ZeeZain

Overall: 6/10
Location: South Kensington

My Thoughts:

I was invited to try out the newly refurbished ZeeZain, a casual and modern Indian restaurant in South Kensington.  As you walk in, you’re greeted by an elegant decor.  The restaurant was busy, which is unsurprising given it’s location right by the museums, in a tourist hot spot, but it’s definitely not a tourist trap restaurant.  A window seat is perfect for people watching. It is a family run business with a long history in the area that is owned by Akhtar Miah and is named after his two sons – Zee and Zain.

The menu is wide ranging, there’s something on there for most people (curries, kebabs, vegetarian food). Compared to the other modern-Indian spots that keep popping up in London, the food is much more traditional – think classic curries, and mixed grills. For an Indian restaurant, the food isn’t overly spicy. Considering you’re in the heart of South Kensington, on one of the most touristy streets in the city, the prices are really reasonable, especially for the large portions.  It’s a great place for sharing a meal, family style.

To start, I was given a mixed grill starter with samosas and lamb and chicken kebabs. All were simple, yet tasty.  I then tried a few curries – the lamb curry and the fish bhunna.  I’m not a massive fan of tomato-ey curries (I generally as a rule never cook with tomatoes in my own curries!) so wasn’t a huge fan of these, the ingredients are definitely high quality, but I think they needed more flavour to counteract the overpowering tomato taste.  The highlight of the meal for me, was the garlic naan, they were light and fluffy and perfect for dipping into curries.

The service was good, the staff were friendly and attentive and we got to know them well throughout the meal, which is always nice.  We ended up sitting next to an American couple and got chatting to them, they actually thought the service was a bit slow, I suppose this comes down to cultural differences, the service in restaurants in America is always exceptional!

In my opinion, ZeeZain has all the foundations for a great restaurant – the location, decor, menu and vibe, the food just needs a bit of improvement in terms of flavour. It has the potential to be a great addition to the usual touristy restaurants in the area.

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Website: www.zeezain.co.uk
Address: 38 Thurloe Pl, Kensington, London SW2 7HP

Hoppers

Verdict: 9/10
Location: Soho
Price: £20-25 including drinks

I’d recently seen Hoppers listed on Time Out’s top 100 London restaurants of 2016, and it is definitely deserved of that title! The restaurant is great, and brings an under utilised cuisine to the heart of soho. Hoppers features Sri Lankan and South Indian inspired dishes.


My first introduction to South Indian cuisine was at my best friend, Priya’s, wedding in Chennai. Our meals were served on banana leaves (which as a bonus means no washing up!!), the rotis were divine, and the curries were so delicious! Yet so simple. Definitely up there with some of the best dishes I’ve ever eaten. It was such a special weekend… Made even better by the amazing food!

Banana leaf dinners at Priya’s wedding

with the beaut bride!

Sri Lankan food is pretty similar in flavour and style – full of creamy coconut curries. Deeelish.

So once I was back in London I was obviously keen to visit Hoppers, the latest venture of the Sethi siblings, who are also responsible for Gymkhana and Bubbledogs. It did not disappoint.

The Hoppers are made from a batter of fermented rice and coconut milk. In simpler terms, they are basically bowl shaped savoury crepes. They are served on a thali (lined with a banana leaf, even!) with several fresh chutneys and complemented with a Kari (curry).


The cashew curry is creamy and coconuty, and the bone marrow oozing with flavour. These were my two favourite dishes of the menu, though everything I tried was delicious! The menu is simple and limited, but all dishes feature carefully paired flavours, which work really well together. It’s a true example of quality over quantity!

Bone Marrow kari

It’s also hugely good value for money. A filling meal would not set you back more than £20/£25, including drinks – something that’s largely unheard of in soho.


The interior is colourful, featuring glossy wood, a rattan ceiling and vintage Sri Lankan posters dotted around the walls, reminiscent of Tamil roadside shacks.

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The only downside… You will most definitely have to queue. The restaurant is tiny, with perhaps a maximum of 50 covers. And no reservations. I’m talking 3 hour waits here. I’ve even arrived at 6pm and been told that they are taking no more names on the waiting list for the evening. It’s just THAT good!

Restaurant details:

Address: 49 Frith St, London W1D 4SG

Website: www.hopperslondon.com 

Email: info@hopperslondon.com

 

Gunpowder

Overall rating: 3.5 stars
Price: £30 approx.
Cuisine: Indian
Location:  Liverpool Street

After at least 50 visits to my favourite Indian spot, Dishoom, I was eager to head down to it’s rival, Gunpowder, to see what all the fuss was about.   Its clever name, ‘Gunpowder’ alludes to the area’s history as the Old Artillery Ground, as well as the traditional indian spice. 

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However, there is nothing traditional about the menu. The flavours are a fusion of Bengali palettes from owner Harneet Baweja’s native background and Head Chef Nirmal Save’s Mumbai heritage, but presented in a truly European style – I doubt you’d find a whole grilled broccoli at your average curry joint!

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We had the paneer (the best dish by far), the okra fries, the aloo chaat and the kale and aubergine salad.  The first 3 were great, the aubergine salad was a bit of a let down and didn’t really work as a salad.  The dishes are small and great for sharing. It would have been nice to see some bread options on the menu for variation.

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Overall, it was enjoyable, the cocktails were great and even feature Indian spices too. The downside?  The restaurant is walk-in only and is TINY (and always full).  The seating is not so comfortable and there’s hardly any room for movement.  Be prepared to queue, but its worth the wait.

www.gunpowderlondon.com

Address: 11 White’s Row, London E1 7NF

Phone: 020 7426 0542