“ Address: 42 Green Lane / Dronfield / South Yorkshire / UK „
Staff very welcoming. Buffet system explained and proved easy and actually better than having the dishes brought to you, as you could try small amounts then go back for more of your favourites. Decor and atmosphere relaxing and tasteful. Suitable for couples for larger groups. Food excellent with a wide enough variety to suit all tastes, from salad to mild ,subtley flavoured dishes through medium specials to hot vegetarian and meaty dishes.The only negative was the choice of desert. To put cheap and nasty cheesecakes on offer with such great indian food was puzzling and disappointing.Overall, highly recommended and the best indian food we have tried!
Zara is derived from the meaning of beauty and associated with the name of a flower, the owner named the restaurant after his eldest child. A nice personal touch.
The site used to be a pub and has had a makeover to make it the Indian Buffet Restaurant it is today.
It is a nice design outside with excellent signage and free parking.
The decor is subtle but pleasant and with Indian cultural prints on the wall which draw the eye and theme the room. Relaxing low level lights illuminate the room and help to create the atmosphere.
There are Bollywood films played on a flatscreen near the 'se-juiced' bar on entry and Indian music played unobtrusively throughout the restaurant.
I was part of a party of eight who ate at Zara, we were seated in the bar until everyone in our party arrived and then moved through the the restaurant area to be seated at a table which had been prepared in advance.
We chose to buy our own drinks, which allowed us to maintain a fixed cost for the meal at the set fee of £9.95 each. There are selections of fruit juices, 'mocktails' and mango lassi as well as the usual alcoholic offerings. Mocktails appear to be made primarily of cola with fruit juices and since I don't drink cola or orange juice, I wasn't inclined to try them.
The expectation is that you'll then get a plate from the side of the buffet area and take some sort of starter from the selection of pakoras and bhajis, kebab and more or the menu dishes.
You then take another trip round for your main meal, choosing from several variations of rice and then the wide choice of dishes to accompany the rice.
I enjoyed the prawn saag with chicken pilau rice, lamb jalfraizi and small tasters of other dishes. The alternatives included: chicken tikka masala, chicken korma, khati gost, chicken madras, meat jalfraizi, vegetable tikka masala and sag paneer. The menu changes daily.
There are vegetarian options but I bypassed those.
There's also a salad bar which a range or the usual salad vegetables prepared in various ways and there are sides like mango chutney, lime pickle and mint sauce, by the bucket load.
The salad bar also includes a towering stack of poppadoms which suit me just fine! There were also naan breads available though I didn't investigate those.
I found the dishes to be very tasty, the flavours of the ingredients really make themselves known but without losing the flavour of the meat or fish. Something I especially like as I prefer to enjoy the flavours of the staple ingredient rather than drown it in extreme flavours designed to test your mettle. No vindaloo for me thanks!
I found the plain rice a little dry which was off putting and the dishes were all rather greasy. A common issue with Indian food but this was far from the most greasy, you can live with it.
There's a dessert selection available, advertised as a wide range but I found it very limited. I ate strawberry cheesecake, clearly a bulk frozen purchase and not made in house and ice cream, from a choice of 3 flavours.
There are sweets such as jelly beans, jelly tots and jelly teddies for the kids and a stack of fresh fruit. My companions tell me that there used to be a variety of Indian sweets available but there were none during my visit and no new stock for two weeks, a huge disappointment. I much prefer an authentic dessert to catering specials.
The first three drinks I tried to order were out of stock, the chap at the bar said there had been delivery this week but I was less than impressed. When driving and not drinking alcohol it is nice to find a reasonable selection, to suddenly find that selection slashed to just 2 options was poor.
I found a hair in my meal, I chose not to do anything about it as I couldn't be certain if it was one of my companions or otherwise, but I certainly didn't want to spoil the atmosphere with my complaint.
There's a warning on the place mat that wastage will be charged at £2.00 at the discretion of the management. It's easy to understand why they do that, but if you've put out a portion of something you expect to like, then find you don't for some reason, it wouldn't sit well to be charged if you've already paid £9.95, perhaps that's where the discretion comes in.
