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
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.