I think Indian cuisine does vegetarian food the best. There I said it. I’ve probably insulted half of the readers out there but I hold my hands up – I really think it might.
Well that’s the view I held going into National Vegetarian Week 2015 and with this in mind we visited pretty impressive Zaika of Kensington on Friday night!
On arrival I fell in love with the smell of incense and the leafy plants separating up the grand dining room. Instantly transported the 7000 miles to India, we settled in for the night. After all, we were there to try a specially created tasting menu specifically for NVW15 with wine pairings.
Another thing a great Indian restaurant does better than anyone else – service. Always super attentive but hilariously funny and human, I wanted the waiters looking after us to pull up a chair and share the rest of the bottle with us.
Poppadoms here are served with beetroot and tomato chutneys and while normally my least favourite part of an Indian meal (I know, I know, everyone else loves them!) these were so moorish I didn’t stop until they were devoured.
A trio of starters arrived shortly afterwards and were so pretty you almost didn’t want to eat them. Almost.
Papdi Chaat is a meaty little cake made up of spiced chickpeas, wheat crisps and apparently blueberries (not sure my palette was sophisticated enough to notice that!) & topped with lots of cooling yogurt which was the perfect accompaniment to the simple but delicious tandoor spiced crusted broccoli floret which had a real kick. The Aloo Tikki potato cake with coriander was slightly more subtle but was the perfect vehicle for the tamarind chutney. Expertly paired with a crisp sauvignon blanc from New Zealand.
The second course consisted of a vegetarian sheek made up of mixed sprouts and potatoes with a mint & dry-ginger chutney alongside a juicy slab of smoky grilled paneer & peppers. The Cannonball Chardonnay from California was gloriously buttery and I desperately wanted the waiter to leave the bottle with us. Superb.
Next up came the real feast and moved away from the pretty dainty plates onto the bowls of curry often associated with Indian cuisine. Baby potatoes & cauliflower were tossed with onion, tomato and chaat masala, slow-cooked black lentils were rich with smoke and tasted like they had been cooked with a patience I’m yet to muster. Fragrant rice and Truffle naan soaked everything up.
Let me just re-type that…. TRUFFLE NAAN. I wanted to fill my pockets with this little treat, and to be honest the waiters were so bloody lovely they would probably have encouraged me had I suggested it.
Desserts did not let the evening down and the classic kulfi we know and love, was transformed into a light, sophisticated dish with a square of chocolate brownie and a swirl of coulis to keep it company.
Do I still think Indian cuisine takes care of veggies best? Yes, yes I do.