Peter Morrell enjoys the precise and subtle flavours of the food in this charming new restaurant
Zayane opened recently in one of London’s most fashionable areas bringing with it a revolutionary new twist to Moroccan food. Leading the kitchen is well-known British chef Chris Bower, who has enjoyed great success at Michelin starred Thackerays in Tunbridge Wells and at The Ivy.
The décor of the restaurant sets the mood with its warm tradition Moroccan style and cushion scattered banquettes. My wife and I soon settled in and as we perused the menu we nibbled on a selection of nuts and olives, and dipped chunks of the most delicious home-made warm bread into a dish of aromatic olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
The menu, which looked very interesting, offered starters, mains, sides and desserts. The starters featured the Zayane Platter, tasters of Moroccan specialities like zaalouk made with aubergines and the egg, tomato and chilli based chakchouka. My wife’s choice of starter was the Smoked Octopus Salad and mine the Pan Fried Scallop Chermoula.
Both of these dishes were excellent, the octopus was mixed with merguez sausage and spiced tomato and the contrasting flavours all worked well together. My scallops were equally interesting, served with chick peas and tomato, and infused with cumin. We both liked the subtle spicing which had been used to great effect.
Before moving on to the main course we had spotted on the starter menu one of the signature dishes of Moroccan food, Quail Pastilla, so decided to share one. This dish can be pie-like and quite heavy but Chef Chris had put a twist on it to make it lighter and fresher. The quail was on a slaw of carrots and sultanas with a mango and orange blossom dressing. The addition of the citrus flower seasoning gave the dish a delicately perfumed and uplifting character.
It was on to the mains, Milk Fed Mechoui, slow roast neck and belly of lamb and Saffron Marinated Atlantic Cod were a couple of tempting examples. My wife’s final choice was the Chicken Tagine and mine the Spiced Sussex Beef Cheek.
The chicken was a clever mix of flavours with braised fennel, green olives, preserved lemons and girolle mushrooms. My beef was a delight, it had been cooked for 12 hours, leaving it fall-apart tender and packed with taste. Equally as satisfying was the sauce with the beef, it had profound depth and richness created by the ingredients of caramelised onion, prunes and sesame.
Accompanied by a a side of glazed vegetables and couscous they were both very good and beautifully cooked.
Zayane is currently waiting for its alcohol licence so in the meantime you can BYOB with no corkage, there are a number of shops in the area which sell wine and beer. Teetotallers will appreciate the range of fresh juices available including blends to boost your energy, immune system and antioxidant levels.
It was time for dessert and I chose the Cherry and Almond Clafoutis while my wife went for the more decadent Chocolate Delice with Pistachio Ice Cream.
My pudding was a fruity delight with cherries floating in a light, set batter, my wife’s chocolate was moreish and paired well with the pistachio in the ice cream. This had been a very good dining experience, the atmosphere was relaxed and intimate, helped by the aroma of scented candles, the food was inventive and the service friendly and attentive.
During the meal I had admired a traditional Moroccan dress in a frame on the wall. Asking the charming owner Meryem Mortell about the history of the dress she told me it had belonged to her grandmother who is still healthy and active, and over 100 years old. There can be no better endorsement of Moroccan food.
As well as a la carte Zayane also offer Working Lunch and Sunday Brunch menus and a fixed price Evening Market menu. The fixed price evening menu is £20.00 for 2 courses, £22.95 for 3 courses, a la carte is around £50 per person for 3 courses.
91 Golborne Road