The steps outside are unlit which is bad news if you've had a glass of wine or for the elderly member of our party who needed help to safely descend.
The staff were very polite and helpful and came to clear our plates in between each course. There's a pleasant and polite banter which really makes you feel welcome.
Another nice aspect of my visit was the manager /owner of the business who chatted with our party and dealt with out bill at the end. A manager who keeps in touch with his clientele is always a good thing in my view.
The atmosphere is pleasant and relaxed, certainly conducive to eating a good meal in good company.
Plans to expand the Zara restaurant chain are currently in operation with view to finding new sites. I'd say that's a good thing if they can resolve the minor problems.....
Zara was named in recognition of the owner's first child. The owner seems to have caught onto a growing trend towards buffet restaurants. This has been a long time coming! Buffet restaurants are often to be found in America, but are a more recent arrival here, and mostly they have been Chinese (around here anyway).
For a fixed price of £9.95 per adult, or £6.95 for under nines, diners can help themselves from a range of starters, curries, side dishes and desserts. Bear in mind these prices could change, so check when booking a table. Drinks are extra. One drink that is particularly worth trying is Mango Lassi at £1.50 a glass. It's delicious.
Starters are a range of lentil bhajis, onion bhajis, pakoras, kebabs, salads, pickles and poppadums. I noticed about ten different curries, including chicken madras, prawn saag, lamb bhuna, chicken kurma, chicken biryani, chicken liver, and for vegetarians, a vegetable curry and a chickpea dahl. These are accompanied by plain basmati rice, pilau rice and naan bread. Desserts are a choice of three ice-creams, toffee cheesecake and strawberry cheesecake with various toppings and squirty cream. There are also sweets such as jellybeans and jelly bears for the younger diner.
The restaurant is also offering a take-away deal called Buffet Bag n Box, which are selected from their daily buffet menu and packed in the kitchen by their chefs. Menus can vary so it is advisable to check what's on the current days menu.
The prices for the Bag n box are as follows:
Starters £2.20 a box
Rices £2.20 a box.
All main courses £3.20 a box
Poppadoms 30p each
Plain nan £1.20 each
Keema, peshwara, garlic and special nans £1.50 each
Chapattis 60p each
Paratha £1.20 each
Assorted pickle trays £1.00.
Zara is open 7 days including bank holidays, 5.30pm to 11pm.
It's not the first time I've been to Zara and I would certainly go again. It's great to try a range of different curries. Sometimes in a curry restaurant I've found a meal is too bland, or way too hot, but that's what you're stuck with. A buffet means you can try a bit of various curries and you're sure to find something you like. A word of warning though. Don't overfill your plate and waste food unnecessarily as you may find you'll be charged an extra £2.
The kebab as a starter was a bit too hot for me, but I enjoyed the bhajis. On the other hand, I found the chicken kurma was too bland for my taste. That would be okay for younger diners, or someone who doesn't like highly spiced food. The chicken biryani and lamb bhuni were spicier, but also rich in flavor. The pilau rice had a nice aromatic flavor and wasn't too oily.
The desserts were less enticing than the savoury courses and I was a bit disappointed to find there were no traditional Indian sweets there, which I enjoyed last time I went. I enquired about what had happened to them, and it seems they have a new supplier and new Indian sweets will be arriving soon.
Overall, it's a pleasant dining experience. The décor is understated and contemporary, with subtle lighting and textured fabric blinds and ceilings. Waiters are on hand to clear away plates between courses and bring fresh drinks. There's a separate bar for parties to meet up in for a pre-dinner drink. There are unlimited refills on soft drinks, which is good news for drivers. Parking is good, as there is a shopping precinct car park right at the back. The one quibble our party had was the Indian music in the background, which got a little bit irritating, although it wasn't exceptionally loud. Then again, some people like that as part of the Indian restaurant experience, so I suppose you can't suit everyone.
Zara is planning to expand its restaurant chain and I think, from what I've seen, they could be very popular.
More details at www.zarabuffet.com