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When Zerzura — named after a mythical land in the Sahara region — opened its doors in the Capital the verdict was in: the middle eastern restaurant had garnered approval from discerning foodies for its authentic fare, prompt service and an artistic ambience with handmade lamps reminiscent of Marrakech, acacia furniture and sand palette. When I first visited the fine dining restaurant, I found the dining room and well-stocked bar leading into a stylish alfresco space, impressive. Yet, at the heart of the Zerzura experience is the gazebo, in which my friend and I had luncheon this afternoon.


Perusing the menu with snapshots from a characteristic Middle East marketplace, we skipped soup and salad and ordered 'Sheefa' and 'Sherried Mushrooms' and upon the chef's advice added hummus. As we enjoyed Sangria mulled with dates and prunes, we were served 'Hummus with Beetroot, Chillies and Pistachio'. The appetisers arrived promptly and when I took a bite of sheefa — open face meat pie made with ground mutton layered on pita — it was robust, flavourful and simply delicious! This is something I'll be back for—time and again! Up next was tender, juicy mushrooms cooked in sherry and sprinkled with parsley. It was a delicate, perfectly seasoned preparation which enhanced the natural flavour of the mushrooms. Once again, delicious! Up next was a dish my friend recommended: 'Bus Station Kefta with Egg and Tomatoes'. It was her favourite! Intrigued, I asked her about it and she explained that egg-tomato dishes are popular in bus stations and ports in The Middle East and North Africa and long haul travellers tuck into it to sustain themselves during the journey. I'm so glad we ordered it! The lamb meatballs and eggs (with yolk intact) cooked in well-seasoned tomato curry was wholesome and released flavour with each bite. I think they’ve captured that real authentic feeling so is it any wonder then it was polished off in no time with a meat lover's zeal? As was 'Kebab Tabei’. The pan braised mince lamb kebabs, marinated in tomato puree and burnt garlic and cooked in a wood fire oven, was served with a yogurt dip and huge pickled carrots. The combination was intense!


Conversation and camaraderie was the vibe as we swilled another flute of Sangria on the cold, rainy noon. And then the smiling server brought dessert — 'Date and Fig Gratin with Rosemary and Honey IceCream'. There are no words to describe the feel of warm date-fig gratin with silken ice cream. Sinful! As I walked out hours later, I perceived the reason behind its popularity despite Middle East cafes popping up across the culinary landscape. Zerzura gets the important things right. Gratifying authentic food researched by the proprietors frequent visits to The Middle East is one. Fine hospitality sweetens the deal—the management is gracious and makes helpful suggestions. A Must Visit!! (22.1.2015)


PS Zerzura is hosting a mezze and cocktail festival where cold mezze, tapas like Zatar Chicken Fingers and Chorizo and  mezzetini bring down the temperature by several degrees!


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