Zayna: Well worth a return visit (February 2017)

My visits to Zayna stretch back over almost ten years and I can think of no occasion when I have been disappointed by this restaurant. It is a small, intimate setting on a side-street near Marble Arch that cooks up some of the most interesting and flavour-intense cuisine from the Indian sub-continent that can be found in London. Although the restaurant probably seats 25 covers upstairs (and has additional space downstairs), stepping in here always feels somewhat akin to entering someone’s home. It is impossible, on first impression, not to be assailed by the complex spectrum of spices that emerge from the kitchen. The wood panelling, mirrors and sofas also create a sense of comfort. It would – belly permitting – be possible to stay here all day. And, then onto the food. Close to amazing would be a succinct summary. Zayna’s USP is grinding whole spices in-house and then slow-cooking the majority of their dishes, sometimes for up to 24 hours. The end-product is something with distinct pungency and succulence. My Baati Ghosht main epitomised what Zayna is all about: a lamb dish served with tomato, onion and a broad spice palate. The flavours lingered long after finishing. It’s not all praise and there were some quibbles: the batter used to cook the prawn starter was unpleasantly greasy, and it is disappointing that the option to combine two vegetable sides as one main no longer exists. Returning to the positive, one other thing of note relative to my last visit: the wine list has vastly improved. We enjoyed an excellent Gruner Veltliner from Austria; and it was also pleasing to see boutique wineries such as Oregon’s Sokol Blosser getting a mention. Service throughout was attentive and the pricing reasonable; what’s not to like?