Zest Lifestyle Cafe, JW Marriott Absheron Hotel, 674 Azadliq Square www.jwmarriottbaku.com Tel.: +994 12 499 8888
It’s sweltering out there. 35 degrees and not a hint of a breeze. August in Baku. Where better to head for lunch with ‘the girls’ than Zest, the relatively new salad bar at the Marriott Absheron or, as they call it on their website , the ‘Zest Lifestyle Café, a refreshingly hip alternative to the usual hotel all-day dining restaurant’? And yes indeed, it’s cool, both in temperature and in ambience, it’s hip on account of it’s quirky citrus coloured rubber ducks, meerkats and upside down flowerpots and it’s ‘lifestyle’ because it serves up an array of beautifully displayed and healthy fresh food.
The buffet looks mouthwatering: large bowls of many different colourful Mediterranean salads with a selection of dressings, tabbouleh, humous, babaganoush, bread in all shapes and styles, different quiches, the wide choice leaves little else to be desired. It’s not just a pretty sight, it tastes great too, fresh and crunchy with different textures and flavours. Greed could easily get the better of you here but it’s reassuring that it is all good for you and up to a point, unfattening, so it’s a guilt free chomping fest. Still, some self-discipline is required nonetheless, those little cakes and chocolates behind glass seem to be loudly calling out to be eaten. We resisted but only just, and I’m still thinking of them..
Pricing for the buffet is straightforward: AZN 9 for one course/plate, AZN 12 for two and AZN 15 for three, water and coffee are included which is just as well since a cappuccino alone costs a whopping AZN 7. For those who want a more substantial meal or who don’t fancy what’s on offer at the buffet, there’s also an a la carte menu. This too, offers up some really tempting sounding possibilities, all listed under amusing headings (see photo below); All Day Breakfast, soups, salads, sandwiches, hot and cold, and juices. Again, it’s all fresh and healthy and comes in interesting flavour combinations.
Light floods the restaurant through the all-round floor to ceiling windows, the overall fresh and contemporary look is accessorised with eyecatching zingy details. There’s a nice sense of wit about the place with none of the usual hotel restaurant sterility or stuffiness one so often encounters. I am yet to find out how this translates to an evening ambience, but I suspect that with such attention to clever little touches such as the homemade lemonade being served in a screw top jar glass for instance, it will be equally enticing though perhaps not a romantic date destination. For lunch it was certainly very popular. Businessmen, ladies who lunch and a large group of canasta players were enjoying respite from the heat outside. Service was impeccable and very polished.