Restaurant Review: Zinnia

Can this Chelsea sushi restaurant impress a vegetarian and a diner with a shellfish allergy?

There are few things I like better than cocktails and Japanese food, so when presented with the opportunity to try Zinnia, the new Japanese fusion restaurant that has taken up residence on the Fulham Road where Chelsea favourite 86 used to be, I jumped at the chance.

The exterior hasn’t changed much since the days of 86, and the layout inside is nice and familiar, but that’s where the comparisons with its predecessor end. The interior is opulent but tasteful, with a warm mix of colours, but not as intimidating as some of the other upmarket restaurants that you’d find in the area.

We were greeted upon entry and asked if we’d like to have a drink at the bar before being shown to our table. Never ones to turn down a cocktail, we sat at the window and enjoyed the bartender’s recommendation, the Earl Grey Martini, which was so good that I’m thinking I should just swap my regular tea for this alcoholic variety.

The dining area is sympathetically lit, dark enough to feel intimate while still allowing you to look your date clearly in the eyes. It filled up pretty quickly but remained quiet enough to be able to have a conversation without straining to hear.

As a vegetarian I often fear my date will take me to a restaurant where there is little to no option for me, putting us both in an awkward position, but at Zinnia there were no such issues. With my veggie status and my date’s shellfish allergy, it’s fair to say that we’re a difficult duo to cater for, but the staff were very accommodating and I felt far from deprived.

We enjoyed a selection of avocado maki rolls, nigiri sushi and a mixed tempura to start, all beautifully presented and perfect for sharing. The tofu tempura was by far the best tofu I’ve had and impressed even my meat-eating date – which is no easy feat, as I’m sure other vegetarians will understand.

For mains I had the udon noodles stir-fry and my date had the lamb cutlets; slow-cooked to perfection, they simply fell off the bone, or so I was told. The tapas-style offering gives you the opportunity to try lots of different things and serves as a great ice-breaker if this is one of the early dates and conversation runs dry!

Though full from our starter and mains – OK, and the cocktails and sake – we still managed to find room for dessert. We opted for the refreshing mango and coconut sphere, which was full of flavour but not too heavy – the perfect end to our meal.

The bar is perfectly placed to seamlessly transition you from dinner to drinks when the food is finished but you’re not quite ready for the night to be over. If you’re looking for a dinner that will impress, is cool without seeming like you’re trying too hard, and doesn’t break the bank, Zinnia is the place for you.

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