Pakistani cuisine comes to Leicester Square in the form of Salt’n Pepper, the first overseas branch of the restaurant chain located in Lahore, Pakistan. Bringing over 30 years of experience to the capital, this branch has potential, but needs a little tweaking to allow the authentic experience to truly shine.
Described as being near the National Gallery – although it’s a little harder to find - the restaurant offers a wooden decked area outside as well as a light, friendly interior. Wooden tabletops and cream chairs are nicely offset by the green napkins and roughly plastered walls. The wide windows are likely better suited to the summer months than the cold of winter, but it is comfortable enough.
As a result of the décor, the atmosphere is quite light and refreshing. It is a little quiet, but you’ll find a range of guests from businessmen to family groups in attendance. Staff are quite eager to engage, although they can be a little abrupt.
For the main menu, there are some definite strengths as well as some drawbacks. The shared starter of the mixed barbecue meat grill (£16.90) is great, full of flavour and with tender meat. It includes chicken tikka, lamb seekh kebab, chicken malai boti and lamb chops, all of which are well paired with the herby yoghurt sauce provided. Every meat dish is halal and the staff are able to alter dishes for allergies, so it’s great for guests with particular needs.
The mains are mostly successful. The lamb karahi (£12.90) is a good choice, with a balanced blend of spices coating the meat. Cooked in a cast iron karahi pan, the ginger and garlic suit the lamb well. Whilst the sauce of the salmon masala (£12.90) is pleasantly infused with spiced oil, the barbecued salmon is a little too tough to be enjoyed. The wide selection of rice and naans to accompany it won’t leave guests wanting, though.
Desserts include typically Pakistani dishes, and the matka kulfi – a pistachio and almond ice cream laden with saffron sauce – is delicious. The daal halwa (£3.70) is a little too heavy, but is full of flavour nonetheless.
A drink well worth having is the mango lassi (£2.90), made authentically. It is smooth, and pleasantly lacking in the often too-yoghurty texture of others found in Asian restaurants.
Though wine and other alcoholic drinks can be ordered, it is probably wiser for guests to try the virgin drinks. The house white wine is a little too tart to be great, but for a light lunch it would be quite well suited.
The Last Word
Salt’n Pepper has the right tools to be popular as a niche restaurant in London, however, it feels more like a lunch venue than a proper dining experience. Its location is a tad too far off the beaten track to be discovered by accident, but should diners be on the hunt for a good Pakistani barbecue selection, this is the place to look for.