First some background: Salt n Pepper is a true Pakistani stalwart: a mid-priced family restaurant which has expanded to several branches across the country but in a commendably cautious manner which has maintained the quality of its food. It serves excellent Pakistani barbeque (ie grills) and other standbys of restaurant dining such as karhai, tawa dishes and various styles of handi, as well as a popular selection of Pakistani-tinged 'Continental' dishes.
The London outpost had its soft opening last week (50% off part of the menu, till the end of the month), on Orange Street just by Trafalgar Sq/ Leicester Sq, and we went along for a quick pre-theatre bite.
The menu: they're presenting this as a Pakistani restaurant and so the Continental dishes are absent. Many of the dishes, particularly the barbeque offerings, are available in both starter and main portions. As with all Pakistani restaurants, they're usually intended for sharing. They don't do goat meat or offer Murree beer, both of which feel like opportunities lost.
What we had:
Chicken seekh kebabs: this is the jewel in the Salt n Pepper crown in Pakistan, and they were damn good here. Delicately flavoured, with a gentle hit of heat. Slightly less charred than I like them, but no complaints at all with the flavour. Came with raita.
Chicken tikka: we had the boti tikka (pieces, served boneless here) though they also do what in Pakistan is actually a chicken tikka: a quarter piece of chicken. Again, great flavour to it, good juiciness, but could do with a little more char. Also came with raita.
Naan and tandoori roti: my frequent complaint with Pakistani restaurants in London is the very poor quality of their naan. Here it was still not up to the mark of Irani restaurants (it still lacks the khameer, or sourdough edge, which is the hallmark of my favourite naan), it was great by London Pakistani standards: light, airy, crisp and pliable, and very lightly buttered. The tandoori roti was more flavoursome, with a whole wheat kick, but showed less finesse. If you want to know what a roti bought with a plate of daal on the side of the Grand Trunk Road tastes like, this is pretty close.
Lahori chaney (or cholay). The one disappointing order: they seem to have forgotten to salt it and my companion thought the cardamom was far too strong. Meltingly soft chickpeas, though, and it made me think I'd love for them to start up a Lahori brunch offering with fresh puri, halwa and chaney.
All in all, I'm delighted Salt n Pepper has opened up here and seems likely to live up to its Pakistani brethren's standards. Good Pakistani barbeque is rare and inconsistent in London so I'm particularly excited by the seekh kebabs and the promise of real tikka, and looking forward to investigating the lamb barbeque, as well as the karhai and tawa fish. Tayyabs et all are good but not great and rarely a pleasant dining experience. Rather unexpectedly, this, along with nearby Dishoom, has made the area north of Trafalgar Square my favourite destination for a taste of home.