Bengal Classic

by the Munching Mariner (published 22 May 2011)

My Thirst Mate and I had heard rumours of good food at Bengal Classic so we felt duty-bound to verify this for our loyal readers.

It was a Friday evening. We arrived without a booking, while it was still quiet. We noted the attractive decor around us. A large tiger (surely of the Bengal variety) stared down from the ceiling. I enjoyed the Indian string music played softly in the background throughout the evening.

After taking our order of poppadoms and drinks our waiter left us with the extensive menu. We are big fans of Indian/Bengali food, so it didn’t take long to find something suitable.

To start, my Thirst Mate ordered aloo chat (potato-based) and I ordered chatpotti (chickpeas and hard-boiled egg). They were both served in a tasty tomato-based sauce and whet the appetite for the rest of the meal.

My Thirst Mate’s choice of main course was lamb korahi, a medium-spiced dish with capsicum, served in an iron wok. The meat was nicely cooked and the sauce was thick and satisfying.

My order was described as a Bangladeshi speciality, particularly popular in the relatively wealthy city of Sylhet. Murgh (chicken) Jaflongi could be popular anywhere. The sauce contained shatkora, a local citrus fruit bringing an element of sourness to the feast.

To accompany the dishes, we had pilau rice, an excellent special rice and peshwari naan. It should be no surprise the peshwari was sweet, but we noticed all our dishes carried an edge of sweetness. So my Jaflongi was both sweet and sour (but very tasty) and even the rice was a little sweet.

The meal certainly measured up to our high expectations.

What marred the experience a little was that a few young people were in and out like yo-yos chatting to mates dining in the restaurant. Perhaps being sat next to the door made this all the more noticeable.

The experience was otherwise a good one and a restaurant we would recommend. The service was welcoming and attentive and the venue was certainly popular.

Our bill came to £34.25 excluding service.

Bengal Classic is at 11 Pennyfields, just 2 minutes away from Westferry DLR, E14 8HP. Telephone 020 7517 9955.

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Zain’s Restaurant and Grill

by the Munching Mariner (published in East End Life, 11 July)

Zain’s is a reincarnation of The Milestone, next to Mile End station. The Munching Mariner enjoyed a meal there once but noted with surprise how quiet it seemed to be. Zain’s is Bengali-run with a very different theme to before.

Just seconds away from Mile End station

The menu is halal throughout. That means, as my Thirst Mate noted with eyebrows raised, no alcohol. There is an excellent selection of mocktails and milkshakes along with other soft drinks.

We opted for Snickers and Bounty milkshakes. They tasted wonderful, but a little warm for our liking and the waiter was happy to bring us ice.

My Thirst Mate ordered a chicken bhuna along with garlic naan bread. I selected the mixed grill and steamed rice. We also ordered dum aloo to share. That’s sweet and spicy new potatoes, fried in spices and tomatoes. The potatoes were cooked to perfection and the spice was nice.

My Thirst Mate’s chicken bhuna was tasty, but I should have left it well alone as I simply couldn’t find the space to finish my mixed grill. This was a selection of chicken tikka, lamb chops and sheek kebab which also came with a small side salad.

The waiting service was appropriately attentive. The front-of-house staff were obviously keen to please and quick to take care of our needs. Without prompting, our waiter offered to pack the remainder of my mixed grill to take home and it formed a welcome part of our meal at home the next day.

Zain’s is simply decorated with a red trim and dark wood. It is named after the four-year-old son of the owners, who claim to devote as much “care and effort into the preparation of food and service” as they do “into looking after Zain”.

Our meal came to £33.60 but there are savings to be made for students, NHS workers and lunchtime visitors.

Zain’s is at 588 Mile End Road, E3 4PH.  Telephone 8981 4100.