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Review: Masala Zone, Piccadilly Circus

Remember the gorgeously ornate Criterion restaurant? It's now home to the latest site of pan-Indian street food restaurant Masala Zone, part of the MW Eat group (Chutney Mary’s, Amaya, Verraswamy) .

The Grade II listed building is a challenge to occupy, as the building cannot be altered in any way; so, no fixing anything to the walls, no lighting, no wires. The original opulence has been cleverly channeled into a vibrant interior reminiscent of of a Maharajah's palace; it's certainly a far cry from the urban bustle of Piccadilly Circus outside.

The cocktails here are rather good, if you feel indulgently inspired by the glamour of your surroundings. As a negroni fan I had to try the Saffron & Black Pepper Negroni: Five Rivers Indian spiced white rum, Azaline saffron vermouth, Campari and black pepper bitters. I was unsure about the rum but actually, the underlying spices in the drink worked well and I would definitely order it again. We also tried the Pomegranate & Raspberry Sour: the same rum, with pomegranate, raspberry, lemon, sugar and rose water. Again, this was well-balanced, retaining its tartness and with a restrained note of rose water which can so often overpower.

Masala Zone features dishes from many regions on the menu, using historic recipes from both homestyle cooking and generations of India’s street food masters. One of my favourite snacks (or starters) is these crispy, hollow puffs with a spiced potato and chickpea filling, to which you add tamarind water before eating; I first had them as Kolkota puchkas, but they are also (with regional variations) known as pani puri or, as here, gol guppa. Either way, they are the perfect wake-up call to prepare your palate for the dishes to come.

For mains, we went for the mixed grill - seekh kebab and chicken tikka - and the Paneer Makhanwalla curry (with house-made paneer). along with naan bread and rice. Of these, the standout dish was the paneer curry - great depth of flavour and subtle, warming spice; don't miss this one.

The huge room, spectacular surroundings and varied menu make this a great option for a group or family get-together, or just a welcome escape from shopping overload. Oh, and don't forget the cocktails!

[Items in this article may have been gifted to Chatting Food. No financial payment has been made to feature in this article, and entries to the feature are made independently by members of the Editorial Team. This page contains affiliate links and we may receive a small commission for purchases]

Deputy Editor, Chatting Food London: Amanda David

Amanda David is a freelance food writer specialising in London’s restaurants, bars, exhibitions and events. She is the Events Editor and a contributing writer for London Cheapo and a regular contributor to Palate Magazine.

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Instagram: @LondonGAT


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