Zindiya, Moseley

Zindiya and I have grown up in Moseley together. I’ve been here fourteen months now, replacing them as the newbie in town two months after they opened. We’ve come through hard times together, mostly involving my hangover, occasionally stemming from their oh so fine cocktail list. And it’s amazing living so close to them; it’s impossible to have a bad meal there. I can easily recount the menu from memory, tell you what I want to eat based purely on my mood without looking down at the paper on the distressed wooden tables.

We’re also growing outwards together; just like my waistline after too few gym sessions and too many burgers, their menu is expanding. Which is obviously more bad news for my waistline, but absolutely brilliant news for everyone else. Over two trips I’ve managed to tick off pretty much all the new dishes and I can confirm they are b-a-n-g-i-n-g.

We kick off both visits with Zindiya’s Raj Kachori, a miniature version of the famous Rajasthani dish. The crispy wheat vessel is similar to that of pani puri, but here encases potato, lentil, chickpea, pomegranate, sev, tamarind and mint and coriander chutney; essentially all the elements of their chaat in a little bomb of deliciousness. Think pani puri evolved Pokémon style and you’re on the right track.

I might (definitely) have mentioned before that Zindiya’s chicken tikka is legendary, and it’s now joined on the menu by the Hariyali chicken tikka, a green version with fresh spinach, coriander and mint running through the marinade. Our heated discussion over which of the two is best nearly ended in violence, so you’ll have to be the judge; I’d probably order both to be on the safe side.

Authentic is a bit of an odd term to use whilst eating street food inside a restaurant in a middle class Birmingham suburb, but the moreish rounds of aubergine, fried in crisp gram flour batter and dredged though a sweet-sour tamarind sauce, remind me so much of my sub-continental travels that I think it’s warranted here. It takes the palate to similar places as the crispy aubergine dressed in honey, soy and chilli at El Borracho de Oro (which, if you haven’t already, is one of my Brum ‘must eats’) and is just as good at it’s Spanish cousin.

Keema pav is probably the least exciting of the new dishes that we try, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not good. It’s a comfort food kind of dish – the Indian equivalent of a shepherd’s pie or a chilli – comforting, warming flavours that I imagine will come into it’s own once Britain stops trying to be a tropical country and gets all miserable again.

Zindiya’s sister restaurant, Tap & Tandoor, do a wicked chilli paneer so it’s great to see it on Zindiya’s menu (along with a chicken version for dedicated carnivores). The punchy Indo Chinese sauce is sweet and sour for grown ups; more spice, less sugar and Zindiya’s trademark quality ingredients.

As well as traditional street food dishes, Zindiya like to put their own twist on things. Dessert samosas are nothing new but instead of taking the safe option and stuffing them with chocolate, they’ve used Gajar Ka Halwa, an Indian dessert of carrot, milk, sugar and nuts, as the filling. I know, I know, it sounds weird, but trust me on this one. It works.

I didn’t think it was possible for Zindiya to get any better, but the new menu is so good that I can definitely see some of the dishes ousting old favourites when I order. Either that, or I’ll just get them all. Sorry waistline.

Zindiya is at 21 Woodbridge Rd, Moseley, B13 8EJ. WEBSITE.

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Dishoom, Covent Garden

I love the idea of Dishoom; a place that pays homage to the old school Irani cafés of Mumbai (or Bombay, as it was then). Dining rooms of faded colonial elegance, buzzing with life, where people from all backgrounds gathered, bypassing social barriers or religious differences to unite over their desire for sustenance.

It’s a great concept for an eatery. And although Dishoom is a very Westernised, gentrified version of those Irani cafés, there’s a lot to like here (and the rate at which new outposts are cropping up indicates that people rather do).

The fit out is beautiful, with dark panelled walls, marbled tabletops and sepia tinted photographs on the walls. I’m sure a lot of money has been spent to make this place look as though it’s been untouched for decades. Due to unforeseen circumstances I’m dining alone this morning, so have the luxury of a deep leather booth all for me and my thoughts. For a generously priced £2.50 comes a glass of excellent chai which is refilled regularly, without once having to wave down a waiter. It’s richly spiced and warming, with just enough sweetness; a hug of a drink that more than makes up for the snow flurries I’ve braved on my way here.

I order the bacon naan roll, and it is very good. Admittedly, you can’t go too far wrong with freshly made naan, admirably sourced bacon from the Ginger Pig and smears of cheese and chilli tomato jam. It deserves all the very nice things people say about it, but at £5.50 I’m not sure of it’s value. I guess it all balances out if you get your money’s worth of that chai.

