I keep a list of restaurants in Manchester that I want to try. I’ve built it from recommendations, reviews and new openings that are making a good impression. There are so many different options nowadays that it’s a useful starting point when I fancy going out for dinner.
Zouk, an Indian restaurant situated just off Oxford Road, has featured on my “Best Indian Restaurants in Manchester, where to go next” list for some time, so an invite to the launch of their Spring / Summer cocktail menu (available from 1 March 2016) gave me the perfect chance to check it out.
The evening was a relaxed and fun opportunity to sample the cocktails and try your hand behind the bar under the watchful eye of Ricardo, the man responsible for the new menu, which features 14 new concoctions.
The cocktails have been carefully designed to complement the aromatic flavours of the Pakistani and Indian inspired food and there is a wide selection of champagne cocktails, short and long cocktails and Martinis. An extensive mocktail list ensures the non-drinkers can get involved in the action. And, for those who prefer a glass of something grape with their meal, the wine list has been refreshed to make for better pairings with the curries, with a view to making it easier to choose flavours that will enhance your meal – light, citrusy flavours come highly recommended.
The drinks flowed steadily throughout the evening. The boy and I sampled the new Romance cocktail, which is a refreshing blend of chilled champagne, Lanique rose petal liquor, Campari and fresh blueberries. Delicate floral notes would balance the aromatic Indian flavours of your food perfectly. (Champagne cocktails – £9.50)
The Chai Martini is a delicate combination of Zouk’s own cardamom-infused iced desi chai with a shot of Absolut Vodka. The easiest way to describe it is an alcoholic, spiced tea. (Martini cocktails vary in price from £7.95 to £9.50)
We watched Ricardo make an Indian Party long cocktail from an indian spiced gin, mixed with Chambord, muddled with cucumber, lemon juice and passion fruit syrup and topped up with prosecco. I’m not a gin lover but appreciated the fruity, spiciness of this unusual drink. (Long cocktails – £7.95)
We also sampled a selection of virgin cocktails, it being a school night and all that!.
The Cosmopolitan, a go to cocktail for me, was just as tasty without the alcohol. With some gentle persuasion Ricardo also produced a spirit free version of the Lychee Martini, another staple on my cocktail list. This was light, refreshing and not too sweet – essential when you’re off the alcohol as it’s difficult to drink more than one or two virgin counterparts without that furry tooth feeling you get from too much sugar.
Whilst the cocktails were the centrepiece for the evening, no visit to an Indian restaurant would be complete without sampling the food.
We were treated to a tantalising array of Indian treats, starting with one of the best presented popadom & pickle trays I’ve seen. Complete with all the pickles you would expect; mango chutney, mint sauce, onion salad, green coriander chutney, and a mixture of traditional and spiced popadoms. It didn’t take us long to munch through the lot – a great accompaniment to a cheeky drink or two.
Tava Lamb was built to order from a platter. Tender, flavoursome lamb, served in a flat bread, loaded with onions and drizzled in tomato garlic chutney – delicious.
Chicken Gola Kebabs wrapped in a lettuce leaf and served on a skewer also tasted amazing.
Perhaps my favourite nibble was the Samosa Chaat, which came served in a small bowl stuffed with chickpeas, red onion, pomegranate seeds and coriander amongst the broken up samosa pastry. With the varied textures, some of my favourite flavours, and a spicy kick, I could easily have asked for more.
Brothers Tayub and Mudassar Amjad, who cofounded Zouk to refresh Indian and Pakistani cooking for the British market, want to create an experience that guests can enjoy for a whole evening. Start with a cocktail before settling down to a hearty meal, then relax on the heated terrace with a shisha and make a night of it.
New for 2016, the brothers plan to create a work space ideal for professionals looking to hold afternoon meetings, or to catch up on their emails. Power points and Wi-Fi will be provided and a special afternoon menu will be served. Just how long before work gives way to cocktails is, I guess, up to you!
As a lovely souvenir from the evening we were treated to a goodie bag of cocktail making essentials which, between the two of us, included a cocktail shaker, bottle pourers and some beautiful Indian style glasses. I feel a party coming on.
After a wonderful introduction to Zouk I know where I’ll be heading next time I fancy a curry. Look out for my review of the food, which is bound to follow.
Zouk tea bar & grill: Unit 5, The Quadrangle, Chester Street, Manchester, M1 5QS, Tel: 0161 2331 090
I was invited to attend this event as a blogger and therefore didn’t have to pay for the drinks and nibbles. Views are, as always, my own.