When a British Pakistani Visited Food Street Lahore
Arguably, the first and most glamorous in the blocks of buildings at Food Street, Haveli Rooftop and its famous Seekh Kebabs establish Andaroon Lahore’s spot on the culinary destination map. Since I have been in Lahore, I was eager to have lunch with the city’s finer details and capture the dazzling views. Because you know when you’re from Britain and #rain and #torrential are trending, lunch with a view only becomes a dream.
When I stepped inside the grandeur of Mughal era at the Royal Neighborhood on Fort Road, I noticed every brick, balcony and jharoka revealing a story of the past. As I looked up at the bright yellow and rusty orange historic texture of the 200 years old building of Haveli restaurant, I noticed the skillfully crafted intricate wood work, combined with dim red lighting. It was something one expects from Bhansali films and the enduring magic of Mughal-E-Azam.
The moment I entered, the detailed architectural design restaurant made me feel royal and classy. The ears were greeted by classical instrumental music that is reflected in the interiors, a sparkling chandelier in the center of the ceiling and colorful glass windows. Short stature men in tall traditional turban hats were welcoming, instructing to take the lift to the rooftop. Although the elevator whisks you to the third-floor, but, once there, you have to navigate towards the stairs for the last portion.
And finally on the roof, architecturally charismatic, with exceptional panoramas of central Lahore and beyond. The view from Haveli is mesmerizing, stretching from the Badshahi Masjid and Minar-e-Pakistan to the magnificent Lahore Fort and Gurdwara Dehra Sahib, with birds tranquilly flying about- an inky water paint work of art against a peaceful skyline, battling with the hustle and bustle of a busy day in Lahore. That’s if you get a side table, of course; diners in the middle of the restaurant’s interior will see little, but, it’s all an open sky.
Looking around, I spot a couple of electric heaters standing tall at two of the three occupied tables, flashing prettily. Seating up-to 500 people, the meal is served in warmth and comfort.
Given you’re dining in a jewel icon of Mughal architecture, it’s no surprise that the menu carries authentic Desi dishes, alongside Chinese cuisine.
Hot and Sour soup is currently an aromatic seasonal gem at Haveli. A mixture of flavours, hot, sweet and vinegary. With chicken, eggs and finely cut carrots flowing atop, it has a smooth yet crunchy texture. A slightly thick, velvety appearance, represented with soy sauce, vinegar, salt and pepper. Don’t treat it like a starter because it has all you need for a winter night!
Grilled, fluffy and juicy, the Seekh Kebabs were as soft as silk. The inside flesh was a golden yellow. Each bite into the scrumptious piece felt somewhat like an exotic take on home-cooked food. Although flavourful, they lacked spice.
The manager, Sumbal, tells me the concept behind the medium spiced food was to offer the authentic Pakistani cuisine to foreigners too. She surely was knowledgeable, unflappable and nimble.
Service, both from wait staff and the manager was impressive too. The only thing that made me feel anything approaching uneasy was the special attention I received as an outsider – and writer- at the restaurant. This was Pakistan showing me its best side and hospitality.
The combination of Kebab and Garlic Naan was utterly mouth-watering, and
the garlic was strong but not overpowering. The crust was crispy, flavorful, and chewy. When dipped into the traditional Raita, the mixture bursts into color, giving a distinctive taste.
Malai Boti, light and herbal, perfectly complemented the luscious Kebabs. Staying true to an ancient recipe by using Desi Ghee, milk and black pepper, the Mutton Karahi was exquisitely seasoned. Decorated with garlic, tomato, lemon and chilies, it was pleasingly unpretentious.
If you’re having trouble securing a reservation, or dealing with the unsurprisingly high prices, consider instead going for a drink, which should turn out cheaper too. Opened in 2011, Haveli may lack the use of fine cutlery, but years of experience are manifest in charming service. So, for me, the bird’s eye view of the symbols of Lahore, next to a plate full of finger licking food was picture special.
About the Author:
With an academic background in English Language and Literature and further studies in Law, Anam Hussain is a writer focusing on British-Pakistani Diaspora, cultural identity and travel. Her Diasporic essay made it to the 21st Century Literature from the Philippines and the World. As a former magazine assistant editor, she covered culture, fashion, food, health & beauty, film & TV and British Asian lifestyle.