When a restaurant or takeaway changes hands, your next visit can seem like a gamble.
This was the case when I travelled back to my home city, Portsmouth, and ordered a Chinese from a takeaway around the corner from my parents’ house.
We used to go regularly, but had not visited for years – so I thought I would give it a try. Unfortunately, it was under new ownership, and the food was not at all how I remembered it being. Let’s just say the whole experience was less sweet, more sour.
I am happy to report that this was not the case when I recently paid a visit to Zaman in Warwick Street one Friday evening. The restaurant had closed and was reopened in recent months under new management – so I was interested to see what it had to offer.
I went with an old friend, and the pair of us were ushered in by friendly staff who showed us to our table.
To my mind, eating out is first and foremost a social occasion, so you want to be sat somewhere comfortable and appealing to the eye while you wile away the hours chatting and grazing.
The scallops melted like butter – and they withstood a nuking in the microwave when I ate the leftovers at work the next day
As I plonked my bum on the leather seating of an upholstered booth, surrounded by frosted glass, and cast my eye around the fresh décor and well-stocked bar, the scene was set for an enjoyable evening.
Menus swiftly followed, which for me are usually unnecessary when ordering a curry. It doesn’t take Sally Morgan to predict what the average Indian serves – balti, korma, rogan josh, Madras, or the same dishes dressed up in different names.
But a cursory glance at the starter section proved me wrong. Of course, the tried-and-testeds were there, but so too were more adventurous dishes, such as the ostrich tikka. How could I resist?
My friend and I were mid-discussion about her eventful work experience when the starters arrived. I was handed slivers of meat, marinated in tikka spicing which tinged the morsels an appealing auburn shade.
I dug into the tender meat – a cross between beef steak and duck breast – and was immediately won over.
The main courses continued to impress. My dinner companion, a recent convert to vegetarianism, ordered a Bengali fish curry (if that counts as veggie) and I followed suit, picking a name from the menu that I hadn’t read before – the achari.
Butterflied tiger prawns and scallops slicked in ginger and garlic was what I got, and it was one of the nicest curries I have had in recent memory.
The scallops melted like butter – and they withstood a nuking in the microwave when I ate the leftovers at work the next day.
We left feeling satisfied – despite being tempted by the sight of chicken tikka, sizzling on a hotplate, that was then flambéed in sambuca on the table opposite us.
Yes, it does sound like the fallout from a drunken Friday night.
But it was in fact an impressive display by one of the waiters – and even more evidence that new owners really can breathe new life into your local eatery.
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