Zouk is rather more special than your typical Indian restaurant. The restaurant is a beautiful, modern space, all gleaming chrome and glass, with a huge open kitchen where you can watch the expert chefs hard at work.
It has a well-deserved reputation as one of the city centre’s top Indian and Pakistani restaurants, and their pre-theatre menu is undoubtedly one of the best deals around.
As the name suggests it’s geared towards people heading out to musicals, comedy nights, ballet and plays, but who want to grab something delicious to eat before taking a seat – there’s nothing worse than being distracted by a rumbling tummy while you’re trying to enjoy the onstage action.
Zouk is perfectly placed for this – it’s across the road from the Palace Theatre and within walking distance of practically all Manchester’s major venues.
Priced at just £15.95 for two courses and £19.95 for three, this bargain menu runs from 5pm to 7pm, and it’s well worth popping in for, whether you’re heading out afterwards or not (this deal is open to all).
It’s neatly tailored to cater for all palates, whether you like things spicy or gentle, authentic or westernised, and there’s a wealth of options.
After the excellent popadoms (complimentary with both menus), we begin with the samosa chaat. It arrives in a kind of steel wine glass containing a well-balanced mixture of crunchy red onion, chickpeas, sauce-covered samosa and a whole lot more.
It packs a fiery punch while feeling light and refreshing at the same.
The Parsi fried chicken starter is an altogether more filling choice, thick crunchy batter (with an eye-swirling array of magical spices, including chilli powder and Zouk’s very own garam masala) that gives way to soft, hot dark chicken meat.
They’re both very different, both very delicious.
For mains, the lamb laziz is a classic hot curry, dark red and packed with flavour. The chunks of lamb are as tender as they can be before dissolving, and it pairs perfectly with a garlic naan bread and the mushroom rice (these do cost extra, but not too much extra).
Another smart choice is the Zouk schwarma, barbecued chunks of meat (chicken or lamb) cooked over an open flame for that aromatic grilled taste, packed together in a soft wrap with chunks of tomato and sauce, with a side of fantastic hand cut chips that knock the socks off the cheap oven chips found elsewhere.
If you’ve still got room, the chocolate fudge cake is a rich, hearty way to finish things off. A mighty slab of gooey chocolate fudge cake topped off with a scoop of smooth vanilla ice cream.
Or if you want to stick to the Indian theme, go for the gulab jamun – rose water-infused sticky deep-fried dough balls, coated in sticky syrup and with a scoop of ice cream to balance things out.
But there are plenty of other dishes to sample on this wide-ranging menu, from crispy calamari to Zouk’s signature burger, butter chicken to scrambled paneer for the adventurous vegetarian diner.
At under £20 per person, you’ll struggle to find such a varied and reliably excellent menu anywhere else, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll start planning your next visit there and then.