Purab Indian at Zumbura – Clapham:
Sometimes I am not the most sensible of people. I’ve heard good things about Zumbura – and my diary is quite full at the moment. So, having spent a few days with a rather nasty tummy bug, in a fit of masochism I decided that I was quite well enough to risk an already scheduled review dinner at Zumbura. Perhaps not the wisest of moves, choosing Indian food for a convalescent diet, though as it happens, this particular Indian serves food which is light enough to work rather well for that purpose. It’s also rather a chic and stylish place, although perhaps that’s less suprising given the provenance of the co-founders who are owners of Dwell, the contemporary furniture retailer.
The first thing about Zumbura is that the food is quite different. Aamir Ahmad, one of the founders, has a stated aim to serve the sort of food he can get at home in the Purab region of North India. He told us that he was particularly keen to avoid foods that he simply wouldn’t have eaten in the Purab and instead to go back to the dishes his mother made. He’s brought in head chef Raju Rawat who trained at one of India’s finest five star hotels, The Oberoi in New Delhi as well as working at Benares, the Cinnamon Club and Bombay Bicycle Club.
The menu is brief, simple and based on sharing plates. Everything is under £9 with the majority of dishes priced around £6.50. So you can choose 3 or 4 dishes each and still end up with a bill under £30. I was genuinely trying to avoid anything rich so ordered the tallee machli – cod fillets in dry spices, while my companion went for the much lauded kullia – a lamb and turnip slow cooked aromatic stew. While it smelt wonderful it looked VERY rich.
We also ordered some vegetable dishes which turned out to be a revelation. We both loved the achingly simple stir-fried peas with garlic and ginger, namuna.
and the bindhi – braised chopped okra
Braised rice with peas and spices – muttar puloa – and some pretty chutnies (tamarind, coriander and raita) made up our selection.
Now, I have to admit, I really didn’t have my appetite back. Aamir wandered over and I explained that although the food was wonderful I wasn’t feeling great.
‘Oh you need daal’ he told me. And then explained that when he was a kid, his mother would make a special daal if anyone was unwell. Lo, a bowl of fragrant and delicious daal appeared. Perfect! I was quite happy nibbling at the very fresh lightly spiced vegetable dishes, eating a little fish and spoonfuls of daal laced with pulao rice. I started to feel just a little better!
Well enough to enjoy quite a lot of the chaat which also appeared at much the same time.
Though NOT well enough to drink any alcohol or even one of the delicious looking mocktails enjoyed by my companion.
That’s probably no bad thing, I was happy enough with water during the meal and some fresh mint tea afterwards. And more than happy with the food.
Zumbura is somewhere to go and relax with friends and family. It’s intimate without being pokey (42 covers) and there’s even a bar dining area so solo visitors can sit in comfort. It’s not quite like any other Indian restaurant I’ve been to. And I wish there was one down the road from my home because it’s the sort of place I could see myself dropping into on a regular basis. The food is excellent value, there’s a small but nicely balanced range of cocktails and wine is priced from £16 a bottle up to £34 (unless of course you go for the dom perignon at £170). One of our fellow diners was celebrating her birthday there on the evening we went. The kitchen sent out a cake full of candles and everyone sang. There’s a really good atmosphere, one that manages to be friendly without being intrusive and you get the impression there’s a real passion behind the venture.
As it is, I will just have to conspire to come up with some Clapham friends who’d like to join me so I can return when I’m feeling a little more capable of eating my way through the menu!
36a Old Town