Last Monday was the latest in the Dine with Dos Hermanos dinner series at Indian Zing in Hammersmith. Weeks before, I had put my name in the virtual hat and as luck would have it, my name was drawn, making this my first of these dinners. Organised by Simon Majumdar, one of the brothers of the Dos Hermanos blog, the always spectacular dinners attract food loving Londoners (and some from further afield) and bloggers. Indian Zing was chosen for this meal as Simon reckons it’s the best higher-end Indian restaurant in London. Now, I don’t live very far from the restaurant itself and had definitely passed it numerous times. Guilt set in that I hadn’t yet tried this supposedly exceptional restaurant and so I was really looking forward to this meal.
When we entered the restaurant, we were greeted with huge platters of canapes: Vegetable Bhanavla, Green Peppercorn Malai Tikka, Zing’s Seekh Kebab, and Grilled Paneer with coconut, tamarind and chili dipping sauces. No photos of these (shame!) as I was trying to balance a drink while simultaneously waving my hand to turn down a fifth piece of that chicken tikka… well….. ok, go on then! (I’m reminded of a takeaway place I pass every day with the catchphrase “Tuck into a Tikka”!) My favourites were these huge chunks of the most tender marinated chicken and the firm yet tender cubes of fresh paneer. I’ve always said that if I had to be a vegetarian, I’d always turn to the Indian school of vegetarianism.
The tables were laid with the Pappadums and Khakara basket with pickle and relish and upon seating, we all tucked in to these crunchies. But these were a temporary distraction before our starter of Aloo Tikki Chat came out. This was individually plated (I was surprised! I just assumed that everything would come out family style) and came looking quite pretty with its lashings of chutneys and scattering of chopped red onion. This was nice enough but I do admit that I was looking more forward to the main events.
The main meal did come out family style – we were having trouble making space for it all on the table! A tan-coloured Karwari Fish Curry was a lusciously coconutty curry with chunks of white fish. The gravy was lovely enough to drink. But I was mostly in awe at the Pork Vindaloo that was sweet and yet a little tangy too. Despite being a two chili dish on the menu, this was quite subdued heat-wise, nothing like the usual curry house offerings.
The vegetarian main course was Zing’s Saag Paneer, which was a one chili dish but I found it hotter than the vindaloo! A good version of it with the spinach not too pureed.
Who needs plain rice when there’s a big mound of Chicken Biryani at the table?! There were large pieces of chicken on the bone buried in the rice and the meat was literally falling off the bone. The copious use of a delicious spice paste throughout made this one of the best biryanis I’d ever had.
Vegetable sides included Organic Vegetable Foogath and a Dal Makhani. The former was a combination of various vegetables (I remember carrot, green beans, broccoli and cabbage) cooked with coconut, mustard seeds and curry leaves. The vegetables all had a nice bite to them and were quite a nice way to eat one’s five a day. The latter came as a dark and creamy pool of lentils and beans and was a very soothing accompaniment to the spicier dishes.
Now that I’m looking at the menu again… Batatyachi bhaji. Hey, I think our table didn’t get this one. Sounds so good though – how was it? Anyone else get to try it? The menu says this was a potato, peanut and coriander dish with mustard seeds and curry leaves.
For starches we had a Jeera and saffron pulao, which lovely as it was, I was stuffing my face with that gorgeous biryani, and basketfuls of Malabar Paratha griddled layered bread (hey, Colin, there’s your thumb!). This latter was best when served hot. When cold, it was quite impliable and not at all good for sopping up curries. Our side of the table went through two of these baskets – I’ll name no names but we’re definitely greedy guts!
There was no worry of anyone going home hungry that night. Though the bowls look small, there were many of them on each table and refills were forthcoming. We piled our plates high and ate and ate until we slapped our cutlery down and declared ourselves defeated.
The desserts came out all individually plated: Gulab Jamun, Shrikhand with berries, and a Rice Payasam (hey Colin, there’s your finger!). Now the funny thing is that I’m not normally a fan of Indian sweets and desserts but I loved all of these! Perhaps it was the (very) sweet contrast to the spice beforehand but I inhaled that gulab jamun and would have done the same with the shrikhand (a sweetened strained yogurt) and the payasam (a sweet pudding with saffron and cashews and raisins and coconut) if my poor tummy would have allowed it.
We didn’t go home empty handed either; there were goody bags for each attendee (I’ll leave it to Simon’s post to describe what was inside). And ironically, I, the girl who hardly drinks anything alcoholic each year except for a few sips here and there, won the raffle prize of a Johnny Walker black label limited edition bottle with a label in gold – bling bling – provided by Mandeep from the company who had kindly provided a few whiskys to pair with certain dishes. Part of the prize was the engraving of a personalised message onto the bottle – I think the person who’ll be getting this gift from me will definitely appreciate it!
Thanks again to Simon for organising the dinner and chef Manoj Vasaikar and everyone at Indian Zing for making it a fabulous night! The restaurant truly is exceptional with the food excellent and the service wonderful; the waiters were all lovely with great senses of humour and this made the fun night even better. Thanks also to the great company too – it’s not often you find yourself with 40 other people who are also obsessed with food!
236 King Street
London W6 0RF