Govinda has REOPENED as of late March 2014 - after a temporary closing in February.
So if Yelp tells you the restaurant has closed - Yelp is WRONG.
Here is the original review I wrote in January of 2014:
AMAZING INDIAN FOOD FOR PRACTICALLY FREE!
London is not known for cheap food - although it exists.
Some of the cheap food is of the stomach pump variety.
Also - a lot of Indian food is quite mediocre - although amazing places exist.
(Try going for a place that has the cuisine of one region - or to a heavy Indian neighborhood- to avoid Anglo-Indian meh.)
Govinda is neither regional nor in an Indian neighborhood but it is an 11 on a scale from 1 to 10.
It is run by the Hare Krishna.
(who would have thought Hare Krishna are good cooks?)
I am going to guess that Hare Krishna owns the building (i.e. the restaurant does not have to pay rent) and that the restaurant is supposed to provide refection for the believers who travel some distance to worship at the temple upstairs.) Which would make the institution non-profit.
Soho rents are expensive as you-know-what - so having free rent, goodwill and a very charitable orientation does AMAZING things for food prices.
(Always useful in London where it practically costs two pounds a minute just to breathe air.)
How is the food?
a) This is a vegetarian place.
b) There are a very limited number of items on the menu.
c) These items will rock your socks off.
Of especial note are paneer (cheese) dishes which are of absolute distinction. Fire-y hot, with great complex taste in the sauce, and cheese with a rich fantastic comforting taste.
(Mediocre commercial paneer tastes like cardboard tofu with worse texture. Good paneer is very hard to find.)
A terrific thick mango yogurt dessert that is like mango lassi that found godhead just before being put onto your tray.
Pappadam with a warm resonant grain-like flavor from the cooked flour itself and not artificially spiked with the spice that was dumped into the batter. Most lesser pappadams are tasteless crackers with spice camouflage. I could have eaten the pappadams alone all night and been happy.
Tremendous dals and vegetable curries and an interesting peppered vegetable rice.
Six zillion desserts - most Western (but homemade and vegetarian - but some Indian as well.
Note that their food is unbelievably filling. I ordered the 13 pound extravaganza because I was hungry.
Plus - as the Brazilians say - I am really good with a fork.
Taking the standard platter that was half of the size of what I ordered would have filled me up for hours.
But the food is not at all heavy - and god, is it tasty.
Note that I have not seen this place reviewed in any of the Cheap Eats or published tourist restaurant ratings books - and yet to my mind, this is one of the best cheap food deals in London - and certainly one of the better Indian meals in London.
This food is so good, you might even be tempted to join their religion!
Standard vegetarian fare for a moderate price. Could be spicier but there is a good flavour intensity across the curries.
Large thali is all you can eat, just go back up when you are ready to the counter and they will reload your dish with whatever you like. Although I went back for seconds I didn't see many others doing the same - so the initial portion sizes are quite generous.
Not sure if this is the healthiest vegetarian you can get but good if you are really hungry, just don't expect it to rock your spicy socks off. Go in for a feed then sit it off in the nearby Soho square.
I'm probably being unfair due to it's central London location but I've always found this place to be very expensive for what you get.
Was feeling a bit jaded so didn't fancy a sandwich or anything so remembered this place. It was fairly busy but I didn't have to wait too long to get served.
All the food looked fresh and tasty despite being in warmers unlike the Chinese places. Decided to go for a large Dahl. Server got what I thought was a small container but he confirmed it was a 'large' and then proceeded to ladle in soup. I again questioned this and was told it was Dahl! Was give a small plastic spoon and napkin and paid the £2.25. Took the food over the road to Soho Square.
It was nicely hot and tasty but not overly flavourful. I have to say that this was lentil SOUP not Dahl in my view.
This might be nice on a cold winters day but again just came over as expensive. I have had Thali's here and as a treat its o.k but hard not to feel aggrieved at the price once you see what you've got.
Places like Chutneys on Drummond Street offer much better value.
Hubby and I were wandering Soho and super hungry and a hankering for indian food when we came across Govindas.
Hubby ordered the small thali and a buttermilk, with pulao rice, dahl, and aubergine coconut curry.
