Is this the best Chinese takeaway in London?

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Zing Zing has just landed in K-Town. But was our home delivery experience sweet or sour?


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Crisp and tender starter: salt and pepper squid
Crisp and tender starter: salt and pepper squid. Pics: Stephen Emms

The southernmost reaches of Kentish Town Road are seemingly never more than a week away from a new takeaway business opening up, or another closing down. For years, short-lived kebab emporia, dubious khat cafes or indenti-fried chicken joints have bloomed, then faded through an all too predictable lifecycle.

But with Arancini Brothers café plus a rejuvenated Bintang and Guanabana Cafe all brightening up the strip, the time is certainly right for something a little more interesting and permanent. And seizing this opportunity come a bunch of guys hell bent on a foodie mission: to be the best Chinese takeaway experience in the UK.

Zing Zing have been serving Highbury, Holloway, Stoke Newington and Finsbury Park from their Blackstock Rd base for a while now, and this expansion to a site in Kentish Town sees them able to whisk food from wok to doorstep in a whole new swathe of north London.

Stylish branded bags: Zing Zing
Stylish branded bags: Zing Zing

The branch is tiny, with not so much as a single table to perch at for eat-in option. It has nevertheless been fitted out in fetching minimal/industrial style for those that prefer to swing by to collect their meal. Steel-meets-stripped pine, wall-length menus, a busy kitchen tucked behind.

Zing Zing sent us a home delivery last Tuesday lunchtime, and we gingerly plucked the trays from stylish branded bags, the attention to detail across all the packaging a good first sign. No soggy clingfilm horrors here, instead neat heat-sealed thermo-trays, all gift-wrapped in tidy greaseproof paper. Anything crispy came without a lid too, preserving its crunch. And rice was in those New York-style tall card boxes too. A touch theatrical, and rather exciting.

As soon as the covers were off, we plunged chopsticks into a selection of starters. Salt and pepper squid (£5) highlighted the good sense of that paper wrapping: crisp, light and tender, as if just served, with a sweet chilli and lime dip. Sticky ribs (£5) proved very tender, if too sweet.

Delving into the mains, skinny ginger chicken (£6) was does-what-it-says heavy on the root, the thigh meat succulent. This is the type of Chinese takeaway dish that can often arrive featuring indeterminate poultry lumps in a gloopy orange sauce, so it was a welcome, altogether more grown-up version.

Drunken Prawns (£7.50) had a nicely smokey tang and we loved the vegetarian chilli green beans (£5.50), with bountiful garlic and a restrained black bean sauce.

Despite being Chinese in concept, the menu’s peppered with Pan-Asian and fusion dishes. A Japanese-inspired breadcrumbed duck katsu (£7.50) served in a floral curry sauce was intriguing, rather than more-ish, but less successful was the beef rendang (£6.50), whose chunks of somewhat fatty meat took the place of the sublime slow-cooked pulp when this Indonesian classic is at its best. Having said that, after a night in the fridge and with a bit of chopping up, it made for basis of a very decent leftovers meal the following day, the spicy, lemongrass-heavy sauce seemingly improving the meat with a bit more age.

Nutella and banana spring rolls with custard
Nutella and banana spring rolls with custard
Best of all? Prawn toast (£4.50), a true showstopper. A dish that can so often involve a sad triangle of oil-saturated Mother’s Pride was instead a hunk of deeply filled baguette bursting with freshly minced prawn and herbs. Inventive and gorgeous.

The strength of pretty much all these dishes is that they have been specifically designed for the takeaway experience. They are not local restaurant food shoved limply into containers, or ladlefuls straight from boiling pans of ready-for-delivery cornstarch and sugar sauce.

Witty touches, such as the successful Nutella and banana spring rolls (£4) dessert, served with dipping custard, all convinced us that the Zing Zing mission is on course for bling bling success.

Despite such ridiculous consumption for a weekday lunch in January, we still had the capacity to remain genuinely excited at the prospect of placing a follow-up order. As takeaway spreads go, this is up there with the Holy Cows and other premium lazy home dinner options.

In short? A giant leap from out-the-bottle flavours, MSG and questionable animal-based cubes that blight a fair few Chinese deliveries. On our next Big Night In, the only junk will be served up by Netflix.

