All those complaining of a slowdown in Delhi should take a reality check at Zest, the posh new restaurant, that has just opened at DLF Emporio, the luxury mall once written off by complainers as a dead and buried place with few takers in the time of a global recession. That the last may be well and truly over is quite evident, at least as far as the F&B biz goes in India’s capital.
One of the newest restaurants to launch in Delhi this season, Zest is neither small in terms of its sq foot area (and the number of specialized kitchens with specialist chefs it brings together under one roof) nor inexpensive. My cousin, who had earlier visited the place in its infancy with a group of young, girlie friends no doubt content to peck and nibble rather that eat and smell real food, came back with the wonderful news that the per person charge here—at least for those dining in a largish 7-10 people group—is approximately Rs 900 (under $20). The reality is not just a little but way off, that is if you choose to dine lavishly like we did the other night. The tab for us came to about Rs 2,000 per person ($ 40) while eating in a group of nine, fairly expensive even by Delhi standards where food isn’t exactly cheap.
The restaurant comprises of seven separate kitchens—ranging from the Meditteranean to Thai, including Japanese, Chinese, Italian et al. You can see food being cooked or assembled through large show windows. But the best part of our meal, I thought, were the appetizers. We had several portions of some amazing garlic prawns and what is possibly the best mezze probably in the entire country. The Muhammara, a rare find in Delhi, made from walnuts et al, was to die for, and all other dips excellent, even as we enjoyed some crunchy sambuskas and pita with them.
The mains were classy if not superlative. I settled for some flavourful Thai but the great rip off was what the husband and a cousin ordered—a filet mignon of beef at Rs 2,000 plus a portion. The menu didn’t mention whether this was Kobe or Waghu or the like but since only imported beef can be legally sold in Delhi, the ingredients per se must have been costly. Yet…
More than the food on the other hand, it is the ambiance and energy at Zest that is infecting. It’s a place that is no doubt elite and you will be dining in label-dripping company. But, at the same time, it is also inexplicably comfortable. The noise levels are comfortable and children can easily be free and on their own speaking loudly or walking around without being offensive.
You cannot leave the restaurant, however, without checking out the loos. Very plush, very fancy, these have automatic covers, where seats get warmed, and a variety of functions can be performed through automatic switch control! My daughter, all of four, wants to revisit, just for the pleasure of the throne!
The restaurant has one of the biggest wine cellars in the city and a lovely tasting room. Wines by the glass are, in fact, a relatively reasonable Rs 350 or so ($7). There is a terrace too that I didn’t quite see and a bar area outside, which was so crowded on a Friday evening that we had to literally wade through a sea of people to get out after the meal, close to the Cinderella hour. And, oh! Do book before you go in. We booked two days in advance and yet got our big table only after a bit of string-pulling. Now, that’s certainly unusual for Delhi where a certain section of the society wants to eat and be photographed holding a wine glass—but for free. This one seems to be a magnet for money-spenders.
DLF Emporio, Vasant Kunj