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.

Fat Cat

By the Munching Mariner (published in East End Life, 14th December)

Fat Cat is a cafe-style gastropub in Bow Wharf, just south of Victoria Park.

My brother and I arrived after 3pm on a Saturday for a very late lunch. We were pleased to learn they were still serving food and they had a high-chair available for my brother’s baby boy.

Fat Cat

This venue is part of a national chain, but it’s the only one in London. It has the unusual distinction of feeling both spacious and cosy at the same time. The dark tones, warm lighting and comfortable chairs help create this effect.

The floor is split into two. There is a bar area and a slightly raised restaurant section where we claimed our table of choice. We ordered pints of Guinness and Strongbow and assessed the menu. There is a wide range of sandwiches and typical pub meals.

Burgers would appear to be their speciality, so we opted for a bacon and cheese burger and the Italian burger (with mozzarella, pesto and rocket). They arrived in about ten minutes, laden with their toppings and accompanied by large chips and coleslaw.

The meals went down well with us both. The burgers were thick and rich of taste. They both came medium/well done. We weren’t offered an option on this, but nor had we asked. The chips were as hearty and wholesome as chips can be. We had also ordered a pot of peppercorn sauce which proved a great accompaniment.

The service was friendly and appropriate. Our waiter didn’t trouble us unnecessarily but was quick to catch our eye when we needed him.

Fat Cat has a relaxed, family-friendly atmosphere; perfect for whiling away a cold afternoon. I’ve been before for brunch, another experience I’d recommend. There are several long-standing offers. Ladies should visit on Thursday evenings for a good deal and students enjoy a 20% drinks discount at all times.

Our bill came to £28.25 excluding service.

Fat Cat is a 10-15 minute walk from Mile End or Bethnal Green stations. It’s served by a number of bus routes and there is also a free car park.

Fat Cat is at Bow Wharf, Grove Road E3 5SN. Telephone: 8983 4353.