Thanks for that listing/review. I plan to try all of them.
I travel to London occasionally and on my first trip I was asked if I liked curry. Thinking of Curry Chicken in the Chinese restaurants, I said "Sure, if there's lots of it." Having once visited Mother India in Overland Park and being more than a little turned off by it (my wife and I likened it to the meal in one of the Indiana Jones movies), imagine my chagrin when we were strolling down Brick Lane.
A place was selected at the end of the road and I was quite surprised at how good the food was. My hosts (about a dozen of them -- it was the end of a pub crawl dubbed "Tank the Yanks") ordered for me. When I was nearly done, I asked one of my hosts "Don't these places typically serve really hot, spicy foods?" (I did appreciate the ability-to-see-through-walls hotness of Mother India) and he answered in the affirmative and named a few dishes and I asked which was one hottest. "Phawl" (sp?) was his hesitant reply. I told him I'd like to try that and he and others at the table were asking if I were sure, as it was a culinary inferno. The waiter even seemed concerned, but they brought it on and it was wonderful! Wish I hadn't filled up so much on other items. Only had room for about half of it, but it was the food equivalent of Nirvana. As I told my hosts, I felt like I'd just found the Grail. A dish that was both tasty and hot right up to the limit of my ability to tolerate hot. Had they waved a picture of a habanero over the dish, the additional heat would've exceeded my limits.
My concerned-looking hosts, who sounded genuinely worried when they warned me to be careful before my first bite, offered me that cucumber yogurt stuff and I had to tell them that, yeah, it hurt, but it hurt so good! Enjoy the endorphins! Good thing I didn't take the yogurt. My partner, also a Yank, dipped a finger lightly into the sauce, tasted it, turned bright red, and at all the yogurt.
It was a wonderful reintroduction to Indian food, and now I call it curry myself. On my most recent trip to London, a few of us went to a more upscale one and I found it nearly as good as the one on Brick Lane, but sadly lacking the home-grown raucousness of the first place. I remember I had the Chicken Vindaloo and really enjoyed it.
So, I arrive to my point at long last.
Night before last, I took a visiting London associate to Swagat. Had the Chicken Tika for starters and I thought it was wonderful, though my guest commented that the generosity of the serving, especially for a starter, was over-sized as he's always found food to be in the States. (I agree -- if you clean your plate most places and eat out a lot, obesity is guaranteed). He agreed that it was quite good, though.
We both ordered Chicken Vindaloo, and were asked whether we wanted it mild, spicy, or extra-spicy, He went with the mild. You know what I went with.
The Vindaloo and Phawl I remember from London had a sauce that really was a sauce. Pourable. And fiery. At Swagat it was more like a gravy that'd been kept warm since supper prep. Granted, we got there at 8:30, so my description may be right on the money. It clung to the food in such a way that you couldn't tell chicken from potato until you shoved your fork into it. And mine had perhaps half the heat of what I'd had in London.
I'll give them another try earlier in the evening and see if they're any better, but though I generally liked it, I hope it's not the best I can get between London visits.
I'm going to try all of the other places on your list. It's been about 2 months since my last trip to London and 2 more to my next, and my wife is starting to get tired of hearing "Dangit. I'm really jonesing for some curry!!!"
Will post my thoughts here as I try each one, though each will likely take longer to read than the meal did to consume. :)