Cafe Spice Namaste (London)
Member Name: Essexgirl2006
Cafe Spice Namaste (London)
Advantages: Unique use of British food within an Indian menu
Disadvantages: Pricier than your local curry house.
Namaste is an Indian greeting, often with palms together.
After a visit to Masterchef Live in 2010, we tried a taster dish from this restaurant and were impressed with the interesting selection of ingredients used in the dish. When a friend from Derbyshire came down one weekend, we instantly suggested trying this restaurant.
The Restaurant is centrally located near Tower Hill tube station. Unfortunately there was a lot of engineering works on London Underground that day, so we had to walk from Liverpool Street taking the scenic route on a freezing cold winter evening. If we had gone the correct way it would probably have only been about 10 mins. The restaurant is in an old style unimposing building in Prescott Street, and is can be spotted with its banner outside. Inside we were greeted almost straight away and shown to our table. One of our chairs was missing - chef-owner Cyrus Todiwala (sometimes spotted on TV shows like Saturday Kitchen) had borrowed one to chat to diners on another table. He apologised and returned it and carried on his walk about the restaurant talking to patrons that he knew.
The restaurant is tastefully, yet informally decorated in bright Indian colours painted on the walls and the contrast colours on the draped fabrics around the walls. Ceilings are high , lights hang low and the restaurant was buzzing. It is not a huge place, but the high ceilings give it an airy feel. Temperature was comfortable. The lavatories were in a corridor off the restaurant which was colder. The Ladies' loos were decorated in shades of blue and ochre in keeping with the Indian colours of the main part. There were hand dryers and it was well-stocked with toilet rolls, soap etc. There was nothing bland about this place.
The menu was extensive and clearly marks what dishes are vegetarian, contain nuts and maybe hot. I chose a selection of vegetarian starters, served on an oblong plate, placed at an angle in front of me. Included on the beautifully presented starter plate were five small portions of different dishes. This included a dosa (a crispy, filled and folded pancake), a paneer (cottage cheese) portion, a coconut and beetroot samosa, a potato bhaji and something possibly involving rice and lentils that I couldn't identify. Whatever it was it was very nice. Portions of this platter were small so it is ideal taster for one person, there is not enough to share, and it is unlikely that you would want to. This cost £7.50. My partner and our friend elected to share a mixed vegetarian and non-vegetarian platter for two which was £14.50. There seemed to be about nine-ten dishes there for them, and the waiter did explain what each was, but it was not easy to take it all in. As I recall, their highlights were the venison tikka, chicken quiche, a flavoursome herby salmon dish and an unusual vegetable 'pizza' which got the biggest thumbs up. This starter dish was large and could probably stretch to three people, and they offered to share with me. I declined, as I was not prepared to reciprocate and share any of my delicious, but more manageable starter. Believe me, coconut and beetroot samosas are much nicer than you may first think.
For mains, my partner chose Lamb dhansak (or 'Dhaansaak' as they call it). He thought it excellent and is prepared slightly different to the typical curry house dhansak that most of us are used to. The lentils are strained out, through a sieve, to make a smooth, light sauce. The lamb was tender and full of flavour, marinated in an intriguing ingredient mix of vegetables, herbs and spices. Our friend's Chicken Pasanda also received a resounding thumbs up, The breast was stuffed with paneer cheese and nuts and covered in a tomato based sauce, again using a good mix of spices etc. It is important to remember that spice in this context is not all about heat (though some of the dishes certainly had a kick to them) but about bringing out and enhancing the flavours of the other ingredients. For my main I chose a Vegetable Thali for £14.75. This dish had a selection of different ingredients: raita, some mini poppadoms, naan, rice, a dry potato curry, a dhal, a hot 'salad' and two vegetable curries, one spicier than the other. I was very pleased with my choice and enjoyed the dish very much. Mains were about £15, with some of the seafood dishes being slightly more.
There are a good selection of desserts also, I had a chocolate ice cream which was rich, filling and chocolatey. Himself had the brulee with ginger, cardamom and saffron which he enjoyed and our friend enjoyed her crepe with ice cream.
Service was attentive without being fussy, we had no trouble attracting a waiter when we needed one. They didn't rush us and were happy to let us sit and chat, and request the bill in our own time. We left feeling full and satisfied (possibly over full in my case, the chocolate ice cream may have been a step to far). Overall, for three courses and drinks (some large Indian beers and some spirits with mixer) we paid £40 each. This is obviously pricier than your local high street curry house, but you are getting something a bit more special here. I would wholeheartedly recommend this to fans of Indian food who feel like trying something different.
Summary: A must-try restaurant for fans of Indian cuisine.