There is nothing we enjoy more than uncovering a new hidden gem; Salt and pepper may well have regular presence on the table tops of London’s 8 million residents, but it is likely that Pakistani cuisine is a lot more rare. Tucked away down a side street in the heart of the West End, surrounded by the hustle and bustle of Leicester Square, that’s exactly what visitors to the Salt’n’Pepper restaurant can enjoy.
The restaurant chain has been established for 30 years, after being founded in 1983 by the entrepreneur Mahmood Akbar – considered by many as the pioneer restaurateur in Pakistan. With branches in all three of Pakistan’s biggest cities – Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi – Salt’n Pepper restaurants are regarded and respected as the number one restaurant entity in Pakistan, by both local and foreign observers.
Its London branch represents the restaurant’s first international venture and was opened in September 2013. The owners deliberated for some time before selecting a choice location besides the National Gallery. The restaurant seeks to introduce its varied clientele to the South Asian nation’s diverse and delicious cuisine, with informed waiters – Jonny, in our case – playing a friendly and thoughtful role in this.
When we visited the restaurant last week, we were immediately taken by the unquestionable quality of the food. A starter of garlic prawns and fishcakes was followed by a tasty and vibrant mixed grill and topped off with a refreshing mango torte dessert. Other great items on the main menu include: Salmon Shami Kebabs, Lamb Curry, Stuffed Chicken Breast With Pineapple Sauce, Ginger and Green Chilli Burger and many more. All were delicious and, with mains floating around the £10 mark, it is rather kind on the pocket too.
Pakistani cuisine is diverse and takes inspiration from a wide range of countries in the region. It is unique but fun and not too much of a challenge for stubborn taste buds. Having said that, there are individual flavours and textures to excite those in search of something a little different. Lunch-time specials are available at incredible prices – 2 courses for £7.90 and 3 courses for £9.90 – and sharing platters (meat or seafood) are available for less than £20 every weekday after 5pm.
The restaurant itself presents a wonderful environment, with clean, minimalistic and relaxing decor, knowledgeable staff and an outdoor terrace for the fast approaching summer bliss – in keeping with Salt n’ Pepper’s al fresco approach to dining. With a great children’s menu and a thoughtfully constructed wine list, Salt n’ Pepper is a great choice for couples, families and groups, and, with the ability to cater for up to 100 guests inside and a further 25 on the covered al fresco deck outside, it is spacious enough even to entertain larger parties.