I ordered the brown rice and potato spinach curry. Maybe I was hungry but YUMMMMMM! It was flavorful, light, and so filling for a reasonable price. I definitely will come back for the non indian stuff like the lasagne and spinach pie. :)
Next door was the ISCON temple, will check that out when i come back again.
Hare Krishnas may not taste foodstuffs during preparation, and all finally-prepared foodstuffs are offered to Krishna before serving. Krishna accepts these offerings as devotions of love, thereby absolving the foodstuffs of any karma. Thusly, your meal is free of karma. Since the kitchen cannot taste whilst cooking, it's no surprise the resulting meal is slightly bland in flavour.
Krishna has banned some items from the HK diet: mushrooms since they are a product of decaying matter; onions and garlic since they are considered "foods of passion". A spice known as hing is used in place of onions and garlic. Hey, at least it's something.
Vegans will not have as many options, most meals contain clarified butter (ghee). I ate at Govinda's before my dairy allergy kicked in and I was grateful for a veg*n haven in a then-otherwise veg*n unfriendly area. With a lot more veg*n establishments open in Soho, Govinda's is better left for all-you-can-eat services if only for the breads.
To be fair, I was expecting greater things, since this place had been hyped up by a visiting friend, and we made a special trip to find it. I would have probably given it more stars if we'd just wandered in off the street by chance. My friend has the Thali (combo plate) which was tasty, but not the best-thing-ever-make-carnivores-swear-off-meat-good. After debating the lasagna (lasagna at a Himalayan/Nepalese restaurant??) I went for a generous slice of the spinach pie. Cant really go wrong with spinach and cheese and pastry dough, but it could have been heated up more, and in hindsight I would have done without the burnt-tasting cup of coffee.
Still, nice vibe, quick service, and I believe I support the Hare Krishnas (or at least I don't oppose them). Not worth a special trip, but I might come back if I'm in the neighborhood.
I think I might have been expecting more exciting or innovative vegetarian food, and not more of a standard indian/himalayan fare, but that was my own preconception at fault, I guess. Even still, I left feeling rather blah at my Thali plate, which was tasty enough, but just lacking in anything new or exciting. They did have an assortment of pastry type spinach pies, but again, nothing very exciting looking. The place felt rather cafeteria like..
What really happened was that we were choosing between the two vegetarian restaurants literally side by side, and went with the one with the most people inside. Well, I feel maybe the organic one next door might be the more creative one, but again, that's just my ill informed gut talking.
Anyway, don't want to put any vegetarians off this place, it was fine enough for your lunch dollars. Just don't expect to be picking your socks off the floor.
If it's healthy, nutritious vegetarian food your after then look no further. Govindas serves up some superb 100% healthy, Vegetarian food.
Here you will find everything is freshly prepared and feels like a new food experience as the food is so wholesome and delicious. There is even a Hare Krishna shop upstairs where you can buy all sorts of things.
Situated just off Oxford Street in Soho, the closest tube station is Tottenham Court Road.
The decor is simple, orange walls with mirrors and the atmosphere is pretty relaxed. I mainly come here if I'm in that side of the City for a hearty lunch and for a breather. it's open Monday to Saturday 12- 8pm.
Price wise I feel it is reasonable for the quality of the food. I usually get the plate which comprises of the soup of the day, a salad, rice and some bread.
Known for its link to the Hare Krishna temple next door, this eatery claims to serve food that is "karmically" prepared. All the dishes are vegetarian and there are options for vegans too.
I ordered a spinach lasagne, a large portion, tasty but slightly stodgy. I recommend the "Thalie", which is a large plate of various dishes of your choice served with pompadoms or bread. It's great value for money.
Because of the canteen style of the restaurant it feels a little soup-kitchenish at times, but don't let that deter you. Lunch and dinner, the place is packed with regulars.
This place is such a gem. I'm used to trekking off to the east end when I fancy a good daal tarka but at last a west end Indian eatery with east end standards. I may not know a lot about the Hare Krishnas but I know they can cook amazing food. The thali menu is the best deal, it is available after 7p.m and on Sundays which suits my eating routine pretty well.
