As those of you with fellow little humans will appreciate, it’s often easier to order a baby-friendly takeaway pizza for dinner than tackle tantrums in a public place eating out.
It’s a very different picture on home turf in Iran where mamans and babas (mums and dads) do not shout or get frustrated with their little sidekicks. Toddlers eat adult meals rather than fish fingers and chips and chucking their dinners around is a no-no.
Keen to discover the secrets of success, H and I decided to take little C out to the award-winning Zeera Indian Restaurant in South Shields which has earned plenty of plaudits over the years for its cuisine.
Now fast and casual are usually the two words H and I usually associate with dining when little C has had no sleep all day, but sometimes we just want the food we eat to taste good too.
We were met on arrival at Zeera by Shah Choudhury, the restaurant’s friendly managing director and he was quick to show us to our table. Now this is very important when dining with small children in a den of temptation which can prove ripe for toddler tantrums.
Now you don’t get colouring books and crayons at this exclusive Indian establishment, but little C is an adventurous eater and did get plenty of little dishes brimming with tasty treats. Think Poppadoms, Mango Chutney and Mixed Pickles and then a starter size portion of Chicken Tikka. Our pint-sized partner in crime was prepared to try everything. With so many options, there were a few palate-pleasers – particularly the sweet Mango Chutney, which was in his words ‘very tasty’.
As for the space, it was open and opulent and it’s great for parents who want to throw back a couple of glasses of wine. The Montepulciano D’Abruzzo DOP Colle Cavalieri, Cantina Tollo 2016 comes highly recommended! Although I had a Diet Coke as I was driving.
H and I ordered our starters. I opted for the warming Garlic Mushroom on Puri, while H chose the fiery Neembu Chingri. A beautiful special dish, these were super king prawns prepared in a spicy hot sauce, flavoured with tangy lemon, naga chilli, tomatoes, peppers and garlic. Both dishes were probably the best we have tasted in terms of Indian cuisine for some time and we were really looking forward to our mains.
H ordered Adraki Dhaniya Lamb, Pilau Rice and a soft and huge Plain Nan. A North Indian dish of cubed lamb, soft on the tongue and rich and delicious with slow-cooked with spices, infused with pickled ginger which gave it a kick, green chillies and whole roasted crushed dhaniya seeds, garnished with fresh coriander.
My mains was a hot contender to H’s. The Chicken Karahi dish was cooked to perfection with a special mix of spice, including garlic, ginger and coriander. It went splendidly with the Mushroom Pilau Rice and Peshwari Nan, although one Nan would have been sufficient for all of us.
Again and again, Rafael and the waiting team impressed us with their care and attentiveness throughout our visit, particularly when little C had run out of poppadoms and cranberry juice and needed refuelling half way through our mains. And no one was fazed when he started playing with my napkin ring. Although I was probably the only one who noticed!
The restaurant certainly lives up to its reputation with a great variety of dishes. It proved to be a prime spot for our mini-me and we will most certainly be back for more. The bill was a reasonably priced £69.70. It was a date-night for the whole family where little C could eat (and play) while we dined in peace (almost). A great place to take family and friends. 10/10