Masala Zone, Covent Garden

The guys behind Masala Zone know a wee bit about Indian food; they also own Michelin starred Veeraswamy and Amaya along with Chutney Mary, a pretty impressive collection of restaurants. There are currently 7 Masala Zones, which are a more casual offering.

We visit their Covent Garden one, opposite the Royal Opera House, for dinner and it’s absolutely packed. The space has just had a refurb but the 300 or so Rajasthani puppets still hang from the ceiling (if you’ve ever walked past you’ll know what I’m talking about) which makes for an interesting dining room.

We start with ‘Gol Guppy Pops’ (£4.95) which are little wholewheat puffs into which you pour a spicy juice then shove in your gob. ‘Dahi Pur’ (£4.95) are similar but filled with chickpeas, yoghurt and tamarind. Lots of fun to eat and really bold in flavour and texture.

Goan crispy fried prawns (£7.50) are super crispy and a great little bar snack. Crispy quail 65 (£8) is served piping hot. We burn our fingers prising the meat from the bone but aren’t in the least bit bothered.

For main courses, the menu becomes a whole lot bigger. The four of us share a Grand Thali (£17.75), which comes on a huge silver tray. There’s lamb Rogan Josh, butter chicken, a wholewheat chapatti, rice, dal and loads of chutneys.

We order a separate paneer curry (£9.75) which comes in a sweet tomato sauce. I love anything with paneer in it (that’s a type of Indian cheese, Mum). A peshawari naan (£3.85), filled with sweet coconut, was perfect for mopping up any leftover sauce.

From the grill section, lamb chops (£17.50) see soft meat combined with crisp fat. There’s plenty of flesh on ‘em too, much like myself. Jumbo prawns (£14.70 for 3) aren’t quite as jumbo as hoped, but they’re cooking is spot on and the sticky glaze they’re coated in is moreish as.

We finish the meal with a ‘falooda plate’ (£6.50) which has strawberry ice cream, pistachio kulfi and cold vermicelli. I could do without the latter but the ice creams are charming.

Masala Zone felt like a well oiled machine – the place was heaving yet the staff were efficient and friendly and the food was really rather tasty. Sometimes you just fancy a good, simple curry, and you’ll find that here.

Would we go back? Yes.
We dined as guests of the restaurant