Zeera Conrad Pune is the new luxury destination in town for ethnic Indian cuisine. This signature restaurant at India’s one and only Conrad Hotel, known for kebabs and biryanis goes entirely vegetarian for the nine days of navratri.
Navrartri – literally nine nights – is widely celebrated around India to worship the goddess Durga or Kali. Many people shun meat during this time, while some eat only certain grains or eat only fruits and vegetables. The new 9 day menu is designed with this in mind. A No Onion No Garlic version of the dishes is available on request.
So what exactly is on offer? There’s a set menu that is worthy of royalty. The extensive mocktail selection gives you a fair idea of how much you will be spoiled for choice. A large selection of appetizers and main courses follows, with two luscious desserts to wrap it all up.
As a vegetarian, I am tired of the deluge of paneer dishes on menus. Thankfully, the menu at Zeera Conrad Pune offers a good selection of vegetables. Various regions of India are represented in the dishes, and different spice levels mean there is something for everyone.
The mocktails set the tone for the evening. Chettinad Mojito is spicy, like a cold rasam or spiced broth. Kerri Pudina is a frozen concoction that will make you wonder why you ever liked a margarita mix. Perfectly balanced green mango, sugar and mint play with your tastebuds and is very refreshing paired with some of the spicier selections.
Tamarind Cooler is very much like a Pani Puri water and will please the kids and chaat fans. Gulkand Mojito is the top pick with tart lime and the subtle sweetness of sugary rose petals.
The appetizers will leave even the most jaded foodie amazed at the variety. Jimikand Ke Gullar are yam croquettes stuffed with a sweet spicy pickle. These have a bite but also have the perfect crunch and are quite meaty.
Veg Shami Kebab have a strong onion flavor and melt in your mouth.
Shakarkand ki Chaat topped with yogurt foam is a delightfully fresh chaat made with sweet potato.
Sabudana Tikki is sumptuous. My picks of the appetizers were a Peeli Mirch ka Paneer Tikka made with a special yellow chili and Tandoori Bharva Aloo, potato stuffed with mawa or cheese and nuts and grilled in a tandoor oven.
The Chaas, a buttermilk based drink popular in India is a great refresher between the courses. The Alu Vadi and Kothimbir Vadi provide the necessary local flavor. This is another aspect of the menu that I am beginning to appreciate at Conrad Pune. There is almost always something to represent local Puneri food or Maharashtrian food. Considering that these restaurants are probably the only places where our foreign guests get to taste Indian cuisine, its great that they are offered ethnic homestyle dishes like the Kothimbir Vadi (made with gram flour and cilantro).
The Zeera signature Daal was a buttery stew that is sinful, to say the least. Cluster beans were showcased in another local ethnic preparation in Gavar Falli Ki Subzi. The Pindi Chole and Alu Badiyan seemed like they came straight out of a Punjabi kitchen. The pumpkin was spicy, and the saag smoky and hearty.
After such a substantial meal, there is hardly ever room for dessert. But the Fruit Rabdi and Anjeer Phirini begged to be tasted.
The Veg festival at Zeera Conrad Pune is the first food festival the hotel has organized. Now there is no reason to stay home on those fasting days of navratri. Head to Zeera for dinner and enjoy a nice evening with friends and family in a laid back luxurious environment.
Watch this space for more food reviews and other new food festivals at Conrad Pune.