Namak Mandi, Glasgow

What is that everyone’s drinking, I ask a waiter who seems to have taken pity on me, sitting as I am in my suit and tie, all on my lonesome, amidst a sea of bobbing, talking, buzzing families in this hidden palace in the Gorbals.

“Rooh Afza”, he says as we look at the nearest jug of red liquid, strange seeds filling a third of it. “Basil and rose petal. Cuts the acidity of food, brings calmness to the spirit, I’ll get you some”.

Minutes later I’m washing down my, ahem, second plate of that Kabuli Qabli Pilau with it, while another waiter, they’re friendly in here, has stopped and asked if I would like some Kashmiri Chai.

Another explanation is required. This time I’m not so sure. Green tea, boiled for three to four hours, I’m told, until it turns naturally pink. Served in one of those red ceramic cups that everyone seems to have before them on the long tables that surround me.

Now, I will have moved on to Lamb Namkin Karahi when the tea arrives, the queues at the middle of the buffet having shrunk and I, having leapt to my feet, grab a fresh plate, a few ladlefuls of Chicken Charsi Karahi too. A spoonful also of a spinach dish. Slices of chapli kebab, meant to be as thin, apparently, as the sole of a sandal.

Let’s rewind for a moment. I stumbled in here amidst the Ramadan rush at about 6.30pm. That moment when the sun goes down and people can break the fast they have been on during daylight hours.


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I was actually going to Edinburgh to eat, but then the traffic, the queues, the road-works, meh, I drive instead approximately two hundred yards from the office and remember an email about a new Namak Mandi. In a building that looks like it was in the Ghostbusters movie, rescued from some half-death public service life, transformed instead into a restaurant. Cartoon mental u-turn follows. This I want to see.

So I climb some steps, swing some doors, pass through a large hall, push some more doors. Stop, taken aback, marble, chandeliers, upholstered chairs yes, unexpected. But the sudden hubbub, the people, the sheer volume of people in here, at 6.30pm. Crikey. Two hundred-plus, easily, not a seat free in the place either. Are you waiting for a table? I ask the guy who is queuing in front of me? No, he replies. Are you, he asks me. Yes, I reply, adding: how do you get one? You just ask me, he says. Ah. And LOL. But we’re fully booked. Sigh.

What follows next is the issuing of requests, the bustling of waiters, the leading of me on a winding route, between tables, seats shuffling, people looking up – until a space is found at the end of packed 10-seater.

You’re lucky, says my guide who is some sort of restaurant boss, smiling.

What do I do, I ask. “Help yourself,” comes the reply with a nod to that buffet along the side wall. At least I think it is a buffet, I can’t actually see what’s on offer because of the good-natured, conga-line of diners before it.

I get there. Obviously. I already told you that. I enjoy the Kabuli Pilau. I told you that too. Was it lamb or mutton, I’ll ask later. Vegetarian, will come the reply. Carrots and raisins in it and cooked in such a way you cannot tell there is no meat.

Get Ron's review two whole days before it appears anywhere else.

Meat certainly in the Chicken Charsi Karahi, that chicken on-the-bone amidst a delicious, richly spiced gravy, and the lamb Namkeen. I’ll have second helping of both of these. There’s a dessert table, a huge wibbly-wobbly tureen of rice pudding, cold kebabs of freshly sliced fruit, a platter of watermelon slices, kids picking them up as groups stream towards the door.

I’ve eaten enough already and only have one question left. One I don’t usually have the answer to before I start eating. How much was this? Turns out: £20. Bargain.

Namak Mandi

100 Norfolk Street



Ramadan buffet 6pm-8.30pm

Menu: Huge serving dishes of curries, Afghan-based often. Plus pilaus, salads and desserts all pretty much desi style. 4/5

Service: It’s a buffet during Ramadan so serve yourself but the staff are dotting about and very helpful 5/5

Atmosphere: The place was bursting with life, family groups everywhere, great vibe. And I was on my own. 5/5

Price: It’s not quite all you can eat, that would be distasteful, but there’s mountains of food at £20. 5/5

Food: The pilaus and karahis were simple yet packed with flavour. Rooh Afza was a rose-flavoured refreshment. Good stuff. 7/10

Total 26/30