Restaurant Review: Zouk Tea Bar and Grill, Leeds Road, Bradford

Another mini curry-house empire is being built in Bradford.

Following in the footsteps of Aagrah, Mumtaz and Akbar's, Zouk has also expanded from its initial base.

The eaterie opened on Leeds Road in Bradford in 2006, the brainchild of Mudassar and Tayub Bashir, whose father Amjad is behind the popular Kebabeesh at Greengates.

Daughter Habiba came on board in 2008 and started the Zouk cookery school, while their Manchester restaurant opened last year. The cookery courses have proved to be a big hit.

Next they plan to expand further over the Pennines with a branch in Liverpool due in the new year.

So with all this expansion on the cards, have the same high standards been maintained at the original restaurant?

We dropped in on yet another freezing cold night to find out. Despite it being midweek, we were pleasantly surprised at how busy the restaurant was.

Zouk was among the first of the "new generation" of Indian restaurants. Its modern style is somewhat ubiquitous now, but it still looks fresh and smart with modern, trendy decor.

We were shown to a table close to the entrance and the theatre-style kitchen and contemplated asking to swap, but in the end stayed put.

It was fine, but being seated there when there were other, better tables available was the first example of service not being as warm or attentive as it could have been.

The menu is varied, with plenty of dishes you don't see in other curry eateries.

Those include burgers and steaks, which Oliver had remarked upon on a previous visit but had never been tempted to try.

This time a neighbouring diner was tucking into a steak and it certainly looked good, presented on a wooden board with a portion of chunky chips.

However we weren't to be deterred from getting our fix of Asian spices.

The starters included some old favourites like lamb chops and seekh kebabs, but also tandoori quail and chicken liver.

Among the main courses were the usual korma and dopiaza, alongside curries made from sheeps' brains and sheeps' trotters as well as other more conventional specialities from all over the Indian sub-continent. Full marks for variety.

We'd just about chosen when the waiter returned to take our order, but we'd then spotted a specials board on the other side of the room. We couldn't quite read it so asked him what the options were.

Without a word he rushed off, only to reappear with mini specials menus which he thrust into our hands with no further explanations.

In the end we stuck with our original choices, which didn't take long to arrive.

I'd decided to see how the kitchen did with a classic, the vegetable samosa (2.45). It was golden outside, light and fluffy within with a mix of vegetables and a lovely aroma of spices. There wasn't a trace of the grease which can overwhelm deep-fried starters. The only disappointment was the salad accompaniment, which was a wedge of tomato and some chopped iceberg lettuce chucked unceremoniously on the plate.

My dining partner very much enjoyed his amritsari fish (3.25), a dish claimed to be new to the UK. This marinated haddock, coated in spices and then fried, was a big hit and he praised the light touch with the spicing.

For our main courses we had been a little unadventurous, though both our choices weren't quite as we'd expected.

My palak paneer (5.95) is a favourite mix of spinach and Indian cheese. The curry was creamier than I'd expected and dotted with tiny pieces of tomato, but when I'd got used to it being a little different, I tucked in.

Again the flavours were subtle and aromatic, developing with each taste.

It was accompanied by a steaming hot tandoori roti which had clearly just come out of the oven.

Sadly my companion's three chappatis seemed still to be in the kitchen as both our mains arrived without them. We waited. And waited.

Eventually we asked and then they were brought quickly, and obviously were freshly made.

But by then the dining room had thinned out to only us and a couple of others. We weren't impressed at such a delay when there was hardly anyone else to serve.

However my dining partner's lamb nihari (8.95) was delicious. Described as "slow-cooked lamb in a rich and spicy sauce", the meat was in a large piece but was extremely tender. The sauce was thicker than is often the case with curries, more like a spiced stew, but he polished it all off.

I had a good go at my main but only got half way through, though, as in most curry restaurants, it wasn't a problem to box up the remainder to take home.

After that we were full and unable to try the dessert menu, although they are another thing the restaurant prides itself on.

Puddings must be good, as when we were finishing, a group of girls came in solely to eat dessert!

Food at Zouk is still very good and adding an unusual twist to the familiar Indian cuisine and serving dishes from other parts of the region seems like a good move.

Pricing is keen too, with our bill – which included a jug of mango lassi – only coming to an extremely reasonable 28.85.

However they need to keep on top of the other details to make sure they're on a par with nearby competitors such as the glamorous Mumtaz and the nationally-acclaimed Prashad.

The food is certainly on a par with most other Indian restaurants – but food is only part of the story.

Also crucial is the rest of the dining experience.

During our visit there was no soap in the ladies' toilets and the area nearby looked like it was being used for storage. Also we realised afterwards that we'd never been offered the speciality seafood menu which we later spotted on the restaurant's website.

They may be small things, but they – plus the monosyllabic and slightly haphazard service – all add up to the eating out experience.

To maintain the high standards which Zouk has previously set, the management need to make sure they are on top of these seemingly minor issues but ones which really are noticed by customers.

Address those and Zouk will be quite rightly remembered for its greatest asset – its delicious, unusual food.

FACTFILE

Zouk Tea Bar and Grill, 1312 Leeds Road, Bradford

Tel: 01274 258 025

Email: info@zoukteabar.co.uk

www.zoukteabar.co.uk

Open daily from noon until midnight

STAR RATING

FOOD............................. ****

VALUE........................... ****

ATMOSPHERE................. ***

SERVICE .............................. **

***** EXCELLENT **** VERY GOOD

*** GOOD ** AVERAGE * POOR

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