Relaunched with a new chef, this fine dining Indian restaurant and bar serves classic dishes in an imposing former bank building.
It’s been a magic carpet ride for Zaika, which over 15 years has changed location, lost its star chef, changed owners, then disappeared completely. But it’s back once again in the imposing and high-ceilinged former bank building where it once won plaudits. The owners, Tamarind Collection, has rekindled Zaika to specialise in north Indian cooking with unflashy, carefully honed recipes inspired by Mughal palace kitchens.
Sanjay Gour is Zaika’s new chef, and he does a great job of updating culinary traditions without losing the plot. Yakhni, a traditional lamb broth, is fragrant with smoky brown cardamom and black cumin, and is simmered to full-bodied meatiness before it is poured around shredded slow-cooked lamb. More homely in nature but no less satisfying, a main course of juicy king prawns, tossed in a vibrant tomato and ginger masala, is enriched by the warmth of cracked black peppercorns.
Dumplings are an everyday staple in India, but koftas are not. The mushroom koftas served here are similar to mum’s own dumplings, as both are lightly bound with toasted gram flour. These koftas are simmered in a smoothly whipped yogurt sauce, blended with nutty melon seeds and spiked with a hint of mild chillies.
Gour’s background as a patisserie chef is clear with the likes of babas steeped in fabulous Old Monk rum from India, or a reworked cassata topped with a tricolour of mango, raspberry and pistachio ice cream.
At a time when London’s Indian restaurants chase novelty and dilute dishes with ‘fusion’ touches, it’s reassuring to find such expertly executed classic Indian dishes. Dining here isn’t cheap, but the service is slick, the room attractive, and the cooking considered, confident and creative – perfect for a special occasion or just as a way to celebrate India’s rich culinary heritage.
True to its name, Zaika of Kensington offers the authentic flavours of the subcontinent with an emphasis on refined, creative and contemporary cuisine from the Awadhi traditions of northern India.