Namak Mandi


I COULD take my shoes off and climb onto that little platform by the door to eat in a cross legged and authentic fashion. But I quite quickly decide that tonight anyway this is not for me. So it’s in a booth up against the back wall that I find myself perusing the menu and having the following conversation with the waiter.

Me: Umm, is there another menu?

Waiter: No.

Me: Are you sure?

Waiter. Definitely.

Me: I had heard this was authentic Afghani cooking and it says so right on the top of this menu here, look, but the starters anyway seem to consist entirely of things like potato wedges, onion rings, and chicken nuggets.

Waiter: People eat these things everywhere.

Me: Indeed.

Waiter: We also have hummus.

Me (scanning restaurant’s website on my phone while chatting): Have you noticed incidentally it says Authentic Peshwari Restaurant on your website? Waiter: we have very nice Peshwari Naan.

Me: OK, what do you think I should eat this evening? Waiter: Kabuli pilau.

Now, I just knew he was going to say that. And I will tell you why. I’ve already been through the laminated menu from side to side, back to front, upside down. I even dropped it on the table to see if I could shake out something exciting I hadn’t seen before. I failed. All I could spot was that Kabuli pilau, which is rice, isn’t it?

Anyway, I give in and order it. Throwing in some palak and a side of lahori chana and while I am at it a haleem too and then settle back for an entirely uneventful meal. Which it turns out not to be. Well, you knew that was coming, didn’t you?

The first event is the straight-from-the oven rhogani nan (£1.60) all tidily aerated, dusted with sesame, perfectly fired to a beautifully burnished teak brown and yet when the disk is broken, even snapped, it’s hot and fluffy and fresh inside. Very good.

No sooner have I torn a few delightful chunks from this, than it’s joined by the palak or plain Jane spinach at £3.99, according to the menu. Aha, I think poking around in this surprisingly huge dish of creamed greenery, there’s also chunks of potato in there, onion and, crikey, it’s spicy hot.

In fact this with the bread would be a meal alone. But then there’s the chana or mildly flavoured chickpeas and that haleem.

Now the haleem, I’ve had this many times and its sightly gloopy mix of lentils and long slow-cooked lamb can be a bit of an acquired texture. I’m not going to linger on it because if you want to see how they make it there’s a video on the restaurant’s website which shows it being prepared in a giant pan crackle, crackle, crackling away in that open kitchen right over there. Where they also do kebabs and take-away and home delivery.

There wouldn’t be much point anyway as I have only taken two mouthfuls when a huge white attention-seeking platter arrives with a mound of rice atop, jewelled with juicy plump raisins and decorated on its flanks with red ribbons of what I think is chilli, but will turn out to be carrot.

Goodness me. That’s a lot of food (£7.99 on the menu). Underneath all this rice, completely covered by it actually, lies a whole lamb shank on the bone, well on the bone but so tender and gently cooked that the meat slides effortlessly from that bone. Doesn’t sound like it’s going to taste of much, but actually the rice (basmati, I think) has been cooked in stock and is rich and buttery which with the sweet raisins and carrot and hunks of meat is surprisingly delicious. This, of course, is pretty much the Afghan national dish and I can see why.

This restaurant then? Umm, it’s a little bit of everything but food’s good.

Namak Mandi

21 Bridge Street


0141 429 8663

Menu: There are Afghani dishes including the surprisingly good kabuli pilau hidden amongst normal kebab shop fare. 3/5

Service: Pleasant and patient young waiter listened to my inane questions without blinking an eye. 5/5

Atmosphere: Quiet midweek night and there wasn’t much going on, but may liven up when busy. 3/5

Price: Absolutely outstanding value with most full sized dishes around £4 and even the huge pilau less than £8. 5/5

Food: Fabulous rhogani nans at £1.50; kabuli pilau at next to nothing; good flavours and an interesting experience. 8/10