Sometimes the discerning gent is caught in a quandary – his palate is craving one type of cuisine whilst those of his guest or group are craving something entirely different. In these situations what would really help the discerning diner out is a restaurant that offers a varied menu, perhaps even a fusion of culinary styles.
Zaman is a restaurant that bills its menu as an east-meets-west fusion of dishes. Located just off Oxford Street and moments from Marble Arch as part of The Sportsman Casino, award winning chef Mahmud Zaman has brought together a range dishes from the Middle East, Asia and Europe.
The Look, The Feel
Zaman is located in the basement of the casino. Coming down the stairs the décor of the venue is subdued and has the feel of a lounge about it even though it’s a dining spot. The carpeted floor plays has the biggest influence with the lounge feel – anyone who’s visited Las Vegas will be familiar with the setting. Seating is a mixture of large group tables along the walls and corners with tables for two dotted through the centre of the restaurant. Dining at the restaurant doesn’t have the intimate feeling you’d desire if you were out on a date, but for client entertaining or larger groups this place would fit the bill. The lack of natural light from the underground locality is a drawback – you’d have no sense of the time, a well known casino ploy but it’s out of place in a restaurant.
The restaurant’s proximity to Oxford Street, along with being part of a casino does mean that it’s a tourist trap for hungry diners either looking to grab a bite during a shopping spree or for those needing some respite after a few hours at the poker tables upstairs. The positive aspect here is the restaurant is always busy so the ambiance is lively and cosmopolitan, but not ideal if you’re looking for a quiet table and intimate conversation.
After settling into our seats it was time to take a look at the menu. The theme of fusion doesn’t really transpire into reality for the menu. Rather than a juxtaposition of culinary styles you’re presented with a range of dishes from the Middle East, Asia and Europe. To start we opted for the scallop with pea puree salad (£8.50) and the lobster, avocado and white crab salad (£18.50). To compliment our starters and the mains to come, we decided on a bottle of 2005 Rioja (£39.95) which was highly tasteful. Service is pretty quick at Zaman so we weren’t waiting long before our dishes arrived at the table. The scallops were large and numerous, perfectly cooked and tasting delicious with the pea puree. A similar theme with the lobster and crab salad – a generous portion of crab with avocado and a serving of succulent lobster meat – a well put together and ample dish for a starter. Despite the environment and the general hustle of the restaurant, the food was pretty good. Quelle surprise!
The Main Event
The starters had now built up our anticipation for the mains. We ordered the steamed fillet of sea bass with spring onion and ginger (£13.50) and the T-bone steak with chips and peppercorn sauce (£32.00). To round off the mains, sides of roasted vegetables (£2.50) and spinach with garlic (£2.50) were ordered to hit our five-a-day quota. Continuing the standard set with the starters, the sizeable sea bass fillet was tender and worked well alongside the spring onion and ginger. The T-bone steak was cooked to order, arriving at the table sizzling in its juices – there was no danger of this piece of meat drying out. Any discerning gent with a serious appetite would appreciate this steak if it was brought to his table. The wine was now at its most delicious temperature – going well with the seared steak and tender fish.
At this point in the meal, focus has now shifted from the surroundings and onto the food and dinner conversation. It now started to feel like a restaurant rather than a casino diner/canteen. You could stay that we’ve eased ourselves into this meal, helped by the good food.
We were now ready for desert. The size of the sea bass had beaten one of us so it was just the one sweet treat this evening – the chocolate and peanut butter opera with banana ice cream (£5.95). A fitting way to end the evening with the sweetness of the chocolate and the intensity of the peanut butter – a must for any desert fan.
When you look past the décor and get over the missing ‘fusion’ of the menu the realisation is that the food is pretty good. Whilst the menu is a collection of dishes from Asia to Europe, the quality of food cannot be denied. Chef Mahmud Zaman and his team do a good job of delivering flavour to the palate. The venue is definitely suited more for group entertainment rather than dates. The next time you’re out celebrating that deal win book a table at Zaman for dinner then head upstairs later to put it all on red in the casino.
Contact: Zaman, The Sportsman Casino, Old Quebec Street, London, W1H 7AF – Tel: 0203 627 0572