RESTAURANT REVIEW: Zumbura, Clapham
Last November, Clapham welcomed Zumbura to its Old Town, and in that short space of time it has garnered much praise (rated 5 out of 5 on Trip Advisor) with people clamouring to try its Indian tapas cuisine. Founded by Aamir Ahmad, Sean Galligan and David Garrett, the trio enrolled celebrated head chef Raju Rawat, of Michelin starred Benares. It is unlike the Indian restaurants in London today and this is apparent in not only the food, but its décor and ambience.
The long, narrow space has a rustic and contemporary feel, with the beautiful design orchestrated by the owners themselves. Tree branch-forks adorn the walls to act as coat hangers and gone are the gaudy reds and rich oranges of your standard Indian. Zumbura has grey and teal walls, contrasted by exposed red brickwork behind a carved wood bar, with copper gold hardware throughout. Art work is minimal, and also non-uniform, with a hand-painted roof display on entering adding dynamic colour in the form of parrots and butterflies. Music ranged from Robin Thicke to 80’s duo Hall & Oates and on a wet Thursday night their 45 covers were filling up fast.
Under Ahmad’s vision, Zumbura offers up dishes traditional of northern Indian, specifically the Purab region in which he grew up. A catalogue of old acquirements from Ahmad’s mother and family, the refreshingly simple and short menu hopes to inject real and traditional fare to London’s Indian dining scene and counteract the oily gloop that has been taking over.
The dishes here are served family-style and to share, in small portions that allow you to order more considering the reasonable prices. Beginning with aloo tikia and patties, we were introduced to spiced potato cakes and spiced minced pastries, accompanied by a tamarind, coriander and raita chutney plate. The potato cakes’ heavenly melt-in-the-mouth consistency had them winning this round and will have you hankering for more.
Promptly, our mains of kullia and kofte arrived. A lamb and turnip stew and herb-stuffed beef meatballs respectively, they were bolstered with braised rice and ghuggni – black chickpeas in onion and mango powder. The meatballs were highly praised; the unique combination of herbs drawing out flavours not previously associated with this dish. The turnip was a star addition to the stew but it was let down but its lack of lamb and abundance of bone. The chickpeas were a good choice, their soft texture and sweet sauce attaching a balmy underside to the bold piquancy of the other options.
Sampled desserts ranged from sooji, a dense, floury, crumble that goes perfectly with a deliciously authentic pistachio ice cream. The gajjar ka halwa is a carrot pudding that is a little too creamy, sweet and filling to tackle at this point, it’s best to leave room if this entices you. Popular in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, the rose kulfi was enamoured here tonight. This milk dessert is served on a stick in a glass and the rose pieces add a new level to the flavours experienced at Zumbura. It is also light enough to finish and contemplate another.
Zumbura offer their own signature cocktails which were sampled with zeal. The fuity wallah is their take on the mojito, the bubbleberry sees strawberries mixed with rhubarb liqueur and is sharper than anticipated, while the totally expressive is not unlike a white Russian. The spice islands is served warm and is reminiscent of mulled wine, with coconut cream and ginger rum giving it an extra twist. Wine and beer are also on offer at Zumbura.
Ahmad, Galligan and Garrett are on to a good thing here. The contemporariness and energy not usually associated with this scene is much appraised. The remarkably friendly and vocal waiters are casually dressed and use iPads to take your order, all in keeping with the à la mode vibe. And the food…. well you can’t criticise the traditional cooking of a family up in Purab.
Zumbura, 36a Old Town, Clapham, SW4 0LB. Nearest Station: Clapham Common
By Clarissa Waldron