The food is so fresh here and I went with my Indian flat-mate who agreed that it was delicious. And thats a pretty immense compliment. The service was great, although I am sure it helped that my company was in fact Indian. I though poppadoms were the same everywhere you went, crispy and yummy, but these are in a league of their own. I am (in the food sense) a total convert.
I'm not a Krisha, but I sing the Krisha song and eat the Krishna food here at Govindas.
I love to come here and overpay for my soy shake and have a small thali. You can get a choice of brown or white rice with the thali, one curry, one soup, a poppadom, and some salad with oil or dressing.
I've come here for the unlimited Thali after 7 to be a pig and I will say that also the Indian cheese (what's it called again) in spicy tomato sauce is really good.
I like the staff here especially one Krishna guy that always nods and waves hello as he clears the plates.
Hare Krisha, Hare Krisha, Krisha Krishna Hare, Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama, Rama, Hare, Hare- This Matra relaxes me
This place would have gotten a five star rating from me - five years ago - when two awesome auntijis were running the kitchen and they used to make the best a) achar b) tamarind chutney c) paneer samosas -- and they used to make the achar and the chutney themselves -- so eating here was like eating at home!! :p :P :P :P :P Now its great - but not as great as it used to be - but it is cheap and they give you a lot of food - and they give it to you on a thali! Don't miss the samosas -- the desserts look really gross! But the rolls are yummy and the dhal is always decent! And its all prasad - which you can taste -- because it does taste like the food was made with a lot of love and devtion (on a good day)
Although - if you strike up a conversation with anyone -- its likely that someone will try to krishna-fy you - this was my least favorite part of the experience (but I was still a regular). I was offered a bhagavad gita twice -- its like they spot a vegetarian and then they go in for the kill ... also ... you will leave the restaurant singing "hare krishna hare krishna krishna krishna hare hare," so long as you don't break into dance I suppose you're ok -- but once the aunties left and took their sweet cooking skills with them - i stopped going back so often --
i think someone needs to petition them back
First, I'd like to say that I'm not a fan of Indian food, so my review is not the most reliable to find out more about this place. You'd better trust the rest of the Qypers below/above me. I give 4 stars because I still think it's quite good value for money and a nice place to go.
So, having said that, after one visit for lunch I'm kind of disappointed about this place. I tried the thali set meal with almost everything from the canteen-type food and it didn't seem really fresh... it was like the food had been there for a while. The rice was OK and so was the cabbage curry, but the salad was slightly stale. I can't help associating vegetarian food with freshness and deliciousness and healthiness... and this wasn't like that. After eating not very much I felt bloated and sick, rather than energised and in peace as I was expecting.
Anyway, Govinda's was worth the visit for me just for one reason: the fresh mango juice for just £1.50. I love juice and I'm not used to find such a tasty one in London for this price. I won't be going back for lunch but for sure to have juice/lassi and to try the desserts. I must add also that I loved the steel plates and cups and the staff was really nice and helpful :)
Cheap and different restaurant in the city centre, my one and only visit to which was instigated by a rowdy hare-krishna sing-song going on next door in the foyer of their temple. Never did I think before that day that a bunch of peace-loving vegetarians could effectively replicate the mood of the crowd at a Millwall - Leeds football game. I swear to Buddha, I stood there gaping back as about two dozen men, women and children lined up and down the stairwell, chanting so loudly passengers in passing taxis could probably make out the words. Even the lady behind the desk was moshing.
Anyways, after witnessing that, I knew my search for lunch had ended. I ducked into Govinda's next door and savoured their very cheap and cheerful Indian fare. They have a wide variety every day with vegetable curries, samosas and mounds of pilau rice. I believe there is some kind of all-you-can-eat deal too but I was only there during lunchtime. I would have to say that the food was the wrong side of stodgey, but for that price and with the entertainment included, I can't argue.
It's not often that I find a new veggie place that I'm bowled over by. Great value and food that I know is gonna taste good before I even try it out. Lovely friendly staff and baby-suitable too. I was here with a friend and her new-born and we got tons of admiring glances, lol. Will return often, no doubt! So happy to have discovered this...
Ok, somewhat bland, steam table food. Can be crowded.
Good vegetarian alternative to the fast food crap on Oxford. Cafeteria style can be offputting.
