Anna Dack heads to Camden in search of a modern Indian feast.
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From the outside, Namaaste Kitchen could be just another vaguely dubious restaurant in twinkle-lit Camden Town, an area scattered with a stronghold of exotic eateries pouring out of the neighbouring market and giving way to purveyors of oriental bento boxes and corner-strung public houses selling quirky high-end ale. Yet, unassuming and cool with an exterior painted all in black, Namaaste Kitchen draws in the crowds loyal to its reputation of providing delicious high-end Indian dishes at an affordable price.
Inside, the dining room of Namaaste Kitchen is decorated in a clean, modern style, with cream-leather chairs and straight-backed red banquettes along an exposed brick wall. With the hint in its name, the kitchen is on full display to diners, proudly boasting an extravagant, fiery oven and grill, illuminated by a neon-lit bar that welcomes guests as they enter the cosy restaurant.
Settled at our table with a crisp and refreshing glass of house white in hand (a pleasant Argentinian Chardonnay), we began rooting around the exotic menu, keeping alert to anything that passed from the exposed Tandoor oven and kitchen. The dry heat saw the swift emergence of perfectly roasted papadum, formed to a greaseless crisp, with a platter of classic chutney’s and spices to tempt the taste buds as guests review their options.
Eyes now firmly on the menu, it became clear that Chef-Patron Sabbir Karim of Salaam Namaste in Bloomsbury, is quite a talent, with his second restaurant equally offering exquisite food with serious kick and intent. Novel and intriguing, the lengthy list of dishes was unfamiliar, with recommendations by the friendly waiter proving a great help in manoeuvring the overwhelming list of ingredients and spices. Of the starters, the pick was Spicy Soft Shell Crab, marinated in green peppercorn lemon sauce, coated in homemade semolina batter, deep fried and served with a spicy fig & prune sauce sharp enough to enliven this delectable ensemble without compromising the delicacy. The skewers of lamb called Barra Kabab were also outstanding, coming marinated in spices and slow-cooked in the Tandoor oven until tender and juicy.
For those who prefer more familiar high-street tandoori dishes, the usual suspects have all been rounded up, too, but we stuck with the more unusual options, and were richly rewarded. Our waiter recommended the Laal Maas from Rajasthan, a threatening dish laced with spice (an imposing red chilli resting casually on top of the lamb as it arrives) that certainly isn’t for the faint hearted. The meat was beautifully cooked, with a sweet almond peshawari naan acting as a welcome accompaniment to the overwhelmingly hot sauce. A milder choice is the Travancore Curry, with tender diced chicken coming cooked in a delicious pepper masala made from garlic, mustard seeds, curry leaves, green chillies and ginger. All curries come with an individually selected rice dish to compliment the flavours, adding an extra element of thought and strategy to alleviate the energetic combinations.
The dishes at Namaaste Kitchen are seductively rich and, with their wealth of spices and regional South-Asian influences, each bite is spell-bindingly aromatic. This unassuming and unpretentious diner isn’t your average high-street curry house, injecting modern-flair into widely-loved traditional Indian cuisine.
Namaaste Kitchen, 64 Park Way London NW1 7AH
Anna Dack is a freelance food writer, with a healthy appetite and hungry desire to explore London’s fastest and finest. For more follow @Dackery