I’d heard a fair bit about Kerala Zone before I’d visited it – I was still a little sad at losing Lauras. But most people thought the food was pretty good, though many complained the waiting times were long.
I don’t generally tend to think that waiting times are things to be worried about if the food and the company are good – it at least implies that the food is being cooked to order and I was intrigued by that food – South Indian cuisine which is different from the usual bog-standard British Curry menu, which seems to be the same in every subcontinental restaurant/take away no matter what the origins or tastes of the chef.
I can’t make up my mind about the decor. They’ve obviously made an effort to be different from the classic flock-wallpapered, strangely cross-cultural curry house, complete with velveteen-and-gold scenes from the Koka Shastra and a shiny calendar with pictures of waterfalls. These walls have silhouetted palm trees painted as murals against a dark orange background. So far so good. I didn’t even object to the furniture – dark wood high-backed chairs and simple tables. But the rest of it slips badly – dodgy plants in the window supplemented by lighting-up cacti that change colour and disco rope lights. A neon sign announces the opening times and a dot matrix display sends enticing messages to the outside world. The clock has swirly lights around it and they appear to have forgotten the Christmas decorations are still up.
So – a hybrid – is it tasteful or kitsch? Regular readers of this blog will know I am a big fan of kitsch – but I’m an all-or-nothing kinda phantom – I either want to be utterly surrounded by plastic palm trees and golden tissue boxes in the shape of the Taj Mahal – or I want minimalist chic (to be honest I think I’d rather go for the former but I don’t mind – the only sin is not being wholehearted.)
Of course the real issue is food – if that’s fabulous I can forgive pretty much any decor. We didn’t have as long to wait as I had been led to expect – though this could have something to do with the fact that we were the only four people in the place. We nibbled on poppadums with not-quite-enough pickles. They were crisp and fresh and the onion salad that I had ordered when I realised the paucity of the pickles was absolutely delicious – some kind of vinaigrette dressing brought it out of being mere chopped onions and tomatoes – this attention to detail is always a big hit with me. The starters seemed quite heavy and cakey, but were also declared a hit.
Kerala Zone doesn’t use artificial colours so most of the curry dishes looked exactly the same – a sort of brown goo – but all were tasty and different. One of my companions had a splendid fish curry in delicate yellows and whites – with a similarly light flavour. I wasn’t entirely convinced by the rice, but it was still totally edible – and I am a fussy rice eater.
Kerala Zone is one of the better Indian restaurants in Greenwich. I enjoyed the difference in the recipes and it was nice not to see neon pink meat or bright yellow vegetables, the absence of artificial colour allowing them to bring out their naturally more subtle hues. It’s not top-notch by any means – but you don’t go to Greenwich for hard-core Indian food. This is a tasty, extremely friendly local eaterie to return to again and again so that you can work your way around the interesting and well-cooked menu.