Restaurant Review: Zaika of Kensington, High Street Kensington in London
If you’re looking for award winning Indian cuisine in a unique setting, you would be hard pushed to find anywhere more accommodating than London’s Zaika. Sitting on the edge of Kensington Gardens, facing the famous palace, the 2AA Rosette holding restaurant is set in an old bank and offers delightful Northern Indian food presented in a beautiful way.
The restaurant’s wood panelled walls and high ceilings lend to the grandeur of the place while the food speaks for itself. I was there for a weekend lunch and greatly enjoyed what was brought to me. I started the meal with a refreshing and fruity ‘mocktail’ of strawberry, lychee and lime while my guest, Nick sipped on a tasty and tangy pear and elderflower cordial served in a Martini glass. With these drinks we enjoyed the upbeat music playing and nibbled on some popadoms, which came with a beetroot and fennel chutney and a spicy tomato chutney while we made our menu choices. It didn’t take long for our waiter to take our options (while tweaking them slightly) and bring us our starters of seared scallops (me) and jhinga dakshini (Nick).
I can’t get enough of scallop starters and I’m pretty determined to try them every way they can possibly be prepared! On this occasion they were cooked with sesame seeds and served with mint puffed rice, which I was informed was Indian street food, smoked bell pepper chutney and cauliflower purée. The black and white sesame seeds and the puffed rice offered lovely opposing textures to the juicy scallops and smooth accompaniments while the purée had a nice warmth to it. Nick’s dish consisted of tiger prawns in a gram flour batter with ginger, paprika, and curry leaves. He said the flavours had a nice kick to them and a cooling dip on the side was welcome. The succulent prawns were well seasoned and had a crispy outer and overall, the colours and smells on both dishes were very pleasing. Our starters were followed by a tasty dish of spiced chickpeas, grated whole wheat crisps, sweetened Greek yogurt and tamarind chutney. After this we were brought a refreshing and thick raspberry sorbet to cleanse our palates before our main courses.
For the main event I had opted for monkfish kababs, which had been marinated with ginger, yogurt, carom seeds and turmeric. The fish was firm, plump, meaty and gently spiced making it a delicious choice. It was the first time I had tried monkfish this way and I am not sure how it will be beaten, it was incredible! It was accompanied by some plain white steamed rice and a side of seasonal vegetables, which were served in a lightly spiced tomato sauce. On the plate was a flavoursome mint sauce, which was a winning combination with the fish and spices.
Nick greatly enjoyed his prawns in a coconut and spiced sauce and he described the sauce as creamy and delicate with the coconut flavours coming through nicely. In addition to our chosen main courses we were also brought out a spicy Rajistani lamb dish, which was diced and slow cooked in a brown onion sauce as well as slow cooked chicken, which came in a creamy and buttery smoked tomato, ginger and fenugreek sauce. We had also opted to try a truffle naan, which was as delicious as expected – its crisp texture and warming flavours were lovely.
We were a little beaten by the food at this point but thought we should sample something from the appetising dessert menu. We made our choices but our waiter decided to bring us a selection from the dessert menu instead. The presentation of the delicate desserts was outstanding. An array of colour and tiny detail sat on two sharing plates and once we started to sample them we found that the flavours were just as appealing. We had a banana syllabub, which tasted delightful and sat on tiny pieces of delicious dark chocolate, which matched the banana purée, ice cream and caramelised banana well. Also on the plate sat pistachio kulfi with pineapple, saffron and honey; the tangy fruit was nice and the ice cream (kulfi) was our favourite element with its nutty flavour and smooth, thick and creamy texture. Nestled on the the plate also was baked yogurt, which originates in Bengal, with a berry coulis. The yogurt was very delicate and tiny pieces of dehydrated raspberry crumbs were tangy and resembled popping candy. On the second plate sat a mini apple tarte tatin with vanilla ice cream and a blackberry jelly. The warm tart was juicy and tender, while the delicate jelly was delicious and full of flavour. Overall the desserts were delicate, light, tasty and exquisitely presented.
I admit that I wasn’t overly pleased with being disagreed with over most of my choices I had made throughout the meal by our waiter but everything that was brought out to me was delicious, varied and showcased the best of what Zaika has to offer. I certainly was not left disappointed.
In a nutshell
The food here speaks for itself. Everything I tried was well spiced, full of great flavour with such delicate textures and was wonderfully presented. The restaurant itself is situated in a nice location and is easy to get to while being close to some of London’s finest sights.
Address: 1 Kensington High St, London W8 5NP