DUBAI: Zest’s website promises “healthy, nutrient-rich, delicious food,” appealing to the growing market of health-conscious consumers. Early on a Friday morning, we visited the outlet near Dubai’s Miracle Garden to sample some of the wide variety of items — including vegan options — on offer.
The interior is simple and straightforward. Lots of green (both flora and textiles), and nothing too fancy. The staff were excellent — offering suggestions when we needed them, and friendly and attentive throughout. It’s a nice touch, too, that Zest offers cardboard straws rather than plastic.
The coffee was excellent. The double espresso had a rich aromatic flavor, with a hint of sour notes and a medium-to-light roast. My companion opted for a mocha latte with cashew-nut milk, which cost roughly $2 extra — perhaps reflecting how rare it is to find it in Dubai’s cafés at the moment. Hopefully, as it becomes more commonplace, that price will drop considerably. The coffee certainly tasted different, with the cashew substitute giving it a sweet, milky aftertaste. It might not be the best choice for the true coffee lover, though, as — like many milk substitutes — the watery base tends to dilute the flavor.
We selected some baked goodies to accompany our coffees: A vegan banana, chocolate and walnut muffin and an almond biscotto. The muffin was juicy, fluffy and very light. The combination of textures and flavors was excellent — with the slightly melted dark chocolate chunks balanced by the crunch of the nuts. The biscotto was crispy and dry, just as it should be, and delicious when dipped in the coffee.
For our mains, we ordered a salmon salad and a vegan falafel slider burger. The salad was a little bland, with a limited range of ingredients. Much of the salad consisted of romaine lettuce — somewhat disappointing both aesthetically and in terms of flavor. Still, the ingredients were all fresh and the portion was quite generous, despite being billed as the “light” option. Zest also offers patrons the possibility of creating their own salad using a variety of bases including lettuce, rocket, pasta, and couscous.
The highlight of the meal was the falafel slider, which came with a side of fries and a great, slightly smoky, tomato sauce. The falafel itself was crunchy outside and juicy inside, with a slightly sweet sauce sandwiched in the middle of the slider. The fries were also crispy and fresh, and happily without the excess grease that so often ruins restaurant fries.
For dessert, we went for the tropical coconut smoothie bowl and classic pancakes. The smoothie bowl — with flakes of coconut and a sprinkle of granola and nuts on top — was delicious. The texture was similar to melted ice cream or a thick smoothie, but the nuts and granola gave it a welcome crunch. It would make for an excellent refreshing summer treat.
The pancakes were a huge letdown. The sides were brown and crispy, but the inside was more like custard than a pancake. They seemed undercooked and tasted raw. Definitely not “classic.”
Overall, however, Zest proved to be well worth the visit, and we would highly recommend the delicious vegan bakery and the falafel slider.