Zouk Tea Bar and Grill

Restaurant in Manchester

Indian and Pakistani Restaurant

Bring a bold tongue, strong stomach and an appetite for the fantastic as you step through Zouk’s portal to paradise for lovers of authentic Indian and Pakistani cuisine.

When the Greek goddess Athena discovered the hero Tydeus eating a plate of brains, she punished him by denying him ambrosia, the nectar of the gods.  When I suggested to my girlfriend that we order sheep brains as we sat down at the bustling bazaar that is Chester Street’s Zouk, she tried to prevent me from ordering my next glass of wine.  Not that I would compare myself with a Greek god (he was gobbling down human brains, after all; I mean, come on…), but let’s just say that I could feel his pain.

However, before we reached the more cerebral part of the meal, we had walked through the open-plan two-storey venue passing the merrily chattering 14-strong family tables to the couples section, where the charming manager effused over how encouraging it is to see Asian, Indian and Pakistani customers coming back through the restaurant’s big glass doors, time and time again.  Indeed, the place was full of a diverse blend of diners from all sorts of ethnic backgrounds, yet the one thing that they all seemed to share was a convivial attitude and a genuine enthusiasm for the food on their plates.

More than happy to let our host recommend an appropriate selection from the menu, so long as it included the Magaz (sheep brains) that my girlfriend had finally acquiesced to (and I got another glass of wine!  David 2, Tydeus 1), we set about covering the thin, cumin-flecked pappadoms in the wonderfully piquant green chilli mint dressing from the condiment tray.

The platter of starters is immense in size and taste with the Punjabi lollipop being a standout dish, the pomegranate-marinated chicken wings betraying their charcoal roasting with every crisp yet tender mouthful.  The king prawns are delightfully succulent, yet the table favourite has to be the char grilled lamb chops, their moist flesh coated in an enticing Mughlai marinade that had us (well, me) gnawing on the bones with total abandon.

As the mains arrive, it becomes clear that dessert is definitely going to be a ‘maybe’ option, the piles of steaming meat, rice and bread stacking up in front of us like a mini-metropolis that’s been covered in a tidal wave of sauce.  An honourable mention has to go to the wonderfully doughy naan that has clearly been whisked straight from the gaping, flamed mouth of the tandoor oven and into the equally gaping but slightly less fiery mouths of its most appreciative recipients.

The Lamb Nihari is a traditional speciality and its melt-in-the-mouth tenderness is a testament to the slow-cooking process that it has just undergone.  The scallops on the ocean platter will not be for everyone, but their zingy marinade and plump texture should be sampled at least once.  And, of course, the Magaz.  The Pakistani delicacy consists of the aforementioned grey matter turned a curried brown colour via the addition of onions, tomatoes, green chillies and garam masala.  The result?  Ironically, it tastes like tofu.  The brains soak up the other flavours of anything that they’re cooked with and become a veritable sponge for whatever they are exposed to; not unlike living brains, come to think of it.

Zouk may not have the nectar of the gods on tap (although their Moroccan ‘Casablanca’ beer is truly heavenly), but it can certainly supply a feast fit for a king; just so long as his queen doesn’t have any reservations on mutton mind-munching.

David Harfield is a freelance food and travel writer and the director of the social media solutions company PepperStorm Media

Reviewer's Rating
Cuisine Indian
Need to book Evenings only
Clientele All welcome, family, friends, couples, businesspeople
Restaurant good for Couples, Romance, Doing business, Meeting up with friends
Cost per head Medium
Dress Code Casual
Dining Options Lunch, Dinner

Additional Ambience Information

There’s a real buzz to the place, with its high ceilings filled with the ambient chit-chat of dozens of happy diners.

Additional Price Comments

There’s a range of dishes with varying prices and if you have a small appetite then you could probably get away with a fairly cheap meal by sharing a selection of starter dishes with friends. However, hungry diners will be equally satisfied with the size of the main courses, especially if you order rice and/or naan as an accompaniment. Starters from £3.95; Mains from £7.95.

Last updated on 29-09-2014

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