She Says, He Says: Indian for lunch at Zouk Tea Bar & Grill

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This Bradford-born Indian and Pakistani restaurant has been receiving rave reviews for its traditional and authentic dishes since it opened here in 2009. There are few Indian restaurants in the city centre that can rival Rusholme’s curry mile with such gusto. Here they do it with bells on.

Situated on Chester Street just off Oxford Road, the site is huge and very contemporary looking. High ceilings with canteen-style seating comprising lower ground, mezzanine and first floor, with an open kitchen to boot. No dark and dingy corners here. There’s also a large outside seating area complete with shisha bar that we are heading back to next time.

The menu is refreshing, intriguing and exciting – so much so that we struggled what to choose. Did I mention He normally orders chicken korma? Oh dear. I had my work cut out for me as I wanted to educate Him a little with some different flavours and dishes he had never heard of, let alone tried. Luckily my Indian culinary repertoire isn’t quite as bad having visited that golden land on a couple of occasions.

Starter: Samosa Chaat (£4.50)

Samosa Chaat

She Says: A large part of the population in India are vegetarian so it’s no surprise there are plenty of vegetarian options here. This traditional chaat (typically served as roadside savoury snacks) is made of fresh samosas, chick peas, tomatoes, onions, pomegranate, yoghurt, raita and tamarind sauce. It’s all a bit thrown in, yet every ingredient is fresh and the taste is fantastic and clean. Nearly my favourite starter today.

He Says: Smashed up samosa was saucy and spicy and proof that veggie food is often the tastiest. Not quite the star of the show today but definitely deserves its own chaat show.

Starter: Chilo Kebab (£4.95)

Chilo Kebab

She Says: This simple dish of tender lamb fillet cooked on a skewer and marinated in onions, tomatoes, pepper and green chillies manages to deliver a subtle taste served with the coriander and mint sauce. I’ve been careful not to order the spiciest dishes on the menu today as I don’t want to scare Him off, and hope this one should hit the mark.

He Says: Of the three starters we tried today, this was my least favourite, possibly because the other two were so good.

Starter: Chicken Liver (£4.50)

Chicken Liver

She Says: when I saw this on the menu I was intrigued and very excited. I don’t think I’ve ever seen chicken livers on an Indian menu. It was either going to be disastrous or inspired. I’m pleased to say it was the latter. The rich and flavoursome liver is marinated with lemon, onions, crushed chillis, turmeric and cumin. The result is amazing and complex with layers of flavour and depth. My favourite chicken liver starter, my favourite Indian starter. Superb.

He Says: Many people turn their noses up at chicken livers. Not me. I’m a big fan. They are seriously underrated and much too good to give the cat. I’ve never seen chicken livers on the menu in an Indian restaurant until now. Winner winner chicken liver.

Main Course: Butter Chicken (£9.95)

Butter Chicken, Tarka Dall & Lemon Rice

She Says: I specifically ordered this for Him, a step up from his beloved chicken korma. Developed from a North Indian recipe, the buttery sauce is made with tomatoes, onions, cashew nuts and gentle spices. It was a bit like Indian meets Italian with all that creamy tomato sauce. Not one for me although I know it’s one of their most popular dishes here.

He Says: I love curry. It’s one of my favourite foods but I have to confess my favourites are at the mild end of the spectrum and I always choose the same dishes – korma or passanda. Now I can add butter chicken to that list. Mild and creamy just the way I like it. And richer too.

Main Course: Goan Fish Curry (£12.95)

Goan Fish Curry

She Says: This is a very fishy curry so not the best for anyone put off by strong fish smells and flavour. Luckily I’m not one of them, I loved this main course. The aromatic haddock is cooked with fresh coconut, curry leaves, cracked mustard and tamarind. The layers of flavour is what Indian food should be, and is showcased perfectly in this curry.

He Says: A seriously exotic curry. I’ve never tried a fish curry before. The fish was fine but the sauce was a little too spicy for my liking. If fish rocks your boat, it’s well worth trying. The perfect dish for Mrs Doyle to offer Father Ted.

Sides: Tarka Dall (£4.95), Garlic & Coriander Nan (£3.50), Lemon Rice (£2.95)

She Says: Lentils are a massive staple in India, and I ate dall almost every mealtime for a week in Dunagiri, so I was keen to try the tarka dall at Zouk. Channa and mung lentils are cooked in a fairly hot sauce with fantastic results – a great side dish (or main course – they serve as both here.) Lemon rice was fragrant and cooked perfectly, and although the nan was good I prefer the rice hands down.

He Says: Loved the dall and the lemon rice too. The nan was nan. Nothing more, nothing less.

Summary

She Says: For me this was the best Indian meal I have eaten outside of India. What is so exciting about this place is the very innovative menu in conjunction with traditional recipes and techniques meaning the word ‘authentic’, so often overused and unwarranted, is just that. I cannot wait to go back, to try more of their wonderful dishes (although the chicken livers are a given) and maybe smoke a little shisha outside with friends.

He Says: For me curry is a Friday night treat and not a midweek lunch so this meal was a first for me. Some seriously tasty food is served here and it’s a cut above what I’m accustomed to. I’m still a bit of a wimp when it comes to ordering anything hot, but there’s such a great choice of dishes on the menu here that in future I can venture safely out of kormaland without having to go anywhere near vindaloo country.

www.zoukteabar.co.uk

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