Restaurants & Bars 1

[Manchester, city centre] Zouk

Harters | Jun 16, 201202:45 PM

By all accounts, I should hate Zouk. It was hyped when it arrived in the city, from Bradford, three years ago. Its PR manages to maintain it a high profile on local websites. It’s loud – which, no doubt, suits the generally young customer base (I am used to going to places where I’m old enough to be most people’s father but here it was more like grandfather). The bogs are up a flight of stairs, which doesn’t half do my knees in. And the menu is frankly odd. Oh, sure, there’s an air of authenticity – dishes are “Punjabi this” and “traditional Lahore that”. And then, without any hint of irony, they also have dishes like lobster thermidor and an array of desserts that wouldn’t look out of place at your local Beefeater. Yet, cut all that away and you’ve a kitchen that’s turning out very enjoyable food. And it’s clearly very popular amongst the younger folk of the local South Asian community.

Alloo paratha provided a nice light starter; the potato slightly spiced; the bread soft and buttery, without being greasy. A cumin flavoured raita matched it well. I had no real idea what might arrive as Chicken Imlee. What did arrive was a decent portion of well cooked chicken tikka. The Imlee bit comes in the form of a hot tamarind and plum sauce. It was fine but I guess I expected something more – not quite sure what, but something.

I’m a fan of minced lamb in most cuisines I can think of, and South Asian is no exception. And particularly in my main course of Gurda Keema. No, I hadn’t come across that one before either but anything that matches lamb mince with chunks of lamb kidney has to be worth a bash. And it was. Well cooked and well spiced. Really good.

My partner’s “gold standard” for lamb handi is the offering at Akbar’s. And I can see why. Akbar’s really does do a cracker but, I’m told, there might just be a new kid on the block. I got to taste and certainly agree this is good stuff but, perhaps, a tad too much chilli almost overpowering the other, pleasanter, major spice of ginger.

There was good rice and very good tandoori roti – just as we like it, nice and crispy round the edges.

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