The food at Namaste Lounge is cooked with authenticity in mind and the venue also has the added bonus of resembling a tropical club.
Unless you’re local to Harrow, Namaste Lounge may seem out of the way. The restaurant is located just opposite the tube station and its geographical location allows it to spread over a surface normally unthinkable for London venues. The garden in particular is luxuriously large – in one corner is a children’s playground, while in another there is a dedicated bar with a barbeque. Screens both indoors and out broadcast a mixture of sport events – cricket is the highlight - and Indian music videos, almost like in a pub.
This is no coincidence since Namaste Lounge is housed inside a former traditional pub, revamped into a clean-cut restaurant. The interior is elegant in its simplicity with pastel coloured walls, wooden tables, padded high-back chairs in cream and brown and a couple of semi-circular booths for drinks. The effect is very uniform and radically different from the often over-decorated Indian restaurants in Central London.
Indian families flock in good numbers for outdoor dining when the weather allows it. Namaste Lounge, in fact, aims to entice customers at all hours, with a cocktail list, sports on the screens and plenty of space to sit and chat. Many other locals drop in for dinner, mostly in groups.
The menu splits between vegetarian and non-vegetarian and it is simply structured with appetisers (£2.50 - £7 for vegetarian and £3 - £14 for non-vegetarian) and mains (£5 - £6 for vegetarian and £6 - £15 for non-vegetarian) with a few naans (£1.50 - £3.25) and rice dishes (£2.50 - £13.50) as complements. The food is authentically Indian with many unusual options and ingredients. The garlic chilli mogo, for instance, is African tapioca fried as chips and then tossed in a tomato based garlic and chilli sauce. The tapioca works very well as a potato alternative, just a bit firmer and crispier. Similarly, the medu wada are white lentil dumplings typical of Southern India served with coconut chutney. These exotic dumplings have a bubbly, floury consistency – the lentils have been ground – and the flavour is very delicate, in stark juxtaposition with the rest of the menu, which is rich in spices.
The tawa fish is one to not miss, tilapia pan-fried and topped with soy sauce and plenty of chopped fresh spices. Fresh, crispy and stacked with flavourful spices, the combination of textures makes of this one of the best dishes in the menu. In comparison, the zaffrani jinga – big, fat king prawns marinated in yoghurt and spices – look beautiful but do not provide the same flavour burst and are a bit overcooked. The portions seem made to share and the junglee lamb chops are a clear example. One or two chops, coated in a very good sauce, would be nice but four seem too much for a starter. They would work very well shared around a table, together with the dumplings and tapioca chips.
The mains feature curries, tandoor dishes and grills. The bhindi do pyaza mixes okra and shallots in a combination of fresh spices and exotic ingredients. The baigan bharta joins smoked aubergine pulp with onion, garlic, ginger and spices and the result is smooth with just enough oil to make it very comforting. If you are keen on typical Indian flavours, the chicken korma is exactly as you would expect it, smooth with a creamy texture and well balanced spices. The lamb rogan josh is a bit more interesting thanks to an authentic mix of spices including Kashimiri chillies. To round your meal off, you can rely on traditional kulfi – try Malai (clotted cream) or the more common pistachio flavour.
The real surprise of Namaste Lounge is its cocktail list (£7). Gin and tonic water – both typical colonial drinks - feature in many such as the Tanqueray Passion (gin, fresh passion fruit, tonic water, lime and lemonade). Mocktails (£4) are also available for those who want the sophistication without the alcohol. The Cinderella mixes orange, pineapple juice, lime, gomme and soda in a sunny summery drink. Alternatively, you can choose from eight bottles of wine (£12 - £30 for a bottle with selected glasses at £3.20 - £4.50), Champagne (£55 - £155), draughts (£3 - £3.20) and bottled beer (£1.50 – £3).
The Last Word
If you live nearby, you are in for a surprise. Namaste Lounge is ideal for that mid-week dinner treat.