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Zouk Restaurant Reviewed

Jonathan Schofield uses his brains and seeks out authentic food

Published on October 4th 2012.

Zouk Restaurant Reviewed

WE'VE been raging and a ranting about this through 2012. It's become an 'issue'.

We first noticed it with Chinese food at the Great Wall on Faulkner Street and then with an Asian take-away and cafe off King Street West - click here.

Being a pedantic sod I pointed out with the other dish - the Paya (£7.95) - that sheep don't have 'trotters' but 'hooves'. Given the food was so good I might be prepared to change my mind, who cares.

This is the two menu ritual. Different menus for different Britons. One is for those who share a cultural and ethnic background with the owner and another for those who don't. The second is a poor relation to the first. It's food that is much looser, sloppier, less finely spiced and less heated, it's counterfeit food.

What you have to do is insist, and you might have to insist hard, for 'apna' style. You'll spot the difference the moment the food arrives.

Given that dishes will often bear the same name and the restaurant will advertise itself as say, Pakistani or 'Indian', there's possibly a case for action from the Trades Description inspectors. What we're getting is not what we think we're ordering.

Zouk, on Chester Street, off Oxford Road, has always been an exception in that they state that all the dishes are 'apna' - although I'd still specify you want it cooked like this for extra emphasis and reassurance.

Zouk interiorZouk interior

What you'll immediately notice is the flavours are tighter in 'apna' style, more bound together, more refined and more shot through with colour and heat from the spices and herbs. You also get more unusual dishes, or rather, more variety than with the generic 'Asian' menu.

More choiceMore choice

Two of the absolute winners on the review visits appear at the bottom of the mains list - see the picture above.

The brains - Megaz-  for £6.95 was magical, sort of an Eastern haggis, but with the heat from the chillies and bucketloads of edge and character from the gound spices in the garam masala. The picture below shows it off. It was my favourite dish of September.

Brain powerBrain power

Being a pedantic sod I pointed out with its neighbour dish on the menu - the Paya (£7.95) - that sheep don't have 'trotters' but 'hooves'. Given the food was so good I might be prepared to change my mind, who cares about the name when it packs this amount of flavour.

The flesh fell off the bone, fat and all, into a broth that was full, lush and palate-liftingly zingy. You need naan bread to help add weight and then a spoon to clear the plate. Marvellous that one.

Sheep's 'trotters'Sheep's 'trotters'

Not that you have to go to extremes here.

The sea bass, the humble, ubiquitous, inescapable sea bass, the foot soldier of fish supplies, has received a wonderful boost at Zouk.

It's £10.95 and comes with a weird barbeque sauce affair (fortunately on the side) but also with wonderful colour and a surface alive with flavour. The secret to the yielding yet defined consistency of the flesh is apparently cooking it over a 'water-grill' - the pani sigri which steams and grills. 

Sea bassSea bass

The falafel starter (£3.50) and the Punjabi lollipops (my-oh-my aren't prawn and chicken lollipops just the very thing at the moment?) at £3.25 were good. The falafel were as hot and dry as the Arabian desert but worked well when softened and moistened with a smooth runny hummus. The lollipops had a subtle coating of pomegranite but came alive with the glorious yoghurt, mint, coriander and chilli dip. 

Chicken lollipopsChicken lollipops

All very satisfactory, all very lovely. Good service too. A bonus with Zouk is its location close to the universities which ensures one of the most polyglot crowds in the North. Fine people watching potential.

Another strength is, of course, that willingness to cook 'apna' for those with no familial connections to Pakistan and India.

It seems this may be catching on.

The take-away mentioned above does 'apna' as standard now after our article. 

Meanwhile with Malai, the restaurant opening in Rusholme with its rickshaw idea (click here) we asked the question and received this response. 

'The food will all be apna style food, and there will be no variation of food served whether the diner is Indian, Pakistani or English. All of the dishes served will be as intended and as per family recipes.'


Discrimination is not needed. This is 2012.

The 'apna' choice is the right choice. As we've said previously, who would ever advertise their restaurant as providing, 'inauthentic, just as mother never used to cook, totally 65% Indian food'? 

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter here @JonathSchofield


Zouk, Unit 5  Chester St, Chester Street, Manchester, Lancashire M1 5QS. 0161 233 1090 

Rating: 15.5/20 

Food: 8/10
Service: 3.5/5
Ambience: 4/5

PLEASE NOTE: Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20, we get carried away.

