Who loves a good ruby? Indian cuisine isn’t something i have regularly, and perhaps it’s my childhood memories of my Granny’s (who grew up in Vizag, India) infamous egg curry. Apparently it was delicious but not to the palette of a 7 year old. ★★★★
Dining with me at Zaika of Kensington, my best friend, who grew up in Nepal and we immediately connect and get chatting to our waiter, Mustaq. Throughout, his service was perfection and in response to our enquiry on his favourites the restaurant had to offer, he demonstrated great knowledge of the menu and even some of the dishes backgrounds, and i love hearing interesting legacies of food and its history.
It’s history that you’re immediately hit with as soon you enter Zaika, in terms of the building’s architectural aspect. Grand high ceiling with dramatic mouldings, austere window frames, a perfect marriage of classical and contemporary. It is clear they want to give you the impression that this is not your usual curry house, and that continues into the food served too.
We dined at an odd eating time, so the restaurant seemed grandly desolate. We were happy with the echoes of our cackles for company but both agreed that Zaika would have a great vibe during a busy evening.
To start, Aloo Palak Tikki (£8.50), essentially little potato and spinach cakes that were cooked handsomely, crispy exterior and fluffy on the inside- plain in flavour but intentional as they come served on a bed of cold and creamy, spicy chickpeas. The whole dish was drizzled in a sweet yoghurt and adorned in pomegranate jewels. So very pretty and a clever configuration of flavours and textures.
Jhinga Dakshini (£9.50) – nugget-like and light gram flour battered tiger prawns, not the most impressive sized prawns which was a little disappointing, as like my men, i enjoy them a bit beefier. Again this appetiser’s flavour was on point, the paprika-y prawns served with a sweet, turmeric, pale yoghurt. The flavours in both appetisers were really well balanced and full of flavour without being overly seasoned or spiced as to dominate the palette before the main courses.
Nihari Gosht (£23), lamb that is slow cooked over night, and upon offer was then deboned at our table and served to us. Lightly aromatic, lovely and creamy; the lamb was silky soft, and still retained all its wonderful natural flavours. Lamb is the meat of choice in Northern India’s Awadhi cuisine, which Zaika’s menu focuses on. Although there is plenty of choice in terms of meat, poultry and vegetarian.
I couldn’t not order a tikka masala for a main, it being one of Britain’s favourite dishes, so we tried the Paneer version (£14.50). Constantly impressed by Zaika’s flavour balance, this was more spicy for a tikka masala but a scattering of desiccated coconut subtly slurs underneath all that spice and cools the palette. The paneer was firm and almost sweet which worked really well.
No matter how well you feel you cook your rice at home, it always surprises me when you have rice from an Authentic Indian restaurant, and it’s always ridiculously superior, and Zaika’s Zaffrani Pulao (£3.75) was no exception.
A treat via Truffle Naan (£3.75) which was everything a naan should be; crispy and chewy. Delicate truffle notes and light. A winner for sponging up remaining sauce on your plate to the point my plate looked untouched.This was plenty of food for us both, but still wanting to explore their dessert menu and akin to the magnetism of a tikka masala, a good traditional Indian kulfi is always welcomed at the end of a big meal. Zaika’s Classic Kulfi; Mango & Pistachios (£6) is one not to be missed. Beautifully crafted and presented a top a strip of khaki coloured pistachio nut smudge, which I really wanted to just lick off the plate, it was so divine. The kulfi themselves were surprising in as much as they were not overly cold and even those with the most sensitive of teeth could even bite straight into. Wonderfully rich and creamy, a light mango morsel paired with a deep almost marzipan flavour in the pistachio pebble of kulfi. We asked for a small version of the dish and upon touchdown on the tastebuds, that decision was immediately regretted.
Suitably stuffed and smiles on our faces we waddled back to the tube (5 minute walk from the restaurant) and agreed that Zaika of Kensington went above and beyond the usual expectations of Indian cuisine and we would both happily come back. I feel the pricing of the dishes are on point for the quality and execution. The whole experience felt grand and glam, with office Christmas party season approaching, if you have a team of curry fans, Zaika of Kensington is the place for you.
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