Zayane (Moroccan) – Notting Hill
Zayane in Notting Hill, London, has done remarkably well since opening last year, having recently been awarded a L’Assiette Michelin, or the Michelin Plate – Michelin’s newly unveiled designation which indicates “restaurants where the inspectors have discovered quality food”.
The Michelin Guide 2018 states:
An intimate neighbourhood restaurant owned by Casablanca-born Meryem Mortell and evoking the sights and scents of North Africa. Carefully conceived dishes have authentic Moroccan flavours but are cooked with modern techniques. – MICHELIN guide inspectors
Specialising in modern Moroccan cuisine using seasonal British ingredients, the 42-seater restaurant’s interior decor is certainly reflective of the region it represents, with a beautifully carved, dark wooden fretwork panel and a traditionally decorated ornate back wall with elaborate floral patterns that partitions the main dining room from the semi-private area at the back.
Head chef and owner, Joe Mortell, has been quoted as saying that he’s aiming to “make Zayane the first Moroccan restaurant with a Michelin Star in the UK”.
It was difficult to pick up the four individual ingredients in this relatively thick Power Gulp. Despite a level of sweetness running through the background, this healthy beverage was somewhat savoury in taste, and not bad at all.
While being able to pick up what appeared to us to be the subtle fragrance of lavender, the Antioxidant Supreme’s berry concoction was tangy, with a hint of sour to it, and was more satisfying than the above.
The Mojito likewise had the surprising addition of lavendar whose distinct sweetness married well against the lemony-cum-minty flavour of the ice cold drink. Not a bad attempt at all.
TAPAS TO SHARE
While this plate of Smoked Aubergine paste had a good bite to it and succeeded in delivering on the smokiness, it needed to be better seasoned.
This wet Olive Tapenade was finely chopped into an oily paste whose mild pungency was countered by the touch of sweetness therein.
It was deliciously good, and thus the most appealing of the three.
And a delightfully smooth and creamy hummus, with a good amount of garlic, rounded off the trio of tapas.
Homemade Moroccan Bread that was crusty and satisfying.
An intriguinng assortment of Briwats (the Moroccan equivalence of a samosa) thoughtfully paired with four well made sauces.
The King Prawn Briwat was good, with the tender prawns still retaining a bite, and the spicy-herby filling going well with the perfectly balanced sweet and sour sauce.
The strength of the odoriferous Camembert cheese filling was one of those things that might, as it did with us, split the crowd.
Although two of the three Lions appreciated the way in which the strength of the warm, cheesy and gloopy filling was properly tempered by the sharp sweetness of the red onion chutney (though you’ll need a generous amount to prove effective), the remaining Lion claimed the sheer acridity of the cheese “spoilt my pallette” while the “sauce didn’t do much except clash”.
The duck in this generously filled crispy parcel was soft, chewy and succulent, with its strongly distinct savoury taste standing up admirably against the tart sweetness of the accompanying plum sauce.
As a well known combination, this was very well balanced and arguably the best of the quartet of Briwats.
The confit octopus tentacles were spindly and quite unmemorable against the tender firmness of the delightfully spiced succulent sausages, which were beautifully countered by the tart and tangy tomato compote.
If you’re looking for perfectly cooked scallops, then here they are – as close to melt-in-your-mouth scallops as you’re ever going to get.
Our only query with this dish, and a significant one at that, is how such incredible mollusks can possibly stand up against such an utterly strong, and we do mean storng, tomato base, which was hot, with the cumin making its presence felt. In our collective opinion, far too strong for the scallops.
This is, hands down, the best tagine we’ve had in London!
An incredible melody of textures and depths of flavour is what made this dish by far and away Zayane’s best of the evening.
When you have an expertly cooked lamb shank glistening in a honey and balsamic glaze, meat so tender and soft that it falls off the bone at the merest glance, and a rich and viscous onion puree that’s positively infused with utterly soft, juicy and caramlised prunes, do not under any circumstances rush this.
This is one of those that demands respect.
This is one of those that needs to be eaten with care and consideration.
Compose each forkful in such a way as to ensure equal quantities of each constituent part so as to appreciate its sheer brilliance and truly savour every given mouthful.
Outstandingly good and a must try dish!
We understand that anything which follows the above will surely struggle to live up to expectations.
This poached Atlantic cod fillet tagine was, truth be told, as well cooked as the above. The cod was soft, flakey and as tender as you like; the squid had just that right level of chewiness; the prawns tender and soft.
Nonetheless, the broth lacked depth, with the distinct juices of the cod coming through more than anything else. And while it was good for soaking up with the accompanying bread, we felt it perhaps lacked seasoning. A shame since this certainly has potential.
This Chef’s Special of the Week, on the other hand, should be a permanent feature on the menu.
This was so well balanced, perfectly seasoned and subtly spiced, that each simple ingredient was allowed to shine on its own merit while coming together to create a deliciously flavourful and satisfying addictive broth.
The potatos were soft and the carrots lending that touch of sweetness; but, the undoubted star of the show were the fresh peas. Additionally, the sharp zesty burst of flavour delivered by the occasional strips of lemon therein worked so well against the bitter edge lent by the olives.
Be sure, however, to leave some bread at the end to scoop up, savour, sip and slurp that broth.
A decent dessert defined by an authentically fruity, though fairly runny, blackcurrent sauce whose tangy-tart richness was well tempered by the coconut crumble. The custard, however, was thick and gloopy and needed to be a touch runnier.
As for the vanilla ice cream, then while we understand the idea of hot and cold working well in some desserts, in this particular case it seemed out of place.
While the addition of dates assured that this had far greater depth and richness than its British counterpart, the date sponge still managed to retain a lightness that made it delicately fluffy in texture.
While the toffee drizzle was thick and sticky, and the smooth and silky caramel ice cream really well made, the overall dessert just managed to remain on the right side of sweet.
An extremely good take on the time-honoured sticky toffee pudding.
A gorgeous semifreddo this! If you’ve never had a semifreddo before, then in terms of consistency it’s a cross between the creaminess of ice cream, the smoothness of a well made fudge, and the thickness of a soft Indian barfi.
As for its taste, then the semifreddo itself was subtly sweet, with a chocolate topping that gave it that touch of sweetness. It had a semi-soft chocolate centre and toasted hazelnuts that provided a nutty textural contrast.
An intriguing and very good dessert.
And what an absolutely delightful end to a quality review. This Moroccan mint tea needs to be had sweet. It’s strong, minty, fragrant and extremely soothing.
But, the valiant attempt at aerating the tea by pouring it from a height using such a short-nozzled teapot was always going to fail (kudos to the poor waiter, however, for not flinching at the inevitable boiling hot splashback!).
- YES/ NO
- CHILD SEATING
- DISABLED ACCESS
- UBER EATS
You'll be hard-pressed to find a better Moroccan restaurant in London that succeeds in faithfully presenting the authentic flavours of the region while at the same time unostentatiously modernising the cuisine where necessary.
And our compliments to Chef Joe Mortell and proud mother Meryem for producing a dish as sensational as the lamb shank - a tagine which, we'd wager, might just be the best tagine in London!
Zayane adds a discretionary service charge of 12.5%. It also offers a catering service that includes a whole lamb which, if the lamb shank is anything to go by, might definitely be worth enquiring into!
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