The open kitchen - based on sigri (charcoal grill), tawa (iron skillet) and tandoor (clay oven) - lends a flamboyant, theatrical mood to this stylishly decorated restaurant from the owners of Chutney Mary and Masala Zone. Rose-scented raita with pomegranate seeds and tiny chickpea flour dumplings is one of the menu's highlights, the perfect accompaniment to a Hyderabadi-style biryani. Amaya's small bar offers deliciously vivid cocktails based on kokum and other specialist ingredients.
Amaya, Halkin Arcade, Motcomb Street, London SW1 (0870 780 8174) www.realindianfood.com
Pale walls and wood floorboards set this spacious modern Indian restaurant far apart from the flock-wallpapered curry houses of London. Its Cheyne Walk position with limited parking is sadly some distance from anything else too - except the homes of local residents. The menu changes daily and, in season, the fragrant strawberry curry side dish is an essential order. Other standouts include chilli and rosemary naan, own-made chutneys, and sensible wine list, but you can skip dessert.
The Painted Heron, 112 Cheyne Walk, London SW1 (020 7351 5232) www.thepaintedheron.com. Also at 205-209 Kennington Lane, London SE11. (020 7793 8313)
Mridula Baljekar, the cookery writer heading up this dynamic and elegantly decorated restaurant near Windsor Castle, loves blending tradition and innovation. Her inspiration is the spice rack, and she revels in the opportunity to put her personal stamp on the cuisine of each Indian region. Among the unique dishes are venison and halloumi tikkas, rose petal chicken korma with cashews, apricot-stuffed vegetable balls and roasted sesame pilau. Vegans will enjoy the special tofu (yes, tofu!) dishes.
Spice Route, 18A Thames Street, Windsor, Berkshire (01753 860 720) www.spice-route.co.uk
Chef David Thompson hails from Australia but has acquired an international reputation (notably including Thailand) for his Royal Thai food and studious recreation of historic dishes. At this sumptuous, gold-lined restaurant secreted in the swish Halkin Hotel, the flavours, fragrances and textures of Thompson's spankingly fresh dishes enchant all-comers, not least the Michelin inspectors who've made it Europe's only starred Thai venue. Let yourself be guided by the well-trained staff on selection of both food and wine.
Nahm, The Halkin Hotel, 5 Halkin Street, London SW1 (020 7333 1234) www.halkin.co.uk
So many good things on this menu it's hard to choose, but first-timers should try the chive-studded pan-fried turnip cake, exquisite scallop shiu mai, tea-smoked organic pork ribs, asparagus cheung fun, and warm, soft black sesame balls. Simply reading the tea list is an education, and there's a lovely choice of drinks including a sumptuous strawberry and vanilla iced tea packed with vanilla seeds. Best of all, you can dine very well for under £20 per head.
Yauatcha, 15 Broadwick Street, London W1 (020 7494 8888)
Mei Mei offers an upmarket alternative to the long-established venues of Liverpool's traditional Chinatown strip. Since opening last year it has been packed for lunch and dinner daily, and was the choice of the Wirral's Chinese Association to ring in the Year of the Rooster. The dim sum list proffers reassuringly familiar choices, such as shiu mai and sesame-prawn toast, but the innovative Hong Kong chef gives them a special twist. Service standards are notably high too.
Mei Mei, 9-13 Berry Street, Liverpool (0151 707 2888)
It's the clean, modern design of Thai Edge that immediately impresses - and attracts a stylish clientele - but tradition has not been forgotten here either. The artefacts and ornate serving dishes seem more significant when set in a contemporary environment. The menu offers plenty of traditional favourites too, such as satay, fish cakes, pad thai and chicken with red curry. Fortunately, with three branches, you don't have to travel to Birmingham to experience it.
Thai Edge Birmingham, 7 Oozells Square, Brindleyplace, Birmingham (0121 643 3993). www.thaiedge.co.uk. Also at New Portland Place, 7 Calverley Street, Leeds (0113 243 6333) and Unit 8, The Old Brewery Quarter, Cardiff (0292 023 5665).
Luxuriously appointed Umu specialises in the Kyoto-style of kaiseki cuisine, considered Japan's most prestigious style of gourmet eating, but does its subtlety translate into English? To try to ensure authenticity and quality, many ingredients are being flown in from Japan, however critics are divided on the results. In the Yay! camp are the Michelin inspectors, who have awarded Umu a star. Take your platinum card and order one of the carefully balanced set tasting menus.
Umu, 14-16 Bruton Place, London W1 (020 7499 8881)
Don't dismiss Japanese food as "raw fish and rice" before trying this intimate, airy restaurant in Bath's Windsor hotel. Proprietors Cary and Sachiko Bush specialise in comforting nabe (nah-bay) cooking in which prepared fresh ingredients are brought to the table and diners cook their own food in a bubbling broth. It's light, yet warming, and certainly fun. To drink there's plum wine (ume) as well as sake, Japanese beers and a good list of wines.
Sakura, Windsor Hotel, 69 Great Pulteney Street, Bath (01225 422100) www.sakurarestaurant.co.uk
The brigade at this new restaurant includes a sushi chef from Tokyo, a dim sum specialist from Hong Kong and a wok chef from Thailand. At the helm is Cantonese-speaking Ian Pengelley who made a splash at Notting Hill's trendy E&O, and originally trained in Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and China. Dishes to watch out for include smoked trout with green mango salad, caramelised pork hock with chilli vinegar, beef pho, and jasmine custard with tea-poached pear.
Pengelley's, 164 Sloane Street, London SW1 (020 7750 5000) www.pengelleys.comReuse content