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 itâ€™s absolutely packed. The space has just had a refurb but the 300 or so Rajasthani puppets still hang from the ceiling (if youâ€™ve ever walked past youâ€™ll know what Iâ€™m talking about) which makes for an interesting dining room.
We start with â€˜Gol Guppy Popsâ€™ (Â£4.95) which are little wholewheat puffs into which you pour a spicy juice then shove in your gob. â€˜Dahi Purâ€™ (Â£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 (Â£7.50) are super crispy and a great little bar snack. Crispy quail 65 (Â£8) is served piping hot. We burn our fingers prising the meat from the bone but arenâ€™t in the least bit bothered.
For main courses, the menu becomes a whole lot bigger. The four of us share a Grand Thali (Â£17.75), which comes on a huge silver tray. Thereâ€™s lamb Rogan Josh, butter chicken, a wholewheat chapatti, rice, dal and loads of chutneys.
We order a separate paneer curry (Â£9.75) which comes in a sweet tomato sauce. I love anything with paneer in it (thatâ€™s a type of Indian cheese, Mum). A peshawari naan (Â£3.85), filled with sweet coconut, was perfect for mopping up any leftover sauce.
From the grill section, lamb chops (Â£17.50) see soft meat combined with crisp fat. Thereâ€™s plenty of flesh on â€˜em too, much like myself. Jumbo prawns (Â£14.70 for 3) arenâ€™t quite as jumbo as hoped, but theyâ€™re cooking is spot on and the sticky glaze theyâ€™re coated in is moreish as.
We finish the meal with a â€˜falooda plateâ€™ (Â£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 youâ€™ll find that here.
Would we go back? Yes.
We dined as guests of the restaurant