CTReview: Cafe Zubaan In Bengaluru Is An Oasis For Authentic Middle Eastern Cuisine, Literary Classics & Ghazals

Nestled in Koramangala 6th Block in Bangalore, a charming home is transformed into an inviting space for Middle Eastern food, literary pieces, ghazals and more.

by Sanjana Shenoy
CTReview: Cafe Zubaan In Bengaluru Is An Oasis For Authentic Middle Eastern Cuisine, Literary Classics & Ghazals

After wrapping up a hectic weekday, I squeezed in some time to trudge the burgeoning Bengaluru traffic for a dinner invite. Tired, with a million thoughts buzzing in my mind, all I wanted was to plop myself on my bed and call it a night. The minute I set foot into Cafe Zubaan— nestled in a quiet neighbourhood of Koramangala 6th Block— the quaint candlelit ambience, fresh flowers, melodious ghazals and the library stacked with literary gems by prominent Urdu writers imbued me with a sense of calm and serenity. At Cafe Zubaan, time stood still and boy am I glad it did!

Cafe Zubaan In Bengaluru: Where Conversation Meets Kahwa Meets Kitaab

“Zubaan” is derived from the Hindi word “tongue.” Cafe Zubaan is a space to feast and speak. Where conversations, kahwa (Kashmiri tea) and kitaab (book) take the forefront. Founder Labeeb Usman and his partner Jasna Moidu opened Cafe Zubaan in December 2021 with a telos to stand apart from other F&B ventures by offering patrons an experience that transcends food.

Cafe Zubaan bengaluru
Picture Credits: Sanjana Shenoy

Inspired by their passionate dinner table conversations revolving around patriarchy, democracy and socio-political issues, Labeeb and Jasna through Cafe Zubaan wish to encourage diners to read, converse and perhaps even debate in a home-like atmosphere — over mezze platters and kebabs, of course!

A small wall library instantly catches your attention. It has the founders’ personal book collection. I jumped with glee on getting my hands on Ismat Chugtai’s short stories and Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s shayari collection. Where else in Bengaluru can you enjoy a candlelight dinner of falafels and hummus while reading an Ismat Chugtai classic as you listen to Jagjit Singh crooning?

Cafe Zubaan bengaluru
Picture Credits: Sanjana Shenoy

The philosophy of Cafe Zubaan is reflected perfectly in its ambience with quotes and illustrations of eminent personalities lacing the walls. The mosaic-patterned flooring gives an old-world touch. So, do the vibrant Morrocan lamps.

Also Read: 7 New Restaurants In Bengaluru To Head To This Month

Authentic Mezze Platters, Grills & Saudi Champagne

For dinner, my sister and I were served chilled glasses of Saudi Champagne — a perfect summer drink that comes with fresh green apples, soda, lime and slices of orange. This bubbly alternative for teetotalers comes from Saudi Arabia. The drink was truly refreshing and the thinly sliced fresh fruits worked up our appetites for the lavish meal ahead.

Cafe Zubaan bengaluru
Saudi Champagne and Cold Mezze Platter (Picture Credits: Sanjana Shenoy)

The Cold Mezze Platter for two came next. There was Hummus, Muttabal, ⁠Baba Ganoush, Labneh Garlic, Tabouleh Salad and Fatoosh Salad served with fresh pita bread. Having spent my formative years in Kuwait, and despite being a Food Writer seldom have I come across restaurants in Bengaluru serving authentic Middle Eastern-Lebanese food. Cafe Zubaan left me pleasantly surprised.

The Hummus was creamy, the Muttabal and Babaganoush were packed with the signature smoky brinjal flavours and Tabouleh Salad was the best I’ve had in Bengaluru. The quality of parsley can make or break the Tabouleh Salad. And this one was truly impressive. For Carnivores, Cafe Zubaan ensures you have plenty to sink your teeth into.

We tucked into the Mixed Grill Platter that comes with Shish Tawook, Chicken Kebab, ⁠Lamb Kebab and Grilled Wings ⁠Alfahm Chicken. This platter was accompanied by Toum (garlic sauce), Arabic pickles and pita bread. The kebabs were juicy and beautifully cooked. The lamb seekh kebab was aromatic and succulent.

Cafe Zubaan bengaluru
Mixed Grill Platter (Picture Credits: Sanjana Shenoy)

Lipsmacking Zaatar & Cheese Manakish

But the winner for me was the Zaatar & Cheese Manakish. Ask any NRI from the Middle East, about the sheer joy they get in biting into a zaatar or fatayer. It’s like a Middle East version of pizza! Biting into the Manakish instantly transported me to Kuwait where I spent plenty of my childhood days eating stringy cheesy fatayers and licking the powdery zaatar spice off my lips. Leaving Cafe Zubaan without ordering the Zaatar & Cheese Manakish is a crime!

Cafe Zubaan bengaluru
Zaatar & Cheese Manakish (Picture Credits: Sanjana Shenoy)

Ending The Meal With Sulemani Tea & Kunafa

Sometimes, all your mind, body and soul really need is mindfulness. A sense of enlivening all four senses. As I sat by the window, a candle illuminating the table, a vase of fresh purple blossoms welcoming me with its beauty, a sense of peace took over me. I sipped my cup of Sulemani Tea. A hint of cinnamon gripping my senses. Curled in a corner with a book in my hand, I wondered what a perfect place this would be for a solo date. Mindfullness at its best!

Cafe Zubaan bengaluru
Sulemani Tea and Kunafa (Picture Credits: Sanjana Shenoy)

If you visit Arabic restaurants, you’d know it’s an absolute no-no to leave without ordering a plate of Kunafa. The same stands true at Cafe Zubaan as well. The traditional Arabic dessert of spun pastry or kataifi sitting on hot cheese, soaked in sugar syrup is indulgence at its best. My sister and I took spoonfuls of Kunafa yet our appetites couldn’t keep up with our willingness.

Also Read: ShokuduCTReview: I Visited Shokudu, A New Japanese & Pan-Asian Space In Jayanagar, Bangalore & It Was  

The quietude of weekday dinner, the soothing ghazals and Hindustani music and the intellectually stimulating literary pieces make Cafe Zubaan an oasis in Bengaluru. A space to introspect, experience mindfulness and get closer to oneness. All with stellar Mezze Platters and chai to keep you company!

Where: 465/C, 17th G Main Rd, 6th Block, Koramangala, Bengaluru, Karnataka 560095,
When: 12 am to 12 pm
Cost: ₹1,400 for two people approx


Cover Image Courtesy: Sanjana Shenoy and Cafe Zubaan

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