Namaaste Kitchen, Camden

Namaaste Kitchen is a modern Indian grill and bar in Camden, the younger sibling of renowned Salaam Namaste, the ‘Bloomsbury favourite.’ This Camden eatery deserves recognition… offering a vibrant atmosphere and a comfortable environment for guests to enjoy the best of Indian cuisine.

A few minutes walk from Camden Town Station and near to all the famous rock and jazz venues, this restaurant is ideal for a pre or post show dinner. The lunch offers are also worth checking out, the buffet lunch is very reasonably priced and you certainly won’t leave hungry.

Our waiter was attending to several tables but was by our side whenever assistance was needed. He first brought along a chilled bottle of Pinot Grigio, essential sipping to kick off the gossiping. This mild, refreshing choice was perfect too, to cool the palate after the spicy Indian delicacies.

The selection of starters stunned our taste buds, wowing with the intense marinades and vibrant flavours. Portobello mushrooms stuffed with figs, cashew nuts, raisins, green chilli and homemade cheese with a curry leaf should not be missed. I don’t normally like mushrooms but cannot deny that these little mouthfuls are really, really good: the perfect combination of sweet and salty topped with melted cheese and flavoured carefully with aromatic Indian spices. The other starter I remember fondly is the Peshawari Lamb Chops marinated in raw papaya, herbs and spices before being grilled. We devoured this dish within minutes; the crunchy coating on the tender meat was addictive.

For mains it was lovely to have some of the main course dishes and a pick from the grill section of the menu. The Murgh Makhanwala is a favourite with Namaaste visitors and I can see why. Escalopes of chicken breast are grilled then simmered in a creamy butter and tomato sauce, with ginger and crushed fenugreek. It has little fire so is suitable for Indian food-lovers who can’t take the heat. Tandoori Rubiyan Duck with roasted tiger prawn and a tangy fresh salad was a contrasting dish that felt healthy and summery.

Roast pineapple with unbelievably good homemade coconut ice cream was served for dessert, along with our fresh mint tea. Simple but soothing.

Take advantage of special offers at Namaaste Kitchen, especially the ‘taste card’ half price deal which is available on selected days when you book in advance.

More information here.

Bianco, Roundhouse

I would recommend not taking a bag to the Roundhouse when you go to see Bianco. The NoFit State immersive promenade circus show requires just as much energy and alertness from the audience as from the performers. Guests are required to be very mobile, moving around the circular venue after each act… a unique concept but one that was rather frustrating with a heavy handbag and coat.

Internationally renowned for its dramatic live contemporary circus performance, blending jaw-dropping skills with untamed elegance and subversive edge, NoFit State returns to the stage with Bianco. There is little narrative, or at least no story that I could grasp. Instead the show is a series of visual vignettes displaying artistic and acrobatic finesse… the only theme? The colour white. With a constantly evolving tale set to a pounding soundtrack performed by a live band, this is an all consuming theatrical experience. Under the direction of Firenza Guidi the talented cast present a vividly imaginative performance.

Though I felt this show lacked wow factor Bianco does offer fantasy and awe, and there are a few moments of magic. The Cirque du Soleil life-defying risks are instead replaced with visually breathtaking acts exhibiting immense physical strength and incredible flexibility. For me it was the band that made the whole night worth the hassle… the gut-wrenchingly passionate musicians provided a mesmerising soundtrack for the evening.

NoFit State continues to reinvent circus with this stunning performance. After London the show will tour Brighton, Cardiff, Bristol, Narberth, Bangor and Edinburgh.

In London until 27 April, more information and book here.

THOROUGHLY MODERN MAN: Espresso Martinis at Forge and Foundry, Camden

It was nervously that I arrived at the Forge and Foundry last week, for a dinner to launch their newest cocktail, the Espresso Martini. For a coffee-avoider such as myself, this was a relatively daunting drink, but one that slipped down a real treat, particularly after the first one.

We met for drinks before the dinner, and the barman talked us through the recipe. The cocktail is a creation of the legendary Dick Bradsell, the “cocktail king” of 1980s London. It requires one and a half measures vodka, half a measure Kalhua, and the all-important measure of fresh espresso. The source of the particular espresso used by the Forge and Foundry is as charming as it is local. George, an elderly owner of a café located a few doors down from the restaurant, has been roasting a secret blend of Arabica beans for 36 years. The roasters he uses were built between 85 and 100 years ago, and luckily he can keep them in perfect working order, given his training as a mechanic in earlier life. Every day, he wanders down to the Forge and Foundry, and has coffee with the barmen there, and of course tinkers with the machines, offering advice on the coarseness of the grind, and the amount of water required.

The cocktail itself is surprisingly smooth, and despite not being a coffee aficionado, I found myself really warming to the espresso bitterness that perfectly complemented the smoothness of the vodka and the sweetness of the Kalhua. The second, and third went down even more nicely, and each glass was met with sounds of approval from all round the table.

The dinner itself was average, unfortunately, and didn’t quite live up to the promise of the cocktails. The gourmet ploughman’s platters were solid but rather uninspiring, with the Blacksticks blue cheese and Keens mature cheddar proving to be the highlight. The honey-roast and Parma hams were everything you would expect, and nothing more. For the main course, I chose the duck breast, served with an orange sauce, cocoa powder and plantain chips. The duck was a little overcooked, and the plantain chips had no reason to be on the plate. Texturally they were more like casino chips than edible ones. My companions at the table opted for the sea bass, and that looked a better decision. The highlight was undoubtedly the desserts, all round the table. My chocolate marquise with vanilla cream, hazelnuts, saffron marshmallow and strawberry sauce was divine, and the pastry chef Juan Pablo really impressed with his other offerings of Tocino del Cielo – a Spanish crème caramel dish – and the Lady Grey tea cake, with a nutty centre and wonderful “white chocolate soup”.

All in all, the Espresso Martini itself was a great surprise, and well worth a try, and the dessert section really was the jewel in the menu’s crown. Some shortcomings in the savoury offerings, however, meant that this was a slightly disappointing meal.

More information here. The Forge has just launched a new music event every Saturday called Fired Up at the Forge. With free entry from 7.30pm, it will play host to the best of new and breaking talent across the UK, focusing on live music and DJ sets.

Written by a Thoroughly Modern Man, James Bomford.