Chef Sabbir Karim has reopened his Namaste restaurants (Namaaste Kitchen and Salaam Namaste) in London, both serving modern Indian food.
Sabbir has a mantlepiece full of awards, including Best Chef of the Year 2014 and Best Indian restaurant of the Year 2014 at the Indian Curry Awards. Sabbir is additionally involved in charity initiatives, The Sreepur Village, which works with single mothers and their children in a rural village in Bangladesh, and The Anna Freud Centre, a child mental health research, training and treatment centre located in London. Both Salaam Namaste and Namaaste Kitchen support Find Your Feet’s annual ‘Curry For Change’ campaign.
Craving some Indian flavour, we popped into the Salaam Namaste restaurant near Russell Square to try out some spicy nourishment.
Much like the flagship restaurant, Salaam Namaste prepares traditional and much-loved dishes cooked with confidence. Unlike Namaaste Kitchen, two thirds of Salaam Namaste are set out in comfortable tables and chairs (remindful of the made.com showroom on Tottenham Court Road). The furniture down the remaining third bland, and appearing almost as an after-thought.
Salaam Namaste is however following all the COVID-19 restrictions including sanitising surfaces, using a web-based menu, providing hand sanitiser, using contactless payment, providing extra seating between tables and thereby reducing the number of diners at any one time, and of course implementing track and trace.
The menu features an extensive choice of modern and traditional curries and biryanis like the Motimahal butter chicken and Kalonge king prawn adraki. There are meat-free, plant-based and gluten-free choices. Guests are also able to order a sub-set of the menu via UberEats and Deliver.
We started with the Coastal Malabar Scallops (£7.50), pan-fried and then served in a light and fragrant curry sauce. We also chose the Indo-Chinese style chilli chicken Kathi rolls (£6.50), from Kolkata, which are a blend of Indian and Chinese style stir-fried chicken, this time wrapped in a form of omelette.
For mains courses we chose the Dumpukht Chicken Biryani (£14.95), made with generous portions of slow-cooked succulent chicken with spiced basmati rice. This was served with a boondi and pomegranate raita. We also chose the highly recommended Motimahal Butter Chicken (£12.95), enjoying every mouthful of the creamy butter and tomato sauce, topped with fresh ginger and fenugreek leaves.
We naturally over-ordered by choosing several sides, including the Dal Makhani (£6.95), slow-cooked cream black lentils served with fresh ginger, a Peshwari Naan and a Paneer Kulcha (both £3.50), the latter being stuffed with grated Indian cottage cheese. And then of course Papadums and chutney (£1.75).
To drink we opted for the only Indian wine on the menu, Soul Tree Sauvignon Blanc from Nasik Valley (£25). It was crisp, fresh and light with notes of elderflower and pear, ideal for cutting through the heavier flavours of the curried dishes. It would be a pleasure to see more Indian wine options in the future.
Opinions about Indian restaurants in the UK are particularly subjective, with some people truly preferring one venue over another. What matters though is finding a restaurant venue where you can take comfort in enjoying familiar dishes and trust that the unfamiliar will not disappoint.
Yes, the slightly unfamiliar Motimahal Butter Chicken was luminous and delicious, but for me ’familiar’ in this case means finding somewhere I can enjoy a well prepared and presented Biryani with Peshwari Naan – I admit it is an unusual combination that habit has formed. And I found this familiarity at Salaam Namaste with attentive service.
Address: Salaam Namaste Fitzrovia, 68 Millman Street, Russell Square, London, WC1N 3EF
To see a full menu or to book, visit salaam-namaste.co.uk.