When the invitation to dine at Zumbura popped into my inbox, I was immediately excited. This looked like an Indian restaurant with a fresh twist – none of that flocked wallpaper, green and purple colour scheme or dodgy soundtrack here; this was a new and authentic establishment serving Indian food in style. I imagined something along the lines of Bombay café Dishoom, another of my London favourites, and couldn’t wait for Tuesday to roll around.
Using family recipes from the Purab region in north east India, that have been handed down through the generations, Zumbura’s menu is the real deal. I spoke to the owner Aamir (who previously founded contemporary furniture store Dwell) last night who told me that, if he goes into your average Indian restaurant in London, the patron will tell him that there’s nothing on the menu that he’ll want. How can that be right!? So Aamir delved deep into the family archives and put together a menu using generations of family recipes. These are brought to life by Head Chef Raju Rawat (who has Cinnamon Club, Bombay Bicycle Club, The Oberoi in New Delhi and Moolis on his roster).
Packed full of wholesome goodness and flavour, the dishes are far lighter than your average Indian fare – you don’t feel weighed down by stodge or overpowered by hot spices. Instead, the dishes are balanced – lots of vegetables and botanical flavours, whole grains and pulses, paired with grilled and braised meats.
I’m pretty sure we sampled everything on the Zumbura menu! To start, we devoured delicious spinach and onion chick pea flour fritters (Pakora, £4.50), and zesty Chaat, yoghurt with crisp breads, chickpeas and tamarind sauce (£4.50):
These were washed down with some of the tasty and tasteful cocktails (£7) that the staff so expertly crafted behind the five metre long solid oak bar (cut from a single ethically-sourced tree)! A Bubbleberry for Olivia, with rhubarb, strawberries and fizz, and a Scorched Nuts for me, with my favourite liqueurs, Amaretto and Frangelico, combined with lemon and cinnamon.
There was a short pause to prepare for the main courses, and then suddenly the tapas-style sharing plates were coming thick and fast.
Sikkiwe lamb chops (£8), twice marinated in herbs, and superbly tender and flavoursome:
Ghuggni (£4.50) – black chickpeas braised in onion and mango powder:
Kullia lamb and turnip aromatic stew, slow cooked on the bone to give a full meaty, smokey flavour (£7.50):
Home-style chicken curry, or Murghi Ka Salan, cooked on the bone for a rich sauce (£7.50):
Braised okra, or Bhindi (£4.50):
A bright yellow Daal, of lentils with curry leaves and garlic (£4), with buttery Paratha and wholemeal Chappati breads for dipping.
I love small sharing plates, as it allows you to have a taste of everything, and gets around my chronic indecisiveness when it comes to ordering! As we filled our bellies, I got to know the lovely girls behind Food I Fancy and Love & Limoncello.
Another round of cocktails was ordered – this time, the super-popular Molly Moo Moo, with Stoli vanilla and raspberry, limoncello, fresh raspberries and passion fruit – this one was a winner, and was gone in minutes :s
Some people headed off after the main courses, but I was keen to keep up the pace and power on with dessert! One of everything on the menu was ordered (£3 each), and the table soon filled up with tasty morsels once again.
Now I’m not normally an ice cream fan, but the pistachio ice cream was unbelievably creamy and nutty, and the mango sorbet was super sweet, fresh and fruity.
Kheer chilled rice pudding with nuts and cardamom was a favourite, as was the unusual yet delicious warm creamed carrot pudding, Gajjar Ka Halwar. Sooji is a warm buttery semolina pudding; this one didn’t go down so well on our table, but the other bowls more than made up for it.
Dessert was complemented by a digestif cocktail called Spice Islands. Dubbed “a pudding in a glass”, this was a warm drink, with vanilla and ginger rum, star anise, cinnamon, apple, cloves and a coconut cream float. It was pretty wintery in taste, but was the perfect nightcap.
If you’re thinking that I must have been full to bursting by this point, you’d be half right – but I still had room for a rose Kulfi. Kulfi is like a super creamy ice lolly. I’ve fallen for the mango and pistachio versions at Dishoom in the past, and this rose version was equally delicious – the perfect finale to what had been an exceptional meal.
The food at Zumbura was great – a feast of small plates and diverse flavours. But, as is often the case with me and my deep-rooted love of interior design, it was the décor that really won me over. Eames DSW chairs provided a modern update, and were juxtaposed with rustic wooden tables and industrial metal Tolix stools.
The ornate glassware sparkled along the raw wooden bar, beneath copper framed lights, and overhead on the ceiling was a most intricately beautiful piece of art by Kristjana S Williams, combining birds and butterflies to striking effect.
So no, Zumbura is not your average Indian restaurant. In fact it blows “your average Indian restaurant” out of the water, with an authentic taste journey and idyllic interior design. I suggest you hop on the Northern Line sharpish, and go sample it for yourself.
36a Old Town, Clapham, SW4 0LB
Book online / 0207 720 7902