Indian Street Food for Highgate Ladies
With his restaurants Salaam Namaste in Bloomsbury and Namaaste Kitchen in Camden Town, chef-patron Sabbir Karim helped to create the new wave of Indian restaurants in London offering a lighter and more refined take on the subcontinent’s cuisine.
His third London restaurant, Namaaste Highgate, situated in the heart of Highgate village, offers ‘redefined Indian home-style cooking and Indian street food from hawkers and roadside cafés’.
What I didn’t expect from an Indian restaurant serving street food was an elegant and airy blush pink interior with pink and emerald green chairs, caramel banquettes, quirky light fittings, charming Indian artefacts and the kind of Indian New Age music you might hear playing in a spa.
With his wife’s styling influence to the fore, Sabbir has created a delightful showcase for his delicious and insta-friendly food at Namaaste Highgate that is already a hit with the North London ladies who lunch.
After some crisp poppadums with mango and tomato chutneys and a spicy mint yoghurt, we hit the cocktail menu.
The Ginger Watermelon Martini, a blend of Absolut Vodka, watermelon liqueur, fresh ginger, pink clove bitter was refreshing and not too sweet and served in a very pretty glass. My Himalayan Margarita was a mix of Jose Cuervo Especial Tequila, Cointreau, pomegranate purée and Himalayan pink salt. The delicious astringency of the pomegranate offset the sweetness of the Cointreau to create a delicious drink with a colour to match the restaurant.
The menu at Namaaste Highgate is extensive and starts with exciting sounding breakfasts including the Railway Omelette (shallots, turmeric and green chilli, truffle nan, grilled vine tomato) or the healthy-sounding Mango Shrikhand (mango yoghurt, saffron, blueberries, strawberries, toasted almonds). But much as I would have loved to munch my way through the whole menu, we have come for lunch so start with a couple of small plates. From the ‘Snacks From Roadside Cafes’ menu, we choose the Bhel Puri, a cool, crunchy collation of raw mango, tamarind, sev, yoghurt infused with the sweetness of coriander and served artfully in a cone on a little shovel.
A ‘Speciality Small Plate’ dish of Soft Shell Crunchy Crab comes with the crustacean fried in a hot crisp batter flavoured with Mangalorean spices and served with kachumber and a prune and fig chutney. The piquant spicing complements the integrity of the crab’s flavour without overwhelming it. I love this dish!
We moved onto a fresh, lemony bottle of Picpoul de Pinet to accompany our main dishes From the in-house Tandoor oven we enjoyed the succulent heat of the Tandoori Chicken with Goan Spices. Flavoured with cumin, the sauce blended tomato and the sourness of tamarind with red chilli and sugar to great effect.
I’ve enjoyed ‘sizzling’ dishes since the 1980s when they first appeared in Chinese restaurants in this country and they always make me happy. The Sea Food Sizzler was a wonderful platter of char-grilled king prawns in a minty marinade, tandoori herby salmon and luscious pan-seared cumin scallops served with sizzling onions.
Our side dishes were at a similarly high level to the mains. An earthy Dal Fry came studded with burnt garlic. Charred Date and Ginger Nan was thin (in a good way) and not too doughy with the sweetness of the dates and spice of the ginger playing off each other, and long elegant grains of braised saffron rice in the Zafrani Pilau were interlaced with browned onions and perfumed with cumin.
Desserts are a necessity when times are tough. Homemade Gulab Jamun, a sweet and syrupy sponge came with good quality vanilla ice cream and a mango and passion fruit cheesecake was light and fluffy like Fiona our dear leader at London Unattached.
I do love to lunch but I need to return to Namaaste Highgate for dinner to begin to do the menu justice – the biryanis sound fantastic! It’s worth the journey up north so pack your bags. There is a pleasing attention to detail combined with a commitment to quality and now with sophisticated service and a pretty jewel box of a restaurant to showcase his food, Sabbir Karim has scored a culinary hat-trick with three fine establishments
4 South Grove, Highgate, London N6 6BS.
+ 44 (0)20 8340 4488