ISLAMABAD: With literature festivals being held across the country and bookstores launching e-stores, it seem as though the culture of reading is on the rise once again. The trend of incorporation of bookracks might have started off with Chaaye Khana, but others such as Burning Brownie and Cannoli have picked up on the idea as well.
Book Bistro, a relatively new eatery in the capital’s upscale Kohsar market, takes the trend of incorporating books in a cafés décor to a whole new level.
Upon entering the cafe, one is instantly reminded of the famous Busboys and Poets in Washington, DC. With books hanging from the ceiling in one corner, cosy couches and wooden chairs and tables welcome visitors to the cafe, launched by the London Book Store.
It offers a spacious lounge with bookracks on both sides, filled with all kinds of books from children’s novels and classics to Urdu poetry and travel and history books.
Book Bistro has a unique ambiance that instantly attracts the eye and makes one feel like dwelling in the books. The cafe is a true representation of Islamabad’s culture: good food, great ambiance, educated clientele and working class customers who wouldn’t mind bringing in their laptop and working the afternoon away.
It is not just the vibe and ambiance that makes Book Bistro a great addition to Islamabad’s existing eateries; the food itself is quite commendable. The menu is restricted and one can’t expect it to be a detailed one as that is not what the cafe is all about. It prides itself in its limited but quality offerings.
None of the offerings on the menu include items that are fried, thus avoiding the odour that may otherwise get into the books and spoil the theme of the space, which is a very interesting consideration taken by the cafe’s management. It speaks volumes of how serious they are about the elements that go into creating reading culture and a memorable cafe.
From the menu, the tomato soup is a perfect balance of sweet and tangy with a hint of basil and a treat for those who appreciate the ingredients. Anyone who truly appreciates bruschetta must try the ones offered here. Perfectly chopped tomatoes sprinkled with olive oil and salt atop grilled bread, the bruschetta is a light but healthy appetizer to begin the meal with. The menu at Book Bistro also offers thin crust pizzas, which boast the most perfect crust; not too dry yet appropriately thin and crispy. The chicken pepperoni pizza is the ideal blend of sauce, pepperoni and chicken. They offer to make a customised pizza as well, which gives customers a choice to experiment with toppings. Another noteworthy item on the menu is the ravioli stuffed with spinach in tomato sauce.
While the cafe’s tea may not be its unique selling proposition, it does offer simple flavours of tea including mixed chai, separate chai and green tea. Cappuccino and latte are also served at the cafe. However, what comes off as a disappointment is the fact that the cafe does not offer any dessert. This is surprising, given that desserts are the soul of any cafe.
But with the awe-inspiring ambiance, the hearty meals on offer, and the peace of mind that the space offers, one really can’t complain much. Not only is this place a great addition to Islamabad, it is also probably the most unique eatery in a city where cafes continue to sprout in every corner.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 9th, 2016.