If you read my blog regularly, you would know that I am a huge fan of indian cuisine; specifically Lamb Korma. So when we received the suggestion of trying the famed Zafran, we decided to really see if it was as good as people claimed.
Walking into the venue, and I was immediately impressed. Zafran is classing themselves higher than the standard everyday restaurant and moving their cuisine to the five-star dining category.
As we were guided to our seats, I noticed at least two different themed areas: the first being the yellow chairs (pictured below), and black booths.
Initially we were seated at the black booths, but we requested a move as I felt that the table was too high for me to comfortably enjoy my meal. It was a short move and our waiter was quite accommodating to the change.
Oh and another really nice touch that just adds wonderfully to the night out – the decorative flowers are real and alive and scented! Wonderful!
The music faded nicely into the background without providing too much distraction – perfect for both business meetings and family dates.
Oh, and just a note, make sure you take a jumper. It was absolutely freezing in Zafran! Hopefully it isn’t always like this…
A large menu that I did have a few gripes with:
First off, not all meals have a description; which would make it quite hard for anyone to tell what the meal is exactly (especially individuals who aren’t accustomed to eating the cuisine). For example, how would anyone whose never eaten indian necessarily know that a Paneer Kulcha is a cheese naan (in fact that was honestly the first time I have ever personally seen a naan bread called Kulcha before).
Secondly, whilst the menu was large I feel that it was missing a few core components that most indian restaurants include. For example, no beloved lamb korma! Disaster strikes!
Pre-Meal Appetizers – Curly Poppadom
Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to be unique and splash out a bit and Zafran’s chefs really pulled this one off. Never before have I seen poppadoms served in the spirally way that these were, and it honestly caught my attention.
Wonderfully crispy, there were two different flavours to pick from: plain and slightly spicy/peppered. As I am a child when it comes to spicy-hot meals, I won’t review the bumpy poppadoms (see picture above) or the green sauce that came as accompaniment. I did try them, and whilst not high on my list I can see people liking them a lot (my husband did).
Being on an eternal diet to maintain a decent weight (I call it a life change), I was very happy to see that the poppadoms didn’t carry any oil. Given that there almost always has to be a little, its refreshing to feel like I’m not pouring straight oil down my throat. Nor did I have to use a napkin to remove any unwanted residue.
I found the butter chicken to be terribly sweet, and I use that word as I don’t particularly like sweetness. Yes I know that butter chicken is “traditionally” sweet, but in my experience it isn’t usually this sweet. My husband (with a sweet tooth) said that it was “alright”. The spices in the meal helped contribute to the sweetness, which also provided this wonderful subtle after taste. I wouldn’t object to the meal being creamier (like Sultan’s Kitchen in Australia), but that’s just me.
The presentation of the curry was amazing. As you can see above the chefs delicately drizzled cream in a pattern, sprinkled a few herbs and even placed a few fresh leaves.
The butter chicken each cost KD3.65 (AU$12.52). Personally, I think that this is a bit expensive. It should sit at the KD2.9 ($10) mark, maximum. However, given that the restaurant was aiming for a five-star dining approach, they raised the prices. Again, I still think its expensive (especially compare to competitors around).
The Paneer Kulcha
Again, this is the first time that I have ever heard a naan called a Kulcha. Having said that Wikipedia (sorry to all my school teachers, but I still think Wikipedia is a good starting place for research) does define Kulcha as a “type of leavened Indian flatbread made from maida (wheat flour). It is particularly popular in India and Pakistan, and is usually eaten with chole.” In my impression, this is where branching out doesn’t work; most people know this type of bread as a naan.
The herbs were a subtle touch, adding just a hint of flavour and making the bread look nice and fresh. The bread itself was perfectly cooked; just starting to brown but not too crispy that it wasn’t pleasant to eat.
Seriously though, we ordered a Paneer Kulcha and it came out more like a plain Kulcha. I don’t know why you bother calling it Paneer if it has barely any cheese in it.
The Paneer Kulcha’s were priced at KD0.65 (AU$2.32), so felt far more acceptable. Given that I wasn’t a particular fan of the Kulcha I might not be so keen to order more than one, but the price was decent enough that given the need I would.
The Biryani Rice
Whilst not normally something that I might mention, if it costs money I will do my best to review it.
It was basically just white rice with a yellow dye to it. I have always been curious as to whether restaurants use spices to color their food, or whether they use food dyes (it’s a question I come to ask as my younger cousin is severely allergic to particular food dyes). Do you know the answer?
The Biryani Rice cost KD1.45 ($4.97) per serving. That is A LOT of money for rice to cost. Seriously. I can buy an entire bag that will feed 10 people for that much… Especially when you consider you are already paying KD3.65 for a meal. I honestly found this to be far too expensive and just plain rude. Seriously! Why price your rice so high?
Considering the price of the meals, we decided to opt for the not-so-free local water. At a cost of KD0.950 (or $3.26) for a 1.5 or 2 L bottle it wasn’t that bad, but still… Why it is a practice in only Australia (sorry for countries I have yet travelled to for not being mentioned), I don’t know. But its an excellent idea to offer free water – even MacDonald’s does it – whoever came up with it thank you so much!
Rice doesn’t come with the meal by default, so definitely remember to order it. My trick; ask every time.
The meals are huge. When we asked the waiter whether the Biryani rice served one or two people, he told us it definitely served one. My response; liar! They are HUGE servings. If one rice easily serves just you (and you don’t struggle), I would say that you should definitely consider cutting back on the carbs and portion size there. Both my husband and I easily split our meal in half (both curry and rice), and got the leftovers in a take away bag. Whilst I didn’t get a photo of it, the takeaway bag is even branded and nicely presented; so I would say Zafran does regularly take-aways/deliveries as well.
I would have liked customised meals. My favourite naan bread is spinach and cheese. Despite Zafran having pre-processed spinach (the waiter admitted to it), they refused to customise the naan by adding spinach to it. Not even as a charged extra. When restaurants in particular aren’t willing to cater for their customers, I’m not very impressed (after all customer service is the most important thing).
I had to mention both of these things, as it’s not something that I see happen too much:
Firstly, after we had eaten and were getting ready to pay the waiter brought out a hot moist towel for us to clean up with. It was pleasantly and surprisingly scented. I found it a great idea, and think it should be an adoptive trend done more regularly.
Secondly, the waiter asked us what we thought of our meals and seemed genuinely interested in what we had to say. If this is common practice, and not just a courtesy customer-service approach, then Zafran probably will do well surviving in a tough competitor based world; cater for your customers (and what they want) will easily have them returning. Again, I would like to point out that they should add the customised meals as mentioned above…
Detailed and decorated meals. Superb tastes. Great atmosphere. Far, far too expensive; won’t be keen to come again.
For a basic curry and rice (no drinks, no bread, no starters or desserts), it will cost you KD5.10 (AU$17.47). For a restaurant aiming at five-star appearances, if you are willing to pay that much, then definitely expect high quality service and great atmosphere. Zafran makes it, but only just. Honestly, if the prices were a little cheaper it would be far more appealing to visit. When I discovered how much the rice cost (seriously, why?) then I became careful analysing the meal for hidden charges. When it costs KD12.45 ($42.65) just to feed two people… well I definitely won’t be taking any of my friends there any time soon when the competition offers just as nice meals, location and cheaper prices.