A buzzing modern restaurant serving traditional Punjabi cuisine from Gujranwala with quiet confidence and utter pride in its fare.
On Whitechapel High Street, this restaurant would hardly seem a novel concept but Zazas stands out, carving its unique place thanks to authentic regional food and a charming manner. Widely known as the ‘City of Wrestlers’, and having borne some impressive bodybuilders over the years, Gujranwala favours a somewhat healthier style of food than its counterparts. And with a dining room up and downstairs full of engrossed diners, it seems east London agrees.
Zaza's Grill is run by three passionate foodie brothers which, refreshingly, really does show. Some thought has been put into the décor with exposed brickwork, aubergine boothed seating around the outside and a glass-fronted kitchen which always pleases if you’re interested in watching the chefs at work. Service is attentive and for quite a large restaurant there is a very comforting social bustle about it.
The grilled lamb chops (£6) come highly recommended and are beautifully marinated and sizzling on a hot plate. They could be a touch more blush but chewy and dry they are not. Accompanied by an equally moist and seared tandoori chicken on the bone (£4) loaded with fried onions, these great starters really showcase the grilled food for which Gujranwala is famous.
A Karahi chicken jalfrezi (£7) is relatively - and surprisingly - milder than its contemporaries but remains a well-rounded dish, while the Karahi king prawn (£13) is spicier and richer, with plump prawns bathed in a smokey, umami tomato and ginger based sauce. The white korma (£6.50), featuring on the daily specials, is a must-try despite its characterless reputation; it's far from the insipid creamy non-entity we are so accustomed to, instead boasting complex flavours and fragrance (thanks to cinnamon and coconut), and enriched with yoghurt which proves a much lighter alternative. It's the outstanding dish of the night. It has to be said that all three dishes are inundated with gorgeous but lethal fried garlic shards so for those on a date or not in a 10-year relationship, push them aside. Mushroom rice (£3.50) and garlic (as if you need more) naan (£2) are competently executed and perfect soaker-uppers. It’s just a shame the saag paneer is overcooked so the spinach resembles algae.
Only soft drinks, fruit juices and lassi (a traditional yoghurt-based drink which originates in the Punjab regions of India and Pakistan) are on offer (£1.50-£3) but feel free to bring your own alcohol if a meal without wine is like a day without sunshine for you.
The Last Word
All in all, a wonderfully warm and friendly place to eat some fine food and at incredibly reasonable prices.