I’m always on the lookout for a good curry – aren’t we all? It’s up there with the important things in life, like finding the perfect life partner or whether there’s enough steak in your pasty.
So when Zaman’s was celebrated several times this year, it was obvious a trip to Newquay was on the cards – though I waited until the hordes went home and I could enjoy a slightly less frantic restaurant.
It is one of only two restaurants in Cornwall to feature in this year’s One Hundred Top Curry Restaurants guide and also won the prestigious Editor’s Choice award at the annual Curry Life Awards in London last month.
Successful restaurateur and entrepreneur Wahiduz Zaman started in the catering industry aged 19. With over 25 years’ experience, he teamed up with chef Eshan ‘Mo’ Miah and Mo’s brothers Jubed and Abid to create Zaman’s. The Miah brothers’ father was one of the first curry chefs to work in the UK in Bradford in the 1960s, so there’s some good heritage here.
The restaurant on Henver Road has picked up numerous awards, including Mo being voted Best Curry Chef in the South West by the Bangladesh Caterers’ Association and a TripAdvisor’s Travellers Choice Award.
Let’s get two negatives out of the way first – the limited parking in front of the restaurant is a bit of a mare. Spaces are at an angle and it means reversing on to the main road, so be prepared or just find a space on the nearby residential streets (sorry, Zaman’s neighbours). After having a domestic about the parking, I’d then forgotten that the restaurant isn’t licensed so, hey ho, it was Coke Zero for us.
So, if you can’t manage to get through a curry without the de rigeur beer, it’s best to pop over the road to the nearby Co-op as, fortunately, you can bring your own booze.
The restaurant itself, like so many curry houses, won’t win any awards for design, but there are plenty of covers – though, expect to sit close to other diners if you want a window seat – and the staff are all very friendly and accommodating, and I steadily grew to love the older waiter, who gave me the nickname Messy Boy.
I was hungry, okay, and those papadoms and chutneys do tend to go everywhere when you’re flailing madly. As a man now venturing into my 50s, calling me a boy – even if I’m a messy one – will guarantee you a tip.
Speaking of those papadoms, they were good – and this is where I have to crank out a “best I’ve ever tasted” when it comes to the chutneys and relishes. More of a choice than in similar restaurants and with a depth of flavour missing from most other places – the lime chutney was subtle rather than blowing your tongue out of your head, for instance, and there was one I was told had 36 different ingredients which really was the best relish I’ve ever tasted in an Indian restaurant. An above average prawn puri proved a zesty little starter.
The great thing about Zaman’s is it offers a lot more choice than your classic Indian Top 20 hits. Yes, you can go traditional with your jalfrezi, vindaloo, etc, but there’s a world of exploration here.
The restaurant prides itself on its lamb dishes, helping overturn negative perceptions of Indian restaurants overcooking it to the point of being lamby leather. Zaman’s overcomes this by slow cooking the meat for four hours the way “it was cooked by the older generation”.
I’m not allowed to eat lamb at home because my wife and kids hate it, so it’s my naughty go-to like a fortysomething’s crafty cigarette after a few gins or the middle class’ secret weekend cocaine habit.
There are a lot of enticing lamb dishes on Zaman’s specialities and signature menus – with names like Dil Jole, Palak, Laziz, Shukran and Shashlik Hariyal, but it was the less exotic sounding Lamb Shank which got me – a whole slow-cooked shank served in a stew-like curry of fresh tomatoes, herbs and spices with pilau rice, for £16.99 which I don’t think is a bad price. It was delicious too, with the added bonus of finding extra hunks of delicate lamb in the curry.
The Nurse chose Changasi, chicken cooked in Zaman’s “spiced, special garlic sauce”, with green chillies and onions. It came out sizzling and gorgeously crimson, and tasted as good as it looked. It had a bite but was subtle and didn’t melt your tastebuds. It even made the Coke Zero taste better.
Zaman’s didn’t disappoint and is different enough to stand out from similar restaurants in Cornwall (though there are other curry restaurants which are definitely its equal, which should also appear on those Top 100 lists). The soundtrack was a bit different too – relaxing piano instrumentals to give you some calming korma karma. A return visit is definitely on the cards as I want to try something off the seafood specialities menu next time. Imli Maas has got my name on it.
There are plenty of vegan options too. Our meal for two, including four papadoms, chutney tray, a prawn puri, lamb shank with pilau rice, changasi, peshwari nan and two bottles of Coke Zero cost £53.53. For more details about Zaman’s and to book head to the website.