The little side road of Inverness Street is quickly becoming a corner for classy eateries of Camden and the Zen Sai Bar and Restaurant fits in quite well. The small, two-level location boasts signature bespoke cocktails, Malaysian and Indian fusion dishes, small sharing plates, bespoke cocktail happy hour and DJs or live music late in to the night.
The bar’s summer party proved to be a crowded event full of the kind of young, happy people that Camden is so good at attracting. Staff were attentive and helpful, talking about the new menu and the cocktails available for the evening. We wasted no time in grabbing the attention of a bartender and asking him to recommend a drink. The rather lacklustre reply was symptomatic of the treatment everyone would receive for the rest of the night and we definitely spent too long propping the bar up desperately trying to make conversation while watching mixology in slow motion.
That said, we persevered and made our way through the cocktail menu, discarding only one of the choices for the summer menu that felt a little incomplete. While we loved the exotic fruit Caparioska with Grey Goose and the rum-based Stevie Wonder with caramel and citrus notes, the overwhelming favourite was the delightfully simple Victorias Garden, with a mix of clean flavours spun with gin. If there is a drink that better embraces the English summer for an Asian meal then I haven’t found it yet.
While busy sampling cocktails we were treated to tiny tasters of delicious fusion food which we found impressively authentic. While many restaurants will sacrifice ingredients to offer affordable prices it’s a sin to compromise when the food is so good and Zen Sai clearly knows that. Don’t get us wrong, the tasting menu prices start at £39.50 a head and that is a bargain. The pakora and satay we stole at every opportunity were the perfect level of spicy – not giving up on the delicious taste of the East but not ruining your taste buds for the next course.
We were told that the bar downstairs were we were lounging gets pretty packed with clubbers when the evening starts and it was tempting to stick around and find out. We’re pretty sure the atmosphere suits a party more than a full meal. I think the finger food and strong liquor are prefect for a celebration – especially as the world of Camden (and the tube) are on your doorstep if you leave.