Friday, 4 February 2011

Staring Down The Camden Lobster, And Winning

By Cat McGovern

I’m day four into my detox/healthier living regime and I’m doing ok. I haven’t had a drink since Sunday, mainly because I have been avoiding all drinking holes and hiding all my booze, and I feel great. An email popped up on my iPhone reminding me of the press lunch I am attending tomorrow at Namaaste Kitchen in Camden and my heart (and will power) sank. How could I possibly get through a tasting menu without a glass of wine in hand and destroying all food that is put in front of me? This will be a challenge, but I think I can conquer it with style and grace (ahem).

Firstly, to get over the alcohol problem, the easiest solution is to drive and that’s what I’m doing. I park in a nearby car park and walk up Parkway, where I am bombarded with an overwhelmingly large choice of establishments to eat and drink at. Fortunately I have my destination sorted. Namaaste Kitchen is quite understated and I could easily stroll past it, if I didn’t know any better.

Inside I can tell that this is not your local curry house, with garish adornments. Namaaste Kitchen has class, which I don’t. Oh well. It still has the set up of a typical Indian restaurant, but concentrating more on being chic and sophisticated. Even the plates, which are blue, square and ceramic, are posh. I have a feeling I am going to like it here.

The other bloggers at lunch dive for the wine (lucky sods), whereas I look at the virgin cocktails; something I have never done. I choose one with Grenadine in; to trick me into thinking there’s booze in it. It doesn’t work, but is a delight nonetheless.

When I was initially told that it would be a tasting menu, I really didn’t realise it would be basically the whole menu. This could well be a diet fail.

When the starters arrive, they come out thick and fast. Not a whisper of an onion bhaji or samosa here, just a blend of Indian street food and specialised delicacies. The Tandoori Portobello Mushroom is a surprising favourite. The figs that spill out on to the plate with a cheesy topping are something a little different from the norm. However, most enjoy the Spicy Soft Shell Crab, but for me it just makes me nervous. I can see that he is a crab and he scares me. I eat part of his leg and feel immediately guilty for enjoying his tender appendage. I leave the rest of him to the table.

Feeling mildly full but still picking at the complex Anglo-Indian chicken liver on toast, I waddle to the back of the restaurant where all the fun stuff happens. I am greeted by a man who is making chapatis. Namaaste Kitchen specialises in grilled dishes. There’s even a couple of tables right in front the chef as he creates. Going by the starters, which were a blend of all three grills, I’m guessing the mains are going to be as spectacular.

I am correct; they are in fact better than I expected. More than ten differing dishes are on offer for all of us to try. Interestingly Namaaste Kitchen have included a beef main; Beef Behari Kebab, which is essentially beef mashed together with tantalising and addictive spices. A whole lobster is placed beside me and I instantly curl back in horror. I’ve never been partial to lobster, or any of his sea friends. It’s their beady mean faces that put me right off, (see the picture and then you’ll understand). I realise I am being rather pathetic and delve into him and it’s actually stunning. I try to ignore his face whilst chomping away somewhat cautiously. Namaaste Kitchen concentrates on the flavour of their food, rather than overpowering it with spice. The food is some of the best Indian food I have ever had the pleasure to sample and although it may have not been good on my waistline, it was totally worth it.

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