This is box title
Zing Zing Chinese Takeaway, 81 Kentish Town Rd. Meal for 2 around £25. Order here or on 0207 284 4432 daily from 12.30pm – 11pm Kentishtowner rating: 8/10 (for a takeaway)

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  • Tristan

    We had a delivery from there just before Christmas. It arrived an hour and a half late; all the food had dried up; and I was ill the following day. Won’t be going there again, which is a shame because the menu looks pretty decent.

    • JoshZingZing

      Hi Tristan,

      Sorry to hear about this! All our food is cooked fresh and we’re very new so we can make mistakes! Also worth mentioning that we do use less sauce than a standard Chinese takeaway – we prefer ‘glazing’ to ‘drowning’. Please do email me directly at josh.m@zing-zing.co.uk and we’ll see if we can entice you back.

  • Dave

    I’d also mention the Zing Boxes; the American style cardboard boxes (what joy!) half filled with a starch (the edamame egg fried rice is ace) and topped up with a main of your choice from a list. A steal at £6.50. The crispy shredded beef is nothing like the twiglety disappointments usually served up from Chinese take-aways.

    • JoshZingZing

      Hi Dave,

      Great to hear that you liked the food. Indeed, we really are going for something different with our shredded beef – well noticed. Who would have thought actually using beef is the way to go ;-).

  • Sue Odell

    We are so excited to see such Zing Zing open – it’s beautifully designed, impressive looking shop. Like Tristan, we collected a large meal for six of us from the shop a week after it opened. Sadly the food was all dried up, quite a lot was burnt and it was frankly inedible. We were SO disappointed as we had high hopes. Not much is going to entice us to return.

    • JoshZingZing

      Hi Sue,

      Pleased that you like a look of the shop and it’s a real shame that we couldn’t match that with the food. All our food is cooked fresh to order so we can sometimes make mistakes. Would love to entice you back – send me an email to josh.m@zing-zing.co.uk.

  • Jamie

    I really wanted to like this but after two disappointing experiences I probably won’t order from them again in the near future. Shredded duck arrived unshredded, without the veg or sauce, and with a few soggy pancakes in a plastic pouch.

    • JoshZingZing

      Hi Jamie,

      Thanks for the feedback! Indeed, we purposefully don’t shred the duck. Having run extensive tests we have found that shredding pre-delivery causes the skin to go soggy and the middle to dry out (as you might find with a standard takeaway). Although it involves a tiny bit of work for the customer, it is worth it for a vastly superior product.

      However, no sauces or vegetables sounds like a mistake to me. If you could email me your order details personally to josh.m@zing-zing.co.uk, I’ll sort this out for you :-).

  • Dogbreath

    Wanted to try it but they won’t deliver to N6. Can anyone recommend another decent Chinese near Highgate?

    • JoshZingZing

      Hi ‘Dogbreath’ – great name 🙂

      Just to let you know that we will be delivering to N6 very soon indeed!

      Kind regards,

      Josh
      Zing Zing

  • Andy

    Tried it last week – brilliant food for a takeaway. I think they purposefully put less sauce on their dishes and use thinner non stodgy sauces which works for be. Way better than the usual rubbish.

    • JoshZingZing

      Hi Andy,

      Pleased to hear that you enjoyed the food. You’ve hit the nail on the head! Indeed we do use a little less sauce, so as not to ‘drown’ the product like a regular Chinese takeaway. Thanks for noticing :-).

  • Fred

    The first order we made, soon after it opened, was fine, but I wouldn’t know about the Prawn toast as our second delivery some days later arrived 30 minutes before the time it was ordered for, which was damned inconvenient, and without the Prawn toast being ticked off on the order list or being included in the delivery. The Prawn toast turned up after we’d finished our meal, despite telling the delivery bloke that we no longer wanted it. No mention of a refund of the cost.

    All in all, a bit disappointing.

    • JoshZingZing

      Hi Fred,

      Sorry to hear about the delivery problem that you encountered. Our first few weeks were about finding our feet and mistakes like this did happen, unfortunately.

      Email me personally at josh.m@zing-zing.co.uk and I’ll sort this out for you!

