Namaste kitchen

As many people probably do, I go through phases of craving a curry on a Friday night.

I’m going through one of those phases at the moment.

I’ve mentioned before that I find this difficult in London – my friends and I live all over the shop. Which means there’s nowhere ‘local’ to all of us. So travel is generally involved for some, but there’s often confusion as to where to travel to.

I kind of feel that if 80% of you are making an effort to visit someone else’s local, that place needs to be tried and tested and worth it; the bar is raised from somewhere that’s simply the nearest place serving a palatable lamb bhuna. My personal preference is for somewhere clean and welcoming, with a good selection of reliable favourites and some keenly priced, interesting and ultimately successful ‘chef’s specials’. Well cooked breads are important too.

Tayabs isn’t convenient for any of my mates, so is a treat and a slight effort, rather than a regular event. We’ve not had much success centrally (Dishoom, I thought, was over-designed and disappointing; I’ve heard mixed reports from Roti Chai but haven’t been yet) and the traditional City curry houses are close to work for many, but they’re also basically average to poor, and on a Friday we’d rather escape the towers.

To date our default ‘kinda’ local is the Mango Tree at the back of Borough Market. Unfortunately for a number of us (most importantly me) it’s not at all local. On the evidence of the last few trips, I also don’t think it’s as good as it used to be. Yet as we non-Borough residents are yet to offer a tried and tested alternative, we (meaning me) can’t be too critical. Time to get looking, I think.

Last Friday night I was in Camden watching other people be creative. I had been told on a number of occasions about a nearby Indian restaurant that was relatively new (like year or two) and had been well reviewed by the likes of Fay Maschler, so I thought I’d check it out.

Whilst it was convenient at the time, Camden is actually out of pretty much all of my friend’s way. So this might seem like a pointless expedition. But I reasoned that if it rocked, maybe we could all up roots and set up a commune nearby? At the least, perhaps you, dear reader, are local and looking for inspiration.

So here goes.

Namaste kitchen, which is on Parkway, probably aims a little beyond what I’m looking for in my ideal local: it’s ‘modern’ Indian cuisine, so there’s the odd slate platter and occasional micro herb. But look beyond those and there are both authentic regional dishes and traditional British curry house staples on the menu. Moreover it is, at it’s heart, a small restaurant striving to serve good Indian food in pleasant surroundings to people who live nearby. Tick.

I wasn’t a fan of the neon lights or the TV screen in the entrance, but those were quickly forgotten when we were seated in what is a comfortable room. Service was impeccable throughout – for my brother and I, and for the tables around us. Tick (for the comfort and service).

The best part of the meal, hands down, was from the grill: a whole sea bass that had been cooked hard and fast so that it was heavily charred on the outside, but beautifully succulent on the inside. It’s marinade was spicy and fresh. It worked superbly as a starter to share, but would be equally excellent as a main. Not the kind of thing you get in a typical curry house. Indeed, not the kind of thing you get in many British restaurants: Namaste kitchen has an open charcoal grill at the back of the restaurant and they’re obviously and rightfully proud of it. If you go, I recommend majoring on food that’s been cooked on this. Double tick.

We also enjoyed a cheeky little soft shell crab, deep fried with a nice light batter and a spicy/sweet pickle dip. This was one tempting dish amongst a nice selection of starters that, on the evidence of what we ate and saw, are much better than the starters at your typical local cuzzla. They seem well priced too – generally around the £4.50 mark. Bonus tick.

I didn’t feel that our mains really kicked on from there. A biryani looked super, with an authentic pastry crust keeping it moist, and a refreshing plate of yogurt on the side. But, actually, the portion was just too large and too heavy on the rice ratio. Like pretty much every biryani I’ve had, it seemed bland. Perhaps that’s how biryani’s should be? Perhaps … but I would still prefer more spice (not necessarily heat) and just more interest generally. Dash, but not a cross (saved by the yoghurt and crust).

The other main we had was a dry lamb dish (a Rajasthan Laal Maas). The lamb had been slowly cooked and had a lovely taste and texture. It was great that the sauce was not a flood of synthetic flavours. However, I was again disappointed by the lack of heat (and this time it had been advertised as being very hot). Also just a dash.

On a more positive note, we thought a basket containing a peshwari naan, a roti, and a date and ginger naan was excellent (you can choose any three of a number of breads). It’s also worth noting that there were a good number of dishes on the mains menu that sounded interesting and the front of house had been keen for us to try them. Tick.

