The hugely successful Masala Zone (there are now six restaurants dotted around London) has branched out into the depths of Bayswater, to provide speedy, mouth-watering dishes to the masses. Situated very near to Whiteleys and just off Westbourne Grove, it’s an eyecatching establishment. It’s a bit tucked out of the way, but it has such a good reputation for delicious food that people take the effort to find it.
The concept of Masala Zone is to show its patrons authentic Indian food, just as you would find in street markets or in the family homes of India. They concentrate on the former and particularly thalis, which are a balanced meal of meat and vegetables. The spices of the dish blend together to form an immense sensation of flavours. There is even a diabetic thali which has more vegetables, whole wheat chapattis and the minimum of oil, so everyone can enjoy the experience.
Stepping inside you’re taken aback by the bright, multi-coloured Indian pop art on the walls, which both captivates and distracts while you try to digest the menu. The venue is quite spacious – you don’t feel as if you are being crammed onto a table, and all seating is well spread out, contributing to the relaxed feeling.
Once you have deciphered the menu (and have received a lot of help from your server), the choice is quite overwhelming. Most people go for the thalis (£7.80 – £10.70), which come with two small starters, a choice of one or two curries, chapatti, chutney and rice. They are presented on a silver platter and appear quite small – but as you work your way through the bountiful feast you will soon be surprisingly full. It is as if you go on a journey around all the different foods you have in India – an explorative experience.
The curry choices include butter chicken, a thick, indulgent tomato sauce with a touch of spice twinned with the tenderest chicken you have eaten. The prawn mali is very mild and tastes strongly of coconut, so if you can’t take your spice, this would be the dish for you, and it’s a great contrast to the spice of the butter chicken.
The street food options (from £4.15) are wide-ranging and exciting, such as the sev puri(whole wheat biscuits filled with spiced mash and three fresh chutneys) or the gol guppaconsisting of lentil and tamarind stuffed whole wheat biscuits. The choices are endless.
Masala Zone prides itself on its freshly prepared ingredients which you will be able to taste in the dishes. For the thalis, there will be a different side dish presented to you each time you visit as they change every day.
During your meal you can opt for a Tiger or Cobra beer (both 330ml) – the best thing to enjoy with Indian food – or you can go for the Pink Elephant rosé wine, which was actually devised at Masala Zone (wines are very reasonably priced from £11.75 to £17.50 per bottle). This light and fruity wine really does complement the spicy nature of Indian food.
If you’re not completely stuffed after all that food, round off your meal with a kufli. It’s homemade Indian ice-cream and it’s just wonderful: thick and creamy and much tastier than regular ice-cream, it is a great way to finish off such a heavy meal.
Masala Zone is similar to Wagamama in that dishes are prepared quickly and faultlessly and give you an insight into the cuisine of the country. The service is utterly faultless and the prices are very reasonable. Expect to have a speedy dining experience and to leave a few pounds heavier.