London Larder was devised in 2012 to bring you the ultimate eating and drinking guide to London. It was borne out of a need for up-to-date, quantitative and whole-heartedly recommended places to eat and drink.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Masala Zone


Having craved a decent Indian meal for some months now, it was finally time to do something about it. And doing something about it without breaking the bank is an easy task with Masala Zone on the doorstep. There are seven restaurants located around London (we chose the Bayswater branch) offering real Indian food at fair prices. The concept puts together different aspects of Indian cuisine including street food, traditional thalis, curries and grills.

Admittedly the rather garish interiors of the restaurants can be a little off-putting up, and the branding and logo seems unremarkable, however, once inside it’s easily forgiven, and after taking a closer look we concluded that the excessive use of colour is just trying to portray – and rightly so - a colourful and beautiful India.

Starters at the restaurant fall under what is known as ‘street food’. The description does exactly what it says on the tin as these are foods normally found served by the roadside in India. We opted for the dahi puri; puffy morsels of deliciousness filled with yoghurt and chutney which literally burst in the mouth. We also had the shikampuri kebab; minced patties that can only be described as a kind of lamb version of a Thai fishcake. Pretty good but not extraordinary.

'creamy, flavoursome and bursting with... spices'

For mains we simply had to try a thali. Thalis are not something that you can find easily in UK restaurants, but in the most parts of India, they are a very traditional way to eat a meal in the home. The thali is actually the stainless steel tray on which your meal is served, and upon there are small bowls, or katoris, filled with little dishes. The thali is considered very nutritionally balanced and generally a healthy way to eat. You then choose one curry dish that you would like as the main katoris and then the remaining katoris are made up of market vegetables are delivered that day. You can however, add an extra bowl of curry if you’re feeling hungry or just want to try another dish. This is exactly what we did. We ended up with small bowls of Mangalore chicken curry (a spicy option, but we took it on and won), Talapia fish curry, butter chicken and lamb rogan josh. We can safely report that all the dishes are creamy, flavoursome and bursting with subtle spices.

The market vegetables of the day of our visit consisted of aubergine in tomato, a chick pea dhal and some potatoes with sugar snap peas; all very pleasing. The thali also comes with either chapattis or rice and a poppadom served with pineapple chutney, which, if you haven’t already tried, is a fantastic alternative to mango chutney.  We may be converts…

After such a satisfying two courses it seemed only fair to give the desserts a chance, but hitting near bursting point meant that there was only just enough room for some mango sorbet which was very creamy and extremely ice cream-like. Just how we like our sorbets. We must also add that one must try is the Masala Mojito which is a quirky take on the Cuban drink and most refreshing with the added ingredient of ginger.

Masala Zone branches are a good option to get your curry fix within casual surroundings and at very reasonable prices, and at the time of dining we noted many solo diners. You could say that Masala Zone’s cooking is considered a home away from home for those who like to keep it simple but traditional.

Average price for main meal: £10
Average price for a glass of wine: £5
Food/Drink: 4/5
Service: 5/5
Value: 4/5

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