  • Baz tavener

    Sun hin top of kentish town all day long

  • Commentator01

    We used them after using this review. We received a call 40 mins before the meal had been ordered for saying it was ready. We said we weren’t. In fairness, the meal that eventually came had clearly not been sitting there waiting for 40 minutes. Unfortunately, however, it was rather bland, the sauces were a bit gloopy, the shredded beef seemed to be burnt and, like the person above, we were annoyed that the shredded duck wasn’t shredded, Pleasant service (both on the phone and delivery person) but they’ll need to up their games for us to use them again.

  • Yaz

    Thanks a bunch kentishtowner you’ve created a monster. Went £10 over my normal take away budget to try zing zing. Firstly they forgot our rice dish. Then as I was tucking into my vegetable noodles I discovered it was packed with chicken! Great amount of meat if that’s your thing but not what I wanted. 2 phone calls later they have agreed to send us some desserts after much begging as we did not want their offer of 10% off next time. Next time? Don’t think so

  • nick

    thanks for the recommendation. had a delicious meal tonight – arrived slightly late but worth the trouble. sesame glazed chicken was to die for as were the desserts.

    @Yaz – bit harsh, mate! they seem to be a brand new business trying to bring something interesting to the area. they’ve only recently opened so bound to have a few problems.

  • Julianator

    Blimey – what’s going on with all the poor reviews in the comments? My two experiences of Zing Zing have been good so far: slightly more authentic chinese food that isn’t covered in gloopy sauce. I’ve particularly enjoyed the Crispy Shredded Beef and the Tempura Chili Sea Bass.

    Only objection is the price – quite steep for a takeaway, even a good one – but on both occasions we’ve over-ordered so that was partially our fault.

    Good luck to Zing Zing in establishing itself in Kentish Town. And it’s nice to see a little foody stretch start to open up on the up-till-now rather unlovely southerly section of KT Road – Zing Zing, Guanabana, Bintang and the sushi joint next to Jews for jesus are all interesting little eating spots.

  • jack

    Food was ok – took 1 hour and 15 minutes to arrive. When we served up it was missing one of the main items. We phoned up and asked them to bring it to us but after an hour passed it still hadn’t arrived. We called up and asked where it was and they apologized and offered £5 off our next order instead of bringing the food out to us. As we’re not keen on ordering with them again we asked them to just bring the £5 back to us which we are now waiting for. Like i say the food wasn’t bad but the service was poor. Wouldn’t recommend it.

  • anna

    Ordered a takeaway from Zing Zing on Friday night, food took an hour and a half to come but was well worth the wait when it did! I will definitely be ordering from them again. Delicious food, reasonable price for the quality and very well presented/packaged.

  • Dan

    The above negative comments are all true. Arrived almost two hours after ordering despite saying it would be 45 mins, and when it did arrive was not good – flavourless sauces, fatty meat and soggy crispy beef.

    As someone who orders chinese once a week and having had high hope for this place, I can say it’s all marketing and very little attention to what matters – the food.

  • Tim

    Brilliant food, thanks.

  • Donna

    Should have read the reader reviews before ordering – Kentishtowner was way too kind here. I ordered Schezuan Aubergine (overly rich, sweet, gloopy sauce – inedible) “steamed sea bass” which was either mackerel or days/if not a week old. The only edible thing was the green beans. It was so bad we called back and asked what fish we were given: Reply: “you ordered the sea bass?” Me: “Was it seabass?” Them “You didn’t like it?” Me: “No.” Them: “Try the lemon sea bass next time, it’s much more tasty.” It’s not often I come across something so good or so bad that I post a review but this was one of the worst meals I’ve had in a long time.

  • Fweb

    Just thought I’d give it a go despite the bad comments here, I have to admit I wouldn’t rush to get it again. Shouldve just stuck with starters which were lovely, noodles were ridiculously salty and none of the promised beansprouts and veg to be found, crispy beef was just weird and not enjoyable. All in all stick with dumplings and squid…!

  • PaulaTucker

    Appalling food. And dreadful customer service when I took back the inedible food. Am now eating a packet of prawn cocktail crisps as that is preferable to what was served up as “beef rendang” to me earlier. Ugh!

