"It's not much but it's ours"

Thursday, August 13, 2009


A week late in the writing, but I have been out of internet range for most of the last seven days, breaking the back of writing EATING FOR BRITAIN.

Indian Zing was just about empty when I arrived with my friend Paul not long after we had left the Great British Beer Festival. It may have been the early hour, a little past 6.30pm. It may have been the weather, appalling as rain bucketed down in thick sheets drenching us as we ran from the tube station. It may have been its location on King St, more known for its standard curry houses than Indian fine dining, but this restaurant has not yet received the recognition it deserves.

A shame, for even though both Paul and I were coming down from the high of too many pints of mild at the festival, the meal at Indian Zing goes down as one of the best of its kind I have experienced in London for a some time.

It is little surprise as Chef/Owner Manoj Vasaikar has an impressive C.V including Chutney Mary, Veeraswamy and the Oberoi Hotel in his hometown of Mumbai. The menu too speaks to his accomplished and varied background with dishes represented from all over India including a range again from his home state of Maharastra.

We began with a small amuse of chicken malai tikka, which had been marinated with curd cheese and green peppercorns and then cooked in the tandoor until the outside was crisp and the inside meltingly soft. I would be hard pressed to name a better version I have tried in London.

We shared two starters, a “Prawn and Aubergine Kharphatla” where the main ingredients had been marinated in a mildly spiced combination of caramelised onions, tomatoes and pickling spices and “Bhori Paneer Samosa, with Black Eyed Peas” Both again were excellent with the prawns retaining a bite and not being overpowered by the subtle sauce and the crisp, delicate skin of the samosa cracking to reveal its creamy insides.

We moved on to two main courses that have been much debased in curry houses all over the country. The restaurant was coming towards the end of a month long “Biryani Festival” and a separate menu listed seven different variations from which I chose a “Kachi Pakki Biryani” made in the Hyderabad style where raw meat is cooked in a sealed pot with the rice and spices. Alongside this we ordered a classic dish of the Parsee community, a “Dhansak” where more lamb is cooked, this time with spices and lentils.

The biryani was served with a Mirchi Ka Salan, the spicy gravy made with peanuts, tamarind, ginger, garlic and dill. It was, again, as good as I have tried in London with the meat retaining a bite and the spices permeating through the rice as it slow cooks in the sealed pot. The fact I wiped the dish of gravy clean with my fingers tells you all you need to know.

The Dhansak too showed all the signs of proper, unhurried cooking and with only one other couple in the dining room, Mr Vasaikar came out to have a quick chat with us saying that this was one of his own favourite dishes. He spoke with genuine enthusiasm about his menu and that passion and the attention to detail came though in his cooking, with none of the tell tale signs of pre-made sauces that blight so many Indian restaurants.

By now, the combination of beer, pork scratchings, more beer and our meal had taken its toll and we finished our meal with a glass each of juice from the Kokum, a fruit I had tried when in Goa and Mumbai, well known for its restorative properties. With this we chewed in a couple of Paan, a traditional palate cleanser and breathe freshener, made with areca nut wrapped in betel leaf and here also with a little candied fruit.

A suitable way to end an excellent meal and to bring our bill up to £78 (er, did I mention we fitted in a bottle of wine too?) Although certainly not on the cheap side of things it definitely represents good value for a meal of real merit from a chef who patently knows what he is doing.

It’s a long old way from Shoreditch to Hammersmith, but I suspect it wont be too long before I make a return visit to Indian Zing even if there is not the added bonus of half a dozen pints of mild in the first place.

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