I have a beef with restaurants that are strictly vegetarian. That they impose what should be a lifestyle choice feels unfair. All of us want to be able to walk into an eatery knowing we have a choice. So it was disappointing when we found out that the newest cafe space in Kala Ghoda, Zen Cafe, only serves vegetarian fare. But we were too drawn by its quaint, bare look and bright, sunlit interiors to give it a miss.
The menu, thankfully, is lean and crisp instead of the thick booklet cafes pass around in the name of a menu. We skimmed through the four pages, dominated by a selection of teas, coffees and coolers. The two-page food menu offers pasta, pizzas, mains, starters, sushi and salads.
In spite of the laidback service on the upper storey, we compelled ourselves to let the food do the talking. So we moved to the ground floor and placed our first order for the afternoon: Guacamole with chips (Rs 175). It’s tough to separately describe the two elements of the dish because they were nondescript independently. But together, they reminded us of sookha bhel. The chips were baked in-house but perhaps the composition went wrong somewhere.
A dessert with hazelnut and chocolate flavour did not feel like the pastry chef had opted for the lazy route of using Nutella.
By this point, the cafe had already scored three negative points and we were close to giving up on the rest of our lunch when our next order of Roasted Pumpkin Ravioli (Rs 480) changed the course of the entire meal. The dish came without any sauce except a generous drizzle of olive oil and chilli flakes, enhancing the delicate flavours of the pumpkin in the ravioli. While we sat there eating it slowly, savouring the simplicity of the flavours, the server showed up with Barley Salad with Avocado and Pomegranate (Rs 400). The salad too turned out impressive. The mild citrus dressing added to the refreshing flavours of the fruits on a bed of the textured grain.
Most choices on the dessert menu were not available, forcing us to order the Chocolate Hazelnut Ganache (Rs 250). But for once, a dessert with hazelnut and chocolate flavour did not feel like the pastry chef had opted for the lazy route of using Nutella. The ganache was textured and the hazelnut flavour was mild against the high-quality dark chocolate used in it.
To wrap up the meal, we had two options — a gourmet brew or an artisanal coffee. We went with the spirit of the afternoon and chose the Ginger Turmeric Espresso Tonic (Rs 160) — an espresso shot served with ginger tonic and turmeric foam on the side so that the guest can mix the elements in accordance to their preference. We went easy on the strong ginger tonic and liberally added the turmeric foam to have a caffeine kick that was also a digestif and a palate cleanser. Now, if we had not already eaten so much, we would have asked the server what’s up next on our plate.