A hidden gem, Zaman International is an Asian and European fusion restaurant nestled under the Sportsman Casino in Marble Arch. I’d never set foot in a casino before – it’s just never been a thing for me. So I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.
The interior, from the welcome desk right through to the restaurant reminded me of those swanky restaurants in American movies. It was all white table clothes, dark woods, cream leather seats and booths, with the odd splash of deep purple. We had a large booth for the two of us and the warmest welcome. We felt like we were featuring in a film ourselves.
There were a few slot machines and other gambling thing-ma-bobs on the far side, which seemed to be the overflow from upstairs. However, it wasn’t loud and raucous or distracting like you’d imagine.
Friday nights, from roughly 8pm, are live music nights at Zaman. It’s something that was introduced recently. The Friday night we visited Red was performing, a Scottish singer/songwriter with an amazing voice. Covering a number of classics Like Stevie Wonder’s ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered’ and ‘At Last’, it added an extra element of sophisticated class and buzz. Everyone around us seemed to be enjoying the background tunes from their tables, whilst catching up on the latest or tucking into their meals.
On the subject of meals, the menu at Zaman is extensive. With dishes inspired by European, Mediterranean, Indian, American and flavours from the far east, there’s plenty of options for all tastes.
The Grilled King Prawns raised the bar right from the start. These big, juicy prawns were served in a lemon butter sauce with fresh red and green chilli, garlic and coriander. The whole combination was extremely flavourful with a good kick of spice.
The Spinach and Ricotta Tortellini consisted of four big pasta parcels covered in a creamy tomato sauce. It was served with tangy sundried tomatoes and topped with rocket. The spinach and ricotta filling, rich and herby, balanced well with the tomato flavour and fresh crisp leaves.
Crispy Squid, a usual choice for us, didn’t let us down. Lightly battered, it provided the perfect ratio of coating to squid. It wasn’t at all greasy – you wouldn’t think these were fried. The rings were served with a creamy lemon aoili dip, a light dusting of parmesan and crisp shaved fennel salad. Delicious.
The Middle Eastern Mixed Grill Platter was more on the banquet level than sharing dish. HUGE, especially if you’re going all out with multiple courses.
Piled high with rich and flavoursome lamb chops, aromatic kofte and fragrant chicken, on a bed of sauteed peppers and onions, it was accompanied by creamy baba ganoush, hummus, zesty tabbouleh, fresh mixed leaves and soft white pitta. This style of sharing is my type of main!
If that isn’t quite enough, the dessert menu is pretty lengthy too, featuring cheesecakes, crumble and creme brulee among several other options.
The Baked Passion and Banana Cheesecake, was one of the best cheesecakes I’ve tasted. It was a small thick and creamy dessert on a light biscuit base, with a fruit layer on top. With a tropical feel from the combination of flavours, it tasted truly indulgent. It was served with green matcha tea ice cream which tasted 100x better than matcha latte. Almost like a milky ice cream – Not at all like grass! And a toasted banana chip atop.
The Spiced Apple & Almond Crumble had Alex from the get go. He can’t say no to anything with cinnamon, so the ice cream had him hook, line and sinker. The crumble was more like a tart and was deliciously autumnal, and it had the perfect ratio of fruit to biscuity topping and buttery pastry. The ice cream added to the seasonal flavours (cinnamon always reminds me of when it starts to get chillier).
To see in the weekend, as it is a Friday after all, there’s a drinks menu which features wine, fizz, beer or cocktails. The Espresso Martini a particular highlight. Rich yet almost creamy as you’d expect one to be, it’s topped with coffee beans for presentation.
With starters from roughly £6, mains from about£13, and desserts from £4.50, it’s not overly expensive for a swanky Central london restaurant. Especially one which provides some of the best service I’ve ever had and live entertainment. If you’re looking for something different to do one Friday soon, Zaman International should definitely be on your list!
Have you found any hidden gems recently?
*I was invited along to try the menu at Zaman International. All views my own.