-heavy crowd. The north Indian menu has some hits like the chicken tikka masala with a perfectly layered pungency, some misses like the painfully dry tandoori chicken, and plenty of reliable dishes like the chicken hara masala, the biryani, the saag paneer (spinach with morsels of cheese), and the dal makhani lentil stew. Mains are €10-12.