My summer exploring London continues with a visit to Bloomsbury. Close to Covent Garden (only two stops on the tube), the area was developed by the Russell family in the 17th and 18th century into a fashionable residential area. It gave its name to the influential Bloomsbury Group who met in private homes here in the early 1900s and included Virginia Wolf, John Maynard Keynes and E M Forster.
The area’s associated with the arts, education and medicine and is home to the University of London and lots of health-care institutions, as well as the striking building that is the British Museum. And there are lots of garden squares, including Bloomsbury and Russell Squares. Now doesn’t that all sound nice?
The nearest tube to tonight’s dining establishment is called Russell Square (those Russells certainly left their mark) and it’s one of only 19 tube stations in London that doesn’t have escalators. So you all have to cram into the lift and emerge into this really rather scholarly area of London.
Our night was more hedonistic than educational with the chance to sample the Indian dishes at Salaam Namaste, conjured up by their chef-patron Sabbir Karim. He’s highly regarded among his peers and has won several awards, including Asian and Oriental Chef of the Year in both 2012 and 2013. The food’s described as modern Indian and as soon as you walk into the welcoming little restaurant you know it’s going to be good. Spicy aromas fill the air.
There’s a seasonal menu (summer in this case) which we ordered two wonderful dishes from. The standard menu offers a delightful selection of contemporary dishes as well as the usual classic Indian fare. We decided to be adventurous tonight and try some of Sabbir’s creations. The starters elicited sighs of delight when they arrived at our table. Beautifully presented on slate, they were pretty as a picture and tasted wonderful, too.
The butter garlic prawns came with fresh thyme and lemon. Large, juicy prawns that were halfway to being crayfish were served with a delightfully spicy tomato chutney.
I ordered the Goan spiced scallops with mango salsa off the standard menu. I’ve never eaten scallops in an Indian restaurant before, the chef had done wonders with them. The salsa was flavoursome enough to accompany the sweetness of the scallops without overwhelming them. A beautifully light starter that, again, looked stunning.
The lamb dish, again off the summer menu, was a revelation. Never have lamb meatballs tasted so good, fresh with a sauce of many layers and flavours. It’s called Lamb Gilafi Taka tak served with kadaki kulcha.
The lamb came with this fabulous fresh nan with fresh coriander and chilli. Could be the best bread I’ve ever tasted! Seriously.
I decided to try the Dhaba Gosht, which was described as a legendary North Indian goat curry with potatoes served with baby nan. Served piping hot, on the bone in a casserole, it was rich and smooth and the meat melted in your mouth. Second time I’ve had goat this year and I have to admit to be developing quite a liking for it.
Wow! This is no ordinary Indian restaurant. We were blown away by the creativity and flavours of the dishes we tried and so impressed by the exciting options offered on the menu. And on top of all that it’s really great value for money.
I wish I was local and could visit regularly! I know one thing for sure, the Bloomsbury Group would have been putting the world to rights in Salaam Namaste if it had existed at the time (or ordering takeaways). They wouldn’t have been able to resist such absolutely amazing food.