Namaaste Kitchen Camden
64 Parkway, Camden, London , NW1
www.namaastekitchen.co.uk/0207 485 5977
There seems to be a new generation of Indian chef/patrons who have spent time behind the stoves at London’s more progressive top-end Indian restaurants and are now opening their own places showcasing a lighter approach to the food. I can think of Manoj Vasaikar’s Indian Zing in Hammersmith and now Sabbir Karim at Namaaste Kitchen in Camden. Sabbir is also the owner of Salaam Namaste in Bloomsbury which has a more traditional approach.
Parkway is the main food hub in Camden. It is a pulsating thoroughfare full of restaurants, pubs and clubs.
Namaaste Kitchen sits about half-way down and the interior is an oasis of calm in brown and white after the hurly-burly of the street.
Fiona from London Unattached and I are met with freshly cooked poppadums and home-made chutneys (£!.20): Mango and pineapple , Tomato and finally a garlicky Coriander. These are some of the best I have tasted and I hope an indicator of what is to come.
While we are looking at the menu the kitchen sends out Panni Puri, little crunchy puffs of unleavened bread with a potato and spice filling and sitting on top of a deliciously sour shot of Tamarind water. In a sense the story of the restaurant’s food was in this little dish; intelligent spicing, a lightness of touch and intense flavours.
For our starters we ordered Spicy Soft Shell Crab (£5.95) and Tandoori Aatish-e-Jingha (£5.50).
Deep-fried in a semolina batter and marinated in a green peppercorn and lemon sauce, the crab was tender and brilliantly flavoured with a fig and prune sauce adding spice and depth to the combination of flavours. A great dish.
Tandoori Aatish-e-Jingha was a construction of King prawns marinated in English mustard, yoghourt and spices, cooked in the Tandoor oven and served with aubergine compote and balchao sauce (a Goanese curry). The marinade managed not to overwhelm the prawns and gave them a surprising depth of flavour.
Choosing wine for rich spicy food is really hard and often I get it wrong. For this meal we went with a bottle of 2011 Musar Jeune (£21.50) from the Chateau Musar Bekaa Valley vineyards in Lebanon owned by the Hochar family. It is a mix of Viognier, Vermentino and Chardonnay with herbal and fruit notes and worked really well in context.
The restaurant specialises in grilled food so for my main course I chose the Whole Baked Sea Bass marinated in raw coastal spices (£12.95). This was a great hunk of a fish, stuffed full of herbs and grilled to within an inch of its life. Chunks off flesh suffused with flavour were falling off the fish with added excitement coming from the spice crunch of the skin. This was fish eating at its most butch…
Pan-seared Monkfish Tail with tomatoes, lemon sauce and basmati rice (£12.95) was succulent and tasty with a tangy tomato and lemon sauce.
For our sides we chose Stir Fry Okra with raw mango (£3.50)-a deliciously sticky blend of okra, onion, tomato and rice and…
Sesame Baby Aubergine with mustard and curry leaf sauce (£3.50)-a squidgilly unctous curry combo that brought joy to my heart on a cold February day.
These were wiped up with a date and ginger Nan (£2.50), light and fresh from the oven.
For dessert we wanted something light. I ordered the Coconut Ice Cream (£3.50)
and Fiona the Tandoori Pineapple with Coconut Sorbet (£4.50). The sorbet turned out to be ice cream but still went well with the burnt sweetness of the pineapple.
I’m really impressed with Namaste Kitchen. It really isn’t necessary to go to Mayfair or Chelsea to get fantastic Indian cooking. You are better off heading for Southall, Hammersmith or now Camden. There is a self-confidence to this restaurant that shows in their approach to the food and the way it is presented. Flavours are intense but not overly hot, everything is freshly prepared, service is friendly without being creepy and the prices are very reasonable. Go!