Zaika restaurant is a fine dining Indian restaurant owned by the Tamarind group, which owns Tamarind the Michelin starred Indian restaurant in London. It is located on the Kensington high street and as the history goes is in the same place as an old bank use to be.
As you enter, what first hits you is the grandeur and sheer size of the restaurant. The high ceilings are well complemented by the centre aisle bar and warm interiors. The soft and soulful music even for those who don’t understand the language (most songs were in Hindi or other Indian regional languages) is inviting and meant to make you feel comfortable in the surroundings.
This place specialises in Lucknowi or Awadhi cuisines (a region in Northern Central India known for tender meats and rich rice dishes)
It is recommended that you book your table before showing up, as the place does fill up quickly.
Here is what we ordered.
Starters : Vegetarian Trio, Ajwaini Macchi, Jhingha Pakora
Main Course : Dal Makhani, Nihari Gosht, Gosht Biryani & Kadai Murgh
Breads : Pudhina Prantha, Plain & Garlic Naan.
Drinks : Dates & Banana Lassi, Masala Lassi
Deserts : Gulab Jamun
The presentation of starters menu was very impressive and the small little accompaniments with each of the starters was the highlight for me. The vegetarian trio and the Ajwaini macchi were hands down one of the best one’s I have had. Especially the vegetarian samosa within the trio was a benchmark for the restaurants around London for how a samosa needs to be made. Ajwaini macchi had just the right flavours and was cooked to perfection, the green chutney was a good compliment to the dish.
Overall Rating : 8.5/10
Moving on to mains; the Nihari (Lamb Shank) although was cooked to perfection with meat literally slipping off the bone, what it lacked for me was the spice and flavour which has made Nihari one of the best known Awadhi dishes in the world.
Kadai Chicken on the other hand was one of the better one’s I’ve had in London, the right balance between spice and sweetness from the onions was well complimented with breads.
Dal makhani again was one of the best you will find around London and for me was on par with Dishoom’s kaali dal if not better.
Gosht Briyani was cooked in Dum Pukht style (where rice and meat are cooked together on a low heat in containers sealed with dough to release maximum flavours of aromatic spices such as cloves and cardamom), the flavours were intense, meat was flavourful and as expected from a good Indian restaurant.Overall Ratings : 7/10
In the drinks, dates and banana lassi was an interesting combination although for me flavours were closer to a milkshake then a normal lassi. Masala Lassi was full of coriander and green chilli’s which was a pleasant combination to have if you don’t want a sweet drink.Overall Ratings : 7/10
We were very full so just ordered Gulab Jamun for desserts. Before I talk about the flavour it was abundantly clear this was something which was heated in the microwave and somehow I do not really agree with a fine dining establishment not serving a fresh dessert. I cannot comment on other desserts on the menu, but Gulab Jamun itself had decent flavours.
Overall Ratings: 6/10
Service was quick and efficient. No complaints there.
Overall Restaurant Rating : 7/10
Spice Level: Medium
Will I go back ? Yes, but not often.