Zayane, so called after the Tamazight speaking nomadic tribes of the Atlas Mountains, was born from a clear vision; refined Moroccan cuisine in a relaxed, unpretentious setting. Casablanca born owner Meryem has created not only a beautiful venue but an amazing atmosphere. Her grandmother’s traditional Berber style dress hangs proudly on display and zellige inspired bronze lanterns add a warm glow to white washed walls. The air is delicately scented with cinnamon and the seating is sociable and intimate with wooden carved partitions and flashes of burnished orange and turquoise. A Gnawa musician sings without a sense of urgency on weeknights, welcoming diners with the type of raw edged infectiously happy voice unique to southern Morocco and a DJ drops beats on the weekends.
With former Thackeray’s Michelin starred chef Chris Bower at the helm, the menus are well thought out and offer alluring dishes for all tastes. Chris masterfully creates a unique Moroccan – British fusion, using British seasonal ingredients and a genuine knowledge of authentic Moroccan spicing using a delicate hand. There are elements of highly refined cuisine here yet elements of utmost authenticity too. Think cured sea bass with a preserved lemon sauce or milk fed lamb mechoui with aubergine caponata. Think also of traditional wholemeal flatbreads which are sold on every street corner in Morocco.
I really couldn’t fault a thing on our first trip to Zayane. Opting for both the A La Carte and Evening Market Menus we struggled to make our choices as everything seemed so appealing. The cauliflower and almond soup topped with dill cream and miniature coriander frongs was moorish and velvety. Each element of the Zayane platter from the zaalouk which hummed gently with freshly milled spice, to the earthy olive tapenade had a flavoursome home made quality. Saffron marinated cod with cauliflower couscous and seafood sauce was light yet tasty and the chermoula marinated gurnard with lentils and orange braised chicory was deliciously satisfying and wholesome. We finished our meals with cardamom set cream with a caramelised pineapple wedge and black pepper ice cream (I’m salivating while I write this!) and a raspberry clafoutis with pistachio crumb – warm and comforting yet light and airy. For now Zayane functions on a BYOB basis; we opted for freshly pressed juices which added to the healthy approach Zayane seems to inspire.
As anyone who reads Nazarblue knows, my recent trip to Marrakech allowed me to fall me deeper in love with North African culture than I already was. Before discovering Zayane, I would often browse social media as I longed to return to Morocco, and salivate at the dishes coming from the kitchens of luxurious restaurants in Marrakech like Maison MK and La Maison Arabe. No longer. Zayane offers the food of dreams right here in London. It’s a breath of fresh air, a unique concept in a city flooded with heavily spiced and overdone Moroccan themes.
The portions at Zayane are generous, the food a nod in the direction of well-being, a homage to both tradition and modernity with uncomplicated flavours and beautiful presentation. Zayane is reasonably priced despite its prestigiously awarded kitchen maestro, and offers various set menus as well as an a la carte menu and specials. Its a perfect mix of Morocco and London and we’ll be back. Over and over.
91 Golborne Road, London, W10 5NL