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Restaurant Review

Indian Zilla

2-3, Rocks Lane, Barnes, London. SW13 0DB

020 878 3989

Tuesday 16th November, 2010

Chef Patron, Manoj Vasaikar, opened his latest venture Indian Zilla, on the 16th August of this year. Curb appeal is smart and discrete, occupying two shop fronts, but not so discrete that you would walk on by. When inside, it is startling to discover just how large the restaurant is, but it doesn't feel that way because of the clever use of the space, which has been divided into different sections. Hardwood floors, exposed brickwork, neutral painted plaster, leather chairs and white table linen make for an attractive, contemporary look.

Pat and I chose to sit in the dining room at the front of the restaurant and while we made ourselves comfortable, (it was a chilly evening, the restaurant was lovely and warm), our waiter brought us menus and a vodka shot glass containing a chilled, dark green liquid - Spicy Spinach Consommé - delicious!

While the wine was being poured, (house recommendations include: Cabernet Sauvignon, Les Templiers at £16.50 a bottle, making it one of the most reasonably priced wines in SW13!) our waiter brought, 'Pappadums and Khakara basket with pickle and relish (£4.00 for two) - Rice pappadums, whole wheat crispy flat bread and roasted gram flour and cumin pappadums served with mint, coriander and pomegranate seeds relish, carrot, cucumber, tomatoes and raisins raita and roasted cumin, black pepper in mango chutney.' In eager anticipation of a lovely evening ahead, we devoured every last one of them, smoothered in pickle and relish!

There are eight individual starters to choose from, plus a plated selection. We decided on a plated selection. 'Mixed Platter £19.00 (for two) - Vegetable Bhanavla, (our version of the ubiquitous onion bhaji, first baked and then griddled in the authentic Maharashtrian way, drizzled with tamarind and green herb relish); Green Peppercorn Malai Tikka, (succulent pieces of free-range chicken breast, marinated with green peppercorns, cheese and cooked in the clay oven); Lamb Salli, (lean minced lamb with fresh fenugreek, mint, coriander, spices, stuffed with homemade cottage cheese and served with spicy tomato and onion relish) and Prawn Kharphatla, (warm medley of jumbo prawns and aubergine, finished off with caramelised onion, tomato and pickle masala), served with fresh salad and relish.' This feast was delivered on a very large, square plate, which was divided into four, making for a very striking presentation. Pat and I really enjoyed it all. The Bhanavla was light, crispy and had nothing to do with an onion bhajia! The three pieces of Tikka were indeed succulent and, of course, you just can't beat the flavour of the tandoor. The moist Lamb Salli was delicately spiced with home made, deep-fried potato strings, piled high on top and the King Prawns, who can be tricky to cook, (Pat can be quite critical, as he adores them), were so very large and fresh, even I, (who doesn’t like seafood), enjoyed them. Other starters that distracted our attention included an old favourite of ours: 'Root Vegetable Samosas with Chana Masala and Cottage Cheese £5.75 - hand-kneaded crispy pastry stuffed with root vegetables and potatoes served with cheese and chickpeas curry and tamarind relish,' and, 'Mussel Rasam £6.50 - mussels gently simmered in tomato and tamarind broth with a predominant flavour of garlic and curry leaves.' Servings were generous, so you are warned.

The menu lists an amazing eighteen main course dishes, something for everyone! After much, 'umming and erring!' I chose the, 'Malabar Chicken Curry £8.50 - free-range chicken breast tempered with mustard seeds, whole crushed spices, sliced onions, ginger, garlic, curry leaves, tomatoes and finished with tamarind and coconut milk,' which was just divine. The description promised everything and delivered everything, served in a polished brass pot. Although the, 'Gymkhana Lamb Chops £18.50 - french trimmed lamb cutlets marinated in ginger, green chillies and mint, griddled in a clay oven with peppers, onions and new potatoes, served with smooth spicy lamb gravy,' sounded wonderful. I particularly like trimmed lamb chops, no horrid fat to negotiate and I was seriously tempted just for the cute name! Pat was lured by the, 'Lobster Balchao £22.00 - lobster tails seared with a full flavoured hot sauce and balanced with Goan jaggery and spices. An all time Goan favourite,' as he really gets pleasure from his Goan curries and good quality Goan curries are quite hard to come by in the UK. This dish was plated, other dishes were served in polished brass and copper pots, enabling diners to share.

When our mains were delivered, Manoj had added a portion of, 'Pork Vindaloo £11.50 - Norfolk outdoor-reared pork made with spices and palm vinegar with a dominant flavour of garlic. An all time Goan favourite.' He knows Pat just too well!  I can't tell you how many Pork Vindaloos we had eaten earlier in the year, when we visited Candolim, Goa and they were all amazing!. It must be that unique flavour of toddy and Indian Zilla’s Vindaloo was just as authentic, arguably better than Goa. Pat and I enjoyed it immensley.

Side Dishes and Salad take up exactly half a menu page, with Rice and Breads taking the other half. Our favourites were, ‘Tadka Dal £5.00 - lentils with garlic and red chillies,’ and, 'Malabar Paratha £3.00 - griddled layered bread,’ delivered all wrapped up in a starched, white napkin. However, you may be tempted by the, ‘Goda Batata Rassa £5.00 - new potatoes in tomato and onion gravy, tempered with mustard seeds and asafoetida,’ or the, ‘Baingan and Makai Bharata £6.00 - smoked aubergine, onion and corn.’ All sides can be ordered as a main, with a supplement of £3.00.

Even though we were stuffed to the gills with Manoj’s brilliant food, we had to sample something from the dessert menu. I just couldn’t say no to the, 'Tandoori Figs and Organic Apple Muesli Crumble £6.50 - served with vanilla ice cream.' That is it, in the photo below, just before I launched in with my spoon. It was wonderful with the muesli, which made a lighter topping than the original.

Pat is very traditional when he eats an Indian dessert. He is never tempted by, ‘fusion.’ He chose, 'Rasmalai £6.50 - casein of milk poached in saffron and caramelised milk served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.' He declined the ice cream, which was unusual, as vanilla is his absolute favourite, but I had to agree that Rasmalai and Gulab Jamun, which are both offered with ice cream, really don’t need it, as they are perfect just as they are. Infact, as perfect at Indian Zilla.


Photo Above Left: 'Pat and I chose to sit in the dining room at the front of the restaurant,' and Photo Above Right: ‘Tadka Dal £5.00 - lentils with garlic and red chillies,’ and 'Malabar Chicken Curry £8.50 - free-range chicken breast tempered with mustard seeds, whole crushed spices, sliced onions, ginger, garlic, curry leaves, tomatoes and finished with tamarind and coconut milk.' Photo Below Left: Pat's Prawn Balchao and Photo Below Right: The ornate, hand-made metal staircase that leads to the kitchens and the services.


Hours: Lunch and Dinner Daily.

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Parking: unrestricted after 6pm. Service Charge: 12.5%.

Indian Zilla

2-3, Rocks Lane, Barnes, London. SW13 0DB

020 878 3989

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