Salaam Namaste Bloomsbury
68 Millman Street Bloomsbury, WC1N 3EF
A couple of months ago I went for lunch to Namaaste Kitchen in Camden, one of the new wave of Indian restaurants offering a lighter and more refined take on the subcontinent’s cuisine. The food was terrific and when asked to review its sister restaurant Salaam Namaste in Bloomsbury it would have been churlish to refuse.
Chef/patron Sabbir Karim had told me that he was keen to refresh both the decor and menu at Salaam Namaste bringing in more of the kind of dishes that he was serving in Camden and moving away from the more traditional curry house menu that the restaurant had been serving.
We decided to sit outside and whilst we looked over the menu La Hedonista drank a Kir Royale (£7.50) which was perfect for the first warm day of spring and I had a Goa on the Rocks (£5.50), a cocktail made out of lime and vodka and sugar.
The drinks complemented the poppadums and delicious home made chutneys (Sesame and tomato, Mango, Coriander yoghurt and mint) rather well.
We were feeling hungry and ordered three starters. Chowpatti Bhelpoori. (£3.95) was the restaurant’s take on the classic Mumbai street snack. It was a crispy explosion of chickpeas, puffed rice, tamarind, pomegranate, peanuts, chopped chillies and red onion. It was the perfect way to set up the rest of the meal.
Goan Spiced Scallops, mango chutney ( £5.50) were flavoured with coconut, chilli and garam masala. They were seared on the outside but tender inside with a rich depth of taste.
Mangalorean Soft Shell Crab (£5.95) had a lightly spiced dry batter with the crab oozing juices-it came with a spicy tomato chutney. It is hard to find soft shell crab where the flavour isn’t overwhelmed and this dish managed it.
With our meal we were drinking a 2011 Pampas del Sur Chenin/Chardonnay from Argentina with notes of sherbet and lime which was robust enough to stand up to the heat and intensity of the flavours.
Sea bass was well spiced and fried to the point where the fish was crisp and the skin crunchy. It came with a rich tomato sauce and semolina cake (cornbread). Normally I wouldn’t choose to have bass fried like this but the dish really worked.
Char Grill Jingha (£14.95). The prawns were cooked on the Tandoori but still moist and tender and full of flavour.
Lemon Pilaff steamed with curry leaf and cashew nut (£3.95). I’d not had a lemon rice like this before, studded with curry leaves and pieces of lemon, and it made a refreshing alternative.
Date and Ginger Nan (£3.25). Another combination that was unfamiliar to me. The bread was sweet and gingery with deliciously charred edges.
Sesame Baby Aubergine with mustard and curry leaf sauce (£4.50) had a deep melting mouth feel and was flavoured with tomatoes and spices.
I finished off the meal with Tandoori Pineapple and Coconut Ice cream (£4.95). Grilled pineapple and coconut-what’s not to like?
Indian Carrot Cake Gajjar Halwa with vanilla ice-cream (£3.95) was surprisingly unsweetened and all the better for it. For me some Indian desserts are over sweet and this wasn’t.
Im an admirer of Sabbir Karim and his restaurants. He is committed to presenting a more sophisticated take on Indian food in comfortable surroundings without the pricing premium that the top end normally demands. Go and support him and his restaurants.
The Hedonist was a guest of Salaam Namaste