I recently spent a Sunday afternoon working out what were my favourite restaurants in Milton Keynes. After reading my thoughts more than a few of you sarcastic sausages let me know of a few places you thought I had missed and Namji was one of them. So then, when an opportunity so perfect presented itself in the form of a wet unassuming Monday night the Family P took the opportunity to dive on in and check out all that the Namji had to offer.
Just so we’re all clear, let’s go over a few things that will score top marks with me:
- A cut down menu – know what you can do and do it as well as you can
- Authenticity – understand where the soul of your food comes from
- Customer service – a smile has no overhead cost, if I want someone to give me money then I should probably be nice to them
- Value – Not massive portions but I want to feel that making the trip is worth it
Get that right and I’ll come back again and again and again. I have to say that Namji smashed it.
If I ever open a restaurant, which I’m wont, but if I did I want it to be like Namji. I’m not talking about Indian/Pakistani/Kashmiri food, I can’t cook that for toffee, but the atmosphere, attitude and general enthusiasm of the place is fantastic. They could sell jam sandwiches and I would probably still love it. But they don’t. They sell the sort of curry that you want to believe that you are eating in the Punjab, served up in homes across the country by people who know what curry is supposed to taste like. I think it’s safe to say that I liked it a little bit.
Once we had navigated our way in past the unhelpfully placed barrier in front of the door which is present due to the landlord not fixing next door’s roof, it became clear that the Namji is tiny and I mean really small. Space for only a handful of tables, plastic table cloths, random photos up on the walls, totally pretension-less décor and perfectly suited to it’s place. OK, there is no alcohol license or pay by credit card option but a quick dive into the next door shop solves both of those problems.
So far so good then, on to the food! We had the Paneer Tikka which came with the sort of coating that makes you want to shove the whole thing in your face while groaning with joy and was no-holds barred great – most people gloss over paneer but here it was tasty and the tikka gave it a lovely lift. The naan was notably different from your usual curry house standard, I don’t know enough to know if it was fresh but the next time I’m in I’ll make sure I ask.
We also had a lamb Biriani which was very tasty indeed with more than enough for lunch the following day. The quality of the lamb in the Biriani and dhal was unusual in as much as it was proper lamb shoulder. None of the anonymous chunked meat that I was expecting, soft and rich with flavour, they marinade the lamb all day before the service in the evening. Of course, it’s what we all do before we brush our teeth right?
The chicken and saag was tasty if not remarkable, it certainly packed more spinach in there than I was expecting which made the dish a bit too iron-y but maybe all it needed was something else more creamy to go with it, but it was the lamb dhal that hit the spot for me. Lentils are somewhat of an undersung hero and I’ll admit that I actually ordered this looking for a vegetarian side rather than more of a meat rush but I certainly didn’t complain once I tasted it.
In the best way possible, this is not restaurant food. There is nothing pretentious, fancy or fake about the Namji and I suspect that if they tried anything like that then it would be painfully obvious. Owner and Matriarch Naseem presented the best front of house introducing us to her husband, son and would have probably continued if any other family members had been present, before telling us that what they cook at home is what they cook in the restaurant. I believe her. After working all day in London, the last thing you would want to do is come home and spend the next five hours cooking dishes that you don’t usually eat.
I’ll nail my colours firmly to the mast here and say that based on this meal, the Namji has screamed into position as one of the top recommendations for Indian food in Milton Keynes. Of course, the biggest issue for most Indian restaurants is consistency but with the Namji being such a close family team, I’m hoping they’ve got that covered, but get yourselves down there and let me know if I’ve been too hasty. Judging on your recommendations – I think not! Thanks for the top tips all and don’t forget to let me know of anywhere else you think I missed!