Specialising in everyday north Indian cuisine, Zumbura is a funky and fun little restaurant serving fresh, healthy food at affordable prices.
A brief stroll from Clapham Common underground station leads you into desirable and affluent Clapham Old Town – a quiet and sophisticated square, flanked with stylish boutiques, quirky pubs, posh houses and numerous coffee shops. Indian restaurant, Zumbura, is Old Town’s latest addition and vies to get noticed with pumping music and funky outdoor seating. It’s a small establishment but harmoniously designed with nicely spaced wooden tables, exposed-brick bar and wide glass doors. Interiors are fabulous, from the colourful menagerie-patterned ceiling to the bold brass lanterns that hang over the bar and you’ll feel as if you’ve just stepped into a friend’s trendy kitchen.
Zumbura’s small size and trendy interior makes this place feel cosy, lively and modern all at the same time. The chatter of a few neighbouring tables combined with eastern-inspired music creates a sensational atmosphere where you can laugh your heart out with friends, snuggle up with a loved one or even feel comfy dining alone. Grey linen napkins and distinctive tableware, including locally-made clay pots and bowls, give the table setting character and weighty etched glasses continue the eastern vibe. Staff are a bit rusty, (it’s all still a bit new), but are keen to serve and talk you through the menu; they take orders by tapping into their smart phones, doing away with old-school pen and paper.
The menu at Zumbura is tapas-style, consisting of a series of small plates designed to be shared between two or three people. Recipes are said to have been passed down through generations and typify home-cooked food in the north of India, though regions aren’t specified. The menu is short, and deliberately so, with every dish made fresh daily and cooked in limited supply – indeed by the end of an evening, staff fully expect half the menu to be unavailable.
If you fancy a nibble to get started, there’s nothing better than chaat (£2), crispbread pillows folded into creamy yoghurt and drizzled with sour tamarind sauce. A few mouthfuls transport you to India and the authentic flavours make your taste buds sing. Onion pakora fritters (£3), threaded with spinach and coriander and fried to order in light chickpea flour, are also delicious and great to share over a glass of citrusy vino.
For mains, tuck into small yet hearty bowls of lamb stew (£7.50) or chicken curry (£6.50), slow-cooked on the bone for maximum flavour; there’s a tasty pollock fish curry too (£8.50), spiced with aromatic fenugreek and warming mustard seeds. A traditional selection of flat breads (£4.50) makes a satisfying accompaniment: begin with healthy wholemeal chapatti before progressing onto fluffy poori and then finally a rich and buttery paratha, all freshly baked on the premises and hot from the oven.
Homely minced mutton and peas (£6) looks sadly unappetising and incredibly, the robust, meaty flavours of the mature lamb are overpowered by generic masala spice. Mini beef patties flecked with caraway seeds (£7.50) look delightful garnished with vibrant-pink pickled onion, but a simple dip or Indian chutney is needed to complete the dish. Chicken thighs marinated overnight in yoghurt (£7), though, are a tasty triumph; juicy strips of chicken come easily away from the bone, while the smoky char-grilled skin and mixed herb crust offer a pleasing bitter note. There’s also an exciting range of vegetarian plates as well as meat and sustainable fish, including braised okra (£4.50), commonly known as ‘ladies fingers’, or an adventurous dish of bitter gourd with lentils (£5).
Round off your meal with a pudding or assortment of Indian-inspired ice creams flavoured with pistachio, cardamom and vanilla (£3). Surprisingly, rice pudding (£3) is served chilled yet still tastes utterly delicious, infused with the wonderful aroma and spicy, sweet flavour of the delectable cardamom pod. Creamed carrot pudding (£3.50) is also unexpected; here julienne carrots are stirred into a sweetly spiced cream to make a refreshingly light dessert; a far cry from the stodgy fare you can find in other restaurants.
Just like Zumbura’s food menu, the wine list cuts to the chase with a simple selection of 12 brilliantly chosen red and white wines, along with a single rosé. Well-written descriptions perhaps offer more than they deliver but are certainly fun to read, from the ‘white peach, almond and buttery nuances’ of ‘Vetiver’, a Spanish Rioja Blanco (£27/ bottle) to the ‘cola and dark tobacco’ nose on the ‘Trinchero’ Pinot Noir (£34/ bottle). A generous glass of spicy Chilean Merlot (£5.5) is easy to drink and feisty enough to withstand the Indian food, while the citrusy ‘false bay wild yeast’ Chenin Blanc (£6) slices through the richer, oily dishes.
There’s also a decent selection of beers and quality ‘orchard pig’ cider to be had, if that’s more up your street.
Zumbura really goes to town with its signature and after-dinner cocktails, guaranteed to satisfy Clapham’s well-heeled residents. Treat yourself to a ‘fruity wallah’ (£7) shaken with Bacardi, mint, apple and lychee, or the boozy ‘totally expressive’ (£7); this combo of Stoli, Tia Maria and Frangelico, topped off with a shot of espresso is likely to have you, as the name suggests, expressing yourself without restraint! Designated drivers and non-drinkers are also looked after with a couple of tempting mocktails. Finish with a pot of steaming ‘soft brew’ (£3.90); this smouldering filter coffee, slowly brewed for a more rounded flavour, will have you chatting till dawn.
The Last Word
Zumbura offers an exciting and adventurous menu with a laid-back, welcoming feel. Food sometimes lacks the depth and range of flavours you’d expect, but this place is bound to become a local favourite or even successful chain.