6 October 2019: Zumbura - Old Town, new take
After a depressing Sunday afternoon viewing of The Joker, we needed our spirits lifting and our appetites satiating. Having visited Spice Village two days before curry wasn't top of my list again, but equally it wasn't too hard for my arm to be twisted. Given it was nearby in Clapham Old Town and four years since my last visit, Zumbura seemed a good choice. After a couple of pints at The Rose & Crown it was time to tuck in.
Clapham Old Town has always been a slightly trendier spot than the nearby High Street and Zumbura, with its spot next to the Prince of Wales pub, is certainly more cultured than the average local bar.
Overlooking the recently redeveloped Pavement, Zumbura benefits from outdoor seating on sunnier days, whilst inside it has a cosey cocktail bar vibe for cooler times. Red brick and turqouise walls provide the backdrop to the centrepiece bar that flanks the right hand side and warming lighting adds to the comforting surround. Further tasteful touches include shelves lined with big spice jars, bold brass framed lamps above the bar and a real flight of fancy, avian-patterned ceiling. The result is unassuming yet chic; 8 out of 10.
Sides and starters
Mix Grill For 1
Keen not to overdo it after an already indulgent weekend, we opted for only a handful of dishes and breads to share. First up, was a basket of quartered poppadoms now ubiquitous as trendier small plate Indian restaurants. Accompanying this was the equally ever-present mango chutney that, whilst embellished with black nigella seeds, was a little too sweet. Far subtler and better for it, was the chilli side that was infused with smokey barbecue notes.
Following the poppadoms was a rather miserly mix grill for one consisting of a chicken tikka piece, chapli kebab and butterflied king prawn. The chapli kebab was full of fragrant coriander and cinnamon, but a touch over done and the tikka was a little cold. However, the prawn was out of this world with melt in your mouth tenderness that made up for the disappointment elsewhere and a sour, pickled cabbage side added a nice edge.The breads, on the other hand weren't especially notable, but generated no complaint.
Malabari Fish Curry
For mains it was two dishes initially but the small portions led us to reluctantly add a chicken biryani to the order. This was very sweet with fragrant notes of coriander, nutmeg and cinnamon coming through, but the overall moisture wasn't quite up there with the best.
The khatte baigan was a well-cooked mix of aubergine and tomato with a tangy, ginger edge that spoke further of the quality on offer here. However, it was the Malabari curry that was the pick of the bunch. Bringing back memories of Rayyan's fishy offering, this was a lovely blend of mustard and cumin that was both light and full of flavour. The fish was perfectly cooked, piping hot and a delightful sourness capped an altogether excellent curry.
It was fairly quiet as you can imagine on a Sunday evening and service was quick as a result. The waitress wasn't especially friendly, but efficient and attentive. Without much more to say it's a 7/10.
Value For Money
This is the only area in which Zumbura's offer is a little disappointing. Whilst the food is well presented, perfectly cooked and fresh the portions are just a bit small. Things become expensive as a result of having to order a large number of dishes to feel satisfied. I suppose this is classic small plate restaurant scenario, but it's the truth nevertheless. So it's a slightly lower score for Value.
In summary it's a respectable total for a restaurant that might have gone under the radar for many Clapham dwellers. The food is good quality and the atmosphere relaxed and comfortable.The seafood in particular stands out, but expect to spend a fair bit to fill up.
Address: 36A Old Town, London SW4 0LB
Cuisine: North Indian
Alcohol Policy: Licensed
Summary: Former, chic, contemporary eating space serving fresh, home cooked style, Indian small plates