I love exploring new areas of London. Just when I think I know it all, another beautiful neighbourhood etches a glorious image in my head forever. I was due to visit Salaam Namaste on Friday evening and caught the bus from work before walking through the back streets lined with tall trees, Georgian townhouses and pretty pubs full to the brim with local workers, I guessed lawyers working nearby. Friday evening is one of my favourite evenings to enjoy a meal out. It signals the end to a busy week and gives me the opportunity to wind down and look forward to the weekend whilst enjoying some delicious grub.
I had heard good things about Salaam Namaste. The Guardian gave it 9 out of 10 in a review and it came highly rated from a friend. The restaurant provides guests with a menu from all regions of India and I was intrigued as it was unlike any other Indian restaurant menu I had seen before. The Khasta Murgh – spicy chicken tikka pie with wild berry chutney, quail marinated in mustard and honey and tandoor grilled pepper tomato coulis and pan-seared fresh mackerel in a rich garlic marinade topped with Goan spicy sauce starters caught our eye so we ordered these first and took some more time to ponder the mains. We were treated to a basket of plain and spicy popodoms beforehand, which arrived with the most delicious chutneys and sauces – mango, tomato and mint & yoghurt. We had difficulty choosing from the diverse menu so took the waiters recommendation of Goan style sea-bass cooked with curry leaf, mustard seed and coconut sauce for main and we also chose char grilled chicken with spring onion and tomato sauce, crispy potato fritter, courgette ribbons, pink fir potato, a portion of saag paneer, lemon rice and garlic naan bread.
Out of the three starters that we tried, the chicken tikka pie was my favourite. Spicy, tender chunks of chicken were encased in an open pie with rich and buttery pastry. The quail was tender, pink and juicy but as always when I order quail, the amount of meat frustrated me and it left me wanting more. I was left slightly dumbfounded by the presentation of all starters. Each dish arrived with shaved vegetables and chopped beetroot. I ate it because I like it (and I’ll usually eat everything that’s offered to me) but I couldn’t help but think that it was a pointless garnish. I also couldn’t help but think that this is a different to what was around in 2007 when The Guardian review came out.
The mains arrived and I was pleased to see a different presentation style. The crispy pan fried sea bass was surrounded by a rich tomato based sauce and the chicken sat in a small dish on a plate. We spooned some lemon rice onto our plates and began to eat. We each took a bite of the naan bread and realised that we had been given the wrong one and it wasn’t until we queried it with the waiter that we realised that he had done it on purpose because he wanted us to try their house speciality – date and ginger. I saw this on the menu and on paper it didn’t sound overly appealing to me so I went for the safe option. If Salaam Namaste taught me nothing else on Friday, it taught me that I need to be more adventurous with my decisions and not go for the safe options. This magical date and ginger naan bread lit up my evening. No, it lit up my week, or maybe even my month! My typing has even got faster as I think about it – oh the excitement. Pillowy bread with a sweet date and ginger paste and a thin crusty base. Hands down the naan bread I have ever had.
Another highlight of the evening was the saag paneer. This is another dish that I’ll always order if I see it on a menu and I have seen many different variations. This one was thick and creamy with large chinks of paneer dotted throughout. Once I had tasted the naan and saag paneer, I spent the rest of the meal dunking the naan into the sauce and sort of forgot about the main dishes. I have been toying with the idea of never ordering a fish curry for a while now as I never seem to enjoy it as much as meat. But having had the recommendation I felt I at least had to give it a try. I could appreciate that it was a well executed dish, but it just wasn’t for me.
Neither of us could imagine eating one of the rich desserts so I ordered a mango kulfi to finish the meal nicely. We enjoyed Salaam Namaste and I’d like to take my curry loving dad in the future, if not just to order a portion of the date and garlic naan and a side of saag paneer.
68 Millman St
020 7405 3697