The Café Upstairs, located on the first floor of Zamana Interiors, is step in the right direction towards recognizing the severe lack of decent eateries on the busy main Jail Road in Lahore.
Most eateries in Lahore have ignored the need for natural light; this is the first aspect in its ambiance that sets the Café Upstairs apart, and upon entering the café one is welcomed by the soft brightness of daylight. The interior is minimalistic yet classy. The walls are plastered with old newspapers with a variety of sketches drawn on them, everything from Audrey Hepburn to a fully functional replica of the Big Ben.
The Lebanese Platter
Since my hunger knew no bounds I was all set to order a starter. The menu intelligently encompasses everything from the basics - namely pizzas and pastas - to the not so basics. Right away I had my heart set on the Lebanese Platter. The serving was enough to feed two. Toasted pita bread was served with Fattoush, Babaghanoush and Hummus. Red cabbage leaves were used as serving bowls. The Babaghanoush was possibly the best I have had in Lahore; it did not taste excessively smoky nor was it too bitter and above all it had a smooth texture. The Hummus was well seasoned and was very light in density and, unlike the Hummus one usually encounters in other eateries, was not grainy in texture. The Fattoush was lightly seasoned and served with feta.
The Mongolian skewers were, for one, not served on skewers. The chicken was served with grilled vegetables, herbed brown rice and mint yoghurt. I had anticipated something else from the description in the menu. The chicken was succulent to chew, and nice and crispy on the outside. The taste however was not that great, hinting at having been seasoned with ready-to-go masalas, giving you a sense of having desi barbequed food. The rice was well seasoned and better to eat on its own rather than as an accompaniment to the chicken. All in all, it was rather disappointing.
Mongolian Chicken Skewers The Chicken Tarragon
The Tarragon Chicken seems to always be a favourite and a safe bet at most restaurants. Here it was served with a side of white herbed rice and vegetables, namely carrots, zucchini and green beans. The chicken was grilled well enough but ended up being a little dry. All was fine save for the sauce which was rather salty, and offset the entire flavor of this old favourite.
The Red Velvet Cake
The red velvet cake and Eton mess were highly recommended by friends; being a fat kid, I ordered both. The Eton mess was a pleasant surprise. The cream was lightly sweetened, the meringue properly crisp and the strawberries were both fresh and sweet. My enthusiasm for the red velvet cake heightened when it was served. The icing was immaculate, both in flavor and texture but the cake itself was rather dry.
For the amount of hype created for the café, it is safe to say I was disappointed with my main course. The menu though boasting of an array of cuisines seems to lack, what can be best described as, an ‘X’ factor. The music however kept me distracted from thinking about the food too much. The service was good, the waiters were friendly but sadly the food did not set itself apart.
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(September 29, 2016)