Scores: Z 25/ H 1
So back home in London town and my first decent meal out is from a cuisine that I think is, in general, surprisingly good here. After a couple of drinks, a friend and I ended up upgrading our dinner plans substantially from a quick Wagamamas to Zaika, a fairly high end Indian restaurant on High Street Ken, opposite the end of Kensington Gardens. The restaurant is housed in what is apparently a former bank (I can definitely imagine an old style bank existing in the space). However, I only remember restaurants being in the building, a modern European type one before Zaika and a Tex-mex one years ago before I moved to London (which, I have just manage to discover using Google, was called Footlights). Anyway… the space is great with very high ceilings and it is well fitted out with wood-panelling and Indian statutes. The atmosphere was relaxed but had a slight buzz; the place was about ¾ full on a Wednesday evening.
I have been to this restaurant quite a few times over the years including once earlier this year. Last year Zaika became part of the Tamarind group of restaurants although the menu seems to have remained similar to before. The food here uses Indian techniques but sometimes with a European tilt. An amuse-bouche of a spiced cauliflower soup was under spiced for me and too creamy.
A seafood platter of crispy fried chilli squid, smoked salmon with a mango chutney marinade, crispy fried whitebait and tandoori prawns in a red pimento mix (£13.75) was a mixed bag. The whitebait was pretty ordinary, there was no Indian spicing that I could taste here and it is not my favourite thing to start with. The squid was better, having some spicing and being cooked okay but not very well. The hot smoked salmon was great though, very well cooked and marinated and full of eastern flavour. The prawn was also very good indeed, it was a sizable beast that had been cooked well in the tandoor, its marinade was also excellent as well as this it came with a little sauce which turned out to be very spicy. Roasted scallops topped with panko and pickle crust; roasted pineapple sauce (£16.00) were slight underwhelming. These were cooked to perfection but the crust did not provide much flavour and the dried pineapple was a slightly strange accompaniment. Although I realise scallops are delicate I still would have rather had more spicing or more of a sauce.
A main of mustard and lime marinated monkfish kebab: tomato – tamarind ‘Pulimunchi’ sauce; monkfish cheek ‘puttu’ with ginger and curry leaf (£26.00) sweet sour sauce was very good. The fish tail was cooked well and the sweet and sour sauce went well with it. The puttu was very good as well, the taste of the fish was not lost. A Lamb shank and masala ratatouille with mint and lamb sauce (£21.00) was cooked very well and had tons of flavour- a good dish for the winter. A bread basket which contained Plain, Garlic and Peshawari naan (£10) was pretty good, although rather expensive.
Overall the service here for us was okay, one waiter obviously was not allowed to take our order of wines by the glass so had to get someone else which was irritating. The people next to us were having the tasting menu and the staff did not name the dishes as they were set down, when asked what a dish was, a waiter simply ran off and brought back a copy of the menu to put on the table. This seemed pretty bad form!
This was an enjoyable meal with a few minor disappointments that could be easily corrected. The problem is that this restaurant is expensive, probably the same price level as somewhere like Trishna, which is notably better; although part of this is no doubt paying for location, location, location!