Bringing the exoticism of India to Soho, Zenna attempts to add some spice - quite literally - to the cocktail bar scene.
Situated on Dean Street, minutes away from countless other cocktail establishments in the area, new venue Zenna has a lot to compete with. Formerly known as Akbar, Zenna is a totally new venture that’s trying to inject a different angle into the often predictable cocktail scene.
Underneath a chic Indian restaurant (The Red Fort), the basement bar has elements of Asian influence combined with a contemporary London look. Black and white pictures, delicate candles and floating flowers set an intimate mood. Azure blue walls, gleaming tiles and the sleek bar covered in silver discs add a modern twist to the otherwise basic bar, with a few carefully placed alcoves for seating.
The quiet yet exclusive looking doorway seems to beckon the more sophisticated crowd that frequent Soho’s hectic streets. For a quiet drink, head here at the beginning of the evening, for as the hours go by the seats become fewer. As its new there doesn’t seem to be a particular set yet, just typical Soho folk wanting to enjoy a cocktail in a lively atmosphere.
This is where the Indian influence is the most evident. Flavours such as chilli, cardamom, saffron and coriander permeate their way into the extensive menu which is full of alternative versions of popular cocktails, and some completely new creations. Prices vary from £6-£15.
The House Nectar is a fruity, sweet cocktail that has a moreish creaminess that will please most tastebuds, and the mystery ingredients make it all the more intriguing. For something stronger, the Gentleman’s Tipple is a heady mix of Montal XO cognac, ginger liqueur and orange bitters.
The refreshing variations of classics such as the coriander and lychee daiquiri or the pineapple and sage mojito smell divine and taste fresh with well-balanced sweet and sour flavours. However the star of the menu has to be the Iliana cocktail, dubbed as the world's spiciest cocktail. It may seem like a gimmick, but once you’ve signed the contract (essentially a disclaimer), and watched the extravagant scientific show that is the preparation, you begin to take it seriously. And it is spicy, really spicy, and without the gin cooler it’s served with, most will find it too difficult to finish.
For those with more conservative tastes, the delicious mango lassi with saffron gin is worth a try. During the day, Zenna Is going to trade as a lassi bar, encouraging people to understand the possibilities for the classic yogurt based drink.
The bar food in Zenna is, as expected, Indian. However it's nothing like the greasy, heavy snacks you might expect, but instead lots of delicious, well cooked meat kebabs, vegetables and fish dishes. The platter is a good sharing option, and all of the spices are intense and powerful, but they complement the cocktails well, particularly the chocolate orange martini which itself contains the kick of fresh chilli.
The Last Word
If you like proper Indian cuisine, as well as exciting new cocktails, then Zenna effectively fuses the best of both to create a range of delectable cocktails in the heart of Soho.