I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it or not but over in the day job there’s been a bit of redundancy malarkey going on. As such, eating out’s been rationed, although I did have an overpriced scone at Salt’s Mill last week.
It’s times like these – to misquote the Foo Fighters – you learn to ignore your own guff about accepting free stuff; a man’s got to eat, eh? And so, on the back of that curry thing I did for The Skinny, Zouk got in touch and we celebrated the prospect of consuming something that wasn’t tinned beans.
With its smattering of restaurants and takeaways-with-tables, Leeds Road could, if it was arsed, fashion itself as a kind-of curry mile, with Zouk up near the top just past the massive-naan’d behemoth that is Akbar’s. It’s about 4 quid in a taxi from town.
Chicken livers, with their offally hum and distinctive (pissy) fragrance, lent themselves well to some robust spicing and a spell on the hot griddle. Slithers of pepper weren’t just stuck on for garnish but added a touch of sweetness and crunch.
Skewered chunks of lactic paneer (too big?) were equally accommodating to their aromatic coating and a lick of smoke. I initially pondered that for a restaurant positioning itself as the new-school it’d be nice to have seen something a touch more modern with the accompanying salad, but soon reminded myself that nobody goes for a curry to get amongst leafy greens. Also, each starter would’ve been just shy of 4 quid; it’d be churlish to grumble.
Like most Bradfordians I consider myself a pro when it comes to the spicy stuff, but I’ve got nowt on this guy. He reckons there’s such a thing as a Bradford curry: meat cut small, sauce served thick; and, given the under-seasoned, watery abominations I’ve had away from our fair city I’m inclined to agree. This chicken karahi (£8) would fit his brief, and although lacking a bit of punch it was a tasty, subtly-spiced dish.
We’re spoilt around here for the good stuff, and although my favourite remains the International back in town – I think it’s their liberal use of salt that does it, as well as the gregarious gaffer – most of The Institutions are simple no-frills gaffs in which you don’t hang about. And that’s half of their charm. But Zouk feels a bit more like a destination – behold, napkins! – which is one of the reasons I’ll return on my own coin.
Another reason is the belting bread. We ordered a couple of chappatis (stretchy, pliable) and a roti (charred, blistered), with one guy in the semi-open kitchen making them all to order: 10 seconds on the domed tava, 5 seconds on the flame beneath. Given the queues gathering as we left it looked like he was in for a busy shift, which was when I noticed he was on chips-duty as well, making him pretty much my dream man.