It was not uncommon for Karachiites looking for a spot of lunch to make a bee-line for The Deli at Zamzama. Its salads and sandwiches were perfect for a quick bite and there was more on the menu for those enjoying a leisurely afternoon.
At its new location, The Deli had been closed in the daytime — until recently. Regulars of the restaurant can now enjoy their summer menu.
I got in touch with the owner Tina Mehdi, a well known figure in the food business, to find out what's new.
The revamped menu has been three years in the making, shared Tina, who worked with food consultant Zari Beg.
"The core of The Deli is to be a journey of flavours," Tina said.
So I decided to take the trip with my colleagues the moment they opened for lunch.
Where to go
The Deli has relocated to Block 4, Clifton in the same lane as the popular Café Aylanto. A green on green design greets you at the entrance.
The outside seating is done up with installations by artists like Maira Chinoy and has a cool, inviting ambiance. This had us cursing the hot weather that forbade us to eat outdoors.
However, sitting inside was no chore. The Deli's set-up is simple yet sophisticated. French inspired decor give it a chic look, while works of artists like Unver Shafi broke the monotony of the solid white walls.
When to go
The new lunch menu at The Deli can be enjoyed between 12pm and 4pm. The eatery is also open for dinner from 7:30pm onwards. There's a slight change in the menu for dinner though.
What to order
The menu gave me anxiety because I wanted to eat everything!
When I visited with my colleagues, The Deli had just introduced its new lunch menu. I didn't have any favourites, so I decided to ask Tina for recommendations. She was more than happy to assist.
With spring and summer being the theme of the new menu, it was important to try the salads that paid homage to the fruits of the season.
The strawberry, orange, fennel and blue cheese salad screamed summer. It was light, refreshing and the tanginess of the fruits made it a must-have in this heat while the blue cheese added some welcome texture to the dish.
Tina is aware of the fitness rave that has taken over Karachi and made sure to add some dishes for the health conscious. The kale with apple, cranberries and nutty granola was just what my friend needed. I was skeptical of the idea but the acidity of the apples and nuttiness in granola was a winning combination and made me want more. There was almost a smokey taste in the nuts and we're not complaining.
For those wanting a more extravagant option as a starter, the tortilla with smoked salmon and mango serrano crema is the way to go... and yes I know that was a mouthful to say. I have a salmon bias but this dish hit another level of awesome. There was a hint of sourness blending with the salmon's smokiness and the crunch of the tortilla gave it an amazing texture.
For those craving Asian fusion, the chicken and prawn dim sum is a must-have. Served with an array of dipping sauces, it's great to share with someone. My personal favourite was the sesame dipping sauce.
The stuffed portobello mushroom had a lot of toppings but the texture of the mushroom was nice and meaty.
According to Tina, the choice of sides for each dish have been deliberated upon with the same level of attention as the mains on the menu.
The Mediterranean fish is a tricky dish because it's so easy to overcook it. I was worried it would be dry but it wasn't. The edges were crispy and the fish itself was soft. I loved the potatoes served on the side. It was a huge change from the typical mashed or baked potato served in so many eateries.
The honey baked red snapper with pickled ginger was a pleasant surprise because of its sides. The tender fish was served with quinoa and topped off with a leafy salad. The quinoa was light and the sesame seeds on the salad made it a win. Seafood lovers need to try this.
The oriental snapper with green salad was unique. Although it had very strong seasoning, the chili fusion in the salad balanced the flavours overall.
The fettuccine with prawns, bell peppers and fennel was one of my favourites, even though I'm never very enthusiastic about pasta. It wasn't excessively saucy, had the perfect level of spice and while the pasta was a little lumpy, I quite enjoyed the unprocessed texture. "We make our pasta in-house and on order," shared Tina with a satisfied grin.
The oven roasted chicken is good for the chicken lover in your group. None of us were too big on chicken so this dish didn't get the love it deserved but the ricotta and and the pan gravy did give it some great flavours.
Pizzas are also a new addition to the menu but we had no room to give those a try.
I was stuffed. But it would be unfair for me to not try the desserts. Especially when the desserts were said to be just as innovative as the mains.
"I was never happy with my desserts," Tina told me. "That's why I worked very hard on them. Our desserts have been practised to death. I didn't want to go with simple cakes, although I did keep some for those not willing to try an unusual item. But I wanted to make sure there's something wonderful for everyone."
With commitment like that, we had to get our hands on those desserts. And boy are we glad we did.
We didn't want to go for the conventional choices like lava cake or cheesecake, even though The Deli has made it a point to add twists to those dishes too. So we tried some of the more unique offerings.
The hazelnut roulade was heavier in comparison to the other dishes, and Mehdi says that it will soon be off the menu because it's more of a winter dish. I agree. The generous amount of hazelnut makes this a rich dessert.
The Eton mess with berries was a fun dish. It's a mix of berries, pavlova and mascarpone. There was also a hint of chocolate in there that complemented the berries very well.
The deconstructed catalana with almond croquants and raspberry was another unique addition to the menu. It consisted of a custard decorated with dehydrated olives which made me want more. It was very light and perfect to end lunch with.
However, the winner for me was the feta and honey cheese on a Kadaif pastry. I initially thought it was ice-cream since it was served in a scoop style. But the middle eastern dessert is cheesey goodness served chilled. It was rich, the flavour was nothing like I've tried before. The Kadaif pastry is made of vermicelli and had quite a crunch. I would love to have it again.
Damage on the pocket
Prices of The Deli are a little steep but I guess that's to be expected. The salads and pasta range from Rs700-Rs900 while the mains range from Rs1,100-1,700. The desserts vary from Rs450-650. The Deli has also recently started their set lunch menu where you can get a starter, a main and a dessert for Rs. 1,550 (exclusive of tax).
The Deli is definitely worth a lunch trip. You're bound to find a favourite dish there. I know I'm going back for the salads and pasta!