Set on the ground floor of The Sportsman, a members-only casino by Marble Arch, Zaman offers an East-meets-West fusion in an unusually laid back setting.
Whilst dining amongst an array of fruit machines might not be most people’s choice of Friday night fun, you’d be missing out if you let that put you off. Despite the fruities – and a television showing the live betting action from upstairs – Zaman is actually pretty sleek and stylish, with something approaching a fine-dining aesthetic given a touch of character from table-top bonsai trees, good looking lighting and judicious spacing.
Zaman is obviously a pretty good starting point for many of the gamers, and given the fact that this place isn’t hugely well known they’re the sorts making up the numbers. The accessible, well-priced food should soon get the word out though, so there’s still a chance that this place could be a destination restaurant in its own right. There’s no getting away from the fact that extending the gambling downstairs via the television and fruit machines brings little to the venue’s ambience, but staff help to give things a certain sophistication: they know what they’re doing and do it professionally - those rotating wheels and flashing promises of instant riches soon cease to be a distraction.
Award winning chef Mahmud Zaman has brought his experimental style to the fore by presenting a menu that could easily be confusing. However, the varied international cuisines on offer – and their impressive execution – ensure the choice is enjoyably difficult.
The reasonably priced menu (especially for the area) boasts a journey through many of the world’s most prominent cuisines. The appetisers wind through tom yum soup to smoked salmon salad via mozarella ravioli (very good, and surprisingly authentic), an authentic selection of Lebanese meze (a beautifully presented medley of hummus, falafel, tabouleh and moutabel) and plenty more besides. One word of warning, though - you'll need to pace yourself due to the generous portions.
The mains are no less varied. Strongly consider this as a group destination because everyone should find a dish to suit, and a pretty wide selection of fish, steaks and chicken will satisfy those of a less adventurous bent. Sprinkle in Italian, Singaporean and more of those impressive Lebanese dishes and there's plenty for the party to get on with.
The mixed grill of spicy lamb kebabs, marinated chicken and prime cuts of lamb is a hearty choice, with plenty of spicy Middle Eastern zing to get your teeth into. The lamb kofte is especially good, and though some foodie snobs might disagree, the beauty of the menu is you can go off piste - chuck in the delicious Singapore noodles and you'll realise that the mix and match menu is quite simply a barrel load of fun, and not as out of step as perhaps you might have thought.
Any space that remains should be filled by choices from a well-conceived dessert menu. It could be accused of being bland in comparison to the variety on offer throughout the rest of the menu but the quality doesn't slip. Sometimes a sticky toffee pudding with custard or a chocolate pudding with banana ice cream is all you need to admit that, sometimes, simple is best. And so it proves.
If you do choose to wash it all down with a bottle of wine you won't find the widest of selections, but there’s enough flexibility to complement whatever your do settle on for your mains.
The Last Word
Whatever happens don't let the amusement arcade setting put you off. There’s value, a selection for everyone, generous portions and friendly service. And even if you venture upstairs and the house wins, it shouldn't take the shine off a veritable feast of fun.