Cockroach climbing across the glass behind which was the food. I took that as a sign. I would have loved to try it...I just couldn't.
For cheap, vegetarian food in the centre of London you can't go far wrong with Govindas.
Run by Buddhists you can expect a warm welcome and a right-on clientele.
Don't come looking for a fine dining experience or for frills, but do if you're looking for tasty, wholesome food a stones throw from Centre Point then this is the place
Brilliant place : I return over & over
AND I love the fact that they travel all
over London at night to feed the homeless.
Just the best food to keep body & soul together
& such good prices! Go Go Go!
Lukewarm large thali dish wasn't spicy as is to expect from real Indian food! Simple looking restaurant guests looked us surprised! Maybe they thought we shouldn't be there! Atmosphere wasn't cool and service was very reserved! Large thali is "as much as you can eat meal version" and cost around 8£. We just ate few and left immediately. It's to mention in that evening we just arrived in London and wanted to eat as quick as possible something warm.
I just been to this restaurant and the food is really nice. I had burger and salted lassi - :)
They have blessed priests outside the restaurant chanting hare rama hare krishna and just dancing to release the stress and pains in life. The scene is really beautiful.
Recommended especially for Krishna Fans.
My friend and I were walking to Soho Square with empty stomachs when we found Govinda's. Since it was quite full of customers, we decided to try the restaurant, not knowing what type of "Pure Vegetarian" food it served and not knowing anything about Krisha food.
We both ordered the Thali "all you can eat," and I got a mango lasse (lassi). The food was plenty, especially with the free poppadoms and bread, and it was very delicious. I especially loved the potato and the soup (not sure their names). The salad's yellow dressing was a tad bitter, but it was because I honestly had no idea what the waiter was asking me. I later found out he was asking which of the two salad dressings I wanted.
The mango lasse was quite good. It wasn't too sweet and tasted very natural. And the amount was enough for its cost.
The waiters were very friendly and patient. The cashier smiled the entire time while my friend fumbled with his British bills and coins. The restaurant was fairly crowded with very little space between tables, but it wasn't a big deal, since the customers carried their own food from the counter. Bonus: free WiFi for customers!
Overall, my friend and I greatly enjoyed our food and left with a full stomach without refilling our plates. For the price that we paid (under 11 pounds), the meal was definitely worth it.
A real retreat in the heart of London's shopping district, especially since the well needed renovation of the seating area some months ago.
The food is delicious and very wholesome. They serve a large choice of indian, italian and asian vegetarian dishes and their cakes and sweets are addictive.
Make sure to try the mango lassi as well.
This is my favourite central London restaurant.
This comes as a surprise to many of my friends, as I am fiercely a carnivore and never go for vegetarian options, yet this is a vegetarian, Hare Krisna restaurant. So, WTF?
Well, basically, I am allergic to onions. Yes, I know it's not common, but it's the bane of my life. If I eat so much as a little onion in a curry, I will be sure to throw up. If I am unfortunate not to realise there is onion in the food, and I have not felt the need to throw up, I have been known to faint a few hours later. It's really really horrible. And debilitating.
Well, guess what! Hare Krishnas don't eat onions either! Apparently it's nothing to do with an allergy for them, they think that onions will give them impure sexual thoughts (or something like that). I don't really mind why they don't eat onions, I'm just thankful they don't. Which is also why I always order the Hare Krishna option when I order food on long-haul BA flights. I must say, I get funny looks from the air hostess when she sees who has ordered it, as I don't look like the sort of person who would eat Hare Krishna food. For a start, I rarely wear anything orange unless I am going to support Valencia CF in a football match. And I would rarely be doing that on a long-haul flight, I normally use RyanAir for those trips.
Anyway, back to Govindas (which is oddly a very popular name for Hare Krishna restaurants, and I have enjoyed Govindas in Dublin and in Prague, though whether they are all part of the same chain I do not know). I eat one of two things here. Either I go for the DELICIOUS lasagne (no idea what's in it, but I can't believe that food can taste this good without meat). Or I go for the all-you-can-eat Thali, which you can have refilled afterwards if you feel like a pig. That's about £8 (cheaper during the day I think) and it's well worth it if you're hungry. Trust me, you won't be hungry for much longer.
