Tel: +44 (0)20 7378 6161
Address: 6/8 Southwark Street, SE1 1ZZ
Cuisine Type: Indian
nearest tube station London Bridge

The dilemma: You’re looking for a modern Indian meal, but are watching your waistline as well as your wallet. If visions of oil-laden curries fill your head, thankfully now there is an alternative.

On the edge of the legendary Borough Market resides an eatery with a decidedly new approach, based on the age-old principles of Ayurveda – the Indian method of caring for body, mind, senses and soul for balance and well being. Silka, the newest offering by proprietor Abdul Mushahid (Chutney Mary and Tamarind) aims to appeal to those that enjoy the exotic flavours of Indian cuisine, but with a healthier slant.

The first thing you’ll notice when entering the petite basement space is the bright lighting – purposely designed to avoid the dark and often cramped look of a typical below ground venue. The place feels contemporary and somewhat retro all at the same time. Bold, yet earthy colours (like burnt orange) and shades of horizontal wood panelling accentuate the geometric shapes throughout the simple, clean space.

The menu focuses on a mix of traditional and innovative Indian fare and Indian-inspired “East meets West” plates. To begin, try the moist and artfully presented lamb patties or the tender stir-fried baby squid, wonderfully spiced with ginger, garlic, green chillies and curry leaves. Out of the ordinary soups and salads, like chilled salmon and tomato soup and lotus leaf salad are also available if you’re feeling daring. Starter dishes will run you £4.00 – £7.00.

For your main selection (£8.00 – £15.95), a smart way to sample Silka’s unique flavour combinations is to try either the degustation or Ayurvedic (“low fat energy food”) platters. Each comes with your choice of prawn, lamb, chicken or vegetable in varying sauces, with rice, naan or unleavened brown bread. The additional side dishes differ, however – my Ayurvedic dish came with a light yoghurt cup, an interesting papaya concoction and a bitter gourd-like vegetable, apparently used for medicinal purposes in India. While some of the Ayurvedic morsels could be classified as acquired tastes, I enjoyed trying a host of fascinating flavours without having to worry about my fat intake.

Traditional dishes on offer include favourites like prawn masala, Keralan fish curry and lamb rogan josh. However the “adventurous showbites” section of the menu features indulgent treats like braised wild duck breast or roasted cauliflower, marinated with cheese and roasted with cashew nuts.

Dessert options (£3.25 – £4.50) range from sorbets, ice creams and specialities such as carrot fudge and milk dumpling. My cinnamon ice cream was very tasty, yet disappointingly less creamy than I’d hoped. Luckily, my husband’s scoops of white Belgian chocolate ice cream helped rectify the situation.

Initially concerned that a restaurant interested in promoting good health would not be serving alcoholic libations, my fears were calmed on spotting the drinks menu, listing a respectable range of wines by the bottle (£12.00 – £26.00), with a few by the glass (£3.50). Bottled beers, champagne, liqueurs and, of course, non-alcoholic drinks like lassi yoghurt are also available. Unsurprisingly, the whole dining area is completely non-smoking, although if you’re feeling fiendish, smoking is allowed in the bar area.

Silka offers lunch (platter and power lunch box specials), dinner, and meals for pick-up during specific times. Service is casual yet knowledgeable, attentive but unintrusive. And given the restaurant’s convenient proximity to transportation, visiting Silka is bound to be an all around experience that is good for you.

– Sue Couter, 11/2003