After 18 years, Karachi’s first true hangout joint, Copper Kettle, closes down

CK now to be called Hobnob Cafe, location, staff and a few favourites to stay the same.

Neha Ansari/husna Anwar May 13, 2011


Copper Kettle - the place where “half of Karachi had its first date” as one nostalgic fan put it - is closing down after 18 years.

“We opened at 7 pm for dinner on September 21, 1993. About 100 people showed up and it was a full house from the first day,” reminisced the owner Nilofer Saeed. And while Copper Kettle was the first restaurant to bring the cafe culture to Karachi, Saeed believes it is time for a new taste and cuisine. “Because so many cafes have opened up and as people have become more health conscious, we want to give the cafe a fresher, healthier look.” CK will now be named ‘Hobnob Cafe’, related to the sister confectionery, Hobnob Bakery.

After Copper Kettle’s success, Saeed recently ventured into N’ecos, a store and cafe selling and serving organic food. “N’ecos was a learning point for us,” she told The Express Tribune. “People do not want creamy, heavy cuisine any more... My customers are now in their 30s. They want fresher, healthier cuisine.” Teenagers today do not go to Copper Kettle.

But they did. An entire school- and university-going crowd could be found at CK during the mid- to late-1990s, after soccer matches, at birthdays, end-of-exams dinners, reunions. Under the orange lights and on the green crockery, excited teenagers trawled through the never-ending menu, but still choosing between Henny Penny, Chicken Chuck and Fettuccini Boscaiola. To their delight it was the first time a burger wasn’t called a burger but ‘Son of a Botch’ and ‘Kiss my Buns’.

But why not just change the decor and the menu? Saeed replied that after some intense market research, she decided the name has to be changed.

No one will go to a place with just an altered outlook because at the back of everyone’s minds, it is still the same name and hence, the same place. “You will come to the ‘new’ place because you’re curious.”

“History will always stay with us,” she promised. “The same staff will serve the customers.” The chef and the manager will still be there. The location will not change either.

They’re sticking to the favourites too. The decadent Caked Alaska - two huge scoops of ice-cream sandwiched between hot, chocolate brownie slices - will still be served.

For many people in their 30s, it will be the end of an era of sorts. “Copper Kettle was the place I first met my mother-in-law, with my very nervous wife-to-be closely monitoring our conversation over a plate of Caked Alaska,” recalled one man.

It was “the place to be”, described 26-year-old Narmeen. “You could go just go when the craving for Caked Alaska arose.”

“My favourite part about the place was the tiny arcade at the back,” recalled Shamas, laughing as he explained how his friends and he figured how to tweak the wires of the game without having to insert a coin.

For Sulaiman it was so popular because it was the first “non-desi, non-Chinese place”.

Nadir Hassan, who went on his first date to Copper Kettle, recalled that night: “It was February 2001. We could have gone to either Copper Kettle or Pizza Hut, but Copper Kettle was just cooler. I remember the place was jam packed and we got a tiny table in a crowded area.”

Saeed hopes the new place will be just as popular, but for many people, things will never be the same.

With additional input from Atika Rehman

Published in The Express Tribune, May 14th, 2011.


Pakistani | 10 years ago | Reply I've eaten there several times and I can tell you from my experience had the owners of this restaurant opened up branches in Chicago, Toronto, London, New York, they would have seen a boom in business and profits. They would have also seen success in places like Dubai and Kuwait but not as much as the Western cities. I guess it's because of their high quality fries and burgers which were not commonly elsewhere.
Adnan Khan | 10 years ago | Reply You never, ever, change the name of a successful enterprise. You change decor, menus, even location. But never the name. . Unless... people begin to associate your business with disaster. Crappy food, small portions with a big price tag. You can only sustain this chicanery for so long, on the goodwill that you earned in the 90s. . CK and it's sister bakery HobNob, has steadily been going downhill. Now you barely find anybody in their bakeries. Everything is second-rate and stale. Cement cookies, stale patties, cakes with watered-down icing on a 2-day old crust. Absolutely no innovation on the product front, while new entrants in the market have been eager to show-off exciting new cuisines. . This time, changing the name alone, while keeping the same mgmt and staff, might fool some people for sometime, but if they don't get the goods out and make some ballsy moves, it will all fizzle to nothing, in a week. . I think Nilofer doesn't have the hunger anymore.
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