With the welcomed rise in contemporary and street food style hip Indian restaurants, the archetypal curry house is becoming less of an attraction to food adventurers.
My personal discontent with clichéd Indian restaurants are that the subtle regional flavours are usually absent, the cuisine is predominantly designed to appease a Western palate, the food is often pre-prepared and the dishes customarily use the same gravy so to ensure plates are churned out quickly during service.
So when we encountered Salaam Namaste, a stereotypical “looking” Indian restaurant, our expectations were undoubtedly low.
The restaurant is tucked away in a small, nondescript residential side street in Bloomsbury. The decor exemplifies an ordinary curry house, with its wooden tables, faux leather style seating and soft Bollywood music resonating in the background.
However, this is where the similarity between a “typical” Indian restaurant and Salaam Namaste ends, as the idiom “never judge a book by its cover”, unequivocally holds true here, as the cuisine on offer is anything but typical.
We began our curry conquest from the “Appetiser” section where we were recommended the “Kolkata Katti Roll Kebab”, which consisted of minced lamb kebab with chutney. The appearance of the dish was impressive, as the presentation was refined, and something not usually associated with a “typical” Indian eatery. The paratha was soft and buttery, the lamb was succulent and sumptuously spiced, and the masala chutney was bold and bountiful. An exceptional start to our meal. – Highlight Recommended
“Scallops Three Ways” were served with three types of sauces, coriander & lime, coconut and tomato & lime leaf. The scallops were seared impeccably; tender and supple. Each of the sauces delivered a distinctive taste that brought jubilation to our salivating mouths. – Highly Recommended
The “Tandoori Ratan” contained a lamb chop, piri piri king prawn, shahi chicken seekh and chilli yogurt dip. The chop was effervescently tender, with a bold masala spice rub that brought euphoria to our taste buds. The chicken seekh was moist, prominently flavoured and a joy to devour. The prawn was prepared well and piquantly satisfying, but the chilli yogurt dip lacked that necessary kick that we were craving for and was quite insipid in taste. Nonetheless, an accomplished dish. – Highly Recommended
From the “Main Course” section, we ordered the ubiquitous “Moti Mahal Butter Chicken from Delhi” composed of grilled chicken pieces in creamy butter tomato & fenugreek sauce. The chicken was superlative, prepared in the Tandoor, it had that grilled tandoori flavour that was delicious. The refreshingly yogurty sauce had a hint of sweetness to it and was ravishingly moreish. – Highly Recommended
Chicken Korma, since childhood, has always been one of my favourite dishes, so I was excited to try the “Pistachio Chicken Korma” with grilled pieces of chicken cooked with pistachio sauce. Another great dish. The chicken was prepared impeccably, the sauce was rich and creamy, the pistachio provided a hint of sweetness; very similar to the taste of rose water. Sounds unusual, but it worked for our palates. – Highly Recommended
The “Dumpukht Biryani” with basmati rice cooked on Dum (Sealed pot) with corn fed chicken was one of the best biryanis we have tasted. There were generous amounts of moist, wonderful pieces of chicken, with a glorious layer of sweet caramelised onions. The fiery spices were well balanced with a rich tomato based sauce, which allowed for the different flavours to emanate through; instead of the senses being assaulted by hot spices, which can be the case with some biryanis. The buttery naan was warm, doughy and sublime. – Highly Recommended
From the “Traditional” Section of the menu we opted for the “Rajasthan Laal Maas”, which was spicy lamb with roasted red chillies. The lamb was tender and succulent, but the dish lacked spice and heat. – Worth a Try
From the “Bukhara Grill” section, we ordered the “Tandoori Rubiyani Duck”, comprising of duck breast marinated in yoghurt, cheese and spices, served with roasted Tiger prawn, tangy potatoes and cucumber salad. Visually the dish was thrilling, but piquantly it was not appealing. The duck was slightly over cooked and the gamey taste of the duck mixed with cheese infused yogurt delivered a flavour that was not pleasing to our palates. – Not Recommended
When I think of traditional Indian restaurants, the image of subpar eateries that line up Brick Lane usually come to mind. However, Salaam Namaste do not adhere to the disatisfying practices I outlined earlier, but instead deliver contemporary plates of food that do not compromise on flavour.
So if you are searching for a traditional Indian restaurant that will reignite your passion for classical dishes that deliver authentic flavours, then Salaam Namaste is a must visit.
* Disclaimer: We were invited to review the restaurant.