RE­SPON­SI­BLE din­ing

DON’T LET THIS SIM­PLE, AIRY CAFE AT THE HOL­I­DAY INN DUBAI FES­TI­VAL CITY FOOL YOU. THE FOOD IS HEALTHY, IN­VEN­TIVE AND NOTH­ING SHORT OF IN­SPIRED

Good (UAE) - - CONTENTS - Words: Ann Marie Mcqueen

Zeste serves up tasty and in­ven­tive healthy food

I feel sorry for Dubai’s healthy cafes in ho­tels, some­times. In all the noise about sus­tain­able and or­ganic and clean food we hear these days, I just don’t think they get the at­ten­tion that their stand­alone coun­ter­parts do. Or they try to do healthy but miss the mark, with staff who can’t an­swer sim­ple ques­tions, such as does this have gluten? What about dairy?

En­ter Zeste, the cafe in the lovely new Hol­i­day Inn dubai fes­ti­val City, which opened in fe­bru­ary.

Zeste is su­per cute, bright and airy, with red rope ac­cents and pink vel­vet cush­ions, green chairs and lots of wood. The staff are lovely, well-versed in those an­noy­ing ques­tions about in­gre­di­ents that are stan­dard these days. Not only do they know the menu inside and out, they are also flex­i­ble and help­ful, sug­gest­ing that you add an egg to this or gin­ger to that. I re­viewed Zeste in a slightly un­usual way for these pages, on an overnight stay at the ho­tel where my main goal was to plow through as much work as pos­si­ble.

And so I sam­pled dishes dur­ing two sit­tings, one for a late din­ner and the other in the late morn­ing.

The menu at Zeste is quite lim­ited, which I am in­creas­ingly find­ing re­fresh­ing in to­day’s world of too much of every­thing: there are six su­per­food bowls and 15 all-day snacks, many egg-based and some which were so provoca­tive I rued my re­cent pledge to stay away from wheat and fried foods. of par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est – al­though not the kind that made me want to or­der it – was “spag on toast”. Nowhere else have I seen an item like this: home­made spaghetti, pecorino and a poached egg on sour­dough toast.

ob­vi­ously Zeste doesn’t only cater to hon­est eaters: they also of­fer fried mac n cheese, pa­prika kim­chi tem­pura and gua­camole bon bons. There is also more stan­dard fare, in­clud­ing a burger, and a club sand­wich, and a smoked salmon dish, but what snapped up my at­ten­tion im­me­di­ately was the Kim­chi Bene­dict (dhs45). I or­dered it out of cu­rios­ity, only to be pre­sented with one of the most de­light­ful flavour com­bi­na­tions I’ve had the op­por­tu­nity to taste in re­cent mem­ory. I loved that the por­tion was mod­est: one piece of sour­dough, one per­fectly medium poached egg. Lay­ered be­tween those two, from the bot­tom, was kim­chi, the fer­mented Korean cab­bage, fol­lowed by thin slices of por­to­bello mush­room. on top of the egg, spring onion, saqkura, a type of mi­cro-green, and a pleas­antly warm kim­chi sauce, which had been mixed with tra­di­tional hol­landaise. It was out­stand­ing. It was so good in fact, that there was no way that my macro su­per­food bowl (dhs50) the next morn­ing could have mea­sured up, no mat­ter how thought­fully it was pre­pared. And it was too: squares of nori, sesame and pick­led strands of car­rot and cu­cum­ber gave a nice crunch and salty off­set to the rest of the dish, which was based on more stan­dard quinoa, sweet potato, edamame and kale.

de­lighted to have such a healthy, non-tempt­ing din­ing op­tion dur­ing a work trip, I started my late evening meal off with a Zing juice (dhs23), which con­tained a pleas­ing com­bi­na­tion of red ap­ple, fen­nel, car­rot and gin­ger, was a lovely light orange colour and quite spicy to boot. And the next morn­ing was com­ple­mented by a whole co­conut wa­ter starter, fol­lowed by the Hy­drat­ing smoothie (dhs25). Al­though a cold bev­er­age, gin­ger gave it warmth, vanilla and cinam­mon some sweet­ness and spice, while chia seeds and al­mond milk pro­vided the sub­stance.

from the thought­ful menu to the pa­per straws to the gen­er­ously sized pots of tea, Zeste is all at one un­pre­ten­tious, ac­ces­si­ble, and en­tirely un­like a ho­tel cafe – in the best way pos­si­ble. It’s also one of my favourite new places to be.

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