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Restaurant review: Zaika, Ipswich

PUBLISHED: 10:15 04 July 2019 | UPDATED: 10:15 04 July 2019

The Zaika special dahl and pilau rice

The Zaika special dahl and pilau rice

Archant

Our reviewer gives her verdict on one of the county's most beloved curry houses

A starter of vegetable pakoraA starter of vegetable pakora

Every time that I walk past Zaika on St Nicholas Street, I tell myself: "I really must try that place out soon." The family-run Indian restaurant has earned itself quite the reputation around these parts, with returning customers ranking it among East Anglia's best curry houses. So, when the opportunity to review the restaurant arose, I was more than happy to accept, and enlisted the help of my curry-loving father for a night at this popular eatery.

When we arrived, every single table in this compact little restaurant was full - not bad at all for a Thursday evening. After a short wait and a browse of the menu, we were shown to our table by the attentive and welcoming staff. As we perused the extensive menu, I found myself getting distracted by the enticing array of dishes arriving at our neighbouring tables - fluffy puri piled high with fragrant toppings and rich, decadent looking curries - everything looked so appealing that it took some considerable deliberation to arrive at a decision on what to order.

The chicken tikka naga and saag alooThe chicken tikka naga and saag aloo

Of course, we had to kick things off with some poppadoms and chutneys, without which no trip to a curry house is complete. These were as good as they come, warm, crisp, moreish and far from oily, and the accompanying chutneys were also nicely presented and very enjoyable.

For my starter, I chose the vegetable pakora, while my dad opted for a prawn puri. I was presented with four well-sized crispy fritters, along with a small salad garnish, and I tucked in hungrily. The vegetable filling was tasty and well seasoned, with plenty of herbs running throughout, and a squeeze of lemon over the batter really made it sing. As for the prawn puri on the other side of the table, this also got an enthusiastic thumbs-up, with my dad praising the light, fluffy puri and its delicious prawn, tomato and onion topping. So far, so very, very good.

The Zaika special dahlThe Zaika special dahl

Next up, the mains. I was tempted by a number of dishes on the menu, but I ultimately decided to plump for one of the Zaika house specials - the Zaika special dahl, along with a portion of pilau rice. Meanwhile, my dad eschewed his usual order in favour of the chicken tikka naga, with a saag aloo on the side and a plain naan to mop it all up.

My lentil dahl was just as it should be - warm, well-seasoned and comforting, with just the right amount of heat to it. The sauce was thick and flavoursome, and the lentils still had a bit of bite to them, which is how I like them. The pilau rice did a good job of soaking up that tasty sauce, but perhaps could have been a little fluffier, if I'm going to split hairs. Across from me, the chicken tikka naga was getting a rave review - chunks of tender chicken were coated in a sauce with plenty of spice, which packed a punch without being overpowering. Perhaps not for the faint-hearted, but if you like hot food, then this dish could be a winner. The naan, too, was lovely and fluffy, and the saag agloo full of flavour.

As our waiters cleared away our plates and asked if we'd like to see the dessert menu, we weren't sure if we could manage another course after our mountainous mains. But, not wanting to have my reviewer card revoked, I bravely accepted the challenge and ordered a pistachio kulfi to finish off the meal. Miraculously, my appetite reappeared when the sweet dairy treat arrived, and I soon found myself scraping the bowl clean after polishing off the lot. Lovely!

Drinks

You'll find Indian lagers such as Cobra and Kingfisher on the drinks menu, along with a selection of wines, spirits and liqueurs.

Service

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The staff were incredibly welcoming, friendly and attentive throughout the meal, and nothing was too much trouble. The food came out fairly quickly too, which is impressive given how busy the restaurant was the night that we visited.

Ambiance

The place had a real buzz about it, and it was great to see it packed out on a weeknight. Inside, the decor is quite traditional, and has a cosy and homely feel.

Toilets

Exceptionally clean, modern and even had some luxury hand soaps and lotions to use, which impressed me. However, they were located up a flight of stairs, so not wheelchair-friendly, I'm afraid.

Parking and location

You can find Zaika on St Nicholas Street, in Ipswich town centre. There is a public car park (Cromwell Square Car Park) just across the road, so parking shouldn't be a problem.

Price

Our food bill came to £40.20 for two starters, two main courses, some poppadoms, three side dishes and a dessert, which I think is rather reasonable, especially given the quality of the food we were served.

Highlight

My dahl was a delight - I can certainly see why it ranks among their house specials.

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