  • Julia S

    I simply don’t understand these negative embarks- have we been ordering from the same place?! We’ve had food delivered four times now, and it’s mainly been really fantastic: very fresh, light, delicately flavoured. The prawn toast was beautiful, the skinny chicken great, the special prawns in a coconut sauce delicious; and we had a very tasty beef rendang. Rice portions are huge- I think you only need one portion for three. The food has never been late or taken longer than 45 minutes- nothing feels re-heated or pre-cooked. I think it’s very good value for money, in fact.

    • JoshZingZing

      Hi Julia,

      Thanks for the feedback, really appreciated. To answer your question, I think there are a few different reasons for some of the negative comments:

      1. Our fault! A lot of the customers above tried us in our first few weeks after opening. This was obviously a tough time for us and difficult to maintain consistency. However, we’re now past that and sending out great food on a consistent basis :-).

      2. Incorrect expectations. We’re trying to start a revolution in the industry. Fresh food, no added chemicals and making sure everything is delivered with the condition of the food in mind. However, despite its poor practices, it’s an industry that a lot of people are used to, and not everyone likes change :-). Take the guys above who are complaining that their duck wasn’t shredded. Well, it’s perfectly logical – if duck is pre-shredded before delivery it dries out and the skin goes soggy, therefore we do not do it. However, a lot of people are used to it this way, so are upset at the change despite the logic. That’s fair enough, not everyone is an early adopter!

      3. Spam reviewers. Unfortunately, we’re in a slightly seedy industry. Although most of the posts above are the thoughts of genuine customers, there are a few that are just a little bit fishy (our biggest clue is when they talk about dishes that we do not even serve!). We are working closely with the Kentishtowner to uncover any of these.

      Anyway, thanks again for the feedback, it really is much appreciated.

      Kind regards,

      Josh
      Zing Zing

  • oli

    ive eaten here twice – it is terrible. the first time was within the opening two weeks so we forgave it and gave it a second chance yesterday, but that will be it. it looks cool, and there arent chinese takeaways in kentish town, but i would recommend avoiding it unless you are used to eating sub-standard food. try the bengal lancer if you want a takeaway. on the plus side, it is quite cheap.

    of the dishes we’ve had:

    the soup was tasteless and oily. it tasted like hot water with oil. no flavour or texture
    crispy duck – was fine, but the hoisin sauce was so thick that it resembled hair gel. quite disconcerting spreading that on the pancakes.
    the prawn pad thai – disgusting. unusual as it quite a straightforward dish, but it tasted horrible. left half the box, which is saying something when you havent eaten all day.
    pepper squid – i didnt think it was terrible, but my gf did, saying it was rubbery and chewy.
    chicken skewers – again quite gruesome. greasy and flavourless.

  • havetoastinstead

    spam reviewers?! Take it from me, having been disappointed, made sick and hugely ripped off from both branches of Zing Zing I’d hazard a guess that all of the above complaints are just and accurate. Feel free to ask which dishes I had if that serves as some sort of honesty test.

  • Nick

    The branding and marketing is great. I like the concept and everything except THE FOOD…
    I get that the food is fusion and not authentic however your labelled as chinese food which it really isn’t and the food isn’t good. Portion size for most of the things on your menu is ridiculous. I once tried the dumplings, have i ordered from the kids menu? Some of the ingredients are okay but very poorly executed. I really wanted to like this place but never again… the food needs a lot of work. This is a chinese food fail.

  • josh reid

    The food was good staff was friendly but in all honesty i prefer my usual sushi from ISO SUSHI in London i can visit both branches what makes it convenient the food is top class service is good staff really friendly check them out … http://isosushi.co.uk/

  • punkyrocks

    After reading a breathless review on the KT, we had a not-great experience the first time we ordered from Zing Zing but I was thinking of giving them another chance till I read the reviews that have appeared since. The aubergine we ordered had the most bizarre, revolting sauce on it and the so-called prawn pad thai was mean, to say the least. I might have fished out 3 prawns but my memory is shouting 2. Other stuff was ok. The thing is, all the marketing in the world can’t alter the basics: is the food good quality, are the portions and cost reasonable, and is the delivery service reliable. Till something genuinely better comes along I’m going to stick to Paya Cuisine. It’s not brilliant, but it’s always fine.