Thursday, 23 March 2017

Nawabs of India Food Festival – Zeera (Conrad)

The Nawabs of India Food Festival at Zeera, Conrad (Pune) caught my eye on the Facebook group of Pune Food Bloggers Guild. I saw photographs of the food served and read reviews for the same. Each review gave me the feeling that Zeera was personally beckoning me. What better day, then, to visit and indulge in the finest of cuisines than on Navroze day!

The restaurant is plush, classy and very aesthetically appealing. I loved the fact that they hadn’t gone the garish route with regard to the decor. As we settled at our table, we checked out the scroll placed in front of us telling us about the festival and the dishes that would be served. We couldn’t wait to begin our gastronomic journey.

They brought us a well balanced mocktail: Tandoori Mojito. It was a citrusy drink with the right amount of masala (it came across as chaatt masala) added to it. It was one of the most unique drinks I’ve ever had. It was very refreshing: perfect for a summer evening. We loved it so much that we requested a refill.

I had opted for the ‘Non-Vegetarian Set Meal’, whereas my friend opted for the ‘Vegetarian Set Meal’. Let me admit, I flicked tiny bits of vegetarian food from her plate. It’s only right that I did. How else would I be able to write a line or two about the vegetarian fare? (Evil grin – my all time valid excuse to hog everything that’s placed on the table)

The Non-Vegetarian Appetizers served were Lagan Ki Boti, Murgh Kalmi Kebab, Maas Ke Sooley and Tandoori Sarsoon Machi. Additionally, they very kindly served us Shammi Kebab even though it wasn’t mentioned on the festival menu.

Of the kebabs, the only one that I would make a slight change to, in terms of texture, would be the Maas Ke Sooley. Though perfectly marinated and absolutely scrumptious, I would have preferred the mutton to be more succulent. Let me clarify a wee bit; the mutton wasn’t undercooked or raw, just that I would prefer it to be  more tender; almost “falling off the bone’ texture. Except for the texture, I would not want anything changed about this piquant baby.

Among the non-vegetarian kebabs, the Lagan Ki Boti was my favourite. Soft chucks of braised lamb, perfectly spiced, and tenderly heaped on a paratha; the dish was amazing good. The paratha was also beautifully made. It was light on the palate and not at all doughy or heavy. The boti and the paratha came together in rapturous harmony!

The Murgh Kalmi Kebab, Tandoori Saroon Machi and Shammi Kebab were also delish! The fish used for the Sarsoon Machi was rawas, which pleased me immensely and the sarsoon (mustard) was used in just the right quantity. It did not over power or take away the flavour of the fish. Now that’s what I call excellent cooking! 

The Shammi Kebab and the Murgh Kalmi Kebab were both flavourful appetizers. The Shammi Kebab was marinated in perfectly blended spices and the mince, too, was the correct texture. It was served with Varqi Paratha. The Murgh Kalmi Kabab was a beautiful plump piece of chicken. It was creamy and succulent and ticked all the boxes in terms of taste and texture.

I tried a wee bite of each vegetarian kebab, but there were two that I requested, as extra, all for myself. They simply blew me away. One was the Kumbh Ki Galouti and the other, Aloo Ki Nazakat.

The Aloo Ki Nazakat was filled with soft crumbled paneer, dry fruits and topped with aromatic strands of saffron. The saffron pleasantly hit my olfactory senses at the very first bite. Simply divine!

The Kumbh Ki Galouti was the kind of kebab that ‘kebab-ish’ dreams are made of. The only way to correctly describe it is as a gastronomic orgasm in the mouth. These melt-in-the-mouth babies were made from kumbh (mushrooms) and were the vegetarian versions of the mutton mince galouti. Please believe me when I, as a hardcore carnivore, tell you that this was the ‘Kabab of the evening!’ This was a 11/10 kebab! A classic galouti!

I will not go into the details of the vegetarian mains as I barely tasted them but from what I could gather from the look on my friends face, she was one happy puppy. :-)

For the non-vegetarian mains they served, Gosht Tar Kalia, Kheema Karela, Machchhi Dampukht, Nizami Murgh Korma, Sailana Dal Tadka and Awadhi Chicken Biryani. I’m not much of a main course person but I tried a bit of everything and every dish was perfect. The sauces of each dish were spectacular and the protein, whether mutton, chicken or fish, were all cooked to perfection.

The John Dory fish used for Machchhi Dampukht was fresh and gorgeously flaky in quality. Dee-lee-chee-ouss! I specifically remember the gravies of the Gosht Tar Kalia and the Murgh Nizami Korma. They were rich, creamy and totally yum! Unfortunately, by the time the mains arrived, I was so stuffed with the starters that I could not do justice to them. The mains were all served with superb flaky Varqi Parathas. My friend wanted to try the Khimiri Roti and they very kindly served us that too. 

The biryani rice was beautiful and long grained; lightly spiced and very aromatic. The chicken in the biryani was superbly succulent! A very good biryani, indeed!

Once we were done with dinner they brought a wet hand towel (not a paper towel) to wipe our fingers. The hand towel was steaming hot and soaked in rose water. I think that was a lovely touch.

After a while dessert was served: Gulab Aur Phaloon Ki Rabri. The rabri was sweet and creamy, just the way it should be but I could not eat more than two tiny spoonfuls as it was loaded with bits of ‘phal’ (fruits). Anyone who really knows me knows I steer clear of all fruits except mangoes and bananas. How I wish that the delectable rabri was served by itself. Ah well, mukammal jahan nahi milta and all that jazz. 

Executive Chef Mandar and his team ensures on all fronts, be it food or service, that their patrons are treated like royalty. I cannot thank them enough for making our dining experience such a pleasant one. All in all it was a beautiful evening; Navroze celebrated with one of my closest friends and with food and service, truly, fit for Nawabs. The ambiance, the service and the food will titillate your senses and leave you wanting more. The Nawabs of India Food Festival is on until April 2, 2017. My take on it, DON’T miss it!

Food: 4.5/5
Service: 5/5
Ambiance: 5/5

Zeera - Conrad Pune Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

A few more photographs...

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