Salaam Namaste (Indian) – Bloomsbury, London
Salaam Namaste is a “modern” Indian eatery situated in the upmarket residential area of Bloomsbury in Camden.
Having opened soon after the release of the hit Bollywood movie it was named after in 2005, this 60-seater restaurant’s monochromatic brown and cream colour scheme, coupled with a series of low-hanging lights, ensures an intimately relaxed atmosphere.
As for those preferring some fresh air with their dine, then a wooden decking area outside offers three tables of two.
While its sister-branch, Namaste Kitchen, is located between Primrose Hill and bustling Camden Town, Salaam Namaste is described by the restaurants’ award-winning Chef-patron, Sabbir Karim, who was recognised as Chef of the Year at the 2012 Asian Curry Awards, as a “neighbourhood restaurant” that aims “to keep the neighbours happy”.
A variety of papadums along with an earthy sweet tamarind sauce with an anaseed-like aftertaste, a sweet mint sauce, and a thick tomato sauce with a hint of chilli, were presented as a complementary to kickstart the ol’papillae buds.
With no mocktails on the menu, it was lassi or bust!
Hence, though the rosewater-sweetened lassi could have been colder, it was deliciously addictive.
And while the standard mango was preferred by one Lion, the other two thought it to be annoyingly pulpy in its composition.
The salt version, on the other hand, was the coldest of the three and satisfyingly salty.
In the end, the rosewater version was the go-to lassi of choice.
The subtly spiced and tangy masala dry rub coating this Jungle Style Char Grill Lamb Kebab allowed for the chargrilled taste to pleasantly linger in the background.
The lamb itself was non-fatty and beautifully soft in texture, and went very well with the sweet chutni sauce.
A superb starter, and one that confidently asserted that here was one who knew a thing or two about Indian spices!
These perfectly cooked scallops presented three ways were tantilisingly soft, with just the right bite expected of perfectly cooked scallops.
And each accompanying sauce, while being distinct in flavour, married as well with its perfectly cooked scallop counterpart as the last.
Thus, the coriander and lime sauce was true to its flavours; the coastal coconut sweet but not overpoweringly so; and the tomato and lime leaf well balanced.
And the Old Delhi’s Aloo Tikki Chaat ensured that the trio of starters all hit the high notes.
Decently presented, the softly textured potato patty delivered a warm, spicy aftertaste, and was covered in a minty-sweet sauce along with equally soft chick peas.
There wasn’t anything memorable about this Sesame Baby Aubergine. Its biggest shortcoming was its lack of seasoning, and the ratio of its crisp, tangy and vibrant masala sauce to the size of the aubergine itself.
With the latter being soft on the outside and presented whole, and given its naturally bland character, the quantity of the sauce wasn’t nearly enough to compensate for the size of the aubergine.
Similarly, the Dhal Makhani turned out to be equally unmemorable.
It doesn’t matter how slow cooked this black lentil was, when the only flavour materialising thereof was an insipidly weak tomato aftertaste. As one Lion described it: “Lazy concoction.”
Everyone knows how notoriously difficult it is to present a good biryani, let alone a perfect one.
The aromatic fragrance that we were met with when lifting off the roti cover was incredibly inviting. And while the first few strokes of the fork confirmed to us how perfectly cooked the rice was, the first bite corroborated our initial good impressions. All the flavours were accounted for, and it was evident that an experienced and knowledgeable hand was at work in deftly balancing the various masalas and spices therein.
What’s more, the sweetcorn and pomegranate yoghurt had a sweetness to it that worked to enhance said spices.
Definitely one of the better ones we’ve had in recent times.
This looked far richer than it actually was. Essentially a chicken curry which wasn’t close to as hot as the two-chilli label it was marked with on the menu.
Instead, this Manglorean Korri Gassi contained a good portion of soft, tender chicken chunks generously covered in a coconut sauce that was, in terms of chilli, mild. And though one Lion thought this to be indistinct in flavour, and “lacking a certain kick”, the other two appreciated the subtle counterplay between the spices and the sweet coconut, as well as the occasional burst of a pomegranate seed.
This solid Tilapia with Crisp Okra fish curry, though perhaps a tad oily, was, for us at least, unique in terms of its combo.
It had a sweet, chilli undertone which was sufficiently mellow enough to allow one to enjoy and appreciate the distinct flavour of the Tilapia, while the soft okra added that familiar silky edge.
The sauce in this Dhaba Gosht (designated a single-chilli on the menu) was thick, deep and full of bold masalas and flavours that were rich, yet finely balanced.
The goat meat practically fell off the bone and was fatty in just the right way, while the potato was on the right side of soft.
A truly satisfying dish that wasn’t afraid to test the taste buds.
Seeing this on the menu demanded that we give it a try. Not something you see every day (at least not for us). In any case, this Dates & Ginger Nan had the most magnificently fragrant and inticing smell when presented all fresh and piping hot.
In contrast, however, the fresh slithers of grated ginger spread across the top with a date puree like paste did raise an eyebrow or two. We’d call this an acquired taste à la Marmite.
Fresh and crispy tandoor Garlic Nan; can’t go wrong!
Easily the best dessert of the evening by a country carrot mile!
The warm halwa carrot was syrupy soft and decadent without being overly sweet, and would have gone well with the vanilla ice cream had it not been so annoyingly icy.
Said to be inhouse, but we’d be damned if we suspected otherwise.
Be that as it may, this kulfi was more sorbet in texture, with hardly the slightest sign of any pistachio. Extremely poor!
This Mango Kulfi, on the other hand, was comparable to ice cream and thus far softer, with the flavour of the fruit coming through more strongly than its counterpart, though that’s not saying much.
We ended our evening with Masala Tea (£2.95) which, while allowing for the distinct aroma of star anise to filter through, wasn’t nearly as strong as we’d have expected of a masala chai.
- YES/ NO
- CHILD SEATING
- DISABLED FACILITIES
- 20% OFF OPEN TABLE
- UBER EATS
In the end, however, we're certain that you'd walk out of here thinking otherwise. There were a number of dishes we had that certainly confirmed the reputation of the place and the talent behind the menu, Sabbir Karim.
Only a chef with intimate knowledge of South Asian spices could create a biryani as good as the lamb Dumpukht we had, or succeed in achieving such balance in the strong spices that made up the intensely rich Dhaba Gosht.
Although not everything had us doing cartwheels, the service here was, on the whole, efficient and attentive; and with the menu being changed every 6 months, Salaam Namaste has enough going for it to warrant a visit.
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