If you know where to look, or are happy to wander, living in London can be a culinary adventure. But the one thing we have struggled with is finding a reliably tasty, local Indian, having been repeatedly disappointed with watery, bland tomato-based and sickly sweet kitchen nightmares. Although much has been made of the recently opened Gymkhana Indian restaurant in Mayfair, the smaller, less-shouty, Zumbura located in Clapham Old Town has opened with a relatively quiet rumbling. But not for much longer. When those foodie fiends find out just how flavourful it's food is, we predict a stampede.
What is Zumbura?
Zumbura's succinct, perfectly formed menu, filled with dishes from the Purab region in North East India, comes with a claim that the recipes have been handed down through the owner's family for generations. Restaurant owner, Aamir Ahmad, hails from a furniture business background (which explains Zumbura's gorgeous decor) having last year sold Dwell; the homeware company he co-founded. Of his culinary venture, Aamir says, "I want to provide the kind of food I ate when I was growing up, but within a restaurant setting."
Zumbura says: "Delving deep into the family archives, the menu has been created using recipes that his family have been cooking at home for generations."
Good news for London-dwelling, curry-hungry families, then. Head chef Raju Rawat trained at one of India's finest five star hotels, has worked at London's Cinnamon Club and Bombay Bicycle Club restaurants and helped to develop the much-missed, popular Soho Indian Street food brand, Moolis.
What's on the menu?
First up, the dinner tools are worth a quick mention. Everything from the glassware to the plates and the bowls that the dishes are served in have been sourced from local design shops and complement the modern-Indian vibe. We were advised by the refreshingly friendly, smiling staff that all of the dishes are best shared, and ordered tapas style. The menu is divided into small plates, meat dishes, vegetable, salads, rices and breads. My inner food demon inside was telling me to be selfish and order my own. But that demon quite rightly needs to be kept in check every now and then, so, we ordered Pakora (spinach and onion chick pea flour fritters) which were similar to onion bhajis, and a bowl of Chaat (yoghurt with crisp breads and tamarind sauce) - the best way to describe this would be Indian nachos - between us, along with a chutney plate. The taste combinations were explosive. Not too spicy, if anything a little sweet, but for our sugary tooth they were they perfect combo of sweet and savoury. Saucy with a crisp bite from the snappy breads.
We ordered another plate of the chutneys, tamarind, raita and coriander, to go with our meat, rice and curry plates. Suffice to say, they are a long way from the usual dollop of sad, bleached-out mango chutney. We chose Hari Murghi (roast chicken marinated overnight in fresh herbs and yoghurt), Chapli Kebab (beef flat kebabs with garlic and ginger), Bhindi (braised chopped okra), Daal (lentils with curry leaves), Muttar Pulao (braised rice with peas and spices) and Paratha (flaky buttery bread) - a veritable feast for two diners. The Daal was a little weak, even for strong spice-phobics like us, but could be ideal for a cautious young diner. Our favourites were the beef kebabs and roast chicken, dipped in a generous blob of tamarind sauce. Mouthwatering, even the thought. To finish, we shared a palate-cleansing, rose-flavoured Kulfi (an ice cream similar in appearance to a Mini Milk), because, of course, there is always room for a tasty desert.
Zumbura is perhaps best described as a boutique, Indian dining experience. The small plates are ideal for a shared family dining experience and the helpful staff can recommend the particularly non-spicy dishes. The best thing about Zumbura is that the lack of heat in the dishes doesn't mean a lack of flavour, in fact they are among the most flavoursome and palatable Indian dishes we have tried. Encouraging your children to try new and exciting flavours at a young age is achievable to help make mealtimes more of a flavour sensation for the whole family.
The essential info:
36a Clapham Old Town, London SW4 0LB
Tel: 0207 720 7902
How to get there:
The closest tube station is Clapham Common. Plenty of TFL buses also stop at the tube, from which it is a short 5 minute walk.
Mon-Weds: 12pm-3pm, 6pm-10pm
Thurs-Sat: 12pm-3pm, 6pm-1030pm
(Fri-Sat: Cocktail bar open until 1am)
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