It's just so tasty, and it's so reassuring to know I can eat EVERYTHING and I don't need to go through the whole tedious rigmarole about onions because their religion bans it.
I would even consider joining their religion if it weren't for the fact that they ban garlic also. And alcohol. So I'll just be a fairweather Hare Krishna, when in Soho, and when 30,000 feet over the Atlantic Ocean.
Now, all together now:
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama
Rama Rama Hare Hare
There, didn't that make you feel better? Now, shut up and eat your thali.
Good vegetarian food close to SOHO square. The all-you-can eat buffet is deceiving though as you can only eat all you can from just a few of the items they have..the rest are a'la carte.
I am completely in love with this restaurant. Amazing location,food and price. Great Indian food plus the staff is very nice. I highly recommend it!
I always have lunch here when I'm in London, even if I have to travel quite a distance to get to it. There's a lot of choice of vegetarian and vegan food and all so delicious! It's self service and you have to move along fairly quickly as there's always a bit of a queue, so you have to make decisions quickly (which I'm not really very good at!!) However, I usually go for the veggie curry of the day with brown rice, and they have Purdeys too which is my favourite drink, not found in many cafes/restaurants. The desserts are gorgeous too! Always a friendly place which, for me, is very important, and quite inexpensive too, so perfect altogether!
Very unassuming place, both inside and out, but boy is this a fantastic vegetarian Indian. I'm certainly no expert in Indian food, but having spent a few months eating my way around India I'd like to think I have a reasonable grasp of the real deal, and this place is the most authentic Indian I've had outside India - even down to the steel water cups and trays.
If you want something really nutritious to eat come here, centrally located in Soho. Here you will find everyting is freshly prepared and feels like a new food experience as the food is so wholesome and delicious. There is even a Hare Krishna shop upstairs where you can buy all sorts of things.
Delicious and eminently affordable vegetarian food in central London. A large thali with everything costs £7.95 and that allows for seconds, if you have the room (you'll be hard pressed), but one could easily have a wholesome and filling lunch for under a fiver.
The space is clean and cheery, with a niche dedicated to Lord Krishna and Sri Prabupada, the founder of the Hare Krishna movement, and there is soothing Krishna devotional music playing in the background. It's nothing fancy, but that's not what you're looking for if you're considering dining here. There are plenty of tables, even at lunch when a bit of a queue (fast moving) forms. Most people seem to take away.
The restaurant is run by and for members of the International Society of Krishna Consciousness (aka Hare Krishnas) - not Buddhists. Preparing food for others is an act of devotion for members. The temple is next door.
How I wish that this place was near where I live.
This is traditional satvic food from India, as made by Hare Krishnas. And so it is blessed food.
It feels so incredibly nourishing and when I get the chance to eat here I feel the benefits for a while afterwards.
Satvic food is not heavily spiced by and large, so do not worry about things being too full of chilli.
The restaurant is basic with a counter you take a tray along, like at a canteen. I believe the food is likely to be eggless as well and I mention that, because some prefer that.
No alcohol here - for spiritual reasons.
A great shop next door where you can buy some things from India, such as chyawanprash, which I can never find anywhere else. Chyawanprash is a sort of spicy paste, sweet and lots of cardamon etc. to ward off colds etc.
I wouldn't call the restaurant cheap but I feel you get good value for money and the thali is delicious!!!!!
My younger sister and I went into London as part of our Easter holiday, and- in my traditional way of getting around London in the most tourist-y and incredibly disoriented style, we got lost. But, thats half the fun! On route to finding someplace we found vaguely familiar (seeing as we only really know the museums) we grew decidedly hungry, and in a street we stumbled across Govindas Pure Vegetarian Restaurant. Great, we thought- we're vegetarians, and as a family we don't eat meat- so, we checked it out. From what we could see, the clientelle was mostly older people (bear in mind my sister and I are 13 and 17 respectively), and artistic-ly types, but the more respectable kind that wash occasionally and are less scruffy than some, but certainly not in suits! :)
Well, what can I say! It was superb, for the most part. The prices were compared to a noodle place just across the way (my sister and I are huge fans of oriental foods) and we found both the prices and the food (on further inspection) to be satisfactory. The place had a good atmosphere- everyone seemed relaxed and cheerful- well, not as dour as they could be, considering the weather was bad in this is, after all, England. ;)
The staff were, overall, friendly and helpful, and were accomodating to letting my sister have whatever she wanted from the foods available, instead of sticking to their pre-planned dish allocation- so the service was flexable and considerate. And finally, the food. It was rich, intense and had a very homemade genuine feel to it, like someone had put a lot of effort and care into making it. I was most impressed my the range of foods- curry, soup, different kinds of rice (we both enjoy brown but we find so few places that make brown rice available over white rice), breads- it was a wonderful selection!
