Earlier this month, I decided to celebrate the weekend by dining out at Zafran Indian Bistro (Rubeen Square) with my husband. Zafran is part of the Landmark Group, one of the largest retail and hospitality groups in the Middle East, Africa & India and is now a year old in Riyadh.
Zafran Indian Bistro is an award-winning contemporary Indian restaurant that offers North West Indian cuisine.
We entered Zafran and were warmly welcomed by Sahi, the friendly waiter who remembered me from the last time I visited. This was over 2 months ago with a large group of expat vegetarian foodies (yup, vegetarian foodies exist). I was impressed he remembered my favourite orders and even what I ordered for take-out. Zafran offers both booths and tables in the family section and caters to larger group sizes with special table arrangements. They also offer set menus on request. The waiter escorted us to the booth we chose. The Manager, Arthaf, took the time to greet us.
I loved their vibrant décor, there is pop art of Bollywood film posters and magazines scrap on the walls and a plush blue upholstery on the booth and table sofas. The tables and booths are well spread out for diner privacy, something I really appreciate when I dine out.
We were served the complimentary papads with 3 dips – a papaya dip, a mint chutney and a date and tamarind chutney as Sahi took our order. We ordered our mocktails – a Lemon & Mint for me and a Kiwi Mocktail for the hubby. Later, Sahi recommended we try the signature Kashmir Dew (a delicious mix of Fresh Strawberry, Lemon & Mint). All three drinks were delicious and refreshing on a typical warm Riyadh day.
I ordered two vegetarian appetisers for us to share – aloo tikkia and a corn & spinach kebab. Both were tasty though I really enjoyed the aloo tikkia, which transported me back to visits to the famous Juhu beach in Mumbai where I first tasted this delicious snack. The potato cutlet was fried just right and was not oily; the bed of chick pea masala and yoghurt enhanced its overall taste.
While I chose to order my vegetarian appetisers and main course from the regular menu, my husband chose to try the special Big BBQ Menu – non-vegetarian. The Big BBQ Menu offered 5 kebabs – 3 chicken kebabs, a prawn kebab and a lamb kebab with a accompaniment of 3 dips – Pickled hummus, Mint Labneh and a Spicy Tomato & Garlic sauce, a mixed salad and a side of Butter Naans. My husband found the flavours very subtle and delicious unlike some of the other Indian restaurants he has eaten in. He especially enjoyed the Malai Jhinge (prawns) and the Zafrani Chicken Tikka for their delicate yet flavourful tastes. He also commented on the freshness of the salad leaves served in the western style salad with radish and rocket leaves. I tried the delicious Pickled Hummus, an innovative dip that is made with a mix of Indian home-made mango pickle and creamy hummus, delicious with a Naan. Loved the flavour and it was the most delicious hummus I have ever tasted. The accompaniments of Pickled Hummus, Mint Labneh and the Mixed Salad are atypical for an Indian restaurant and obviously to cater to their mainly Saudi guests. Smart move and it worked for my palate too.
For the main course, I ordered the sides version of two curries- one was the Mirch Baigan Ka Salan, which was a subtle mild yellow aubergine curry with some really nice & unique flavours. I also ordered a more traditional Paneer Makhani cottage cheese red curry, which was also scrumptious with its soft crumbled cottage cheese. I ordered a selection of naans & parathas to go with the curries. I like that Zafran offers Mains in both Sides & Mains portions depending on if you are sharing or eating it alone. Portions were very generous even for the Sides.
We took a short break from the feasting to talk to the Chef – Mujeeb-Ur-Rahman,– more on that later. We finished the evening with the crowd pleaser dessert – Gulab Jamun made even more yummy with almond shavings sprinkled on top and a platter of 4 mini – desserts. The dessert platter had Flourless chocolate, Zafrani Phirni, Rasmalai & Gajar Halwa. I absolutely loved the Gajar Halwa and the Gulab Jamun and the others were nice too. My husband, the chocoholic in our family, enjoyed the chocolate cake as he did not find the chocolate flavour overpowering the dessert.
We sat down with Chef Mujeeb-Ur-Rahman, the Head Chef of Zafran Indian Bistro. He told us of Zafran’s plans to expand to 11 restaurants across the Kingdom and of a new branch to open in Riyadh soon. He shared how they work with suppliers to get the fresh produce they serve and use only India’s MDH spices to present the most flavourful foods. He explained the concept of Zafran –known for their North Western Frontier Cuisine of India (especially the delicious kebabs) but also including some of the special flavours of the various culinary regions of India – Andhra, Bengal etc. He also talked about the exciting Promotions they have from time to time including the current Big BBQ menu (August & September only) where they try new dishes and test guest response before they introduce it to the main menu. In the Chef’s words, “the USP of Zafran is the quality of food, the fresh ingredients & spices we use & the experience we deliver. “
Zafran definitely delivers to its customer promise and I would heartily recommend you try it for your next dining out experience.
What we ordered
Aloo Tikkia (potato cutlet, pan-fried on a bed of chick-pea masala)
Corn & Spinach Kebab (grilled corn and spinach patties flavoured with ginger, green chilli & coriander)
The Big BBQ (Non-Veg) Menu
Murg Angaar Tikka, (boneless chicken marinated with labneh, red chilli, mustard oil & lemon)
Pudina Mirchi Tikka (chicken breast marinated with mint, green chilli, yoghurt & ginger)
Zafrani Chicken Tikka (boneless chicken breast marinated with ginger, garlic, labneh & saffron)
Malai Jhinge (prawns marinated with cream cheese, labneh & fresh coriander)
Lamb Seekh Kebab (minced lamb beat, ginger, coriander, garlic, green chilli & spices)
Trio of dips – Pickled Hummus, Mint Labneh, Spicy Tomato & Garlic sauce
Veg Main Course
Mirch Baingan Ka Salan (Eggplant & green chillies cooked in a peanut, sesame, coconut & tamarind gravy with a hint of jaggery)
Paneer Makhani (cottage cheese cooked in a makhani gravy)
Selection of breads – cheese naan, garlic naan, lachcha paratha and tandoori roti.
Gulab Jamun (deep-fried cottage cheese dumplings in sugar syrup)
The dessert platter:
Flourless chocolate cake (Dark chocolate cake made with eggs & sugar served with caramel crumble),
Zafrani Phirni (Traditional rice pudding made with milk, saffron, sugar & pistachio),
Rasmalai (Cottage cheese dumplings with pistachio in flavoured milk) &
Gajar Halwa (Carrots cooked in sweetened milk).
Lemon & Mint
Kiwi Mojito (Kiwi, Mint, Lemon & Soda)
Kashmir’s Dew (Fresh Strawberry, Lemon & Mint)
How to find Zafran
Hiteen, Exit 2, Northern Ring Road, Riyadh, KSA
Tel : +966 11 562 2229
Weekdays: 11 am – 11 pm |Weekends: 11 am -12 am
Outdoor Seating: Available | Home Delivery: Available
Convenient Parking Options
Also at Turki Square, Riyadh