Reviewed by Dave Drummond
If done well, a concept can make for a unique and forward thinking dining experience, reimagining what we take to be as normal and pushing the boundaries of what we’ve come to expect when dining out. If done badly, on the other hand, you can instead find yourself in an over-pretentious, theme park of a restaurant – where an idea dictates proceedings rather than the food. The trouble with Zaman, is that it feels that neither the food nor the ‘idea’ behind it is leading. They both just seem to be following each other in an aimless wander into a corner.
On first impressions Zaman is a restaurant driven by innovation, billing itself as an ‘East Meets West Fusion’ restaurant. But a more detailed look over the menu tells that this is just an elaborate and inaccurate way of rewording what could be a Wetherspoon’s menu. There’s no fusion to speak of. Instead, dishes like a straightforward “Singapore noodles with chicken or prawns or vegetables” sit uncomfortably next to “Penne pasta with forest mushrooms, cream parmesan and truffle oil” (which with a not so beady eye you can spot the pretentious and unnecessary use of truffle oil). In fact the only ‘fusion’ on the menu that seems to exist might be the turmeric flavoured courgette ragout, and even this is tenuous.
But that’s not to say that the food isn’t good, because some of it is okay. The lentil soup is done well, mixing salty and fragrant in the right degrees. The meaty grilled king prawns are delicious, swimming in a perfectly balanced lemon butter, chilli, garlic and coriander sauce (such an effective mix it’s hard to get wrong), which makes for a decent starter portion. The grilled asparagus and mushroom ragout is less effective – the ragout overly sweet and the asparagus, although cooked well, is a bit bland.
The Middle Eastern offerings are slight, a mezze selection featuring a strangely dry tabbouleh (no fresh parsley, perhaps), and a bitter yet not bad hummus and moutabel come with decent pita bread, while the mixed grill of lamb kebabs, lamb chops and marinated chicken is simply but adequately spiced and largely forgettable. Farruj Mussahab is tender and plumb, and the accompanying garlic sauce is sweet, the right side of powerful, but the meat is under seasoned.
It’s not the best space, admittedly (in a basement with no natural light), so the attempts to create an amicable ambiance are admirable, but ultimately it has the feel of an oversized, carpeted elevator. Being the appendage to casino (and a proper casino at that – no fancy, colourful slot machines here), Zaman must have felt that they had a lot to do to be noticed as a restaurant and not just a canteen to all-hours gamblers. Unfortunately in doing this they’ve ended up misinterpreting a ‘foodie’ concept and put every single dish they could possibly think of on the menu. The result is a restaurant that feels like it’s trying to be everything to everyone, which makes its closest point of reference a Las Vegas style all-you-can-eat buffet. But one with fancy table cloths.
Visit Restaurant Website
Address: The Sportman's Casino, 22 Old Quebec Street Paddington, City of Westminster, W1H 7AF
Telephone: 020 7414 0061
Average Price Per Person: £30 - 40