Golborne Road is fast becoming the place to be in West London. Moroccan restaurant Zayane is one of the latest openings there, occupying a cosy, elongated space a couple of doors down from the Danish restaurant Snaps + Rye – already an olive favourite.
Head chef at Zayane, Chris Bower – previously of Thackeray’s and The Ivy – uses a mixture of British seasonal ingredients and imported spices to bring modern Moroccan food to London. The air here is laced with cardamom and the room is decorated like a mini bazaar, peppered with colourful cushions, little wooden stools upholstered in yellow fabric, vibrant wall hangings, glowing lanterns and North African teapots on shelves behind the bar. Midway through our starters, we were surprised by a young man in the corner who started playing beautiful Moroccan guitar music – a nice, authentic touch that lasted all evening.
To start, little twirls of sea bass in a lemon purée were as juicy as they were pretty. A spiced cauliflower and almond soup chosen from the evening market menu (two courses for £20) was rich, smooth and powerful – it’s not easy to get such an intense flavour from cooked cauliflower.
The Zayane platter was a collection of pretty Moroccan bowls filled with ‘chakchouka’ (otherwise known as shakshuka), beans in fresh tomato sauce, salmon terrine and zaalouk. The latter, a kind of aubergine and tomato stew, was silky and delicate – we loved the buttery chunks of slow-cooked aubergine so much that we asked for seconds. Our platter came with warm, pillowy wholemeal flatbreads made fresh that day.
Smoked octopus salad, also a starter, was another delicately cooked dish – tender, juicy cubes of octopus were subtly smoky, but accentuated by the accompanying Merguez sausage. For main, milk-fed lamb mechoui was cooked sous-vide and then finished in a tagine pot, with succulent results. It came served on a mound of pea freekeh, a refreshing alternative to rice. Our favourite main was the spiced Sussex beef cheek, an incredibly tender piece of meat that fell apart at the slightest nudge. It was served simply with a thick, syupy prune jus and golden caramelised onions.
Nothing here is plain, or even expected. A trout dish, for example, is served with juicy cauliflower couscous (the best we’ve ever had at a restaurant); chermola marinated gurnard is paired with saffron-braised Belgian chicory; and a set cardamom cream, which matched the room’s aroma, came with a spicy black-pepper ice cream. It’s an eclectic menu, created by an inventive chef who isn’t afraid to try new flavour combinations – we’ll certainly be back.