Although my dining companion couldn’t join me this morning, I order an extra dish in his honour. I wish I hadn’t bothered. The Akuri tastes as unappetising as it looks. The egg has collected into flabby little lumps, a result I would guess is due to too much time in the pan with too little fat. There’s a vague suggestion of spice and the occasional bite of soggy onion buried within. It goes mainly uneaten, unsurprisingly. The sweet buns are unremarkable, so I won’t remark, and the tomato was probably my favourite element of the dish.

A game of two halves, then, in regards to the food. The service meanwhile was polished and attentive throughout, without ever giving seeming as though they were trying to rush me out of my prime real-estate booth.

Had I ordered just the bacon naan and a chai, I would have walked out with change from a tenner and a glowing opinion of Dishoom. Damn my gluttony, and damn those rubbery, greying eggs. I may still return – I’ve heard good things about their main menu, particularly the black daal – but perhaps not in too much of a rush.

Dishoom has a number of branches around London, but I ate at the Covent Garden branch at 12 Upper St Martin’s Lane, London, WC2H 9FB. Website.

Dishoom Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Masala Kraft, Mumbai

We’d had a long day; an early flight, travelling and the onset of a cold had all taken it’s toll so upon reaching the luxury of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel we couldn’t bear to leave again. Downstairs it was then, to Masala Kraft (one of the hotel’s numerous restaurants) for some ‘North Indian cuisine’.

The service throughout our meal was impeccable – polite down to the last detail – and the room, all dark wood and burnt oranges, is undeniably handsome. But there’s one big problem; there is absolutely no vibe whatsoever here. Zero. Nada. Nil. And that’s important. A restaurant shouldn’t feel clinical or unmemorable. If it does, then – even if the food is incredible – I’m unlikely to want to return. And the food wasn’t even incredible.

To begin comes a platter of poppadom shards, mixed with what look like prawn crackers, without any of the prawn flavour. It’s a bizarre plate, probably containing no more than one or two poppadoms if pieced together, and about seven of the prawn-crackers-that-aren’t-prawn-crackers. It’s a total over complication. Just give me a bloody poppadom please, with some decent chutney and pickles. I’ll be much happier.

We skip starters, though I note they are priced at almost the same cost (if not more) than some of the mains. Our first choice of main is a chicken pulao. a Biriyani-esque dish of rice layered with chicken curry, priced at 1750 rupees (excluding tax). Once you factor in that tax, it works out to be around £26. FOR SOME RICE AND CHICKEN. It’s good, and fairly plentiful, but in no way special enough to warrant that price tag; a few days later, a biriyani at least as good costs just 150 rupees.

Back at Masala Kraft I fancy dhal makhani, but can’t quite stomach paying near to £15 for it; I reckon if you gave me fifteen quid I could make enough dhal to feed every guest in the Taj. Instead I opt for Baigan Bharta; tandoor cooked aubergine cooked down with onions and tomatoes to a thick sauce. It’s £17, doesn’t come with rice (that’s an extra £7.50, thanks), and a huge disappointment, gaining the dubious award of being the only dish during our whole trip with no depth of flavour at all. It’s flat and thoroughly, thoroughly boring. I douse it with the £5 raita to try and give it some personality.

We drink two glasses each of Sula, an Indian wine that we become extremely familiar with over the two weeks; my Mum bloody loves a wine. By the glass it’s a little more that we’ve paid elsewhere for the same wine, but considering the location that’s to be expected. It’s better than the alternate option of foreign wine; I understand mark-up is necessary (as well as customs charges) but it seems crazy that a bottle of wine which you can pick up in Tesco for under a tenner appears on the menu at around £75.

We knew that the bill would be a lot, but £110 to me seems extortionate for the amount we had (two mains, rice, naan, raita and four glasses of wine). Especially when you compare it to the full tasting menu we had at Indian Accent a few days prior, which came to just under £170 including a bottle of the same wine we drunk this evening.

I’m not going to slate Masala Kraft for being so eye-wateringly expensive; it’s in the Taj, so of course it’s pricy. I don’t mind paying a lot for a meal (being able to eat out is what gets me through the day job) but it HAS to be worth the money, and this is where Masala Kraft fails miserably; I didn’t walk away excited about the food or the experience in any way.

I certainly wouldn’t recommend that anyone dine here when, for a fraction of the price, you can eat as well – or better – at any number of places in the city. Be adventurous, and leave Masala Kraft to those dining on expenses.

Masala Kraft is located inside the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Colaba, Mumbai.

Masala Kraft - The Taj Mahal Palace Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato