Restaurant review: Zumbura

Stylish Indian tapas with mass appeal

Posted: 13.08.14

There are a lot of things that set Zumbura apart from other contemporary Indian restaurants – the first is the moment you lay eyes on it; it doesn’t look anything like a curry house. An intimate café style eaterie, Zumbura is tucked away in Clapham Old Town, a trendy village style street that feels a million miles away from the congestion of Clapham Junction. Nothing about the appearance of the space speaks ‘curry’; there’s not a hint of Eastern inspiration  other than a rather fabulous ceiling covered in paintings of exotic birds, some of which could pass as crossbred peacocks. Crossbreeding being the operative word as that is what this restaurant represents; Asian cuisine, delivered in a European way – the bar stalls being the giveaway that Zumbura is in fact an Indian tapas bar.

Meals are made for sharing with small and main plates served with side dishes, delicious breads and rice which all starts with a delivery of healthy appetisers. There isn’t a poppadum in sight; instead the feast begins with a platter of salad served with fruity tamarind and fresh mint dips; the perfect palette cleanser to help you pick out a cocktail to have with your meal. Cocktail connoisseurs will no doubt find plenty to please them; there’s Cuumari Chill containing chilli and coriander, Bloody Spicy which includes a dash of Chef Raju’s spicy sauce and Fruity Wallah, flavoured with chaat masala; but my dining partner and I settle for the mocktails, one of which is worth the trip across London alone: the Zumbura Iced Tea contains pomelo, mint, lime, early grey and jasmine teas, cardamom, cloves and cinnamon bark and tastes absolutely divine. It’s a reminder that sadly so many cocktail bars haven’t a clue about making alcohol free drinks, but here, they’ve clearly mastered the magic that’s required.

On to the food. Cuisine at Zumbura takes inspiration from the culinary traditions of the Purub district of North West India and to make them sound that extra bit appealing, the menu explains that these are all recipes that have been handed down for generations – so while it may look and feel terribly modern, what you’re eating is in fact as traditional as it gets. For dinner the menu splits into small plates, braised and stews, grill, roast and tawaa hotplate, fish and vegetables but thankfully options are modest enough to allow you to have choice without being overwhelmed.

My bestie who I’ve brought along for a long overdue girlie catch up opts for spicy mince pasties and chapli kebabs while I stick with the veggie side of the menu which offers some rather unexpected picks. There are not one, but two gourd dishes, one of which is karela - bitter gourd, the spikey green vegetable that as a child I physically ran away from because it was so vile yet here it is being served in a swanky restaurant in South London. Too weird for me, so instead I sample the dhal, namuna and okra, all which come served inside neat wooden bowls served with wooden spoons.

Every dish is delicious and nothing is swimming in fat. There’s a definite ‘homecooked’ touch to the food which is flavoursome, not to hot and not to bland. The spread evokes the warm and fuzzy feeling associated with comfort food – especially the breads. Thick greasy naans have been swapped with delicate, melt in the mouth chapattis and parathas, which I could happily munch on all evening.

Despite being less than a year old Zumbura has established itself as a contender for one of the best modern Indian restaurants in the capital. The intimate size makes it easy to relax and engage in conversation without interruptions so it’s a good option for somewhere to dine with friends, but what makes it most appealing is that it presents curry in a way that will appeal to Asians and non-Asians alike; a skill that is incredibly hard to master.

Momtaz Begum-Hossain

Zumbura Restaurant

36a Old Town, Clapham, London, SW4 OLB

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