Tuesday, November 25, 2008

UK Dining: Cafe Spice Namaste

Alan Richman was recently perplexed by new downtown NYC restaurant Double Crown, which attempts to marry traditional British cuisine with that of the nations that once fell under the dominion of her Empire. He makes the point that "no nation has ever done less than Great Britain to absorb the food of the people it has oppressed—the Brits seem not to have developed an affection for much of anything other than mulligatawny soup and tea." Of course this is not exactly true, in fact neither is the inferred answer to the rhetorical question he poses at the onset of his review "have you come across British-Indian cuisine?" The reality is that almost all of the countless Indian restaurants that dot the British Isles are precisely British-Indian, or perhaps Indian-British cuisine - traditional Indian dishes and cooking techniques, with a heavy emphasis on curry, tailored to British tastes and ingredients. How else to explain the excellent beef curry, a dish that one would never see on Indian menus, what with their belief in the sanctity of the cow, that I had at Cafe Spice Namaste in London tonight?

Cafe Spice Namaste occupies a large, brightly decorated space on Prescot St. The room looks more like a community arts center than a restaurant with its eclectic palate of colors. The menu is obviously Indian but features such non traditional items as the aforementioned beef, as well as seasonal British game (partridge curry anyone?) and even ostrich. In short Cafe Spice Namaste has menu that I would love to explore but I was only able to eat at once during my visit. I, of course, went for the beef.

The beef curry, a moderately fiery blend of spices in a yogurt and onion puree, had a pleasing depth of flavor. I enjoy some spice in my food but I also like to taste the recipe for the collusion of its components, rather than the hegemony of one. Achieving a balance is difficult and Cafe Spice Namaste pulls it off providing a dish that while having some heat, allowed the taste of the beef to come through.

Similarly a dish crumbled cheese tossed with diced shallots, red & green peppers, tomato, green chillis and spiced with a healthy dose of toasted cumin was beautifully layered, the creaminess of the cheese cutting the heat from the peppers and chili perfectly. The Naan bread was as good as I have had - a puffy, airy top contrasted nicely with the supremely crisp bottom crust.

I enjoyed my meal at Cafe Spice Namaste and would certainly venture back as some of the other menu items looked quite tantalizing. It is, admittedly, a bit out of the way unless you are in the City but I think it offers a menu inventive enough to warrant the journey.

Cafe Spice Namaste
16 Prescot St.
London, United Kingdom
020-7488 9242


Doug Vernon said...

You hit another one of our favorite restaurants in London. We've been patronizing cafe Spice Namaste for maybe 12 years now. They have (or had) two locations. One near London Bridge and the Tower and one across the river in Richmond. The Tower lcation is superior, in our estimation. The owners of Cafe Spice Namaste are very ingenious and meals there have usually been very enjoyable. Still, you might want to check out Chutney Mary's for excellent, more traditional Indian fare.

That and go to Harrods!

Jerzee Tomato said...

I agree with chiffonade (posting as Doug Vernon above), Cafe Spice Namaste is one of my favorites.

Louise Wyers (Doug Vernon and "therealchiffonade") visits London four or five times a year.

I will be going with her and Dave next spring and we will spending a few weeks in the UK.

Kristin-LandingPadLondon said...

Ah! I know this is an older post, but still VERY helpful. Thanks for that!

In fact, I thought the readers of my website, http://www.landingpadlondon.com, would enjoy your commentary, as well. I've quoted you and linked to this page from the following article: http://www.landingpadlondon.com/caf-spice-namaste/

If you're ever in London again and would like to share your findings with out readers, I'd be happy to publish good posts like this on our site.

Cheers and thanks for the great blog!