Masala Zone (London)

Location: London, England
Address: 48 Floral Street
Type of Meal: Dinner 

Having heard that Britain is one of the best places to experience Indian food outside of India, I couldn’t leave without eating some. Originally, my husband and I were planning on visiting Dishroom, based on a suggestion from a friend.  But, upon arriving we were advised it’d be over an hour wait, so we walked a block to Masala Zone instead. Being a chain restaurant, we went to the Covenant Garden location on a Thursday and also found a line (albeit much shorter and inside the restaurant).  It moved fairly quickly and the plethora of dolls and trinkets decorating the restaurant provided entertainment; we were seated within 15 minutes.

Marsala Zone is known for their thali, a platter of little dishes that makes up an entire meal (minus dessert). The combination of items provides a variety of tastes and textures and is supposed to encompass all the food groups to provide a healthy balanced meal. We decided to get a chicken mangalore grand thali (£12.30), a single order of chilli paneer (£8.10) and some garlic naan (£2.65) to share.

The grand thali is made up of:

·       A canapé – I think we received an onion bhajee that night.  Essentially, it’s an onion and lentil fritter with various spices in it (cumin and coriander).  It was good enough, although could have been better if they were quickly refried and served hot & crispy.

·       Choice of curry off their menu - The chicken mangalore was tender being made from thigh meat. The sauce was pleasant and rich, with strong fragrant spices and hint of coconut without being overly creamy.

·       Two vegetables (one green and one root) – Surprisingly, I thoroughly enjoyed the cubes of curried potatoes and peas.  It’s so simple but went well with everything when I could take a piece of chicken, potato and wrap.  I don’t recall the other vegetable but have a recollection it was slightly pickled and not something I enjoyed.

·       Dal – The lentil stew was great!  I’ve only ever had it in the drier form in West Indian cooking when it’s added to a roti.  This creamier thick saucy version is so much better and could easily be eaten on its own with rice.

·       Raita – watery cucumber yoghurt that helped calm the spices from our two chili dishes. 

·       Indian salad – I honestly can’t remember what made it Indian, perhaps the dressing.  But, it was like any other garden salad with slivers of carrots.

·       Papadum and chutney – My first experience having a papadum, these are amazing! In Toronto, we don’t normally get these with our meals so I will be on the lookout for them. It’s thin, crispy (without being fried) and made from some sort of flavoured flour so that there’s some savouriness to it. I didn’t really care for the chutney so ended eating it topped with rice, dal and curry instead.   

·       A whole wheat chapatti – thin Indian bread that reminded me of flour tortillas but had more of an elastic chewiness to it.

·       Rice – really wasn’t the best quality but just fine when smothered with sauce.

Normally, my husband and I always order a spinach paneer; Marsala Zone didn’t have this so we opted for the chilli rendition instead. There were generous chunks of paneer in it, texture much like the versions I normally have and akin to a firm tofu. The sauce definitely had heat to it and reached my upper limit – I had to rely on water and raita to calm my tongue. Interestingly, it was topped with crispy onion slivers, which didn’t really add much to the dish but was good on its own.

Sadly, the garlic naan was the least impressive item for the meal.  I generally love naan but found Marsala Zone’s too oily, not hot enough and too dense. Perhaps it’s a matter of taste, but I enjoy mine left in the tandoori oven longer so that there are slightly charred bits on the edges and large bubbles throughout.

Although I can’t comment on whether Marsala Zone was as good as Dishroom, I have to admit that it was one of the best tasting Indian meals I’ve had. I love the idea of the grand thali; it’s a great option for those who want to try a lot of things at once and is great value for only £12.

Overall mark - 8 out of 10

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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!