Aptly described by some ardent frugivores as a block of pink-red ice, this sweet fruit is a powerful kick of hydration for the willing gourmand – a lifesaver especially in the energy-sapping summers here. A small serving of watermelon contains up to 91 per cent of water, some natural sugar and very, very few calories. The latter aspect, however, is amply compensated for in several creative salads, thanks to the popular pairing of watermelon with cheese and nuts.
At Sautéed Stories, for example, watermelon and feta cheese are pretty much the heroes of the dish, served in a sharp and musky vinaigrette of white wine, honey and cooling mint. Similarly, Stone Water Grill does a simple but stunning version, serving melon and cheese with a reduced balsamic caramel that marries tartness and sweetness just perfectly.
There is not a crowd for some others, who have been brave enough to add in just one extra element into the holy combine – 11 East Street Café, for instance, does its watermelon and feta salad with musk melon, doused in an aromatic basil vinaigrette dressing.
On the same lines, it is only a bed of fresh lettuce that adds some extra crispiness to the Mediterranean salad at Independence Brewing Company, with crunchy watermelon, crumbly feta and a healthy drizzle of a classic lemon and olive oil vinaigrette. As the complexity of this offering diversifies, balsamic sprouts and sunflower seeds are the way Flambos Brewpub chooses to go, with tangy marinated feta and cubes of de-seeded watermelon.
Meanwhile, the watermelon-feta combined at The Flour Works is bolstered with the presence of tangy and nutritionally-rich cherry tomatoes, along with a smattering of beautiful roasted almonds. Toasted almonds are a prime richness factor in the Vietnamese watermelon salad at Shizusan as well, with the Pan-Asian fusion food establishment also adding mint, cilantro and fresh eye-watering radish (besides feta) into the toss-up, dressed in a nutty-chilli garlic-soy dressing for a burst of umami.
The goodness of nuts finds resonance in a similar watermelon salad at Krustys, too, with the addition of candied walnuts and tzart-sweet black grapes amid the generous bed of crumbled feta, soaked in a superbly summery peach and mango vinaigrette. And, while incorporating slender almond shavings into its own watermelon salad, 212 All Day Café and Bar manages to present it in a rather innovative avatar, stacking the crunchy fruit symmetrically with goat’s cheese rondelles, and a scattering of peppery, refreshing leaves of roquette.
Syrakko goes quite modern fine dine with its version of the watermelon salad, with the ubiquitous feta element blended into a new ‘hero’ – a velvety pink mousse combined with pickled beetroot. This salad also incorporates orange crisps, olive oil powder and a balsamic reduction for a good measure.
Interestingly, Habibi side-steps the fromage accoutrement, but stays true to its Middle Eastern theme, by serving the salad as a fattoush, with the requisite slivers of toasted Lebanese bread, plenty of lettuce and coloured peppers, besides a dash of olive oil, lemon juice and exotically sour sumac concoction.
For the only carnivore-friendly innovation on this list, the special seasonal summer menu at Malaka Spice trots some crispy, fatty duck into the proceedings – the watermelon here contrasts beautifully with the gamey poultry, coupled with red pumpkin bits in a salty, Oriental hoisin dressing.
All we have been left waiting for now is someone to snap up that hipster global trend of pickled watermelon rind to use in a good salad, and we are good to go.
Follow Shweta @ShwetaKapur
Shweta has been writing about food for a few years now and has dabbled in TV, print and online journalism for over almost a decade. She has written on and edited for topics ranging from the environment, culture and lifestyle to politics, business and, of course, food. She has written for publications under the Times Group, Fox Life India and NDTV. When she's not devouring a good book or spending vast swathes of time on the Interweb, she loves to set off on all manner of culinary explorations.