It’s a hard life being wined and dined, but someone’s gotta’ do it and let’s just say, I’m always here to lend my services.
While most people spent their Thursday evenings trailing around the Arndale for Christmas presents, I was lucky enough to be invited to the launch of Zouk Tea Bar and Grill’s new winter A La Carte Menu, to sample some of their newest and most visionary dishes yet.
Restaurant owners Tayub Amjad and Mudassar Amjad have always been passionate about bringing the authentic flavours of Pakistan right to everyone’s doorstep but with the introduction of their new winter menu, I think it’s fair to say, they’ve done just that.
Here’s what we thought of some of the best dishes…
To start, we were given a plate of crispy Okra Chips which were coated in a light batter and served with a refreshing mint yoghurt. Truthfully, I’d never even heard of Okra before last night but found them surprisingly tasty and more-ish.
Next, we tucked in to some classic Daal Soup which was absolutely superb. Creamy, light with an added kick of chilli, it was exactly what I’d expect from an authentic Pakistani soup and is certainly something I’d order again.
My personal favourite from our trio of starters was the Indochinese Dynamite Shrimp, made up of crispy fried prawns in honey, chilli and garlic sauce. Why ‘dynamite’, may you ask? Amusingly, I found out the hard way after biting into one of the chillies and crying actual tears, but it cleared my airways so it worked out pretty well in the end!
For the mains were treated to eight flavoursome curries which included a Andrha-style smoked Black Pepper Lamb and a fiery Rajasthan Laal Maas with a tomato and chilli base. The sauces, which were both thick and infused with classic Indian spices, were counteracted perfectly with tender, high-quality meat that literally melted in the mouth.
The next wave of curries included a scrumptious Chicken Kofta Curry made up of juicy chicken keema meatballs and tonnes of spicy tomato masala and a sensational King Prawn Coconut Curry; perfect for diners with a lower spice-threshold.
The chicken meatballs were a delightful change from regular pieces of chicken breast, and the sauce was just to-die-for. But as a seafood lover, the prawns were a winner for me.
As you can see, I bloody leave meat, but I must admit, the vegetarian and vegan dishes we sampled were absolutely superb.
One of the main features of Zouk’s winter menu is the arrival of five new vegan/vegetarian dishes which are destined to put a smile on any food critics’ face. If you’ve got a soft spot for cheese (who doesn’t) then you’ll love the superfood Paneer Curry featuring tender stem broccoli, mustard and spicy tomato masala.
I really enjoyed this dish because it was very light and fresh and paired especially well with the incredibly flavoursome Chloe Masala, crammed packed with loads of aromatic spices and soft chickpeas. And of course, we were given a side of freshly baked chapatti and rice to couple with the curries, if and when we liked.
Not my usual choices from a curry house, but I’m pleased to have been given the opportunity to broaden my pallet and try something new.
Every single course was radiating with flavour, spice and its own unique taste, even down to the feta cheese and beetroot salad and the Parsi Fried Chicken we were given at the start. If there’s one thing that makes Zouk’s menu unique, it’s the variety.
Whether you’re watching your weight, want to steer clear of dairy or want to burn off your taste buds with spice, there’s something for everyone- and it’s all delightful.
It certainly put the ASDA curry I had earlier in the week to shame…
Zouk Tea Bar & Grill, 5, The Quadrangle, Chester Street, M1 5QS
0161 233 1090