When Eric Bailly chose to celebrate his birthday in style with a host of his Manchester United team-mates earlier this month, they forged a well-trodden path to one of Manchester’s most popular footballing haunts. For Eric and his Reds friends, including Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Juan Mata, all headed to one of the city’s hidden gastronomic gems – the Zouk Tea Bar and Grill just off Oxford Road.
The luxury Indian restaurant has become something of a hotspot for visiting footballers and superstars over the years. Its more secluded location on the outskirts of town has leaned to become a more private dining spot for some of the world’s most famous faces who have dined there – including music icons Drake and Rihanna.
Indeed, Drake was so fond of Zouk’s cheese naan and chilo kebab when he booked the entire venue when he visited in 2017 that the staff decided to make them house specialties on the menu ever since. But Zouk bosses say they can trace their origins as a celebrity hotspot back to when a particular footballer started dating there.
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In 2012, when Mario Balotelli was playing for Manchester City, the flamboyant star would go on to become a regular at Zouk. Even if the restaurant were to find itself in the middle of some rather amusing tabloid speculation about the star.
Zouk owner Mudassar Amjad said: “It all started with Balotelli when he was at Man City. There was a famous incident where the press wrote that he was spotted fighting at the sword with our bread chef with a rolling pin.
“The truth is, he was a big fan of the restaurant and came around most weeks. He even got fined by his team after he got busted leaving Zouk the day before a big game!”
But as the restaurant needed to find out where Balotelli was leading, other stars were quick to follow.
Mudassar recalled: “Balotelli brought a lot of other footballers with him and he also brought Drake. Drake then brought Rihanna and before we knew it we had regulars from City, United, Everton and Liverpool.”
Zouk specializes in authentic Pakistani and Indian cuisine and is known for its flowery walls at the entrance and contemporary interiors in the Quadrangle building on Chester Street. It also has a large covered outdoor terrace for dining.
The restaurant’s chefs offer what they claim is the “world’s hottest curry” every year to celebrate World Chilli Day, along with ever-popular curries like chicken makhani and lamb karahi. Although patrons say their most popular dishes tend to be king prawns, salmon and their famous whole roast chicken.
Some of the restaurant’s football regulars over the years have included Raheem Sterling, Jesse Lingard, Jadon Sancho, Patrice Evra, Paul Pogba, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Steven Gerrard, Mo Salah, Eric Bailly and Marouane Fellaini.
And what keeps footballers coming back? Mudassar says: “I think they like variety. We have some really hearty hearty dishes like biryanis and our lamb shank curry on the menu, but we also have a lot of grills and the footballers are usually really good. eaters.
“The most popular dishes are the king prawns, salmon and roasted whole chicken. Recently they also loved the mango salad and our chicken 65.
“When Drake came along a few years ago, he couldn’t get enough of the chilo kebab which is made with tender lamb tenderloin. And he had it with the cheese naan. Both are very popular dishes and I’m not sure we would ever take them off the menu now.”
Eric’s 28th birthday party was held in one of Zouk’s private dining spaces, but there’s still a party atmosphere inside the venue.
Indeed, when birthday boy Bailly was the last to leave around 11:30 p.m. after his party last week, he was serenaded with a rendition of “happy birthday” by a group of young fans who had been waiting for him at outside the establishment.
Meanwhile, stars who have partied there over the years include Strictly Come Dancing couple Gemma Atkinson and Gorka Marquez, Corrie’s Ryan Thomas and family and most recently music legend Michael Bolton.
Mudassar says, “Another reason why I think stars like Zouk is the atmosphere. You can come any day of the week and the restaurant is full and bustling.
“There’s a kind of holiday vibe to it and we try to provide all of our guests with a little escape. Additionally, we have the mezzanine floor which is a great space for groups or parties and offers a bit of privacy. privacy but still has the same buzz and vibe.”
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