Diana and Mehernosh Kotwal: Parsi Restauranters in New Zealand


May 9, 2009

Lucky, lucky Beachlands residents! They have in the heart of town a superb Indian restaurant where the talented chef can char-grill a steak or prepare the perfect saagwala with equal ease.

kotwal Formerly the Pohutukawa Café, Zara’s is fast gathering a following of patrons who have discovered that owners Mehernosh and Diana Kotwal are absolutely dedicated to quality and authenticity. 

Since purchasing the café 12 months they have redecorated the interior creating a stylish environment with an eye-catching red, black and grey theme. The couple has also worked tirelessly to establish Zara’s – named for their younger daughter – as a restaurant where integrity matters.

Their enthusiastic service extends to hand grinding their own spices, using fresh vegetables, buying their steak from the local butcher and incorporating into the menu many family recipes with their own secret ingredients. In fact, it doesn’t take long to realise that Mehernosh and Diana have the goodwill, and the stomachs, of their customers at heart.

“Many of the recipes are our own, some the result of Diana’s flair in the kitchen and some from my mother who was a cooking teacher and also taught me to cook at a young age,” Mehernosh says. “Both Diana and I are enthusiastic amateur chefs and though we leave most of the cooking to our chef who has come to New Zealand from the Sheraton in Mumbai, we are particular about our menu.”

Of Parsi background the couple has included several Parsi dishes in the menu to reflect their Persian heritage – the Parsis fled Persia after the fall of the Sassanian Empire with most making India their home. Their religion and cuisine have survived the centuries.

For Mehernosh and Diana, buying the restaurant fulfilled a long time desire to take their love of food to the next level. And they have certainly succeeded. For example the restaurant’s garlic prawns are absolutely divine (among the best I have tasted) and I just loved the saagwala (a mild but delicious spinach and lamb curry).

Interestingly, because Zara’s does not have a tandoor oven the café serves parathas instead of naan. My first mouthful of this extremely tasty bread, impressed. It was even better than naan in my mind. The crispy outer appealed to my personal texture preference.  

Because I generally opt for milder dishes vindaloo would not normally be one of my picks . However, when I tried Zara’s pork vindaloo I was impressed on two counts – I could really taste the pork, and while this dish had bite it did not leave my mouth on fire. It was very good!

The day I took time to sample several dishes turned out to be opportune indeed. While Indian cuisine has largely been the domain of my husband – he could eat it every night – I found Zara’s menu offered many tasty dishes including European options. Apparently many folk come just for the steak!

While I did not try the latter, I enjoyed Zara’s so much I’ve suggested the whole family head out there one night. I just know Mehernosh and Diana’s philosophy of “cooking with love and fun’ will win Brownie points and the diverse menu will be as big a hit with them as it was with me. The dilemma will be, what to order!

Double treat at Zara’s

Good news for Mother’s Day diners at Zara’s. Every mum treated to a meal at Zara’s on May 10 will be entered into the draw to win a $100 Botany Town Centre shopping voucher – now most mums could do with that! In addition to the draw, mums will also receive a complimentary glass of bubbles or soft drink with their meal. Enjoy a  warm welcome and take advantage of the atmosphere, affordability and great food. Zara’s is located in Wakelin Road, Beachlands.

Original article here.