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Cafe Spice Namaste

16 Prescott Street, London, England, E1 8AZ, United Kingdom

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Cyrus Todiwala’s restaurant is still going strong aftermore than fifteen years in business, earning him an MBE in the process. Not far from Tower Hill, this caters mainly to City workers, and has two large dining areas. The décor in the larger room is rather garish, having banquettes with purple and also orange upholstery, green upholstery for the chairs and murals on the walls. The wooden floor and music generates quite high noise levels. 

Café Space Namaste writes an interesting menu: pork vindaloo, beef tikka and duck sausage are not the standard high street Indian fare.  Bhel poori was very pleasant, though for me it was a touch dry: a little more tamarind chutney would have improved things (13/20). Prawns were cooked well enough, though they came with an oddly bland, one-dimensional brown sauce (12/20).

Pork vindaloo was the best dish of the meal, pieces of English pork in a nicely sour, spicy vinegared sauce (13/20). Dhal makhani was decent, though again the spicing seemed to just have a generic heat rather than revealing individual spices (11/20). Tandoori salmon suffered from having one of the pieces of salmon raw in the centre, though the others were fine (11/20). Naan bread was so-so, rather doughy in texture (11/20). This was similar to my previous experiences at this restaurant: the menu reads enticingly, but the delivery is less appealing and rather inconsistent.

Below are notes from a meal in February 2011.

Starters were £5.55 - £7.75, main courses £14.85 – £19.50, with vegetables side dishes weighing in at a hefty £5.95 - £6.50, with pulao rice at £3.95. I took advantage of a special offer lunch for £15, though this was a temporary offer only during the quiet winter months. The short wine list has no vintages shown, and selections such as Wide River Chenin Blanc at £17.95 for a wine that costs about £4.50 in the shops, Mitchell Riesling at £34.25 compared to a retail price of around £8, while for those celebrating then Taittinger Nocture is priced at £75.25 for a wine you can buy for £32.50 in the shops.

Bombay saev poori (sic) consisted of half a dozen little pooris with a topping of spiced potato and sev, tamarind and date chutney, green chutney and chickpea vermicelli, garnished with a little coriander. The pooris were crisp but I found the topping rather bland, tasting mainly of potato and sev, with not enough tamarind, which if there had been more of it would have been the ideal way to enliven the dish; also, personally I would have liked the spicing dialled up a notch. Still, thiw was pleasant enough (12/20).

Chicken dopyaza (sic) consisted of cubes of properly cooked chicken in a sauce with tomatoes, onion and peppers, livened up by fenugreek, cumin and cracked mustard and fennel seeds. This was an enjoyable dish, the spicing a little livelier here than for the starter, though still relatively subdued. This was served with good, supple naan bread (13/20). The restaurant makes its own kulfi (most Indian restaurants buy theirs) and the extra effort showed in a good pistachio kulfi with clean flavour. It was served a bit too cold, but the taste was fine (13/20). My bill came to just over £20 with a lassi given the special offer lunch, but this would not be a typical price here.

It is nice to see the restaurant still prospering, but I still yearn for the days when Cyrus was cooking all the food himself in the tiny premises of Namaste in nearby Alie Street; at that time his kitchen was producing perhaps the best Indian food in London, and of course it is unrealistic to expect this quality to scale up to the the larger kitchen of premises of Café Spice Namaste where there is a team cooking. Nonetheless, this is still good quality food.

Below are notes from a meal in May 2004.

Popadoms were crisp (12/20) and came with homemade pickles. For my starter a dish of prawns were cooked tenderly but were in a rather one-dimensional sauce (11/20).  Aloo papri chat was a rather inferior version: a mound of heavy potato with rather sharp raw onion and deep-fried “pasta” pieces served with a tiny dish of yoghurt-based sauce with a dash of mint and tamarind. Too dry, the dish lacked cohesion, with too many elements that did not blend into a whole. Goan prawn curry again had prawns correctly cooked, but the sauce was rather ordinary, with chunks of tomato in the sauce used as a filler (11/20). 

Marked as being “very hot”, it actually lacked spiciness. Chicken xacuti had a more interesting sauce, though again the spices, not being freshly ground, merged into one and were indistinct, rather than each being recognisable as happens when they are truly fresh (11/20).  Pilau rice was OK, though the polished rice with the prawn curry was well cooked and different - it had a somewhat nutty taste.  The best feature of the meal was the naans, which although they had been left to stand for a while and so were not piping hot, were fluffy and excellent (13/20). Bombay potato, always a good test of an Indian kitchen, were reasonable but fell in to the common trap of overcooking the potatoes, resulting in the vegetables losing distinct texture and being too soft on the outside, yet the larger ones were still hard on the inside (10/20). Raita was quite creamy, without much cucumber in it (11/20).  Service was not at its best: the waiter rushed off before we had finished ordering - they seemed a bit stretched. As ever, the atmosphere was lively, though full of arrogant traders and their Essex girl companions: entertaining in its way.  

There was a similar, though smaller, branch at 247 Lavender Hill, SW11 (0207 738 1717) minus the City wide boys, but this seems to have folded.

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    After seeing Michael Winner at the nearby Wiltons music hall(amusing) where to eat nearby? Your and some other reviews were not that encouraging , however we liked the the slightly end of empire feel of the place, the staff were friendly and on the ball , something about which there had been some negative comments.The food was excellent 4 papads with chutney and pickle-good, the tiger prawn patia which is one of my favourite dishes done so poorly in so many indian restaurants , here perfect slightly spicy a little sweetness the prawns with a good bite little toasts to put the prawns and sauce on, the chutney salmon for my wife-good then a lamb dish murghi ni curry its name , very dark sauce with the lamb which was perfectly tender (no fat) the sauce very spicy liked it a lot, then my wife king prawn curry and broccoli tamatar all very tasty and surprise even the humble broccoli was full of flavour, a sancerre at £38 two champagne at £8.50 each(proper glassful) So a pleasant surprise and it rounded off our evening perfectly.

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