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Zayna

25 New Quebec Street, London, England, W1H 7SF, United Kingdom

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Zayna opened in 2008, serving Pakistani dishes in a quiet street near Marble Arch. The main ground floor dining room (there is a further room downstairs) has unusual and quite interesting décor, some tables with sofa seating, the walls adorned with oriental rugs and large wood-framed mirrors. The menu covers familiar North Indian/Pakistani dishes, with plenty of tandoori choices, but there are dishes from other regions too, such as biryani (a Persian dish that has since become associated with mughlai cooking, in locations such as Hyderabad in particular). Spices at Zayna are ground from scratch rather than being bought-in already prepared, and the meat is halal. Prices were a lot higher than a regular high street curry house, with £19 for jheenga prawns and £13 even for some vegetarian dishes. There were wines available but we stuck to lassi and beer: a pint of Kingfisher was £4.95, with mineral water £3.50 a bottle.

Samosas (£5.75) were good, quite generous in terms of filling relative to outside coating, the fried batter crisp and the vegetable filling carrying quite a spicy punch; the individual spices could be distinguished, which is a positive side-effect of grinding the spices from scratch (13/20). Chicken tikka (£7.50) was carefully marinated and tender, but also used better quality meat than a lot of Indian restaurants, simply served with a garnish of lemon and a few salad leaves (14/20).

Jheenga prawns (a south Indian dish in origin) used large prawns that were marinated and then stir-fried with a green masala sauce. The prawns were very good, with no telltale iodine tang that often happens with cheaper farmed prawns, the shellfish tender and nicely balanced with the masala sauce, which uses curry leaves, ginger, garlic, chilli, coriander and mint. The mint was clearly discernible and may have been a touch strong in flavour, but this was an assured dish (14/20). Similarly, chicken biryani (£15) had chunks of carefully cooked chicken that retained their moisture, but above all the rice was delicate and suffused with spices, a fragrant and classy dish (14/20).

The cooking was less sure when it came to vegetables. Aloo gobi again had lively spicing, but the cauliflower and to an extent the potato was a touch overcooked (12/20). Channa also had chickpeas that were overcooked and in this case had a rather bland sauce (11/20). Naan bread (£3.50), however, was very good indeed: soft and supple, with a hint of smokiness from the tandoor (14/20).

The bill came to £47 a head including drinks, which is certainly not cheap for a curry. However the surroundings are smart and the cooking was good, the ingredients of a higher quality level than in most high street curry places, and service was fine. I would happily return.

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