Sunday, 16 May 2010

Namaste Kathmandu, Edinburgh

It's not just Indian restaurants who make good curry!

Back when I lived in Berlin, I found that Indian restaurants weren't up to scratch and when the craving for chilli hit, I preferred to check out the city's Tibetan and Nepalese eateries. Unlike their Indian counterparts, their restaurants were temples of serenity and you almost felt that your soul was cleansed after eating there. It wasn't just about the food but the whole experience. As you can imagine, I got very excited when I discovered a cluster of Nepalese restaurants in Edinburgh!

Namaste stood out to me as a sparkly looking hideaway in a street full of 'old man's pubs',kebab shops and grungy student haunts crawling in listeria. It was a quiet Sunday when most of the area's population were either hungover or still eating their breakfasts so as you can imagine, the restaurant was quiet. However, this didn't mean that the restaurant lacked atmosphere. The beautiful decor of the place seemed to envelop me in serenity, almost like in a Buddhist temple.A plush red velvet bar area, mood lighting, traditional instruments from Nepal and a couple of cosy booth areas set the scene. The staff were incredibly helpful yet unobtrusive.

To start, I opted for my old favourite the humble popadom as I wanted to do a little 'compare and contrast' study with the typical Indian ones. The pops arrived at the table folded up! Now, this is going to take some describing, so bear with me....Imagine if your bog-standard pop was flexible and you could fold it like paper. Well, fold it in half then half again. Now fry it and get it nice and crispy. This is how the pops arrived. I am still perplexed as to how they managed this feat. They came with 3 beautiful dips which were based on their Indian brothers but with an extra kick. First up was the mango chutney but this one had a flaming aftertaste and was seasoned with peppery herbs. The lime pickle was less greasy than the Indian one and was vindaloo-hot but settled down pleasantly. Third up was the onion/mint/cucumber extravaganza which unlike its counterpart, also spiced up my life as it was garnished in a tomato chili relish. So far, so good.

Time for the main event. As it was lunchtime, I took advantage of its lunchtime Thali deal as I wanted to try something more traditional. What a feast fit for Buddha! I was expecting a small portion as it was lunchtime and a deal; instead, I was overwhelmed at the size of it! The thali is a purpose built tray for a meal consisting of various dishes- a far eastern take on the Greek meze if you will. A monster portion of fragrant Basmati rice accompanied with a filling lentil curry (you can request mild, medium or hot; being the Vindaloo Queen that I am, I don't need to tell you that I ordered hot!),a highly nutritious heping of boiled potato and spinach curry enhanced with stem ginger and to cool yourself down, fresh salad and a silky smooth Raita (if you like Greek tzatziki, you will love raita). I forgot how filling lentils can be, I only managed three quarters of the meal.

Part of the Thali lunch included a coffee or tea too, this rounded off the feast nicely. As it was an unsusually hot day, Mango lassi put out a few of the flames during the meal. The lassi met my strict criteria thanks to its freshness!

I cannot wait to visit Namaste again; it is an oasis of exotic pleasure in a grey city. As I stepped out of the door, I was swiftly reminded that I wasn't in the Himalayas, the drone of bagpipes filling my ears and the sight of 'Tartan Tat' shops a stark reminder.

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Hi Vindaloo Kings and Queens!