It’s edging into that time of year again. Chefs are starting release the ideas they’ve been playing with over the winter, and the weather is getting warmer (no less grey sadly). We’re solidly into spring menu season.
The first off the blocks it seems is Zouk. I must admit, my last visit to Zouk was a little hit and miss. The food was good, the drinks good, the service. Yeah. Let’s just say it wasn’t as good as I’d hope for in any venue. It wasn’t horrific, it was just a little dismissive, and when we were both given the wrong dish, it simply cemented our bad fortune.
Still every place can have an off day. And for this menu launch I expected much more. And after a drink downstairs featuring cachaca, cranberry and ginger, and nibbles on pani puri and onion bhajis, I was seated with the lovely Eat & Two Veg, so things were already off to a good start.
Things got even better with the traditional pickle box and poppadoms on our table. I know they’re there to fill us up. I know that we should save ourselves for the main, but they’re there. Sitting there. Waiting for us. Going to waste.
That we then raided the poppadom basket of the empty table next to us, I can neither confirm or deny. But that coriander chutney is a little addictive.
Zouk primarily specialises in north Indian food, particularly Punjabi style dishes. It prides itself on using fresh ingredients, in particular seasonable vegetables. North Indian food, tends to be based around breads and curries – fewer fish dishes (as you’d expect, being further from the sea), using garam masala and fenugreek. Zouk take such pride in their food, that they use fresh fenugreek, rather than leaning on the dried, which adds an extra dimension to their dishes.
Back to the food.
We were treated to four starters over the course of the evening. My meat platter (yes it was all mine), featured murgh tikka hariyali – chicken thigh marinated and cooked over charcoal, resulting in an outwardly charred, inwardly juicy texture, and Kashmiri lamb kebabs – breadcrumbed minced lamb, gently spiced and served with a mint chutney. Of the two, the chicken had the edge for me in terms of texture and flavour, which is odd given my penchant for spice.
My two companions enjoyed the channa masala – chickpeas in a spicy sauce with a tomato and onion chutney, and vegetable pakoras – lightly battered mixed vegetables, deep fried and served with a range of chutneys. I was interested to note that fresh fenugreek is one of the vegetables deep fried, but didn’t manage to get my mouth on any.
Onto mains, and by now we were sad that we’d indulged in quite so many poppadums – particular as we eyed the pile of pilau rice and fluffy naans. Again, we had two meat options and two vegetarian options. And the first one again came off as a winner for me. Kasuri methi murgh – is a chicken curry with a lightly sour nature, due to the marinated chicken. The yoghurt marinade means the chicken is particularly tender. The second was lamb with kumara (orange sweet potato) and almonds. The sweet potato and the almonds give the curry a creamy rich texture, working well with the lamb, but again I was swayed by the lighter nature of the chicken.
Vegetarian options consisted of aloo gobi – which most of us will recognise – a curry featuring potato and cauliflower. One of the best ways to eat cauliflower, and bhindi (okra) dopiaza – okra (also known as lady fingers) in a spicy tomato based curry with garlic, ginger, and green chillies.
Very much by now wishing I’d worn an elasticated waist, dessert was still to go, and we were treated to a little platter of dishes.
It’s at this point, that I should state that brownies aren’t normally on the menu, but the manager fancied brownies and so he baked enough to share. The other two dishes, however, are available, if you make it that far down the menu and don’t, like we did, succumb to poppadom overindulgence.
The doughnuts are finger doughnuts, well covered in cinnamon and sugar with a chocolate and fizzing candy dipping sauce. Personally, I loved these without the sauce, and loved the thick coating of cinnamon. The other dessert is a Mumbai mess. Think deconstructed raspberry cheesecake. Straightforward and tasty, if reminding you of a dropped dessert – which is of course deliberate, even if it actually has nothing to do with Mumbai.
Drinks wise, we were treated to a range of new cocktails and mocktails. Favourites included the Spring Fling – a light blend of Tequila, orange juice, and Prosecco – a little smoke, a little citrus, a little fizz. And perfectly refreshing between spicy curries.
Overall, Zouk, yeah you’ve convinced me to give you another go. Given I work down the road, I can’t really ignore you, and having been told about your tiffin lunchtime menu, which changes daily and is only £7.95, I think you’ll see me sooner than you expect.
Anyone for lunch?
With thanks to Zouk for the invitation along to your blogger event, the Spring Showcase. A lovely time was had, and I’m looking forward to another visit.