Restaurant Review: Salaam Namaste
3rd Jan 2013
James Lawrence check outs Salaam Namaste, another of London's hidden gems in great value Indian dining.
Salaam Namaste is that most atypical of central London restaurant: unpretentious, unassuming and inexpensive. It is also, sadly, rather easy to miss, tucked away in an ordinary looking side street in Bloomsbury and not particularly close to a tube stop (very important for Londoners when choosing a restaurant!) But to ignore Namaste would be a tragic loss, for it offers sublime Indian food, cooked with flair and given to us at prices that seem positively absurd.
I mean, of course, absurd in the positive sense of the word, because I wondered how much longer this great restaurant would continue to stay open when everything on the menu seemed so underpriced. Or perhaps fairly priced is a better description. I visited Namaste during a standard wet and mild British winter lunchtime, after faffing around trying to find the place for over 20 minutes. When I finally found the restaurant, it was empty apart from one table and my friend, who had also thank god just arrived.
After entering the small, cosy dining room you instantly realise that you don't come to Namaste for good looks. The décor is simple, the furniture sparse and the tableware basic. Ironically enough our host, chef Sabir Karim, used to work at a swanky hotel in Delhi, before risking his life savings on this venture in London. Which, is what kept nagging at me; how can Karim possibly compete in such an overcrowded market place where every street in the West-End seemingly has a curry house?
His answer is simple: this is no standard curry house! And despite the slightly drab décor, after a quick glance at the menu you'd be forced to agree. Although Namaaste does have all its bases covered and offers standard curry house fare to keep the purists happy, the more unusual dishes are the real reason to visit this Bloomsbury establishment. I mean, how many high-street tandoori venues have crab vindaloo, stuffed Portobello mushrooms, squid tarragon and wild rabbit achari on their menus. The answer I tell you, is none! This is the restaurant's secret weapon, everyone is catered for and can leave stuffed and happy, both the adventurous and the play it safe brigade.
We decided to mix and match the traditional with the more avant-garde and ordered a selection of starters: spicy crab cakes, tiger prawns, onion bajiis and badami chicken kebab. All of the above were delicious, the badami kebab and prawns being the two highlights. King prawns in potent peri-peri sauce can be quite moreish, despite your tongue begging for mercy!
After our appetizers, we greedily ordered several more mains, including: a crab vindaloo, butter chicken and rara gosht with the standard rice, side dishes and naan accompaniments. Those were fine if not spectacular but we were amply rewarded with our butter chicken and rara gosht. The butter chicken was rich, creamy and delicious, the rara gosht sizzled with flavour, a gorgeous medley of diced and minced lamb as heavily, (but not overly) spiced as any Indian dish I have tried. My companion liked his crab vindaloo but I found the puree like texture a bit off-putting, despite the abundance of flavour.
This royal feast came to just over £35 ahead, which was criminally cheap when you consider just how much food we ordered. Add into that mix about 6 bottles of cobra lager and you have the undisputed winner for my best value India meal in 2012. The only downside is that the place was sadly lacking in atmosphere, something, however, that could be easily remedied if London's populace gave Namaste the chance it’s due. Let’s hope that word of mouth spreads and justice will be done for this wonderful little establishment on Millman Street.
Salaam Namaste Restaurant. 68 Millman Street, London, WC1N 3EF - Tel: 020 7405 3697
I travelled to London courtesy of First Great Western: www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk
I stayed in London, courtesy of Waterloo Travelodge.
195-203 Waterloo Road,
0871 984 6291