Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Zara's, Crookes, Sheffield

There are few better ways to get over a preconception or prejudice about food than a blind taste test, which is how our meal at Zara's got off to an unexpectedly good start.

If you'd asked me to pass comment on an Indian restaurant that boasted of its 'adventurous chef's specials', then went on to present me with a tray of chutneys in an unlikely combination of fruity flavours I'd tell you it was in all likelihood a load of gimmicky rubbish, and that the food would be crap. There's plenty of precedent for this, nonsense being a particularly speciality of 'Indian' restaurants trying to differentiate themselves from the competition.

One particular example springs to mind, a restaurant where the food was described in indulgent detail, beautifully presented, and brought to the table by the chef himself who introduced himself to my mother by kissing her hand. Shame it all tasted like shit.

Back to Zara's, the chutneys here were presented without fanfare alongside a plate of poppadums and dishes of the regular quartet of curry house offerings (yoghurty, oniony, lime pickle, sugary mango). We proceeded to really enjoy their balanced, interesting flavours whilst failing miserably to identify the contents of all but one. As it turned out they were apple and coriander, tamarind (I got that one right), mango and apricot, and date and coconut.

Grills for starters proper showed a fair bit of skill; seekh kebabs, chicken tikka and tandoori wings were all deftly cooked and properly spiced with no unnecessary colouring. The seekh kebab was particularly good.

Curries, both from the 'Chef's specials' part of the menu, were satisfying if not as good as what went before. One contained shatkora, a lip curlingly bitter-sour citrus fruit apparently used as a flavouring in a lot of Bangladeshi food. I liked it but only in small doses, more than a few mouthfuls being a bit overbearing.

The other was a lamb dish, allegedly Goan style, that was intensely flavoured with mustard seeds and quite strong, gamey meat. I liked this too but the thick, slightly too oily sauce did seem a bit off-kilter with the spicing that would have suited a thinner, soupier curry.

Accompaniments, like the rest of the meal, veered between excellent and just ok. Peas pilau was a fine bowl of rice, rich with plenty of tempered spice including cumin and cinnamon. On the other hand the naan bread was a bit limp.

Zara's is certainly a cut above your average high street curry house and some things are done very well. Did I mention they also do some really nice fruity chutneys? Service was fine but the food did take an age to arrive. We paid £46 for pickles, poppadums, starters, mains, sides and two large bottles of beer to share.


216a Crookes
S10 1TH


Craftilicious said...

The pickle tray is why I go back to Zaras - love the tamarind and the coconut one although the apple sauce with coriander I find a little weird! Had great service there personally and special touches for birthday group bookings.

Dave said...

Others have said the same on Twitter. The reputation of these chutneys clearly precedes them!

Emma Frost said...

All of the given recipes is so famous in uk. Thanks to share this valuable food items.

Healthiest Indian Takeaway - Blackheath
Best Curry House in London

The Empress Takeaway & Restaurant said...

Zara's well known restaurant in uk.

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