Le Meridien, Delhi is all that you would expect of old world hospitality despite the spiffy, artsy ambiance. So it’s always a pleasure to be hosted by them – we were there to enjoy the Mediterranean Food Festival at The One, their all-day dining coffee shop. Usually, hotels swap chefs within the chain and bring international talent across for various food festivals. The difference here was that Chef Zelnick is anything but! He’s an indie Chef from California, who runs a boutique catering service. Having Italian roots, his inspiration is very Mediterranean and for this particular food festival he did a nice mix of Italian, Arab and French too. Cooking since the age of 19, today, at 35, Chef Zelnick is a well traveled chef who seems very fond of new countries and cultures. Since we met just a day after he landed, must say he had quite the spirit for a jet lagged man. Soft spoken and pretty humble (he didn’t say much about himself), he had half his heart and mind in the kitchen while he spoke with us.
The spread turned out to be expansive, like Mediterranean spreads tend to be. Among the assorted dips, the usual suspects like Baba Ghanoush and Roasted Garlic Hummus were spot on, teamed with crisp pita; we had a good feeling going. The Labneh was a lot like Tzatziki but light and creamy. Among the warm starters, I especially enjoyed the Crostini with Chicken Pate; the pate was made of chicken breast which made it less ‘organ-y’, good for someone like me who enjoys the texture but not the taste. The French bit was the Quiche Lorraine which was surprisingly served cool, but that kind of helped it sit well in a bite. Among true Med starters, I really liked the falafel and the shrimp and chickpea fritters.
The soup that followed was something I’m due to try at home, very very soon! Adas Bil Hamod or Lentil Soup from Lebanon was so hearty and comforting and so familiar too! With small kidney beans as the base and a lovely Mediterranean tanginess, the spinach made it almost ‘Kashmiri’ in nature. By the time the main course came, I was worried about doing justice to it but Chef Zelnick stuck with the principles of Mediterranean/Arab cooking and kept the flavours very subtle and the choice of meats very light. The Poached Snapper was nestled in a delicate liquor, a little too delicate for me but the fish was nice and flaky. I really liked the inclusion of an Italian staple, Eggplant Parmesan. Visiting Chef’s may like to know that Indian palates recognize Mediterranean foods better than any other part of Europe, so we like a nice and rich Parmiagiana when we have one! The Moroccan Vegetable Tajin was at it should be, I would have loved some pickles with it though.
I never skip dessert, what a shame to have to do so! We had a platter of Peche Melba, Milopita or Apple Cake, Baklava and Tiramisu. My first two picks of Baklava and Tiramisu were both a good end to a nice meal. I skipped the Peche (Peach) Melba because I can’t bear canned fruit, while the Milopita needed more caramel sauce. It’s always nice to enjoy something new in the city, so catch this festival at The One Signature Restaurant during dinner from 14th until 31st October.