The first of two ventures by award winning Chef Sabir Karim, Salaam Namaste has built up a reputation for pushing the boundaries of Indian cuisine.
Salaam Namaste has been serving Goan and British influenced Indian cuisine to the people of Bloomsbury since 2005. The restaurant is located on Millman Street in Bloomsbury, an area with a firm foothold in London’s rich cultural history. The eatery appears off the beaten track, yet is only a short stroll from Russell Square underground station and not much further from Holborn and King’s Cross.
Salaam Namaste makes the most of an awkwardly shaped space. An inconveniently placed pillar to the rear of the room restricts both the view and space somewhat, yet it doesn’t feel like you’re on top of your neighbour, which is the case in most curry houses in east London. The walls are subtly decorated, with some odd coloured lighting effects acting as focal features and some well placed mirrors adding depth. That said, the cream walls, couches and wooden tables create a comfortable spot, with a lively feel as people get down to business.
There’s a porch to the front of the restaurant which, combined with a well stocked cocktail bar, could be tempting on a warm summer’s evening. The clientele reflects Bloomsbury’s populace mix. You are likely to brush shoulders with families, professionals, academics and students as well as the odd tourist in the know.
Salaam Namaste has an extensive and audacious menu. For starters, the rhubarb raisin paneer tikka (£4.95) works surprisingly well and is a good choice for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. The eloquently presented plate combines rhubarb stuffed cottage cheese which has a marvellous texture; firm on the outside and remarkably supple on the interior, having been cooked in a clay oven along with an assortment of vegetables. Everything on the plate from the pine nuts to the charred red pepper is a delight, with the possible exception of the mustard on the salad which is overkill. The Goan spiced scallops (£5.50) served in a spicy mango salsa might see you break a sweat. The salsa, dotted with onion seeds, is a powerful accompaniment to the scallops, complementing it very well. There is keen attention to detail in the presentation of both dishes.
For mains, there are a variety of options including traditional Indian dishes, British favourites and house specialities. The Moti Butter Chicken (£12.95) served in an extremely rich tomato, fenugreek and (of course) butter sauce is less eloquently presented than the starters, but tastes every bit as good. One of Salaam Namaste’s signature dishes is Goan style sea bass (£14.50). Served with a coconut sauce and mustard seeds, there’s a hint of spice to the fish which, although counter intuitive, add up to a well balanced dish. The presentation of this dish is fairly showy, and the tower of sea bass atop a polenta resembles a messily shuffled deck of cards. A selection of sides include the stir fried okra with mango (£4.50), which packs a surprising amount of heat.
For dessert, there’s the tandoori pineapple served with ice cream, a light dish that does exactly as it says on the tin. The carrot cake is a fragrant red-orange colour and not the rusty orange one might expect.
Salaam Namaste has a good selection of wines and cocktails on offer. Wines by the glass start at a very reasonable £2.95 and bottles start at £14.95. The Santa Julia Malbec 2006, Familia Zuccardi (£19.95) boasts ripe notes of plum and blackberry with a hint of vanilla and hails from a proud, environmentally green winery in Argentina. There are two types of Indian tipple on the cards, which are new additions to a list otherwise dominated by Europe and South Africa. The exception being the unoaked Musar Jeune 2013, Hochar, (£21.95) from Lebanon, which has strong apricot and green fig flavours and particularly suited to vegetarian dishes.
Should you be in the mood for something more lively, there are a number of mocktails and a range of equally enticing cocktails on offer including the tempting Delhi Devil which combines Bombay Sapphire, fresh pomegranate and mint leaves, ginger ale and lemon juice.
The Final Word
If it’s a good hearty Indian you’re after, or something that pushes the boundaries of the traditional, Salaam Namaste should be high on your list.