We’ve all been there. You find yourself in the heart of theatreland with the conundrum of where to find somewhere to eat that’s decent, quick and no frills. Naturally you exclude all of the houses (Angus Steak/Aberdeen/Spaghetti et al.) or somewhere similar that is infested with tourists who, quite frankly, should know better. You’re also sick of Chinatown and want to avoid mammoth queues at Busabi Eathai. Well, there may well be a welcome alternative for you on those frantic Orange Wednesdays.
Salt’n Pepper (not a great name choice nor in honour of the hip-hop trio) is moderately new and hidden behind Leicester Square on Orange Street, which isn’t normally somewhere I would venture for culinary delights. From the outside it does look more like a fast food joint with bright green sign and canvas banners surrounding a decked patio, which does suggest potential for future alfresco dinning. But inside is actually quite pleasant, calm, modern looking restaurant with your generic clean white furnishings.
It claims to be ‘not just another curryhouse’ which in fairness, it isn’t, as surroundings do feel classier than your kitsch and chintzy brick lane affair. But I wouldn’t say the menu is that far removed from other curry houses. As it’s advertised as hailing Pakistani cuisine with its regional influences from Persia, Turkey in the Punjab and Sindh region, I thought I would be in for a fusion-type experience with dishes I hadn’t heard of; but you’ve all basically tried most of it before as a lot of curry houses are in fact run by Pakastani’s anyway.
How it does differ, is in the sense of its contemporary style presentation; all served on clean and simple white crockery, as well as excellent, friendly and attentive service which doesn’t frisbee your food onto the table in a bid for quick table turn around.
Our waiter instructs us that Pakistani cuisine is more meat and bone based and recommends the mixed BBQ meat grill as a starter to share which includes: chicken tikka, lamb seekh kebab, chicken malai boti and lamb chops. All very juicy and tastily grilled cuts of meat, though I am starting to feel a bit like Fred Flintstone here.
But the meat fest continues, as we ditch thoughts of dhal and paneer in the name of authenticity, instead opting for mains of chicken karahi and lamb jalfrezi accompanied by garlic and sesame seed adorned roghani naan as well as pulao rice. Granted, all staples that we’re familiar with; nevertheless, all very fresh, fragrant, delicious and not swimming in grease, as one can find at regular curry houses. Dishes are wisely catered for the moderately spicy palate, so you can crank up or down with ease if required. On occasion, I did find a couple of tough bits of lamb, but on the whole, a very satisfying meat-led experience.
Now, I am not usually a great fan of desserts in curry houses, as they tend to be overpoweringly sweet, however, the restaurant manager is refreshingly frank and tells us he agrees but recommends the matka kulfi; a traditional Pakistani ice cream (though admits it’s made by an Italian as ‘they are the best’) with a touch of saffron sauce, pistachios and almonds served in ornate ceramic bowl. Light, smooth, perfumed and delicate… the perfect way to finish off a heavy meal.
Salt ’n Pepper
32 Orange Street
Tel: 020 7930 2939