A Unit 5 Quadrangle, Chester Street (off Oxford Road), Manchester, M1 5QS
Zouk Tea Bar & Grill is located in the heart of Manchester City Centre, just off the bustling Oxford Road and close to the BBC.
Several members struggled to find the venue for the April curry despite its rather simple location and some spent 10 minutes circling Oxford Road looking for Chester Street. There are plenty of parking meter spots available outside (which are free after 6pm) and numerous NCP car parks are all within walking distance.
Zouk is a large and contemporary restaurant that has room for around 200 diners and covers 4.5 thousand square feet. The open plan kitchen, mezzanine floor and high ceilings all add to the experience. You can clearly see that the reported £1m that was spent on Zouk has been wisely used and the restaurant appears very impressive.
We were seated at a large table and ordered some small bottles of Cobra whilst looking through the innovative and ecletic menu, which offered many speciality fish and meat dishes (including the rather unusual chicken livers marinated with cumin and also Tandoori Haddock).
Although Zouk was not too busy on this Wednesday evening, the service from the start was incredibly slow and it took the waiter half an hour to take our food order after prompting. Do restaurants owners still naively believe that customers will buy more drinks if they are kept waiting?
Poppodums were delivered accompanied by the world smallest pickle tray and at £1 a throw this was slightly disappointing.
The waiter heard our laughter as we all noticed that the bowls were not much bigger than a tea spoon and kindly topped up the mango which again was quickly eaten due to the small portion size.
The Zouk website states that "all the chutneys and sauce are home made". We were sat immediately in front of the partially hidden serving area and noticed that pre-bought bottles of sauce were being poured into various bowls by the waiters to accompany the pops and starters. We had no problem with this but felt that this contradicted the statement on Zouk's website.After another long wait, a mixture of starters were delivered. The lamb chops "marinated in a secret Mughlai recipe and chargrilled over hot embers" tasted delicious and were good value at £3.50.
A variety of other starters were ordered including the Gola Kebab ("minced lamb mixed with paneer cheese and selected herbs and spices, formed round skewer and cooked over barbecue charcoal") and the Tandoori Mixed Grill.
The main courses overall were good and came in adequate (but not large) portion sizes.
The chicken handi, a punjabi style dish that is cooked in a clay pot, was tasty and would be recommended. Chicken and lamb Karahi's were also ordered and again were good. Woody ordered the mild Chicken Tikka Masala and continued to embarrass the council with this unadventurous and rather "english" dish.
Zouk certainly impresses with its stylish restaurant interior but failed to deliver on its service. The waiters were friendly but virtually non existent throughout the evening and this spoilt a pleasant meal.
The bill came in at around £20 each for two small bottles of cobra, 1 pop, starter, main course, rice, naan and was still fair value despite the poor service. The only regret was that we did not sample any of Zouk's dessert menu, which appeared impressive and quite varied.
The currycouncil may have been too spoilt recently by the ever improving standards of our local Indian restaurants and think that Zouk may need to work harder and raise the bar to become one of the true greats.