It was an evening to celebrate, a Masters degree from the University of Cape Town was the cause for celebration and the venue Mezbaan a North Indian restaurant at the Coral International Hotel in the Cape Town City Bowl. The patrons a group of friends who are as thick as thieves – so conversation and laughter were sure to be on the menu.
We’d all been sent a link to the menu a few weeks beforehand but I had forgotten about it and on the morning of the dinner I thought it wouldn’t be a bad idea to check out what was on offer. You see I like to have a definite idea of what I’m going to eat before even stepping into the restaurant, I prefer this method because otherwise I could spend hours deciding what to eat and heaven help me if there are specials for the day. So I usually browse through the menu at my leisure and select one or two dishes that I will order – making the ordering process far less stressful later on.
Horror of horror I couldn’t decide the menu has a huge selection of cuisine and there were so many options that I thought I would wait until the evening to decide. My next discovery was that the restaurant is completely Halaal, so they do not serve any alcohol. I didn’t mind this at all and while I do enjoy a nice class of wine with my curry there was a large selection of mocktails and fruit juices on the menu which sounded delicious. I thought it wise to let my one friend know that there would be no alcohol or chocolate at dinner, she threatened to disown the new graduate. After some convincing she calmed down and was up for the evening ahead.
I have not been to a restaurant in a hotel in Cape Town for ages and was looking forward to the experience. On exiting the lift from the parking garage and into the foyer of the hotel I was glad I had chosen to wear a dress instead of the standard jeans and top. In the grand white tiled and sparkling foyer was a baby grand piano with a gorgeous lady playing music from memory. We were whisked up the stair case and into the restaurant.
The staff had such a subtle touch that you felt very at home, coats were removed and taken to be hung on a rack at the door instead of the back of one’s chair. Once we were settled a waitron brought round a silver tray with delicately scented hand towels that wear steaming hot and were used to refresh tired hands and faces. The manager came over to explain the concept of the restaurant and I was interested to learn that Mezbaan means “a good host” and I can confirm they lived up to their name.
On the table we already had some things to nibble on, mango atchar, baby pickled onions and a green sauce which had coriander, mint, chilli garlic and a few more ingredients, this was absolutely moreish. These were accompanied by some poppadums and were replenished once before we had even placed out order. Our waitron was friendly, patient and extremely helpful to our table, who were possibly more interested in catching up than ordering food. However the waitron steered us in the right direction and helped us select our meals. I really struggled to make a decision as there were so many things I wanted to try, at least friends at the table had ordered some of the other dishes I was eyeing and I got to try these out to.
I chose Murgh Kadai (murgh meaning chicken) which was pieces of boneless and oh-so-tender chicken in a tomato, onion and capsicum sauce that had been flavoured with mustard seeds. One of the more spicy dishes on the menu this was an excellent selection and I was more than satisfied cleaning every last bit if sauce off my plate with my garlic naan bread. I also sampled the Murgh Makhani (butter chicken) and the Gosht Biryani Awadh (lamb biryani). The lamb biryani was such a spectacular dish not only was it tasty and tender but it was served in such a unique way. It was encapsulated in a bread dough, similar to a pita bread, this was cut open at the table and immediately we were all hit with the fragrance of the dish. I will definitely be back for a biryani.
The dessert menu was not very enticing and I was please when we were told we were also able to order off the Al Zaeem menu (another restaurant on site). From this menu we could all get our chocolate fix and we all ordered Belgian Chocolate Lava which was a chocolate pot served with Turkish delight ice-cream. My pot was cooked to perfection, full of molten chocolate on the inside. Unfortunately more than one of the others desserts were overcooked and so no lava for them (the offer was made for the desserts to be replaced however everyone was too full at that stage).
It was a great dining experience but be warned a main meal will cost you between R100 and R150. With the calm and relaxed dining area we all felt happy to sit back and chatter away late into the evening. We left with full bellies and a superb dining experience. Next time you’re looking for some North Indian that caters well for both vegetarian and meat lovers Mezbaan is the direction you should head.
Coral International Hotel, Corner of Buitengracht and Wale Streets, Cape Town
Telephone: +27 (0)87 310-2273