Comfortable Indian Dining in Style at Zaika, Kensington:
Although Kensington High Street is great for shopping and One Kensington is only a stone’s throw from the Albert Hall, there isn’t a great wealth of restaurants at the Kensington Park end of the road. So, hearing that the Tamarind Group had re-opened Zaika at One Kensington I was curious to go along and find out more. The original Zaika was in Chelsea, but relocated to Kensington and was one of the first Indian restaurants to hold a Michelin star. When the Tamarind group acquired the site, it reopened as One Kensington – a kind of upmarket bar with food. After just a few months, it closed again – reopening in November last year as Zaika again with a new chef at the helm and with a focus on Northern Indian Awadhi cuisine.
The venue itself is rather splendid. A listed building, it was originally a banking hall and some of the original features (wood panelling, ornate cornices and plaster work and wonderful high ceilings) remain. The addition of Indian styling creates a grand but very comfortable place to dine with a colonial feel. I’m happy enough sipping on a cocktail and waiting for my dining companion to arrive, especially as I can peer into the kitchen from where I’m sitting.
After the obligatory poppadums we start with three appetisers.
Papdi Chaat is very moreish and nicely crispy.
Tiger prawns are plump, spicy and crips on the outside. Probably my favourite of the trio, though I do like the Chaat, it somehow seems like a summer dish.
Seared scallops nicely cooked and presented.
I haven’t realised but my lovely companion, The-Hedonist has lured me into ordering two main courses. I’d completely forgotten that since he doesn’t eat meat, he would have no intention of trying the Gosht Dum Biriyani, the Goat Biriyani with Bhurrani Raita. I would have be quite happy JUST to have ordered that…it arrives in a pastry sealed pot and is melting, rich and great comfort food for a cold winter’s evening.
But, there’s more. Laal Mass is a rich, spicy lamb curry perfect for someone like me who enjoys ‘heat’.
We’ve also got some Bhindi Jaipuri – which are little okra fritters – a kind of Indian version of those zucchini fritters you get from good Italian restaurants.
I don’t get more than a taste of The-Hedonist’s Ajwaini Macchi. It’s perfectly cooked. Monkfish can end up a little rubbery and dry but this is tender and full of flavour.
And, I can’t manage more than a mouthful of the Truffle Naan
Somehow I’m persuaded into trying a dessert platter. All good stuff, nothing is too sweet and the kulfi ice-cream is a good palate cleanser. But, should I have done so? almost certainly not.
My experience of the food at Zaika was of beautifully cooked and presented comfort food. I seem to remember being told that Northern Indian food was hearty and filling with more meat dishes and richer sauces. Perhaps having two main courses contributed to my sense of over-indulgence, certainly it’s a while since I’ve eaten quite so much food. And that should be taken as a compliment to the kitchen. The restaurant itself is friendly, bustling and warm. A great place to meet up with friends or family for an informal lunch or dinner. Just make sure you arrive hungry!
1 Kensington High Street
W8 5NP, London