Indian restaurants, in this country, are much like Shakespearian comedies; they’ve got one formula and they stick to it.
The rise, over the last 30 years, of the korma, tikka masala and jalfrezi has been almost exponential, with the curry frequently referred to as Britain’s favourite dish. This tried and tested equation, is a clear route to success, with results being fairly consistent be it in London, Liverpool or Lanarkshire. I can walk into a curry house anywhere in the country and quite accurately predict the menu before I’ve sat down.
Despite this set formula, the resulting answers can differ greatly with quality being highly variable. This fragrant and delightful cuisine can, and often is, simplified to its lowest common denominator.
So, with the opening of EastZeast, opposite the Echo arena, I was hoping for, if not a restaurant that rearranges the formula, at least somewhere that followsit with precision and accuracy. This modern and clean restaurant welcomes you in with giant glowing flower pots and a man in full traditional dress.
This first impression is one I hope doesn’t last; tacky style over substance can often be a precursor to a poor meal, as Chaophraya perfectly demonstrates.
The interior is bright and airy, possibly a bit complicated and glam for me, but at least it refrains from obvious cliches such as Indian artwork and models of the Taj Mahal.
We were shown to our seats by quick and friendly service and our drinks arrived promptly, however the service throughout the night managed to be both over-attentive and missing in action. I was asked four times in as many minutes if I wanted another drink when I finished my first, however at other times the waiting staff were hard to find.
The menu is suitably vast, clearly the trusted formula is being followed here; it offers familiar sounding curries and accompaniments. Our starters of Shami Kebab (£3.95) and Paneer Pakora (£3.55) arrived quickly, the kebab being soft and considerably lighter than I imagined – gentle delicate spicing really highlighted the lentils and lamb.
The paneer was soft and fragrant, and really very good, this was far from the rubbery tasteless mass that poorly cooked paneer can so often be. These starters were good, well made and not overpowered with spice, they boded well for future courses.
For our mains courses we had Raam Lal Handi (£10.95), which was chicken, potatoes and mushrooms in a lovely tomato and onion sauce, which carried a gentle heat. The Garlic Chicken Chilli Balti (£9.95) was equally tasty with a much stronger kick of heat, it was good but too salty for my taste.
These were good curries, with clear distinct flavours, rather than a huge punch in the mouth, the spices mingled and balanced well without being overpowering, the heat leaving us warmed but not burnt.
Our sides of Bombay Potatoes (£4.50) and Tarka Daal (£4.50) showed similar levels of skill and quality, both fragrant and delicate and well balanced, the Daal was bit over salted for my taste.
Our family naan (£3.50) was light and crisp, although massive, we only finished about half of it. This may have been due to its temperature, it was served hanging from a metal stand and was cold within a minute of arriving at our table.
We only had one dessert between two, and chose the Rasmalai (£2.95), some sponge-like dumplings served in a milky custard with pistachio and cardamon. The sauce was sweet, creamy and delicious, however the dumplings had a strange consistency that I didn’t really like.
It was nice, however, to see an Indian restaurant straying away from bought-in dessert and trying something original. There were several traditional dishes alongside chocolate fudge cheesecake and Belgian waffles.
EastZeast is a good addition to the restaurant scene in Liverpool, serving well made food showing skill and understanding. It’s not radically different from many other Indian restaurants, but it does follow the formula well, producing food that is well balanced; not the overpowering and tedious dishes that are common in many other places.
Our food costs were £21.95 per person, but rose to £30 including drinks. If you are looking for a good curry in Liverpool, I would struggle recommend anywhere better.
This restaurant is more about mathematical accuracy then creative flair, but that is still a tough goal to achieve, and one that makes it well worth a visit.
Kings Dock, Liverpool