Images: Daisy Dickinson
Nicola Foley finds this great out-of-town curry house more than steps up to the plate
Being a resident of the Mill Road area, home to a glut of great curry houses, it’s not often I venture out of town to get my fix of Indian food, but Zara’s reputation has spread far and wide. A hugely popular choice for the residents of South Cambs, this Great Shelford restaurant has built a name for itself as a must-visit for curry fans since opening in 2007, as well as receiving numerous nods in the prestigious English Curry Awards (the hotly contested industry ‘Oscars’). So it’s fair to say that when it comes to curry – they know what they’re doing.
The inside of the long, slender building – once part of the neighbouring train station – is fresh and contemporary (no flock wallpaper here), and the service immediately warm and efficient. The menu reveals that there’s plenty to enjoy for the curry fan in search of something beyond the classics, with a huge diversity of lesser seen Indian and Bangladeshi cuisine on offer, plus an extensive range of fish dishes which includes salmon, trout and sea bass.
Struggling to choose amongst all the deliciousness we decided to be adventurous and leave our order in the hands of the waiter. He obliged, bringing us first crisped to perfection bhajis and well-stuffed samosas, and then a steaming plate of Prawn Poori. A new one to me, I was delighted with the tip-off for this tasty North Indian dish, with its juicy prawns and rich tomato sauce, demanding to be mopped up with the accompanying poori (a buttery, pastry-like Indian bread).
Onto mains, where we sampled more of the house specialities. The green chicken masala, fragrant with fresh ginger and coriander, was a winner, but my standout was the Fish Special. A white tilapia fish forms the centrepiece of this flavour-packed number, which sang with mustard, garlic and a heady blend of ten different spices.
Pillowy naan, fresh, creamy saag paneer and the exotic tasting, thick sauced vegetable pathia completed our Indian feast.
Relaxed in atmosphere but with super-speedy service and dishes which boast an eye-opening depth of flavour, Zara seriously impressed both myself and my dining partner. They make all their dishes with fresh ingredients and spices, which they roast and grind themselves to make their own powder. The attention to detail certainly pays off, with a sharpness of flavour in their curries which you don’t often find.
I can see why it’s such a hit with locals, but it’s worth the trip out of town for Cambridge folk too – though of course, if a night in on the sofa calls, there’s always the option for a takeaway…