There is an Indian restaurant just a stone’s throw from Tower Bridge. A red brick building, imposing steps to self-important doors, stained glass, high ceilings and striking decor. That’s Café Spice Namasté – an emporium of fine Indian food with a menu that reflects the chef’s Parsee roots.
Chef Cyrus Todiwala has talent, a celebrated restaurant, an OBE, and Pervin, his wife and partner, as his unique assets. This eponymous restaurant cookbook encapsulates the culinary heritage and love of quality ingredients for which Cyrus is famed. He is an unapologetic supporter of British produce and makes use of it at every opportunity at Café Spice Namasté.
But you won’t be buying this book because it was penned by one of the Indian restaurant industry’s good guys. You will likely be looking for a book to cook from. This volume offers Indian recipes that are chosen to appeal to the European home cook but which are still authentic – a selection of recipes that will offer something new, even for those of us with considerable Indian cookbook collections.
Café Spice Namasté Cookbook has the feel of a family recipe book. Lots of anecdotes and family lore laced with Cyrus’ humour and easy charm. The food here is simple to prepare and delicious. There are dishes to impress the in-laws and even more that could become your own regular weekday fare. This is real honest cooking: dishes for lovers of good food rather than just “foodies”.
It’s hard to find only a few dishes to mention in a review. I could, and probably will, graze on all of them and there are over 100 to choose from. I could start with Onion Bhajia. Not the ubiquitous tennis ball (or should that be cricket ball?) of a heavy and stodgy mass that we are so often presented with on high-street snack counters. These traditional fried delights are much more delicate and addictive.
Talking of street food… Frankie is here. Sounds like the name of a Bollywood hero, the sort with pearly teeth and mesmerising chest. This Frankie is a stuffed and egg-enrobed chapatti which was once the fast food of choice in Mumbai, till the American chains turned heads. A wrap that will be a favourite with all members of the family.
Seafood aficionados are well-served by this book. Cyrus cheffed in Goa and so has showcased some of those regional fish dishes here, including the popular Goan Fish Curry. This can be made even with the humble (and in my opinion too-often overlooked) coley. An economic yet stunning fish main course that would delight even your poshest guests. It’s the coconut that I find so tempting. This can be eaten cold, so it’s perfect for making ahead when entertaining on our long hot (use your imagination) summer nights.
You will equally be drawn to this book if you feel your dinner is not complete without a robust helping of meat. There are plenty of red meat and chicken dishes as well as recipes for game and exotic protein such as ostrich, which is becoming more popular. Crocodile also puts in an appearance and is said to be eaten in central India.
Café Spice Namasté Cookbook is not “surprisingly” good. Good is exactly what I expected from this well-respected man. Yes, he is a chef at the top of his game, but he has a natural style and remains dedicated to enticing ordinary folk into the kitchen. His recipes are thoughtful and simple to prepare. Truly dishes that you will return to, time and time again. This book was published in 1998 but it’s worth looking for copies, or contact Café Spice Namasté directly here. Also consider the soft-cover ‘Indian Summer’, which contains similar recipes as well as menu ideas for meals to impress.
Café Spice Namasté has an enviable and deserved reputation and should be a destination restaurant for those who have a passion for the best of food, and Sub-continental dishes in particular. It’s been open for 15 years and has a host of regulars who are known by name and welcomed as friends. I’ll be visiting often and staying long.
Café Spice Namasté:
16 Prescot Street, London E1 8AZ
Open Monday – Friday
Lunch: 12:00 – 3:00 pm
Dinner: 6:15 – 10:30 pm
6:30 pm – 10:30 pm
Asian cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018