Address: 64 Parkway, Camden Town, London NW1 7AH
Alcohol Policy: Licensed
Summary: Chic Camden curry house serving modern Indian fare
In the lead up to Christmas I arranged a gathering for me and my fellow Arsenal supporting friends ahead of the league cup fixture against the Spuds. A curry was on the cards, but as later proved, so too was Arsenal's inevitable end of year demise.
Having been raving about Salaam Namaste to anyone and everyone since my recent visit I thought I'd treat Joe and Krishen to a taste of the original restaurant in Camden - Namaaste Kitchen. But would it live up to its younger sister's great reputation?
Unfortunately (or not, depending on how you look at it), I'd been out to a client lunch only a couple of hours before so didn't have the strongest appetite. Nevertheless, I soldiered on for the curry cause, in the end regretting ordering too cautiously.
Namaste Kitchen is located on Parkway, between Camden Town tube station and the north easterly edge of Regents Park. From the outside, it shares the same orange, back-lit lettering on a black frontage as Salaam Namaste. It also has a double A in the name, this time in Namaaste - why, I've no idea?
The interior is also consistent with its sister restaurant: white leather upholstery, blue neon lighting and bee hive lampshades hanging down from the ceiling. However, on the whole the atmosphere is a little more traditional, with tables lining both sides of a long narrow dining space. It's also fairly bright inside, with a dazzling, fibre optic, glitter ball the centre piece. Equally impressive is the tandoor and grill but, being tucked away at the back, its value as a crowd pleaser is somewhat lost. A rogue fireplace near our table also felt oddly placed.
It was still very lively for a Thursday before Christmas but, not quite as fancy as Salaam Namaste, it's just a 7/10 for Venue.
Starters and sides
Poppadoms & chutneys
Khurchan crab claws
Spicy soft shell crab
Char-grill tandoori green prawns
To start with, we cracked into some poppadoms that came served inside a paper cone and broken into smaller pieces. These came with an excellent mango chutney, but also a strange salsa that didn't quite compare on account of lacking an expected chilli kick.
With our other starters we were a little more adventurous, opting for a triplet of shellfish. Having eulogised to Joe about the excellent softshell crab at Salaam Namaste we went for the similar, spicy soft shell crab along with char-grill tandoori green prawns and alluring sounding khurchan crab claws. In reality, the latter were a little disappointing, both in size and flavour. Served in a ridiculously wide rimmed dish, the four diminutive crab claws were sat on a salad bed of watercress and bell pepper tossed in a tamarind and lime salsa. The result was tasty, but more cerviche than curry and barely made up a mouthful.
The softshell crab also didn't quite grab us, slightly over done and presented as a whole crab, it lacked the quality of the offering I'd sampled before in Bloomsbury. Fortunately, the tandoori prawns were more in line with expectations and indeed more in line with the curry awards displayed on the wall to our right. Unlike the claws, these provided a sizable bite along with a delectable juiciness enhanced by a coriander, mint and green chilli marinade.
To go with our mains we also had plain rice and naan which were plain ol' Krishen's choice. These were fine.
Whilst the crab was a little disappointing , the Starters and sides were still of a relatively decent quality and, redeemed by the tandoori prawns, its a 7/10 overall.
On account of my limited appetite we only ordered two curries - a regret in hindsight. We opted for the parsi lamb - a yoghurt and green chilli number from Mumbai - and the dal makhani - a typical, slow-cooked, creamy lentil dish.
A slight skin on the dal and over-cooked tops on the lamb protruding from the curry suggested both had been sat on the side a while before being served. Whilst taking the shine off, it couldn't hide the overall quality of the two dishes. The lamb was almost braised to a delicious tenderness and delivered in a rich, tomato-ey curry sauce. The dal makhani was probably the best of its kind that I've had, although I always find them a bit Mexican in flavour. The lentils were perfectly cooked and the sauce lovely and creamy and both dishes were relatively generous in portion.
In general, service was ok, but the restaurant was busy and the waiters were a little inattentive. The slightly overdone food hinted that it had waited around before being served so it's only a 6 out of 10 as a result.
Value for money
On this occasion, a few taints let down the overall quality and value for money suffered as a result. Prices in general here aren't cheap and are a pound or two more than at Salaam Namaste. Our bill came to about £28 each which seemed steep given we didn't order a huge amount and only had one drink each. The prawns were the pick of the dishes, but at £15.95 even those were spenny. It's therefore only a 6/10 for VFM.
It's fair to say Namaste Kitchen didn't quite live up to expectations. I fear we may have caught them on a bad day, but nevertheless it was what it was. I'd like to return to try more of the mains, but with the all-round experience more satisfying at the Bloomsbury branch, I'd recommend a visit there instead.