In search of a good Indian meal around Marble Arch, I was about to go to Les Port Des Indes, which has somewhat past its sell by date. By chance, we came across Zayna on New Quebec Street.
I used to live one street away from here and there never used to be anywhere to eat nearby except for the old Malaysia Hall in Bryanston square. Now the street has several choices from Indian, Chinese to a pub.
Zayna is a great find in this part of Marylebone where there aren’t that many good eateries. It is hidden away on one of the backstreets of Marble Arch and behind the Churchill Hotel where the amazing Locanda Locatelli is. Zayna is run by chef/ owner Riz Dar from Punjab but the cooking is described as Northern Indian or Pakistani.
As you walk in, you realise that it is not going to be the usual Indian fare. No sign of flock wallpaper, Cobra beer sponsored ornaments and the like. Here, you get a sleek modern design, wood carvings and low slung sofas for seating, very civilised. On the evening we were there, it was busy with some regular diners.
Onto the menu which is organised by how the food is cooked, the grill, the pan, the tawa, the oven, dum pukht, vegetarian and on the side. It is emphasised that they only use free range eggs and meat and it’s all halal too.
We didn’t have much time so we didn’t have starters and just had some mains. While waiting we had the usual papadums with some chutneys which came in cute little shot glass things which only held like 2 teaspoons of chutney. (We were charged £4 for the chutneys, shocking). We also ordered the mango lassi which was perfectly thick with good mango flavour. No cutting corners here.
There were some interesting things on the menu and we ordered the Ishtu (£16.50) , which is slow cooked lamb in a yoghurt, onion, garlic, ginger and mixed herb. This was delightfully tender, the meat was very well spiced, creamy and we would have ordered more if we had the time. This takes about 20 minutes to cook but was well worth the wait.
With this we had a couple of vegetable dishes. The first was the Bhindi Karahi (£12.00) which is fresh okra mixed with sliced onions and dried pomegranate seeds. This was gorgeous as the okra was lightly cooked and there were flavours from all the fresh ingredients that you can see in the dish. Unlike the overcooked gluey mess that you normally find in flock wallpaper Indian places.
The other dish was Shahi Palak (£9.50), spinach with sautéed paneer cooked in ground spices. Again, great depth and very distinct flavours of the spinach and contrasted nicely with the paneer. We had a couple of order of nicely flavoured pilau rice and naan to go with the dishes.
We didn’t have that much to eat as it was a quick meal but here are the dishes that caught my eye and will be back to try : Biryani Shah Jahani, Kapora Taka Tak (lamb sweet breads cooked with yogurt, ginger, onions and tomatoes) and Gurda Qeema (Pubjabi street food of mince and lamb kidneys).
This was a delightful find, not your average “cook everything in the same nondescript sauce” kind of place but a truly above average North Indian cooking. The dishes we tried were all good, cooked fresh to order and this is reflected in the price. Service was very friendly and not rushed or pushy. One big mistake here is the way they serve Masala Chai, made with a teabag! This was shockingly bad but seeing as this was the only issue, it is forgiveable.
The meal came to £70 which included a couple of drinks. If you would like a really good Indian meal, you need to try this place.
25 New Quebec Street
London, W1H 7SF
Phone 020 7723 2229