Tucked away behind the bustle of Leicester Square lies the restaurant Salt'n Pepper, which specialises in serving contemporary twists on traditional Pakistani, Pan Asian and Indian food.
As we turned on to Orange Street the restaurant heralded itself with the smell of barbequed meat and aromatic spices. The light and airy space was a welcome break from the chaos of central London, and the restaurant had a quieter, more relaxed atmosphere than most in the area.
Salt 'n Pepper boasts 'an exquisite wine menu' and we started off with a bottle of Champagne which was a surprisingly fine accompaniment to the curled poppadoms, spicy tomato and mango chutnies, the mint raita and plum sauce.
The highlight has to be the barbeque specialities, which are served either as a starter or a main. We chose to have them as starters and went for the grilled salmon tikka, the chicken sheekh kebab and the grilled lamb chops, all of which arrived with a wonderfully chargrilled finish, on a hot plate of sizzling peppers and onions. The recommended grilled lamb chops were sensational - memories of Lahore and Karachi were held in the compass of those deeply savoury cutlets.
For mains we went for a vegetarian option - the paneer tikka masala - and the bhuna machli gosht - a lamb shank slow cooked in mildly spiced yoghurt sauce, accompanied by daal channa - lentils cooked with ginger and garlic. Having grown up vegetarian I found the giant bone sticking up out of the bowl of curry somewhat daunting, but the spicing of the sauces were spot on.
It was fitting that Steven O'Brien and I were discussing his 19th century literary adventure of the Raj - The Great Game, An Imperial Adventure. As we sat and ate and quaffed the smoky pungency of the North West Frontier seemed just one step removed from our table. Kipling, in whose honour Steven's book is written, would have been pleased beyond the telling. Steven's dashing fictional hero Toby Larburgh would feel at home and well served at Salt'n Pepper.
The chef is obviously one of those rare and most magnificently trained fellows who are masters of delicate and ravishing masalas. The front of house staff were courteous. We left with a feeling that greatness had passed before our palates.
My only regret was stuffing myself so full with the starters and mains that I had no room to try any of their authentic desserts - I had my eye on the Royal Rice Pudding...
Review by Amy Durant
Originally published on The London Magazine's blog. You can find this here:Suggest a correction