On our adventures across the world, each country has their own version of what Indian food is. In the UK today, Indian food is massive with National Curry Week celebrating more than 200 years of Indian restaurants in the UK this year. We were invited to meet super Chef Cyrus Todiwala OBE DL to talk about Indian cooking and to also try the imaginative food at his restaurant, Café Spice Namasté.
Cyrus and Pervin Todiwala’s family-run Indian restaurant near Tower Bridge has been open since 1995. On a rainy November Saturday, the room is packed full of locals, regulars and those in the know. Looking at the menu, what amazed us were the broad range of ingredients on offer. Alongside the main menu, there is also always a seasonal menu which included game meatballs (made with grouse, pheasant, mallard, venison and partridge), pheasant tikka, British apple bhaji and much more.
Cyrus takes ingredients very seriously using local British produce from hand-picked suppliers, many of which only supplying one or two items. Cyrus said, “Ingredients are the main basis upon which we build our cuisine and menu, and are therefore crucial. They have a major impact on the quality, taste and ‘personality’ of the food we prepare.”
Make sure you try the home made pickles to start off. For starters, a goat Dosa hit the mark. A white lentil & rice pancake filled with diced goat in a thick curried yoghurt made sharing very difficult! The other highlight was a salmon tikka from the highlands of Scotland marinated in a delicate green masala sauce. If you are in a group, ask for the mixed grill where you can sample all the tikkas.
The term vindaloo is often associated with tears and having to down a glass of milk in pain to show off your chilli prowess. Here, the real pork vindaloo is on the menu and it’s hot but not fiery hot with the deep chilli flavour coming through. My vegetarian companion particularly loved the smoked aubergine cooked with shallots, tomato & yoghurt and the lentils sizzled with chopped garlic and cumin.
After dinner we asked Cyrus what was next for Indian cuisine. He said, “Indian cuisine has great heritage and culinary background. I feel that lots of new regional restaurants will emerge. What restaurants must also realise is that dining habits are changing and they must keep abreast of new developments including allergies, better sourcing and sustainability.”
Overall, what struck us most was that Café Spice is so authentically different. Cyrus and Pervin have built an award-winning institution, holding a coveted Michelin BIB Gourmand for 18 years which says a lot about the experience, which is what this was – an experience. Dinner was like a voyage of discovery which we want to go on again and again.