Always keen to try somewhere new, I was delighted to be invited to try the new menu at Salaam Namaste in Bloomsbury, but I must admit, I wasn’t expecting much. I’d never heard of it, the website was old fashioned and the only reviews I could find were many years old.
I invited my husband because he likes a good Indian and I’d noticed he was being a bit sulky that he hadn’t yet had been asked to join me for a free meal. Comments such as “Oh it’s fine dear, you and Jemma go off an enjoy your tapas, it’s not like I’ve been supporting you since you started this blog” gave me a clue that he was not too impressed at my companion choices. So off we trundled, for a night out in Bloomsbury at a place we had never heard off.
My expectations plummeted further when we arrived. Flash it was not. Never in a million years would we have walked past and decided to pop in. Imagine an old-school, basic, traditional Indian restaurant. Small, dark and utilitarian with a wall width mirror at one end and no customers. I felt rather embarrassed telling them I had a reservation when every single table was available.
All I can say is that you should not judge a book by its cover. A lovely waiter seated us and from that point forward I had nothing but praise for Salaam Namaste. The service was excellent, the customers started flowing in (I suppose 7pm is quite early for a curry) and the food was surprising and delicious.
We ordered three starters, all of which were spot on. I couldn’t resist ordering the chowpatti bhelpoori, made with chickpeas, puffed rice, peanuts, chopped chillies and red onion mixed with yoghurt and special chutneys, a popular crunchy street snack in Mumbai. They were excellent and it was great to see this type of dish on the menu amongst the usual samosas and bhajis. The mackerel riechard was also delightful; delicate and punchy with Goan spices, but the best by far was the tandoori ratan. For the bargain price of £5.50 you get a juicy piece of minted grilled salmon, a big chunk of perfectly charred cumin chicken tikka and the most delicious paneer I have ever eaten. Rhubarb raisin paneer tikka. What a combination to come up with but it was heavenly.
The mains were equally good. In typical male fashion Mr E ordered the tandoori mixed sizzler. It was brought to the table on a hot sizzling platter and pieces of chicken tikka, lamb tikka, seekh kebab, tandoori chicken and ajwain salmon were delicately plated up like a work of art with juicy onions and chopped coriander. Marinaded in a medley of spices, each piece was juicy and zingy with flavours. The dahl makhani was rich and smooth and moreish and my lamb biryani was faultless; tender lamb, falling off the bone into the expertly spiced rice and served with a fresh, tangy pomegranate raita.
Pan-seared fresh Mackerel in garlic marinade topped with Goan spicy sauce
Minted grilled salmon, Rhubarb Raisin Paneer Tikka, Cumin Chicken Tikka
Chicken Tikka, Lamb Tikka, Seekh Kebab, Tandoori chicken, Ajwain Salmon
Lamb shank briyani
We over ordered – the portions are big and I’d done my usual of stuffing myself full of poppadoms before we went started – but they were more than happy to wrap up our leftovers so we could take them home with us. We didn’t even have to ask.
My lasting impression of Salaam Namaste? Good food, good service and good value. If you are in the Bloomsbury area and wanting to go for a good value meal where the decor doesn’t matter but the food does, I would think twice before you bypass it.