I was invited to sample the new Spring/Summer menu at Zouk Tea Bar and Grill and as you probably know by now, me and the Bloke adore Indian food so we eagerly agreed.
Zouk has a warm, welcoming and contemporary feel, with a sheltered terrace area with seating and hookahs outside. Inside is a small bar area for anyone wanting cocktails, mocktails, lassi or tea, rather than food. I can attest to their amazing mango lassi and Spring Fling cocktails. We were not so smitten with a strawberry based mocktail which we both agreed tasted oddly like savoury tomatoes! The kitchen runs along one side of the interior with tables and large booths on the other as well as upstairs. I liked how spacious and comfortable the dinning area was as I find that can massively add or detract from the overall experience, especially considering my disability needs.
I’m always impressed when I see a restaurant has an open kitchen as it means the chefs are proud of the manner in which they cook their food and don’t have anything to hide. It was also nice to be able to see a large amount of fresh produce being used and fresh bread being made.
I’m always interested to see how many vegetarian options are on the menu at any eatery which has ‘Grill’ in the tittle. The already existing menu has a limited amount of vegetarian options, with an odd lack of very popular paneer, mushroom, daal or saag based veggie Indian dishes. The Spring/Summer menu will be available from April and will hopefully include a larger range of interesting vegetarian options.
For starters we had Channa (chickpea) Masala, which was for me, a nice change from Channa Daal (although the Bloke would have preferred Daal) as well as Vegetable Pakoras. The Masala had the right amount of spice and the yoghurt gave it a rich texture. We were surprised that the pakoras, rather than being a mixture of gram flour and vegetables, were in fact individual slices of vegetable coated in a spicy gram flour batter. I liked how light these were and thought they were perfect as a starter.
For our main course we had Aloo Gobi and Bindi Dupiaza with rice subtly flavoured with cinnamon. Aloo Gobi, a mixture of cauliflower and potatoes in a Punjabi style sauce is an absolute classic and this did not disappoint. The cauliflower was cooked perfectly, not too al dente or too soft. Bindi Dupiaza is an ochra based dish in a garlic, tomato, onion and green chilli sauce. This is usually not a popular dish among vegetarians as it’s so easy for the ochra to be over cooked to a soft slimy consistency but not at Zouk. The ochra was cooked perfectly and the heat in the sauce did not overwhelm the flavour but added to it. As vegetarians me and the Bloke always have to pay more attention to where our protein will come from, not necessarily in our starter but always in our main course. Zouk’s veggie mains had no protein! Although we left feeling full and content I was a little hungry again three hours later and was glad that I’d had a glass of thick lassi with my meal. Maybe if we’d have had a larger portion of Channa (chickpeas) for our mains instead of just as a starter this could have been avoided.
For desert we had Mumbai Mess; a lot of cream topped with beautiful sweet but sharp raspberry sauce and a tiny bit of crumbled biscuit but no overall substance. We also had cold chocolate brownies which were pleasant but would have been better and probably gooier in centre if served warm. We then tried the cinnamon topped churro-style sticks served with chocolate sauce which were utterly delicious! I was a little surprised and disappointed that there were no popular Indian deserts on offer, especially at the lack of pistachio kulfi.
Zouk is a place I would look forward to visiting on a Friday night for their extensive range of cocktails. It’s a place we would be happy to visit with a group of friends if most of them ate meat. It is not a place we, as vegetarians would specifically choose to visit ourselves, unlike other restaurants in central Manchester which cater for both diets more successfully. We may change our minds when viewing the full Spring/Summer menu so I will keep you updated.