Salaam Namaste is a wannabe up-market Indian in Bloomsbury, the chef patron Sabir Karim has won lots of awards including chef of the year at the 2012 Asian curry awards. I think there is a place for fancy curry in London’s restaurant scene, but once you have allowed for The Cinnamon Club, Quilon and Tamarind, there isn’t a whole lot of space left. Salaam Namaste is aiming a notch below The Cinnamon Club et al., but for me it has a long way to go. The Bloomsbury branch is the younger brother of the Namaaste kitchen in Camden; both restaurants have received glowing blogger reviews – see: foodifancy, London Unattached and The Hedonist. Interestingly, all of these reviewers seem to have been invited by the owner and have eaten for free – I appreciate that they have all admitted this in their write ups, but I wonder how impartial they were, especially in the face of the “charming owner” (a quote from London Unattached). Of course, I am merely bitter that I have not been invited for freebies by charming restauranteurs, but at least I have the chance to take the moral high ground here (and to pan the restaurant mercilessly).
I went to the restaurant with a large group for a work night out and we set off on the wrong foot because we had been really crammed in and it seemed like they had overbooked the relatively small space. We were greeted gruffly and proffered a slimmed down set menu with all of the interesting dishes stripped out (I assume because we were a large group) – there was no coconut seabass or Goan spiced scallops in sight. I began with mixed starters, consisting of a cold and stuffy pakora, along with a decent chicken tandoori and a lukewarm stuffed paratha filled with chicken curry and, bizarrely, smothered in a sweet sauce which reminded me of the sickly processed caramel that McDonald’s cover their ice cream in.
I followed this with a safe bet – a chicken curry, which was made with decent quality meat and nicely spiced. A fair dish, but nothing more. This was book-ended by a truly awful dessert – shop bought poor quality ice cream twinned with carrot halva which was over sweetened and tasted processed.
Verdict: avoid Salaam Namaste like the plague – if you want a decent curry then head to Whitechapel.