Its been quite a while since my last visit to Zara.
Located at the Great Shelford train station, the place absolutely blew me away last time with its trendy modern interior, its fine Indian cuisine and all the bells and whistles you'd expect from a high end restaurant. I can see why it is currently no1 on our Cambridge Curry Crew Facebook poll and The English Curry Awards 2015 winner for the East Of England.
My last visit was a long time ago now so I was keen to see if Zara was still as good as I remember.
I went with my good friend Jim, who just so happens to be a wheelchair user. This puts a new challenge on a place like this as it doesn't just have to prepare fine food and offer an excellent customer service, but it also has to be accessible for everyone. Something which I thought might be an issue for an old building attached to the station of such a small size.
Getting in proved mildly challenging for my friend. There was no need for a ramp as the ground was level, though the concrete outside was a little bumpy. The double door system to get in was a mild inconvenience but he managed to get in with little trouble.
I was so pleased to see that the restaurant was still decorated in the same art work as before. The place was littered with very modern and warm pieces of art work on canvas, an excellent touch if I do say so myself and I was particularly fond of this painting of the chillies.
We sat down and looked at the menu which was in a nice leather folder. It was incredibly well presented and it was incredible easy to read and understand. As you can see from the picture above that curries were about average here with a vindaloo being around £7 (with tikka'd being only an extra £1).
I was glad to see Kingfisher beer on tap with a selection of numerous Indian beers on bottle. I would have liked to have seen an extra few choices on tap but with Kingfisher being my favourite, I was not about to kick up a fuss.
There was a generous selection of specials. I noticed some descriptions above certain dishes describing the history behind the dish. How accurate there were I don't know. Either way it was a nice touch. My friend decided to try the peri peri salmon, something I am not too sure is very Indian in itself but something which sounded delicious none the less.
We ordered some papadums while we studied the menu which came out promptly and was equipped with lime pickle, mango chutney, onion salad and yoghurt. Each was excellently prepared and tasted sublime. Despite the lovely taste the lime pickle was a little milder to what I am used too but otherwise there was nothing to fault. I was particularly fond of the onion salad and how finely chopped it was. It made things a lot less messy and pleasant to eat.
Once we were finished we ordered our food. As I said above, my friend ordered the peri peri salmon and rice. I had the lamb vindaloo with garlic naan.
The garlic naan came out in a wicca basket which was a nice touch. It was cut in to quarters and laid on some tissue. It was perfectly made and it tasted very fresh. It was soft with only a slight amount of oil to give it that good texture. There was a perfect balance of garlic too, not too strong but you could taste it well. They really got the balance of everything right here. Top marks.
Peri peri salmon.
My lamb vindaloo was presented well too, as you can see from the picture. The lamb chunks, like the salmon, were large and very tender. There was little fat in the lamb and very little oil in the curry either. You can see that Zara goes to good lengths to make sure its dishes are all made from prime ingredients and makes sure the food cooked in a healthy manner. The vindaloo was quite mild in my opinion, though I get the impression that Zara is more about flavour and ingredients rather than making spicy slop in a bucket.
I was really pleased to see that in such a small building (and quite old one too) that they had a decent disabled toilets. I would recommend this place to anyone using a wheelchair. I would say that the double door entrance might be a challenger for people getting in but the staff were kind enough to open the doors for us so its not an issue.
Once we were finished they staff took our plates away and we were presented with two very decent hot towels. The staff peeled them out of the packaging and handed it to us so I was unable to get a photo but the quality was good. They then brought out our bill, which came to roughly what we expected. The bill was brought out with some aniseed sweets, some mints and some After 8 chocolates. Absolutely spot on! This is why Zara scores so highly with people!
Conclusion: Zara does it again. For a small place it does everything well. Even things you half expect it to struggle with, like disabled access and facilities, it managed to do well. I would have liked to see a better entrance/path leading in to the restaurant but otherwise there was nothing to fault.
The food was all made from top ingredients which become apparent the moment you taste it. Everything is presented well and nothing is done on the cheap. If you are here for a hot curry then you might want to ask for it on ordering as this is a place which aims for cuisine. Despite the high end ingredients and fantastic presentation, the prices were still competitive and all came with all the mints, sweets and chocolates afterwards. No corners are cut here.
The staff are all helpful and incredibly chatty.
Despite the place being quite small it has a good lay out with lots of space. I loved the atmosphere of the restaurant and was particularly fond of the canvas art work. I can see why it has won numerous awards and topped The Cambridge Curry Crew Poll, I just wish I lived on the south side of Cambridge as it seems all the best restaurants tend to gravitate around this area. I look forward to coming back!