When dining in Camden there are a multitude of eateries to catch your eye. Whatever cuisine you desire, Camden can normally provide. If however you lead a busy lifestyle, like most Londoners, then the speedy efficiency of Masala Zone could tickle your fancy.
You’ll find this large and attractive venue situated on Parkway, where the famed Jazz Café resides. Big glass windows frame the restaurant, and as you enter around the side, there is a small decking area where people can sit outside when the weather is good (a rarity in the UK, alas). Inside it’s warming with intimate low lighting. Plastered on the walls are brightly coloured adverts, from the time when India was a British colony, and they are fascinating to view. As you are guided to your large polished wooden table, you notice the beautiful multi-coloured beaded light fixtures hanging from above.
Masala Zone’s concept is to provide Indian street food to people who wouldn’t have ordinarily sampled it. Their main focus, however, is on their thalis. Thalis are the meals that are eaten in an Indian family home. The meal is well balanced and provides all the nutrients you will need. To get a rounded feel for Masala Zone, the Thalis are the way forward. You can choose from a Grand Thali (£10.80), which is equivalent to a starter and main, or a regular thali which is slightly smaller. If however, you want to try as many dishes as possible, then the Grand Thali Combo (£13.50) means you can select two curries instead of the normal one.
The thali is presented on a large silver platter, with all the little pots lined up. It looks like a veritable feast. You can receive a vegetable pakora that is light and crunchy with a hint of spice, which goes brilliantly with the chunky mango chutney, deeply satisfying and very filling dal, beautifully soft potatoes and lightly spiced veggies. You also have chappati, papadums and rice. The sides change daily, so each time you go, you will have a different dining experience.
The curries are the tastiest part of the meal by far. The Dhaaba Roghan Josh (£7.40 on its own) has incredibly tender lamb that falls apart in your mouth, with a lavish thick sauce. The butter chicken (£6.60 on its own) is succulent with an indulgently delicious sauce, with only a hint of spice, and the chicken Mangalore (£6.60 on its own), which is one of the spiciest dishes on the menu, is very tangy but smooth due to the presence of the coconut. To accompany the meal the Pink Elephant rose wine, which is designed to go with spicy food, works an absolute treat and at £16.35 a bottle and £11.45 a carafe, it’s a decent price.
If you are able to squeeze in dessert, then try the kulfi (£3.40) which is Indian ice-cream. There are three flavours; caramel, mango and pistachio, and four triangles of kulfi come with a sprinkling of pomegranate. It’s a pleasantly creamy sensation with the pomegranate adding a bitter edge and it’s exactly what you need after all the hot food.
The friendly nature of the staff twinned with speedy service make Masala Zone a popular destination with diners. With authentic, delicious food being served, you can understand why it is always packed, as customers want to come back for more.