KARACHI: Starting out in the 90’s as a bungalow-based ice cream parlour in Islamabad’s Blue Area, Hot Spot made its presence felt in Karachi at the start of the millennium. Since then, it has become one of the most popular ice cream parlours in the city. But sundaes and banana splits aren’t all Hot Spot has to offer.
The decor at Hot Spot is definitely something that catches the eye. I don’t ever remember walking into a restaurant to have a vampire glare back at me. Hot Spot is a shrine to both horror movies and pop culture. Every corner and wall is filled with models of Freddy Krueger (of Nightmare on Elm Street fame), Jason from Friday the 13th and an assortment of B-movie monsters jockeying for space alongside Sultan Rahi posters and some very cool T-shirts. No doubt, the startling horror and humour combination theme they’ve picked up is hip, unique and has inevitably become Hot Spot’s trademark.
Not content with simply selling ice cream, Hot Spot has also started offering entrées as well. Instead of testing waters with a few offerings, Hot Spot has dived right in by offering everything from pastas, bagels and roulades to burgers and pizzas.
Not too many people are aware of this development, which is why we were the only ones ordering a full meal out of the 20 or more people that entered, ate and left while we were there.
We tried nearly everything the place had to offer. The roulade, a dish consisting of a slice of meat that is rolled around a filling and cooked, was the highlight of the evening. The best part was a thick creamy sauce on top. In fact, if you look at most of their entrées, cheese or cream sauce is a constant. The beef quarter pounder was not to our liking, as the beef patty had too much salt concentrate. However, the chicken version was much better. There were two sizes available, 4lb and 8lb, priced at around Rs 225 and Rs 295 respectively. The pizza came in two bizarre varieties- local and imported. When we asked the difference between the two, we were told the local one just had plain cheese whereas the imported one had all the bells and whistles. They could definitely do with better names for the two types. The creamy mushroom baked pasta was uniquely prepared. It wasn’t the best in town, but definitely better than the average pasta served at most diners. Instead of the usual serving on a plate, the pasta was baked in a mould, with a generous helping of cheddar cheese.
The most glaring downside was the quantity. Apart from the burger, no single entrée can satiate your appetite. Of course you always have the option of treating yourself to one of their sumptuous sundaes to fill you up, but any main entrée won’t do it alone. The roulade is the biggest culprit. Despite its delectable taste, two tiny pieces alone could not satisfy even a child’s appetite, let alone an adult’s.
On the positive side, since most of the dishes are priced around the Rs250 range, you can try out two different dishes for Rs500, an amount you are probably going to spend at any other upscale restaurant.
A piece of advice regarding its famous sundaes– although it isn’t part of the menu, ask them to make a special mix sundae. This is a cocktail of different fruits, and a yummy amalgamation of different flavours.
Everything Hot Spot offers is uniquely differentiated, which is the first requisite of being a memorable brand. While most diners offer French fries, Hot Spot offers the baked version. Everyone offers coleslaw; Hot Spot offers a salad which resembles coleslaw. Even the taste is something you won’t really experience elsewhere. Whether it conforms to customer’s preferences is another matter altogether.
Food and wacky decor isn’t all Hot Spot has to offer…venture downstairs and you’re in an entirely different world…that of the Last Word! This is a super-trendy bookstore with everything from pulp fiction, avant-garde literature and a truly stunning collection of graphic novels and comic books. Want to get your hands on V for Vendetta or the Watchmen? Then the Last Word is the first place you want to be.
The final verdict: Hot Spot’s new offerings are definitely worth trying out.
THE HOT SPOT
8C, 33rd Commercial Street, Tauheed Commercial Area, Phase 5, DHA, Karachi, Pakistan.
Tel: (92-21) 3-586-4856
Published in The Express Tribune, January 23rd, 2011.