When I lived in Crickelwood in London we used to hit the curry dens hard and often. And with so many of them along that particular strip enforcing competitive pricing, we affectionately dubbed it “The Curry Wars”.
Skip to 7 years later and I find myself in Cape Town with no such "curry wars" going on. Not yet anyway…
Bukhara, Bombay Brasserie, Chandani, Bhandaris - all exclusive Cape Town curry dens serving amazing Indian cuisine. Let’s face it – these top restaurants do spectacular curries (and we’re not even in Durban)... but their pricing is hardly competitive. I think Mezbaan is going to challenge this.
I recently enjoyed a dinner at Mezbaan, at the Hilton Hotel, virtually inside the very Muslim Bo Kaap area, on Buitengracht Road. The restaurant is dry. The hotel is not. Simply put, you can drink in your own room or in the designated bar area – which is a very nice space on the roof with a pool and a beautifully decorated chill out area, complete with hookah pipes, which I forsee becoming very popular in the summer months.
So, the hotel is not halaal, but the restaurant is. Therefore one could easily enjoy an apéritif on the scenic rooftop and it is a perfect spot for a mid-summer's night post-curry nightcap.
Mezbaan is beautifully decorated (take a look at our gallery) and very tasteful - as are the previously mentioned Cape Town Indian restaurants, and compared to the Crickelwood brigade they are virtually palaces.
The cuisine served mainly here is Mughlai, a cuisine that originates from Northern India. Chef Muhammed Khan is a charming man. He clearly enjoys a catch-up with his customers and is happy answer any questions you might have – and if you are not familiar with curry and the potential fireball you might end up eating – I think it’s best to chat to the chef and lay some boundaries…
In his own words: “Becoming a chef has changed my life, I have experienced so many new things since entering the kitchen. I have a motto that I live and stand by which is ‘ Don’t serve food that you yourself won’t eat.’ It is important to love the food you cook so that your patrons will love it as well. I enjoy cooking with authentic spices and preparing meals that are pure and tasteful.”
My dinner companion and I challenged him to test us a bit… I just caught the twinkle in his eye as he sprinted off to the kitchen to mix up the freshest herbs and spices with the most beautifully cooked chicken I have ever had the pleasure of eating, and many other fantastic dishes.
The menu is very well priced. Starters like marinated garlic chicken (R40), deep fried brinjal fritters (R45) and prawns in mild mustard seed paste, garlic and chilli (R60) - all of which make very good sharing portions.
The mains vary from lamb seekh kebab (R60), chicken charga (R70) to the bigger, more filling lamb shai meat balls (lamb mince, chilli, ginger roasted garlic, fresh dhania) for R80 and fried fish lahori (deep-fried kingklip kolongi seeds, vinegar, lemon juice, chana flour, chilli powder, turmeric) R90 to the absolutely out of this world briyanis… easily shared between 2, they range in price from R85 (vegetable) to R105 for the lamb and R100 for the prawn.
I’m telling you… go there for the briyani. It’s insane.
Rice is extra.
There are no desserts over R35, with a nice selection of traditional Indian offerings and some more Westernised sweets as well.
The service is absolutely outstanding: friendly, efficient, knowledgeable - everything you'd want from an evening out - and complete with personal visits from the chef... you can't ask for much more than that.
So, if you’d like to abstain during your meal for a change, and believe me it makes a nice change, then there is no better place than Mezbaan right now.
Cath Shone was invited as a guest at Mezbaan.