By Denis Sheehan, Publisher, H&C News: Cyrus and Pervin Todiwala re-invent Cafe Spice Namaste´ in the Docklands, now open for business.
Exactly one year ago this month, Cyrus and Pervin Todiwala began the painful process of emptying the old Victorian magistrate’s court in East London that had served as the home of Café Spice Namaste´, their acclaimed Indian restaurant, for a quarter of a century.
Besides taking with them a lifetime of menus and memories – including the recipe for a dish chef-owner Cyrus created for Her Majesty The Queen – the Todiwalas were determined to save as much as they could of the restaurant’s original furnishings, earmarking these for reuse when they rebuilt the family business elsewhere.
That elsewhere is the historic Docklands, where Café Spice Namaste´ has now officially reopened as a 60-seater restaurant in one of London’s exciting regeneration hotspots, Royal Albert Wharf. The Todiwalas have reinvented Café Spice Namaste´ as an informal neighbourhood restaurant overlooking the Thames, with views of the Canary Wharf skyline and a glimpse of City Airport’s runway. Both the double height ceilings and floor to ceiling windows enhance the feeling of space and light, instilling a fresh, contemporary vibe. Gone are the starched white tablecloths of pre-Dockland days.
The menu is a feast of small plates evoking the tastes and flavours of Bombay, Kerala, Goa and the Todiwala’s intriguing Parsee cuisine. Customers will be encouraged to order a wide selection of dishes to be served and shared together, rather than the traditional starter, main, side and dessert configuration of the ‘old’ Café Spice Namaste´. A generous ‘Tasting Menu’ offers at least 8 courses, including dessert, for £60.
The Todiwalas have stuck to their commitment to sustainability in their choice of seasonal, locally sourced ingredients from suppliers who share their ethos for the environment and the planet. These include Aqua Libra, Rhug Estate, and members of the British Lop Pig Society and the Marine Conservation Society.
Café Spice Namaste´ loyalists hankering for their favourite dishes will not be disappointed. The classic Parsee Sunday lunch, Mr Todiwala’s Parsee Lamb Dhaansaak, lamb cooked with pureed lentils and vegetables, is firmly on the menu, as are Goan Prawn Curry and a perfectly flavoured trio for meat lovers: Venison Tikka Aflatoon, Goosenargh Duck Sausage and Roast Chicken Cafreal Zambeziana, all much-loved Café Spice Namaste staples. New to the menu is Smoked Cured Duck Breast in Soy Ginger & Honey.
Vegetarians continue to be well catered for, with a luscious Daal Makhani, slow-cooked black urad beans, finished with ginger and garlic, and Paneer Chilli Fry, cubes of whey cheese cooked with peppers, shallots and assorted spices. Vegans too can have their fill with dishes such as Saag Mutter, chopped and pureed spinach sizzled with garlic, cumin and chilli tossed with green peas, and Daal Tadka, the classic Indian lentil preparation. Five Cheese Chilli Toast, a take on a Bombay favourite, makes its first appearance on the menu, having proven a success as Cyrus’ contribution to Michel Roux’s ‘toastie collaboration’ series at The Wigmore in central London last autumn. Amid the kulfis, sorbets and other dessert offerings, Bebinca, a multi-layered Portuguese-inspired warm coconut pancake, served with vanilla ice cream, will be hard to resist.
And while Country Captain, the dish Cyrus once served to HM The Queen, may not be a fixture on the menu, chances are it’s bound to pop up in the specials one day!
Besides the food, easily the stand-out feature of the Todiwalas’ re-invented Café Spice Namaste´ is the bespoke, tiled wet bar, built from scratch using repurposed materials such as wood stripped from pallets, old scaffolding, planks and poles and other reclaimed and salvaged items from their former premises in Whitechapel. The bar stools have been upcycled (as have the main dining room chairs) from the previous location as well, and now diners can enjoy a lunchtime drink, pre-dinner cocktails or post-prandials in a relaxed, light and airy atmosphere.
With input from design agency Tonik Associates, the Todiwalas have been able to create a cheerful, inspired space signifying a new energy and sense of purpose following the uncertainty of two challenging years.
Since the end of January, Cafe Spice Namaste´ has started to host a number of special events, including the reinstatement the popular, monthly Khaadraas (Greedy Pigs) Supper Club, which enables Cyrus, Pervin and head chef Manpreet Ahuja Singh to showcase Parsee and other Asian cuisines. The restaurant also offers an online take-away service.
Cyrus Todiwala said, “It feels great to be back in business in such a vibrant neighbourhood. Moving to Royal Albert Wharf has given Café Spice Namaste´ a new lease of life. And we wanted to open slowly, to make sure we had everything just right.
“Now we’ve been able to make the final tweaks and Pervin and I are proud to say that Café Spice Namaste´ has a terrific menu designed to meet the expectations of our loyal customers, who don’t mind travelling to a new destination to enjoy our food. But we also think we’re catering to the preferences of our next generation of customers, which includes the local residents in and around Royal Albert Wharf.
“Most importantly, we’ve kept true to our sustainability credentials and we are so proud of to be able to showcase our commitment to quality and sustainability not just through our food and service, but also in the materials we used to create this great new space.”
Cafe Spice Namaste´
1-2 Lower Dock Walk, London E16 2GT
Tel.020 7488 9242
Tuesday 5pm to 10pm
Wednesday – Saturday 1pm to 10pm