This was the first restaurant we reviewed in Rotherham. What was in store for us? With hindsight it falls in to the we should have known better category.
The Zaiem Tandoori menu contains only five tandoori dishes, yet thirty-six Balti dishes are listed. Should it perhaps be named Zaiem Balti ?
A third of the menu is dedicated to alchol. Not a good indicator!
We arrived at 9pm. Four or five tables were occupied, usually a reasonably good sign. We were directed to the now infamous waiting area. Why do they do this? Why not just direct us to a table? They want you in the waiting area so they can overcharge you for sub-standard beers.
Our waiting area for this restaurant had been The Rhinoceros (J D Wetherspoon's) in Rotherhams town center. Having had our quota of real ale we dismissed the owner's pleas and proceded straight to a table.
The starters were probably the worst we have sampled to date. They appeared within a few minutes, accompanied by a reasonable amount of salad and dip.
They did not appear freshly cooked. The onion bhajis lacked spice, were not particularly hot and were soggy, indicating they had probably been microwaved. The aloo pakoora were just as bad, if not worse. Again they were indicative of reheated products, lacked spice, had soggy batter and tasted stale. The dip was too sweet for our liking.
The dishes ordered should have been distinctly different, however it appeared that they all probably came from a common pot. All three looked and tasted remarkably similar. They were the darkest coloured curries we have had anywhere, and did not look particularly attractive or appetising.
The Chicken Madras (5/10) tasted gritty, was spicy but lacked an associated chile rush. Restaurants in our region often make up for a deficiency in the intricacies of spicing by providing copious amounts of large pieces of chicken. The Zaiem didn't even redeem itself here.
The Vegetable Rogan Josh (4/10) was not listed on the menu, but they were willing to make it for us. The dish was poor. The vegetables appeared to be from a bag of mixed frozen veg, similar to those you get from your local supermarket. There appeared to be no fresh veg at all in the dish. It contained a token tomato, the ingredient that is supposed to identify the dish. Nick said it was a totally bog standard dish, which did nothing to distinguish itself from any other curry house.
Phil's Chicken Jalfrezi (5/10) contained few chicken pieces. He had asked the waiter for an intricately spiced and slightly hotter than average dish. His expectations were not lived up to. The waiter had built the dish up to be something special. It was nothing like. If the chef's idea of intricate spicing is a liberal sprinkling of fresh green chile peppers, then this restaurant has a problem.
The nan breads, tandoori rotis and chapattis were very good. They were freshly cooked and highlighted the fact that the starters and main courses were a sorry excuse of reheats and common pots. I find it a very sad reflection of this restaurants standards when I have to report that the breads were the best products we sampled.
The service was strange. What no rice? asked the waiter in surprise. We had to ask for a jug of water, which was only replenished when requested. It wasn't spotted as being empty on one of the waiter's many visits to the table.
The toilets should be treated with caution. The hand washing basin is located so as you stand directly behind the entrance door. You may end up with a black eye or bruised shin if you are not careful.
Finally, hygiene standards have to be questioned when a member of staff is seen picking his nose in public.
The dessert menu contained only English ice-cream type dishes.
Lack of competition is probably the reason why this restaurant gets away with these standards. It may also be used as an after hours watering hole, where the usual patrons are not so discerning. Not only is the fare offered poor but it is also relatively expensive. We don't recommend this restuarant. I regret that this restaurant serves you so poorly and I doubt if we will ever visit it again.
More or less the same as another reviewer. Wait around for no reason. Pretty crummy food. Filthy toilets. What a shame.