A landscape of naanA landscape of naan


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23 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Chris Bamford shared this on Facebook on October 4th 2012.
RevaulxOctober 4th 2012.

Zouk is brilliant. Like Akbar's, it's a spin-off from the original on Leeds Road in Bradford: http://www.zoukteabar.co.uk/bradford.php.

Bradford's curry houses generally do apna as standard. You can't really go wrong there.

TimbucOctober 4th 2012.

Absolutely agree. Zouk is brilliant. Stumbled in there looking for a quick place to eat one night and was thrilled to have found it.

Only yesterday I booked for a return this coming Sunday.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Chris BamfordOctober 4th 2012.

Mughli at 28-32 Wilmslow Road is one of the best ones in/around Manchester. Almost unassuming in character but amazing food and brilliant staff.

JimOctober 4th 2012.

It seems like you lot review Zouk alot. Obviously its a very good restaurant and I enjoy going but is there not any other good Indian Restaurant you could try out?

1 Response: Reply To This...
Chris BamfordOctober 4th 2012.

oops posted this in the wrong place a minute ago... but anyway: Mughli at 28-32 Wilmslow Road is one of the best ones in/around Manchester. Almost unassuming in character but amazing food and brilliant staff.

Paul CarterOctober 4th 2012.

Like Sanmini?

1 Response: Reply To This...
JimOctober 4th 2012.

I think they've done that one before.

AnonymousOctober 4th 2012.

Zouk is easily better than Akbars. There I said it.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
StephOctober 4th 2012.

Nothing controversial about that opinion. Zouk is better than Akbars in every way, in fact Mughli is better than Akbars.

AnonymousOctober 4th 2012.

Akbars is poo!

Chris BamfordOctober 4th 2012.

Had a great meal here. Table staff a tiny bit offhand but I put that down to culture. The food and atmosphere was electric though.

4 Responses: Reply To This...
MaggieOctober 4th 2012.

the staff (understandably) are not at their best during Ramadan but the rest of the time they are good, helpful and attentive

Chris BamfordOctober 8th 2012.

...we were there in May for what it's worth, either way 'a tiny bit offhand' is hardly a slagging off.

AnonymousOctober 9th 2012.

What Chris seems to be saying is that he thinks that indian or pakistani waiters are offhand because indian's and pakistani's are all offhand. Which is just a little bit of a racisit thing to say isnt it?

AnonymousDecember 21st 2014.

I agree with Chris. I went in with friends the other night. The food was ok but in my case the service was offhand. I got the impression some waiters were new and were being shown what to do but they didn't speak English which I would have thought was essential. Worse though was that they kept taking dishes away before we were finished and at the end one waiter tried to take the plate from my hands as I was still eating FFS! We'd paid a deposit and the bill didn't reflect that which happened to us last time. They were even more offhand then as there were three waiters counting cash in front of us which looked as though we were suspicious to them. Sort your manners out Zouk. This is Manchester.

AeronOctober 4th 2012.

Have eaten at Zouk a several times now and have never been disappointed. The food is sublime and the service excellent. I like the fact you can watch the chefs at work too. Never been brave enough to try the sheep's brain but will give it a go next time. One slight criticism is that the lunchtime menu is not openly advertised and, while the evening menu is reasonably priced, it's a bit hefty for a quick business lunch. Both menus should be on the table during the day.

Sukhdip BahiaOctober 4th 2012.

I went to Zouk a few months back on a Saturday night and I vowed never to return. The food was nothing special and overpriced for what it was. The tandoori meats and fish were dry and the spicing was either overpowering or not enough. The portions were very small. I am asian but there were no special menus for me! Very disappointing when compared to all the hype. There are much better restaurants in Manchester. Saturday was probably the worst time to go. The whole place seemed full of birthday or hen parties and the noise was deafening. Perhaps I went on a bad day but overall certain not one of the best Indian meals I have had in Manchester.

3 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousOctober 4th 2012.

Why should there be a special menu for you?? A customer is a customer!

AnonymousOctober 5th 2012.

Exactly why would you expect a special menu? Zouk is a great place! much better than Akbars too. Also most restuarants are busy/noisy in the City centre on a Saturday.

pollolocoOctober 8th 2012.

I believe he was just confirming that they don't operate a 2 menu policy here...wake up guys!

TaraOctober 5th 2012.

Zouk has a great food stall on at MFDF

AnonymousOctober 5th 2012.

What's pomegranate?

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