Café Spice Namaste
OBE-Awarded and one half of BBC TV duo The Incredible Spice Men , Cyrus Todiwala is credited with popularising Goan dishes in London. His city-fringe restaurant Café Spice Namaste has an eclectic mix of clientele, ranging from suited and booted city folk, doe-eyed couples, families, hen dos, tourists, and everything in between. It seems anyone and everyone is in love with Todiwala’s Persian-inspired Parsi cooking.
The restaurant is a world away from the curry houses in nearby Brick Lane. Housed in a former Victorian magistrates’ court, its impressive double-height white walls are peppered with coloured swathes the hues of Indian spice – think turmeric, saffron and sumac. We dine midweek and the restaurant is full, with the charismatic Pervin Todiwala spending time charming and chatting with every single table. We quiz Pervin on stand out dishes and naturally she replies “everything is great!” She insists we try an Indian Shiraz from the Nasik Valley. We agree a little apprehensively… Indian wine? Surely not. We take one sip and instantly know we stand corrected. It is sublime. This rounded wine is earthy and smoky with hints of espresso and chocolate. We sip eagerly and tuck into mixed poppadums served with Cyrus-made pickles and dips. The mixed vegetable pickle pleases me greatly, whilst my colleague prefers the minty yoghurt raita, thicker than usual, with shreds of fresh cucumber.
After we’ve wiped the dips bowls clean, our starters arrive. The first dish: a beautifully crispy puffed pastry case filled with crushed potato and spiced yoghurt. It is finished with a tamarind and date chutney which adds a zesty tangy aftertaste. Next up is a crispy dosa pancake served with tiny dices of lamb in a well spiced masala sauce and served with a Saambaar (a spiced vegetable and lentil soup) and fresh coconut chutney.
Already feeling suitably stuffed we are completely overwhelmed by the procession of main course dishes that make their way to our table. We are presented with a fragrant Goan coconut curry containing the juiciest and most succulent king prawns served with the traditional accompaniment of red rice. The next dish is a lamb shank bhuna with meat so tender it literally falls off the bone and into a rich aromatic sauce. A side of spiced saffron rice makes the perfect receptacle to soak up the delicious sauce. We then tuck into Punjabi bharta filled with deliciously meaty smoked aubergine chunks that are nestled in a sauce of onions, tomato, garlic and green chilli. The final flourish comes in the form of mustard, honey and saffron naans.
With waistlines fit to bursting we know we shouldn’t opt for desserts, but the eyes are always bigger than the stomach, and everything on the menu sounds heavenly. We opt for a saffron, cardamom and ginger crème brulee. The texture of the dessert is recognisable, but the spices elevate the custard and give it a freshness.