Namaaste Kitchen, in London’s Camden area, brings an Indian grill concept to its menu. Its proprietor Sabir Karim talks to Tandoori about his business.
Namaaste Kitchen is your second restaurant after Salaam Namaste in Bloomsbury. What made you want to open another restaurant business and how does it differ from the first?
The menu at Salaam Namaste does not have the grill concept which I introduced at Namaaste Kitchen. I wanted to open a modern Indian restaurant which offered a live cooking experience to customers as they dined. I have travelled all over the world and felt that if I’m going to open a restaurant then it has to have a twist to it.
Why open in Camden?
My first preference was for Marylebone but the area is saturated with good Indian restaurants. I then looked at Camden and thought that it had a good reputation and competition-wise, though it has a gamut of eating out establishments, when it comes to Indian restaurants, other than Masala Zone which is not going for the kind of catchment I’m looking for, there wasn’t anything. So it seemed like just the right area.
You are offering a pan-Indian menu. Do you feel that you made the right decision?
Yes, definitely. I’m passionate about food and also enjoy eating so to me it doesn’t matter where something is from as long as it tastes good. It made sense for me to have dishes on the menu which were from regions that cut across the subcontinent – whether Indian, Bangladeshi or Pakistani. Also, I think it’s important to remember that customers are very discerning these days. They understand regional specialities much more now than they did say a decade or so ago.
What was the initial investment you made to launch the restaurant?
Without going into specific figures, let’s just say that it has been a substantial investment.
What is the cost per head of dining at Namaaste Kitchen?
It’s about £25 to £30 per head.
How many staff does Namaaste Kitchen employ?
What are your best-selling dishes?
Peshawari lamb chops, Anglo-Indian chicken liver on toast, spicy soft shell crab and Goan-style sea bass.
One of the highly praiseworthy reviews you have received in the media was from leading restaurant critic Fay Maschler, who said that your restaurant was “definitely worth a try”. So how important are media reviews for you?
They are important for every restaurateur because they can have quite an impact on the business. Anyone who says reviews don’t matter is either very naive and doesn’t know anything about business or simply doesn’t care. In this day and age when competition is so intense, particularly in London, you have to have media on your side because once they give you a good review customer levels always go up. Besides, critics also keep restaurateurs on their toes because you can very easily become quite complacent about your restaurant, which is not something you want to do.
What has been the one key business decision that you have taken?
I would again refer back to the grill concept that we have. I think it was the right decision as it has given us an edge over our competitors.
What does the future hold for Namaaste Kitchen?
We are hoping to expand within the year.