Namaasté Kitchen is the new restaurant concept from The Salaam Namaste Group. This latest venture is just a few yards from Camden Town Underground station and on bustling Parkway, a neighbourhood that has long been associated with eclectic shopping and food of varying degrees of quality. Namaasté Kitchen is a welcome addition to the thoroughfare.
The brick façades and market stalls give a hint of Victoriana. You will remember Bob Cratchit, the clerk to Ebenezer Scrooge. He lived in Camden Town so one must suppose that dear Mrs. Cratchit would have shopped in the very street that now houses Namaasté Kitchen. She would have been, and indeed I was, impressed with the smart entrance to this contemporary restaurant.
There are no overt Indian statues, paintings or chachkies to give the clue to its culinary ethnicity. The name over the door does that, but this modern establishment states by its design that it’s a worthy restaurant that just happens to offer sub-continental fare. Confidence is growing in the Asian restaurant world and it’s good to see the more adventurous restaurants taking their place alongside their much-lauded European counterparts. Indian cuisine is one of the world’s classics, so should need none of the trappings of a theme park to entice visitors across the threshold, and Namaasté Kitchen was thankfully devoid of such excesses. A tasteful Ganesh is attractive, but perhaps not a tapestry of the Taj Mahal at midnight – that should go the way of red flock wallpaper.
We settled ourselves at our table. Comfy ivory upholstery covered the ribbed banquettes and chairs. Furnishings that were attractive and stylish without being cold and minimalist. An accent of natural brick here, a wall of cut logs there, and an array of ceiling lamps contrived a cosy space for couples yet provided flexible dining for groups. Our companions for the evening were American, German and Scottish businessmen, a brace or two of European tourists and some young men who, just a couple of months after opening, had evidently become regulars. A good sign.
At the far end of Namaasté Kitchen are several booths to cater for private dining. Opposite there is an open grill/tandoor/tawa station. This presents the prospect of a little culinary theatre at weekends when the place is buzzing. The menu sweeps across the subcontinent from Pakistan (good to see that country mentioned on menus) to Goa. Not as long a menu as its sister restaurant but there is something here for every taste.
I chose Soft-Shell Crab as my starter. The batter was delicate and crunchy and the flavour was fresh. Good presentation on the ever-popular slate. My guest, a man of carnivorous disposition, was attracted by the Anglo-Indian Chicken Liver on Toast. This was robust and hearty and a unique addition to Indian restaurant menus, as far as I am aware. He professed this dish to be delicious, rich, well seasoned, and the thick slice of apple was a good foil for the offal.
Biryani can be such an enticing dish if well executed. In the past we were subjected to rice dishes that owed more to Vesta than Vishnu (although biryani is said to have originated in Persia). It has often been a bland affair with a nondescript vegetable curry served on the side to distract you from the biryani itself. The version here is spectacular. It’s rather reminiscent of the Cow Pie which was the repast of choice of Desperate Dan in comic books. That confection displayed horns and hoofs protruding from piecrust. My biryani arrived with a flourish and was a sizable bowl of spiced rice with the business end of a lamb shank sticking like a flag pole from the centre. The pastry replicated the sealed pot in which the rice would traditionally have been cooked (a little terracotta casserole sealed with dough). The waiter deftly cut away the crust to reveal meat that did truly fall from the bone with only the encouragement of the vibration from the passing traffic. The rice was both spicy and perfumed and one could indeed imagine Maharajas eating this as the peacock-feather fans wafted. This was the best biryani I have tasted in ages and enough in one serving to satisfy at least one hungry rugby player.
My guest ordered Tandoori Rubiyan Duck. This nods to the cuisine of Rajasthan and in particular Rajput dishes which take advantage of game birds. The succulent slices of duck were served with a tiger prawn, making this a luxurious plateful, but very reasonably priced, as are all the items on the menu. Once again a substantial portion.
Dessert consisted of a Coconut Ice-Cream which was a light and refreshing end to the meal and was accompanied by tandoori pineapple – a winning combination. My only complaint, and it is a small one, is that my Mango Crème Brulée, whilst being expertly bruléd, was not set. Delicious, yes certainly, but it was rather too liquid. For me, this little lapse in an otherwise superb meal can happily be overlooked.
64 Parkway, Camden,
London NW1 7AH
Visit Namaasté Kitchen here
Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018