There are a few things though, that got on my bad side- when we picked a table at random, it wasn't clean, and in the immediate vicinity, the unoccupied tables bore dirty trays of used plates and utensils. The food was rich, intense and had a very homemade genuine feel to it, as I've already said- but everything had a strong undercurrent of peppers! I'm not a huge fan of peppers, and have been known to even avoid them if I can, so this was a minor let-down, because over that undercurrent of one of my most hated flavors, everything else was great!
That said, I was impressed that I could find something my sister enjoys (she's at that age where she's going through various food dislikes, combined with some early-teen vanity over weight - like she NEEDS to worry about that!) and she's being a bit fussy over her eating habits at the moment. She heavily recommends the lentil soup she had- and it did taste marvelous!
So, in conclusion, I would go again, but not with meat-eating people who I had a formal relationship with. The restaurant was far to comfortable an atmosphere to go with anyone I wouldn't take home! Good for friends, I should imagine, and definitely for picky sisters!
I think I will go again, and see if a second experience changes any of the impressions I got.
I love this place! You get a lot of food, it all taste brilliant and you feel fresh afterwards. Its all vegetarian and I recommend the plates where can you can get a little bit of everything. Close to Oxford Street.
I thought Govindas was filling, cheap and good, but found it rather mild. I like my food spicy!
I've eaten here more than anywhere else in central London. Healthy food, good sized portions, the famous set meal (all you can eat after 3pm). Fellow customers are always pleasant and decent to be amongst. Prices have crept up in recent years but still good value for money. Convenient location, just off Soho Square and Oxford Street. The one place I always feel well fed and content when leaving (all food is blessed I believe!). Pure vegetarian but not vegan as butter ghee is used in the preparation but no onion or garlic is used. Very small and limited toilet provision in the basement is the only downside.
I love indian food and I am vegetarian so Govinda's is a godsend to me. I don't manage to eat there as often as I would like but if I am in London I always try to get there.
They don't only do indian food. They also do pizzas, pasta etc. I would definitely recommend their thalis which are a selection of curries, rice, bread - very tasty.
Their prices are very cheap. The only downside is that it is always busy and there is always a queue. The queue does move fast though - sometimes too fast and you are still trying to make up your mind with all the delicious options to choose from. It is self service.
The staff are not always that friendly but the food makes up for it.
Great place with very friendly and helpful staff. Food is excellent and would visit again. Beware at noon when everybody wants a piece of the action. It can get quite. Hectic and full.
Centrally located in Soho, great vegetarian food. Its worth going just for the desserts. All cakes and puddings are eggless. Food is freshly prepared. This is a cafeteria for devotees of the Iskon temple attached hence no alcohol on the premises. Atmosphere is relaxed. Everytime I have visited I have shared a table with really interesting people. Great place to stimulate conversation.
I was walking through Oxford Street with some friends looking for a nice place to eat and I came across this gem of a restuarant hidden off of a side road - with astoundingly cheap food considering its geographical position, this vegetarian only restaurant contains underlying themes of frugality and buddhism (adourning the walls were pictures of the Dalai Lama) and the staff dressed in tibetan/oriental garb give a very genuine feel to place. The simple wooden furniture is rustic but very neat, the crockery little more then stainless steel metal plates and cups - the two compliment each other and then with the soft murmering oriental music in the background, you feel like you are up in the Himalayas tucking into some native fare. My recommendation is the Dahl vegetable soup that tastes so damn good and doesn't leave you too out of pocket - and have a look at the shrine-like mantlepiece against the opposite wall to the entrance. A diverse and interesting eat!
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