Namaste are definitely trying to be more than a traditional British Indian/Bangladeshi curry house. To be honest they’re probably aiming to be a bit racier than my personal ideal, but good on them for having a crack. Most importantly we overheard a number of tables giving glowing reports of their food. Indeed, many of our neighbours indicated to the waiters that they were regulars and/or would be coming again. Which should probably be reason enough for any of you living in the area to give it a try.

Me? I thought it was decent food and an enjoyable experience, but not somewhere to move house for or trek to if I’m not in the area – that’s not a massive criticism, I’m just being realistic.

I continue to wonder whether my ideal of a ‘local’ curry restaurant actually exists, ideally one local to me. Star of India is pretty close, so I need to check that out. I’ve heard good things of Indian Zing too. Which isn’t so close, but is on the list for a trial soon. Any other suggestions?

Namaste in 3 words

Decent ‘modern’ Indian

The Bill

I was a guest at Namaste. Depending on how much you eat and drink, you’re looking at £25-35 pp. Which is pretty standard and perfectly reasonable, I’d say. – 64 Parkway, Camden, NW17AH – 0207 485 5977

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16 thoughts on “Namaste kitchen

  1. Best great value great taste Indian I’ve found in North London is Delhi Grill. Is the only restaurant I’ve EVER been to that cooks food that tastes like what my mum makes at home. They cook things slowly, with care. It’s good. And not expensive at all. And near Angel tube station.

    Been invited to try Namaste but not made it yet.

  2. I’ve never been to India before but have been to Malaysia which has a huge Indian influence and many traditional Indian restaurants. The biryani’s we ate were basically rice based with a bit of meat added. They were very flavoursome with lots of spice. Also just read that they originated in Iran.

  3. It’s Tayyabs or nothing for me I’m afraid, but with the East London Line making it a mere 15 minute journey it’s pretty much local. When the queues and the mayhem of Tayyabs is too much to face though, Mirch Masala is a great alternative.

    I’m yet to try Delhi Grill but have heard only good things.

  4. Rebecca – Thanks for that. Seems like a good reason to do some reading and eating research re biryanis (majoring on the eating). All in the name of science, of course.
    Lizzie – Ahh, to be 15 minutes from Tayyabs …. p.s. A completely understandable minor slip. Forgiven.

  5. A short addition – I’ve just remembered that we also had an excellent baby aubergine side dish with our mains. The menu online suggests this was “sesame baby aubergine with mustard and curry leaf sauce”. I recall sweet and caramelised mini aubergines in a super tasty highly reduced sauce. Lovely. That is all.

  6. Love love love Delhi Grill. Cant even be bothered trying any other indian. Their chicken makhani is a must! And the food is incredibly cheap for what it is. A jewel.

  7. Kay, Ziu – the love for Delhi Grill keeps pouring in! Thanks for the recommendation. It’s firmly on my list now.

  8. Interested to check this place out! Have you been to Trishna London? Would love to know if it’s worth it. I went to the one in Mumbai – the chilli crab there was absolutely amazing even I did feel a bit conspicuous sitting on my own. Best biryani I’ve ever had: on an Emirates flight to Bangalore!!

  9. Been to Namaaste Kitchen in Camden
    The food is very very good, light and healthy,
    Service is very professional,
    The Peshwari Lamb Chops is the best in London, much
    better than Tayaab.

  10. Finally went to NK and had a pretty good meal. A couple of duff items but some really excellent ones too. Have written the review but have a backlog of completed posts so is scheduled to go up in couple of weeks. x

  11. Kavey – Hi Kavey. Yep, that sounds about right re your experience of NK. I look forward to reading your full write up!

  12. This place is the worst indian restaurant experience i have ever had and i have been to literally countless all over London, the UK and the World.
    The Manager is incredibly insolent cocky and arrogant, the food is bland and full of pickled onions – whichever dish you choose, and the prices are ridulous and were iniquitously jacked up right at the last minute!
    for two dishes a few nan breads and a cpl of beers they charged us £60 – for that amount we could have gone up west to Veeraswamy. when we contested the service charge and the costs of the beer and curry which had been raised from what we read on the menu – we were blatantly lied to and bullied into paying by the aggressive, imposing manager !
    seriously avoid like the plague, there’s loads better very close

  13. mango chutney – Hmm. Sounds like you had service problem. I don’t recall bland dishes and pickled onions. I’ve been to many worse Indian restaurants.

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