“I wanted to see what they were delivering,” he explained.
But none, in his view, offered the contemporary style of cuisine that he planned to serve and that convinced him he should launch a new restaurant in the heart of the South Downs.
The catchphrase for the Steyning Tandoori is ‘experience the difference’ and it accurately emphasises his approach to a new age of fine dining.
“It’s not like a traditional curry house,” he said, “those days are gone.”
Although he remains true to traditional recipes, he has given his menu a contemporary twist - reflecting the desire for fine dining.
The focus is all about taste and simplicity - and using spices to accentuate the qualities of the meat and fish rather than overwhelming and drowning them.
It’s all about healthy eating too. His menu avoids high fat ingredients, there are no artificial colours, and the goal is to serve the very best produce.
Everything is freshly cooked to order which means that dishes arrive when they are ready rather than waiting on hot plates in the kitchen to be delivered together.
“We don’t use hot plates,” he said. The food is delivered direct from the cooking pots direct to the plates.
He already runs two successful restaurants elsewhere in the country - and discovered the Steyning location on the internet.
Having researched the area thoroughly, he feels there could not have been a better location.
“I like everything about Steyning. It’s really beautiful and I very much enjoy the scenery [of the South Downs].”
But what makes Steyning really special are the local residents. “The people are very friendly, polite and gentle.”
Zak has alreayd persuaded one of his best chef’s to move to Steyning to develop the menu - and he would like to settle here too.
But the real test will be whether the Steyning Tandoori - which officially opened last week - succeeds.
It is a brave decision to launch a new restaurant in the current uncertain economic climate.
As Zak knows, fundamental to the tandoori’s fortunes will be the quality and reputation of its food.
We sampled the menu on Thursday lunchtime. It lived up to its promise.
There was a freshness and indivuality to each dish rather than a sense that one richly flavoured and spiced sauce had infected each of them.
All the dishes were cooked with panache and a vibrant style.
The restaurant is modern, clean and utterly contemporary - and even the background music is refreshingly pleasing to the ear.
Our party of four started with the chef’s selection (£7.95 each) for a minimum of two people. This comprised grilled duck, garlic king prawns, tandoori chicken, sheek kebab, chicken chaat, served with salad and dips.
Our mains included chicken badami (£8.95) - grilled chicken breast with peanut sauce; satta murgh (£7.95) - chicken cooked with ginger, onions, and mushrooms; Goa green chicken curry (£7.95) - chicken breast cooked with broccoli, aubergine, coconut milk and aromatic spices; and bahari calamari (£12.95) - calamari stuffed with minced prawns, chicken and cooked in a rich sauce.
Sides were special rice (£3.75), mushroom rice (£3.75) and garlic and peshwari naan (£2.50 each).
The calamari was not entirely to my taste but will have suited others. The satta murgh was fabulous. Overall, the meal was a triumph - and signals a whole new approach to fine Indian cuisine.
The prices reflect the quality although there is a bargain Sunday Buffet (adult £8.95 and child £5.95) and a Thursday five course banquet for £12.95 per person.
This is a brave enterprise by Zak and his team. They deserve to succeed.
Steyning Tandoori 76 High Street, Steyning BN44 3RD 01903 813533 or 879726.