Friday, 18 June 2010

Zeen review - Drummond Street Indian casual dining restaurant

Address: 130 Drummond Street,
London NW1 2PA
Tel: 020 7387 0606
Nearest Tube station: Euston

Ratings (out of 5 *)
Price: below £10 pp
Service charge: N.A.
Taste: ***
Service: **
Ambience: ***
Ab leaned forward during lunch at Waitrose when I told him that I got an invitation to Zeen for dinner. "Never heard of that place but let me know if it's good and I'll probably pop down a meal some other day." When asked how I could tell whether an Indian restaurant is good, he answered with a twinkle in his eye, "Oh, it really depends on the individual - if you like it, it's probably good. Then again, a good Indian restaurant usually serves lamb that's tears easily. Look out for it.". With that in mind, Wife and I went down to Zeen one Friday evening.

If not for Zeen, we would probably never have ventured to this part of London and boy, were we glad that we did. Drummond Street, which in Ab's words, is literally an Indian street with its fair share of Indian restaurants and sweet shops. I was also told that many Indian visitors will stop by Euston station just so that they could get hold of some sweets for friends and families in other parts of the UK.


Zeen, with its bright orange facade, was towards the west end of Drummond Street. The ground floor entrance did little to betray what was in the basement - a cosy no-frills restaurant, visually enlarged by strategically placed mirrors, with the only distraction being a 40-inch Samsung LCD perched on one end of a wall playing a World Cup live telecast.

After settling down for awhile, we were eventually presented with the menu. To the untrained eye, Zeen provided quite a fair variety of vegetarian dishes other than meat dishes. When asked whether Zeen served warm drinks, a staff told us that they have only tea and coffee. We found out later from the dessert menu that other than just 'tea', Zeen offered masala chai, mint tea and ginger tea as well. I would have probably gone for the masala chai had I known that.

We placed our orders, sat back and watch France and Uruguay battled each other to a stalemate amid horns' trumpeting and fans' screaming.


Our starters were served quite soon after. The soft shell crab (£5.95) was not the most tantelising looking of dishes. In fact, it looked shrivelled and quite sorry indeed. I thought that the garlic butter sauce that came with it didn't quite go well with the crab. All in all, the dish was somewhat underwhelming. Not a good start to our evening. But we had little to worry about as it went uphill from there on.


The jheenga achari (£5.95) - two jumbo prawns marinated with spices and roasted in clay oven, turned out quite well. I was tempted to swallow the shells and all but soon realised that it wasn't meant to be. What I loved was the spicy mint chutney that accompanied it. That with the red onion enhanced the prawns' taste.


The Zeen platter (£11.95) was essentially a thali, which came with butter chicken, lamb pattice, aloo gobi mutter, hyderabadi dal, pilau rice, baby naan, papad and chutney. Of these, the most notable being the butter chicken and lamb pattice. Unless I was mistaken, the butter chicken was done with chicken thighs instead of the tougher and dryer chicken breast. Lamb pattice was one of my favourite snacks back home and the one at Zeen was easily one of the better ones that I have ever tasted.


The baby naan was quietly set aside when the nawabi lamb shank (£12.75) arrived. The reason being that the lamb shank came with two sizable thinly baked garlic and coriandar naans. Couldn't blame us, could you? Recalling what Ab said, I poked at the lamb and it tore away easily. Fantastic. The curry that comes with it was a tad bland to my taste though.


We asked for the dessert menu after the rather filling mains. I felt bad leaving the baby naan (essentially plain naan) almost untouched but I did crave for something sweet. Ab did mention something about rasmalai but we opted for crispy jalebi with cream rabri (£3.50) instead. Why exactly I wasn't quite sure but the description - "crisp, sticky swirl' did sound like something that I would like.

The dessert when it finally arrived looked surprisingly simple. It reminded me of the savory crispy twirls that my Malay neighbour used to make during Hari Raya celebrations. The kind lady used to pass us two huge bags of it, which I easily devoured in a single sitting. Those were the days when the word 'metabolism' sounded like foreign word to me. I picked it up with my fingers and took a bite.

"This taste like a dense donut," Wife noted. The deep fried flour dipped in syrup did taste like a biscuity donut. I should have taken Ab's word and go for the rasmalai instead.

While Zeen, which is started by Zeenat Harnal, daughter of Sir Gulam Noon whose business empire deals predominantly with ready made Indian and Thai food, would probably not be the premier Indian restaurant in London's culinary scene but it does appeal to those who are looking for a casual dining option along Drummond Street before catching a train at Euston. Still I couldn't help but think that the huge LCD TV was a bit out of place.

Zeen on Urbanspoon

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