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Dec 19, 2012 08:55 AM

[London, E1] Cafe Spice Namaste

We’d probably never have picked this place had it not been for its appearance on a recent episode of Masterchef. There just seemed to something of an elegance to the food. So, perhaps some proof that good PR works wonders – if it can pull in a couple of punters from 200 miles away, what must it have done for local business.

So, we’d booked ages ago. And, in that, lies my only gripe with the restaurant. I have this hope with places that, if you’ve been arsed enough to make a commitment weeks ago, then they should be arsed enough to give you a decent table. But, so often they don’t. Now, it wasn’t the worst table in the room – the one next to the gents’ bogs. But it was second worst – tucked away in a corner, next to the coat racks and the waiters’ station. Whinge ends.......

Food was damn good. The menu makes a big thing of the fact that the chef is a Parsee and, as such, Parsee dishes are prepared “properly”. So, it seemed to me that was what I should order. A starter of king prawns patia was excellent. Several delicious and perfectly cooked prawns in a thick, well spiced sauce – sweet from jaggery and a background sharpness from tamarind. The only incongruous item here was the slices of toasted ciabatta but, even then, it actually seemed to work.

I followed this with lamb dhaansaak – good tender lamb and a balanced sauce with no spice jarring or masking the overall flavour of the dish. It comes, apparently traditionally, with an onion salad and brown onion rice. I enjoyed this a lot.

The menu is light on vegetarian options which is the direction my partner often goes in at Indian restaurants. So, she was quite chuffed to see a thali on offer. There was a dish of okra – punchy with chilli and a good texture with some bite in the vegetables; a comforting daal; some beetroot and a saag aloo. All pretty good (I managed to get a taste). There was an outstandingly good beetroot samosa – full of flavour, well spiced and not a hint of oiliness from the frying – I tried to get a taste of this as well, but no bloody chance. For the accompaniments – naan, rice, a handful of mini-pappads and a fairly straightforward raita. All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable tray of food.

We often pass on desserts, particularly in asian restaurants but thought we’d have a try at the kulfi. I went with a selection of mini-versions – rose, vanilla, pistachio, chocolate and another I can’t recall, while herself went with the full-sized version of the pistachio. It’ll be fair to say that I enjoyed this more than she did but, then, I think I often have the sweeter tooth.

Such a shame this place isn’t 200 miles north. We’d be regulars.

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  1. Keep meaning to visit, still haven't. Have met Todiwala at food festivals few times, very gregarious indeed. And he knows family friend of my parents, also parsee, she has shared some of her recipes on my mum's recipe website (Mamta's Kitchen). Given how I love her food, I want to try his...

    5 Replies
    1. re: Kavey

      Cyrus seems to be one of those chefs who pop out into the restaurant for a chat with folk. Nice guy.

      His wife (?) runs front of house and is also chatty. She'd noted that I had ordered the dhaansaak and came over to ask how I'd found it. Clearly very proud of their version.

      1. re: Harters

        Found this article very interesting, giving a background on the struggled and achievements of the Todiwalas:

        1. re: Kavey

          Fascinating story - thanks for the link.

 is always a good source of industry gossip and the like.

          1. re: Harters

            I started on Wiki and found the reference to being deemed unreliable and unwelcome by the Home Office, it had a link to the caterersearch page for more information. Caterersearch often source of helpful back info on chefs and restaus, yeah.

      2. re: Kavey

        Finally visited and had a lovely meal. I won't share specific dishes, as it was a special event sponsored by an ingredient-specific promotional organisation, but it did give us plenty of opportunity to taste Cyrus' food.
        We also enjoyed the cookery demo he did for the first couple of hours, we were eating during that time too, of course.
        I'll definitely go back to order from the regular menu, though it's a fair haul from where I live so not sure when.

      3. I had a feeling you would enjoy this meal. It looks very worth trying after that TV appearance. My husband always orders a dhansak, so we'll try to get there before too long.Thanks for all your reports!

        1. Shame you couldn't manage a pudding Harters. The last time I was there I had a nice rose kulfi.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Lord Brazing

            Erm, but we did have pud, m'Lord.

            I enjoyed the five mini-kulfi very much

          2. Oh my, you're making me miss London's dining scene so much! I'd been wanting to go back to Cafe Spice Namaste for ages! Last time i was there must ave been the late 90s.

            1. As I once suspected, it's possible that Harters is my doppleganger when it comes to what we enjoy eating. Reading over his review again of Cafe Spice Namaste, I had to giggle when I saw how we ate all the same dishes - ones they we often order because we just enjoy them.

              Luckily, we had a lovely table far from the gents' and the coat rack. By 8 the entire restaurant was full, and it was only in leaving that I noticed there are two dining rooms.

              We shared the prawn patia which came after some papads with some delicious chutneys and relishes not to be found in our local curry favorite down south. I loved the date and another which was described as a 'salad.' Perhaps it's the Parsee Wedding Relish sold on Mr. Todiwala's website.

              As predicted, my husband had the dhansak and I had one of the best duck dishes I've ever tasted... anywhere. The mild spice and delicious coating of the tender, tender duck breast was unbelievably moreish. We also had a chestnut mushroom and courgette curry, which I thought was very overpriced for what it was, but it was quite good and nicely spicey.

              I, too, like Harters ended with a pistachio kulfi... delicious.

              I will happily eat at Cafe Spice Namaste anytime and can't see how I would order anything other than the fabulous duck which supposedly has Parsee and Jewish roots. I have only one more comment and hope it will be taken in the right way. I truly think the prawn patia and dhansak we make here at home comes very close to what we ate the other night. I was missing more of a tamarind taste to the food. I've come a long way!

              P.S. We were so happy to see our food arrive that we forgot to take any photos. Sorry Peter!

              6 Replies
              1. re: zuriga1

                "We were so happy to see our food arrive that we forgot to take any photos"
                Glad you enjoyed your meal, June! Your meal sounded fabulous. Yes, I wished there were some food porn in your post - still trying to picture what the dhansak duck looked like :-)

                1. re: klyeoh

                  I had the duck and my husband had the dhansak - two separate dishes. Duck dhansak sounds not so appealing. :-) You'd love this duck dish, Peter. It was delicious like the rest of the meal.

                  1. re: zuriga1

                    LOL! I think a duck dhansak would have gone well with the beetroot samosa!

                    1. re: klyeoh

                      I almost ordered that samosa, Peter, but changed my mind.

                2. re: zuriga1

                  "I truly think the prawn patia and dhansak we make here at home comes very close to what we ate the other night. I was missing more of a tamarind taste to the food. I've come a long way!"