All images in this post via Gavin Little
It’s a Tuesday evening and Darling Harbour is bustling; ice cream parlours, restaurants, retail outlets, bars, clubs, buskers, a Ferris wheel and any outlet you’ll want to find, and there’s one in particular.
Said Ferris wheel is positioned neatly just in front of Zaaffran’s balcony; Freddie Zulfiqar jokingly claims that ‘it’s one of the restaurants new features’ as he briefly guides us around his refurbished dining room pointing out a few bits, pieces and finishing touches. Tonight is the relaunch of the iconic Zaaffran Fine Indian restaurant that first opened its dining floor in 1998.
With over 100 people at the relaunch Freddie does a smooth job of glad-handing, MC’ing and operating on the dining floor.
There’re over 16 items on the tasting menu for the evening; it’s hard to keep track of all of the flavours and fusions presented to us, albeit timeously, one after the next by an informed professional and friendly wait staff.
‘Kumbh Ka Shikhampur’ and ‘Chookudar Kay Gilavaat’ are the ‘Shuruaat’ or ‘beginning’ of the tastings, canapé style; minced and smoked mushrooms dipped in ‘garam masala’ and crisp beetroot patties with ginger and chilli. Even those nestled in the corner of the balcony admiring the view and Kingfisher beers managed to get their fair share.
Soon after we’re seated and with a few formalities out of the way the ‘Khomcha’ arrive, which translates roughly to ‘stall food’- the type you’d come across in a Delhi market, one would imagine.
Crab cakes – Everybody loves a crab cake, especially if and when they’re prepared correctly; these were done with just the right amount of cracked pepper, chilli and coriander to form a perfect blend of flavours.
‘Shanoz de Zaaffran Jalpariyaan’- King Prawns (tandoor grilled) saffron, yoghurt, chilli and ajwain. A fair bit of spice allows the tandoori prawns to work their way around the tastebuds.
Firangi Frankie- Zaaffron’s take on a bite sized ‘Bombay’ taco with chives, salt and lamb as the stuffing once rolled.
Gilavaat Double Roti- The equivalent of a ‘slider’; the lamb roti is served on an Indian Roll similar to a brioche bun which melts in your mouth.
Other notable mains are The ‘Dakhani Kebab’ – Chicken tenderloins charred and golden; pepper, ginger, garlic and curry leaf as well as ‘Pasliyaan Majoon’ – double cooked Angus beef ribs; yoghurt, garlic chilli and garam Marsala’.
Midway through the evening the table was presented with a few sides or ‘Saath Saath’ to share for the table; Kumbhi Naan (Mushroom Naan and truffle butter), Tomato Bhuja (sliced tomato and black mustard).
The two main course dishes were served simultaneously; a ‘Naaz-E-Dariya’ Stir-fried Lobster Meat, Kerala coastal coconut broth and ‘iddiappam’ and the ‘Zaaffran Khoorus Biryani’ Saffron rice and chicken with ‘birista’, ‘garam masala’ and mint; flaky pastry served with riata.
‘Farzi Firangi Phirnee’ Incensed Indian Rice Pudding; mango and raspberry sorbet, pearl duo and rice tuile. The Honey and Saffron Panna Cotta had the perfect amount of wobble to it with orange zest and citrus tasting notes.
Freddie and Vikrant proved that their 18 years in Darling Harbour was no fluke and that they’re serious about the next 18. This is one of the top Indian restaurants in Sydney and should not be visited but rather experienced.
Freddie and Vikrant (left) Pawan Luthra, Vikrant Kapoor, Graham Weakley (right)