Namaaste Kitchen, Camden:
I have a perverse curiosity when someone suggests a restaurant that I’ve heard of but can’t quite place. Namaaste Kitchen fell firmly into that category. So, although Camden is the wrong side of town for me and not part of London I associate with Indian food like Brick Lane or Drummond Street, I was happy to accept the invitation to review and make my way down Parkway, out of the bustle of Camden High Street.
There was nothing particularly special about the interior, though the proudly displayed awards on the wall were a sign of all that was good to come. Chef Patron Sabbir Karim, winner of the Best Chef of the Year in 2012 in both the British Curry Awards and the Asian Curry awards, met us. He explained that Namaaste Kitchen specialised in modern Indian food that was healthier and lighter than dishes we might be used to. Unusual dishes for us, available throughout India but seldom seen in this country.
An amuse bouche of Panni Puri set the tone for the meal to follow. Small crisp puffs of fried dough, filled with a little spiced potato and balanced daintily on a shot of sour tamarind water, these were eaten by pouring a little of the umami rich tamarind into the shell and biting into the mix.
Poppadums came with three delicious home-made chutneys, a fresh garlic and coriander mixture, tomato and mango with pinapple.
Starters of spicy soft shelled crab and tandoori aatish-e-jigha were both beautiful and delicious. The soft shelled crab was plump and meaty, in a crisp batter and served with a fig and prune sauce.
Tandoori aatish-e-jigha, tasty spiced King prawns cooked in the tandoor oven with Karwary butter was served with aubergine compote and balchao sauce.
Our mains comprised a stunning and beautifully marinaded and stuffed Sea Bass, with a delicate spiced herby filling and a pan seared monkfish tail with a rich tomato and lemon sauce and basmati rice. Both delicious and substantial dishes without being heavy – and seasoned to perfection.
A side orders of stir-fried okra with raw mango was sticky and delicately spiced. But for my money, the sesame baby aubergine with mustard and curry leaf sauce was excellent with soft, melting aubergines in a rich sauce.
I loved the tandoori pineapple with coconut ice and our desserts were a fitting end to a wonderful meal.
This is the sort of Indian restaurant I’d love to have on my doorstep. Pricing is very reasonable for food which is special. Starters are mostly under £6 and mains are between £8 and £16. But the quality of ingredients and the detailed and immaculate food preparation makes this exceptional value for money, a venue to match the top central London Indian restaurants. And the dishes are creative – the soft shell crab for example was perfectly cooked, but lifted to a new dimension with the fig and prune sauce. And for all that these were new flavour combinations for me, each one worked.