Recently revamped as a fine-dining establishment, The Deli takes you on a gastronomical journey to discover flavours from around the world, dished out with a unique and contemporary take that has remained the restaurant’s signature since its days as a small sandwich shop.
Come December, The Deli made a very welcome and long-awaited return to Karachi’s ever-increasing list of eateries. Having recently shifted from its home of several years tucked deep into one of Zamzama’s many lanes, following a brief closure the restaurant now neighbours Café Aylanto just off the city’s latest food hub, E-Street. The Deli in its new avatar, revised menu and all, is bigger and better than its quaint former self – the one constant, taste remains king.
Tina Mehdi is the inimitable force behind The Deli. A veteran in the business for almost 20 years now, she has recently found a new partner-in-arms in her aunt-in-law, Zari Beg – her long-time mentor who has joined the team as a food consultant.
Together the duo promises you “a journey of flavours” and with each course being able to transport you to a different corner of the world, that’s exactly what you get. The menu has been designed so that all in the matter of a single meal service, between aperitif and dessert, you can enjoy a myriad of tastes and gastronomies.
“People enjoy good food, be it any cuisine. Over the years, I have come to understand that a good meal is one where flavours are beautifully balanced and amalgamate to perfection,” says Tina who believes in pushing the envelope as far as she can but at a slow and steady pace.
The choices are aplenty. There’s something on offer for everyone. You might want to consider a shot of chilled Gazpacho and the bite-sized goodness of the Tortilla with Smoked Salmon and Mango Serrano Crema or Deep Fried Prawns with Mun & Nan River Dressing to open your meal that will effortlessly transition into a wide selection of entrees, boasting a variety of cuisines. Among a host of choices, the menu brings forth some of the finest flavours of the Orient, tastes of the Mediterranean and rustic Italian fare. My favourites, the Zaatir Fish with Citrus Spiked Relish and the Homemade Ravioli with Gorgonzola Cream and Burnt Butter, are complex preparations with simple flavours. And if your appetite allows, you can top all this off with a serving of the decedent Chocolate Roulade or a bowl of Feta & Honey Cheese on a Kadaif Pastry – a strawberry-topped deconstructed baklava sandwiched between the chef’s own version of Turkish ice-cream. Delicious.
And The Deli loyalists need not worry if some of their favourites from the old menu failed to make the cut on the new. Be it the very popular Stir Fry Chicken Khousuey, Crab Spaghetti or Vietnamese Steam Rice Wrapper Rolls, there is a take-away kitchen within the premises of the new set-up dedicated to cooking up the restaurant’s signature specials.
Having swung back into business with an introductory menu for dinner only during the first fortnight, The Deli will soon be plating up two meals a day. “In my understanding, diners are looking for different kinds of flavours suited to their palate,” explains Tina. “At The Deli, we have always worked towards creating seasonal menus putting to best use the choicest ingredients the different times of the year have to offer.”
“To me personally it is of the utmost importance to remain true to my philosophy which in the case of The Deli, is simple and fresh food; hence our logo is green and fresh,” explains Tina who, with her space too, has worked with the same principle.
With its multiple dining areas, sans visual clutter, the restaurant successfully manages to bring the outside in and incorporate its very well-manicured exterior into its interior. The net-roofed terrace and the courtyard give one the feel of dining under the open sky – an ideal setting for a pleasant Karachi evening.
The space is warm, welcoming and not one that overpowers your sensibilities. At The Deli, it is left to the meals served to do all the talking. The restaurant is planned as an escape for the urban setting of hectic city life and translates into reality Tina’s vision, of creating a space that brings together the old and the young, one where a cross-section of generations can bond over a meal.
The Deli is evidently a labour of love. Tina believes that whereas positive feedback is undoubtedly heartening, it is critique that she likes to keep an ear out for. “If there are shortcomings, I like to be told. I listen, ponder and think of ways I can better cater to my customers’ requirements. Learning is a never-ending process, it’s the only way to keep evolving.”
What a journey it has been for The Deli – from a small sandwich bar to a fine dining experience, things have come a long, long way and there’s certainly no looking back. “This is only just the beginning,” promises Tina. “There’s lots more to come.”