Open Mon–Fri midday–3pm and 5.30pm–11pm; Sat 12.30pm–1pm; Sun 12.30pm–10.30pm
Ranjit Mathrani, his wife Namita Panjabi and sister-in-law Camellia Panjabi are responsible for much-acclaimed authentic Indian restaurants Chutney Mary, Veeraswarmy and Masala Zone, the more casual of the three restaurants. We were visiting their latest branch of Masala Zone in Bayswater. The seventh branch will be opening in Fulham at the end of the year, so it’s clearly proving a recipe for success.
The Bishops Bridge Road restaurant features a big, bright room with large windows facing the vibrant shops across the road. Each Masala Zone branch is individually decorated with Indian popular art; the walls in W2’s branch are covered in posters from fire cracker boxes which are bought to celebrate the Hindu festival of Diwali. Large, red lampshades adorn the lights, adding to the festive look and basey Indian pop music provides the background music. Bare wooden tables are arranged in simple lines. If you’re sitting in the right spot you can see the chefs at work in the open kitchen.
Our charming and knowledgeable waiter helped us to navigate the long menu, which offers a selection of street food; daily changing thali (the name of the stainless steel platter which holds small dishes that provide everything for a balanced diet: lentils, yogurt, roots, green vegetables, rice, bread); curry and rice plates; and Indian grills. We sampled a street food platter (£6.80); bhel (tangy crunchy salad with puffed rice, vegetables peanuts, and chutneys); sev puri (whole wheat biscuits filled with spiced mash and three fresh chutneys); and dahi puri (puffed hollow biscuits filled with chick peas mash and splashed with yoghurt and chutneys). We were advised to eat the canapé-style puris in one mouthful to get the most out the complementary flavours. Indeed, we did get a hit of crunchy bite, creaminess, sweetness and spiciness, although my friend, Anna, found the dahi puri too sweet for her liking. We greedily moved onto the thalis (£8.25–£10.75). Anna had chosen the hot coconut-flavoured prawn malai curry. I had chosen the light and tangy undhiyu – the celebratory Gujarati vegetarian dish – which features shredded coconut and banana. When the manager came over to ask our favourite dishes, we were hard-pressed to choose, but I particularly liked the white pumpkin, sweetcorn and onion vegetable dish. For dessert we had a rich, creamy pistachio kulfi, which arrived in stacked wedges.
By now, Anna was so enthused by her authentic dishes she adventurously asked for a Masala coke (she’d already had a refreshing apple and mint while I’d opted for a cooling, thick yoghurt lassi). She’d thought she was getting a coke with mint, but clearly hadn’t read the menu properly and we both chuckled when a mint-leaf-and-curry-powder muddled flat coke arrived. I won’t repeat Anna’s visual description of it. We will definitely be repeating our visit though.
Meal for two, with soft drinks, around £40.