Cafe Spice Namaste

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Midweek dinner with colleagues in London this week had to do these 4 essential things:

1. Warm us up – it was flipping freezing.

2. Be easy – we’d had a full on week and we needed to keep it simple.

3. Taste amazing – we are an exacting bunch

4. Be local – we were staying near the city and didn’t fancy travelling

Bearing the above in mind, we headed straight for Cafe Spice Namaste – our new go-to Indian restaurant near the Tower of London. I’ve written about Mr Todiwali’s superb gaff before, but I thought he deserved another mention it’s that good.

A table of four men trying miserably to keep to some kind of January dietary regime in a top-notch Indian restaurant is a recipe for disaster, but we did manage to keep the beer to a minimum (school night) and skipped starters going straight for mains. Vast quantities of excellent pickles and poppadoms made up for the lack of a starter and our mains arrived promptly. Three of us went for the superb mixed tandoori grill which contained all manner of meat and fishy loveliness with some rice in case we were feeling too smug with our low carb intake. Our fourth diner opted for springbok (yes, the South African deer-like animal) which he deemed first rate.

We will continue, I’m sure, to use Cafe Spice Namaste as our midweek curry bolt hole as it the food and service is tip top – and if that’s what you’re in the mood for, it’s definitely up there with the best. In the meantime if you are in the vicinity it’s well worth a look.

 

Prashad

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I love meat.

I really do.

Roasted, fried, baked, poached, grilled and especially barbecued.

It all works for me and all you have to do is follow me on Twitter or take a look back through some recent posts on here to realise that meat is my food master, for sure.

So when someone mentions to me ‘vegetarian restaurant’, I go cold. I start to worry. I think I’m going to miss my beloved flesh. Earlier this year we ate at the fantastic Terre A Terre in Brighton which was the first really, really good vegetarian restaurant I’ve ever been to and that was thanks to the persistence of my long-suffering vegetarian sister Gill and do you know what? It was the first non meat meal where I didn’t miss the meat.

Prashad is a vegetarian Indian restaurant that has been successfully ploughing a high quality food furrow in Bradford for years and rocketed to fame as runners-up in Ramsay’s Best restaurant TV show in 2010. Recently opening a spacious new restaurant on the Leeds/Bradford border, this smart move will open their pretty unique style of cooking to a much wider catchment area.

A large party of us booked on their opening night last week, which in hindsight was probably not the wisest move in the world – there were a few glitches with timings and service yet to be resolved – but we had a really enjoyable evening.

And I didn’t miss the meat.

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I’m not a huge connoisseur of Indian food but it seems like Prashad serves a kind of Indian continent fusion food. having visited India earlier this year, it really came home to me that india is a bit like Europe with the cultural diversity of many countries and cuisines to match. the food on offer ranges from hot and cold street food (Special Chaat is the very addictive signature dish of which Ramsay was particularly fond and ) to more traditional curries. We ordered a mixed starter plate for two that contained all the starter options – the textures and flavours were superb. It was a plate of food working its socks off I can tell you. the rest of the plates we all shared were all of the highest standard with punchy, shiny flavours at every turn.

Special mention has to go to the Chinese/Indian crossover Chilli Paneer, the Masala Dosa and the seasonal vegetable Handi – all served with a delicately light coriander rice and satisfyingly stodgy garlic naan.

The service is cheerful and made us all smile. It was opening night and it was a little laboured with new staff and systems clearly being bedded in. But Prashad is the kind of place that you readily forgive this because the food easily outweighs any negatives. You get the sense that the issues will be quickly resolved – the family clearly know how to run restaurants.

I predict Prashad will become as popular with the people of Leeds and move from its status of Bradford’s best kept secret to the go-to restaurant for non meat eaters and meat eaters alike. On top of all that, it’s only 5 minutes by car from where we live so very convenient for us!

 

Note: The pictures used in this post come from the Prashad cookbook, from which other Globetroffers have cooked extensively – and they swear by it. My shots from the night look a little haphazard, it could have been the wine…

Cafe Spice Namaste

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The third of my London triptych of blogs is all about Indian spice of the finest kind.

Cafe Spice Namaste is the famous London ‘culinary institution’ owned by Cyrus and Pervin Todiwala. The restaurant is just a short walk from the Tower of London so a little off the beaten foodie track, on the edge of the City of London.

Cyrus has been on television many times (including Saturday kitchen) and he is famed for his contemporary take on traditional Indian food using locally sourced ingredients from the UK.  Cyrus has even cooked for royalty, so this guy is no slouch in the kitchen.

The restaurant is very unassuming and could be anywhere in the country and the emphasis is very much on the food. I was dining alone on this occasion and it’s worth noting that I absolutely love eating out alone. I have no issues with my own company and I’ve noticed that a lone diner finishes their meal about ten times quicker as there is no chit chat to slow things down, apart from my tweeting along the way…

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Back to the food. My strategy is to usually go for the specials – after all that’s what the chef has made for that day and they are usually spot on. To start, I opted for their take on the humble but much-loved, by me at least, Scotch Egg (which according to the menu came from India originally, named after Walter Scott apparently) – their version was a spiced quail egg and turkey. It was on the money, small but perfectly spiced.

For my mains, I ordered from the specials again, and went for the breast of Langley Chase organic mutton Goda Masala. The lamb was marinated and roasted then served in a masala sauce especially made for the restaurant by a couple in Bombay. Lovely attention to detail. Although the menu did warn me this dish was ‘hot’ I wasn’t prepared for the deep heat emanating from the dish! It really had a depth of flavour not found in everyday Indian cooking, but it was hot, hot, hot. I overheated dramatically and drank around four litres of water and had to calm my tongue down with a large portion of roasted fig ice cream – at least that’s my excuse.

Prices and service are what you’d expect for a restaurant of this quality but surprisingly not over the top cost-wise given the stature of the chef. Just go.