Tag Archives: dinner

A big bow to Namaaste Kitchen

10 Feb

I always find it strange you can live in a neighbourhood for years, but not notice restaurants on your doorstop.

For instance, I have been a tried and tested central North Londoner for most of my more than four years here in the capital. There was a brief stint just off of Brick Lane, which I loved too, but North London and I always seem to be singing from the same hymn sheet. It was where the boy and I had our first date, where I have eaten some of the best cuisine with some of my best friends, where I have (countless times) wandered idly through vast parks amazed at how green this city is…it is, in short, the place that feels most like home.

So, when I was invited to Namaaste Kitchen on Parkway (just off Camden High Street) recently for dinner, I presumed it must be new. I hadn’t noticed it before and, in my naivety I thought this must mean it hadn’t existed previous to my learning of it.

I was, of course, wrong – there are dozens of restaurants along Parkway, so it’s not surprising I do not know them all.

In fact, Namaaste Kitchen has been open since 2010, operating from a small but cozy storefront closer to the upper end of Parkway. It is all comfy booths (another booth!) and low, purple-blue lighting. But its main attraction is the giant grill at the back – perfect for making your taste buds salivate and keeping you warm on a cold winter night.

The restaurant focuses on Pakistani and Indian cuisine and is running a new regional food year programme, where guests will have the option to choose a set menu based around that month’s featured region. February plays host to Hyderabad, an area rich in history of culinary delights. The region – in the central south of India – was, from the 18th century onwards, under Nizam rule and much fanfare was created around food that was inspired by the rulers’ tastes and Irani, Turkish and Arabic flavours. I had the opportunity to taste some fantastic delicacies formed around ingredients like tamarind (my favourite), coconut, peanut and sesame.

Like any good Indian meal, there were lots of dishes. We started with Patthar Ka Gosht (marinated meat cooked on a stone), followed by Reshmi chicken kebab and Chakna (goat tripe and meat in a spicy sauce). Each dish was paired with a wine to make the notes and flavours of the individual sets of spices.

Crispy, crunchy Patthar Ka Gosht

My personal favourite was the Patthar Ka Gosht – the meat was tender but perfectly crispy on the outside and literally dripping with glorious juices and a spicy, coriander sauce that I nearly licked up the remnants of. The Chakna, however, didn’t go down so well – I was more than happy to try goat intestines (I’m a lover of haggis and black pudding, so I’m not put off by offal). But it was a bit too gooey and chewy, and I found it was too over-flavoured with garam masala and left a grittiness on my palate that just wasn’t for me.

Moving onto the mains, we tried a whole host of various dishes: Murg ki Pakki Biryani, Malai Chicken Tikka, Baghara Baigan, Khatti Machli, Bhindi Gosht and Rogoni Roti!

The ones that stood out by far were the Baghara Baigan (baby aubergines) and the Katti Machli (sea bream). The former was oozing in a puddle of salty sweet coconut, peanuts, cumin, ginger and tamarind – sweet yet savoury; rich yet delicate. Harmony on a plate. The latter, meanwhile, was flaky and delicate as a floating feather, despite the heavier tamarind and tomato sauce is was served in.

Gwiltypleasures can reveal MP David Milliband likes poppadoms

I was so absorbed in my indulgence of all these pleasurable things I almost didn’t notice MP David Milliband casually wander in! What tipped me off? Given I was sat at a table of journalists, the whispering was quick to begin. Then five phones came out and Twitter became a flurry of our chitter-chatter. I believe (by this point, remember, I had tried a different wine with each dish) I proclaimed it: #Millibandchronicles and made many a comment about his dashing purple tie and decision to order more poppadoms.

But, even a high-ranking MP couldn’t keep me from my meal. It was glorious and I couldn’t finish every bite on my plate.

We ended with a sickly sweet apricot pudding – while it looks small, one only needs a few bites of it before the body wants to crash from a sugar injection. It was nice, but maybe worth sharing.

All in all, a highly satisfying evening. And, remember, if you too want to try some of these delightful dishes, they’re only on until the end of February – at which point, a new region will be the star of the month.

Sometimes, it goes to show – it’s great to know a neighbourhood, but even better to be surprised by the new delights it offers up!

I was a guest of Namaaste Kitchen but dishes are reasonably priced, ranging from £4.95 for the Patthar ka Gosht to £13.95 for the Khatti Machli. More information on the restaurant, located at 64 Parkway, can be found here.

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Delectable Daphne

12 Sep

When I was a kid, I had the nickname: “Alwynne the olive eater”. This was, for the rather obvious reason, due to the fact I loved olives. Olives in a jar; olives at a buffet; olives any time of day. No one said I wasn’t a strange child…

So, the other night when the boy took me to the rather lovely, hidden-away gem that is Daphne, a Greek restaurant on Bayham Street in Camden, and the waiter hurried over with an over-flowing plate of garlicky lemon olives, I knew I was in for a treat.

Daphne is your quintessential quaint restaurant – it’s not got a website, it’s not on the high street, and it doesn’t have decor that makes you feel like you’re living in 2011 (the green, flowered booth cushions were akin to the wallpaper in my childhood bathroom circa the 1980s). It does have fantastic waiters, cozy dim lighting, great wine and even better food.

Unassuming from the outside, but a treat inside!

Let me first speak of the service, then we’ll get down to the courses. Being a Canadian for most of my life ingrained me with a sense of service (whether I was working in a restaurant or eating there). Now, no offense to the lovely Brits, but it’s always a bit lacking in this country. Which is probably why people don’t tip. Or maybe it’s the other way around. But at Daphne’s there wasn’t any hesitation that we were going to be treated like family. Outside of the almost instantaneous appearance of olives, the waiter also helped us with our wine selection – by letting us try the two bottles we were debating over before we chose. It’s little touches like this that I would think make people come back (a fact I discovered when I overheard two tables talking about other visits they had made to the restaurant).

Then came the food choice – there was a large chalkboard (brought to our table and explained in detail) full of specials. But there was also a huge menu, which included the magnificent sounding mezze option. We chose the latter, adding one extra starter because we couldn’t resist the description of halloumi, eggplant and prawn, wrapped up in filo pastry.

And boy were we overwhelmed! The cold course included seven plates – silky taramasalata, creamy hummus, mushy aubergine, tasty tahini, rich fish salad, cooling tzatziki and tender beets, with warm pitta. Then the hot course added another four plates to the sum (think: calamari, sausages and more) while the final course was a large platter of various grilled meats and greek salad. Suffice to say, we took a container of leftovers home. All for £17.50 each.

This was served with care, in a relaxed manner – the waiters let us pause between courses when we looked like we might explode, and were more than happy for us to take the rest away. The wine – a Greek red from a winery called Ktima Lantides (http://tinyurl.com/5tt6bfc) – was full-bodied, oakey and delicious. And the tables were filled with in-the-know locals, out for a nice comforting Friday night meal.

Although this may not have been served in an incredibly fancy, white-tableclothed environ, I would take the hospitality and comfort of Daphne before that any day of the week. Anywhere that thinks to serve their customers so well, and start off with a giant plate of olives, definitely suits Gwiltypleasures just fine!

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