Norwich: Zin Zeera
Indian restaurant Zin Zeera has transformed a disused building in the middle of one of Norwich's busiest junction. SIMON PARKIN finds it worth dodging the traffic for.
While at university I once had a picnic on a traffic roundabout. It was the sort of thing students do.
Ignoring the occasional driver pipping their horn, we ate partially hidden among the vegetation until we thought it best to move on when a police car circled past, its occupants peering at us, for the third time.
This memory came back to me as I sat in Zin Zeera a new Indian restaurant located right in the middle of one of Norwich's busiest traffic junctions. The restaurant opened just before Christmas in the former Bottoms Up wine merchants on the Boundary roundabout in Hellesdon.
Opened by Motin Uddin, who previously ran a restaurant in Lowestoft for 28 years, it's thought to be one of the largest Indian restaurants in the region, with capacity for 200 customers. And to their credit they've done a great job in transforming the former shop into a slick, glitzy and thoroughly modern restaurant.
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This is one of those new breed of Indian restaurants that take their inspiration from trendy bars rather than their flock wallpaper, sitar-strumming predecessors.
And with its unusual circular interior, brightly coloured lights around the roof and traffic whizzing past on all sides in a never ending blur it feels a bit like being on a waltzer — albeit one that serves curry (and doesn't make you feel sick).
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Mr Uddin, who originally came to Norfolk from Luton, where they know a thing or two about curry, says he believes they're offering something different under the guidance of head chef Anwar Khan whose career spans more than 38 years and has seen him work in a number of top restaurants in London including Soho's Delhi Brasserie.
'We've got a great chef who is very talented,' he said. 'We have come away from artificial colouring and use fresh, locally sourced ingredients with fresh herbs. Customers have already made positive comments and have returned.'
I can believe that as stepping inside from the car park — surprisingly easy to use, given that it's in the middle of a traffic island — the staff in their whites could not have been more welcoming. Nothing was seemingly too much trouble. And with the starch white tablecloths and classy interior it's definitely a cut above your average curry house.
The menu runs to the usual several pages and contains all the basics you'd expect. It's slightly disappointing to see they've felt the need to include English dishes — are their really people who come to an Indian restaurant and order chicken and chips?
There are though some more unusual dishes including a Bengal fish platter with fillets of Pangaas, white fish from Indian Ocean, seasoned with house special light spices then pan fried, which is served with Indian-style roast vegetables.
And those who like things hot Naga Murghee, chicken cooked in hot pickly naga chilli sauce, and Hari Mirch Mossala, which includes a fusion of different chilli into hot spicy sauce.
After poppadoms and pickles that were much as you'd expect, we began with starters of Sheek Kebabs and Aubergine Pittas. The mince lamb kebabs were well spiced and fragrant with fresh coriander, but most importantly they weren't greasy.
The aubergine, served with sweet lime chutney after being deep fried in a gram flour batter came with paneer (an Indian cheese), and was surprisingly flavoursome, with plenty of mint and coriander making it taste packed with freshness.
For main courses we plumped for King Prawn Biriani and Chicken Palok. In my experience prawns in Indian cooking are hit and miss, but these were succulent, well spiced and finger-licking good amid the fluffy rice and vegetables. Palok is cooked in lightly spiced spinach, garlic and onion, with fenugreek and freshly chopped coriander. It can vary in spice and here it was relatively mild but there was plenty of chicken and it was perfectly adequate, especially mopped up with a naan.
We left impressed. The food didn't reinvent the wheel but it was well done and presented and the service made it an enjoyable experience. Definitely worth dodging the traffic for.
Open: Daily 12pm-2.30pm/5.30pm-11.30 pm
Prices: Starters from �3.25, mains from �6.95, side dishes �2.95
Vegetarian options: Loads
Wheelchair access: Yes