Restaurateur and chef, Faheem Jaffer obtained no formal culinary training; the popularity he achieved, as well as the knowledge he acquired pertaining to food was by working in numerous restaurants. His contemporary French bistro, Côte Rôtie has grown to satisfy the tastebuds of Karachi’s foodies, since its inception in 2015. The restaurant is an an ideal space that celebrates food, a cozy atmosphere and great conversation!
How has Pakistan changed in terms of spending and eating out?
Standards have been raised over the past few years. The Internet and cable TV have changed everything in terms of access. People have always enjoyed eating out and regardless of the options out there people make it a priority to go out for entertainment. You only have to look at the food groups on Facebook and see the passion consumers have for eating out.
What is the process of developing a new menu or dishes at Côte Rôtie?
There are certain things that inspire us and we use that as a guideline for our menu and recipe development, after much trial and error we usually reach a consensus on a dish that looks good and has the stamina to stay on the menu for a long period of time. We try as much as possible to use local products that are seasonal. The global movement to eat more local and seasonal is very important for global sustainability.
How is Côte Rôtie’s menu different from what other restaurants are offering?
We try and make sure that items we select are not on menus at other restaurants in the city. If something pops up on a menu elsewhere we usually replace it with something else. Our seasonal focus along with creativity on simple dishes allows us to differentiate our menu from other eateries. The best part is that our loyal following appreciates the fact that we have a different menu and that has been a key differentiator in our development.
What inspired you to open Côte Rôtie?
It was an amalgamation of forces that came together. I was transitioning out of a desk job and was looking for a new challenge. Food was something I have always been passionate about and opening a restaurant was an intriguing challenge for me and it has worked out really well. Everyday I wake up to the challenge and the satisfaction matches.
What trends do you see shaping the food and beverage market in 2018?
I think beverages will be a defining area in 2018. Coffee, coffee coffee! You can already see some of that peaking through with the places that are opening. Fresh roast coffee and specialty coffee will change how we drink it in Pakistan. Unfortunately, the coffee available currently is largely stale or mass produced and consumers are demanding more. In terms of food I think two cuisines that have the potential to develop and grow further in Pakistan are underrepresented and will break out, are Mexican and desi 2.0.
What is the secret behind keeping a restaurant sustainable?
It all comes down to consistency; if people come in for lunch they should get the same quality and service for dinner and vice versa. The other important aspect is staying true to the core identity, I feel a lot of restaurants, when they are not “busy”, waiver and try to conform to the mainstream that ironically is the beginning of the end for them.
What are some of the challenges of being a restaurateur?
Operating in Pakistan is a challenge from a couple of different angles. Supply chain issues with consistent ingredients is a big problem. Minimising turnover and making sure your staff is happy in the environment they work in. Today leveraging social media is a big challenge to make sure you stay relevant.
What continues to motivate or inspire you in coming up with a new idea for your restaurant?
More diversity, less pretension.
What is your least favourite culinary trend?
Five words to describe Côte Rôtie and its meals?
Fresh, flavourful, humble and ingredient driven.
What is in store for Côte Rôtie in the future?
We like how Côte Rôtie is evolving its own identity, the constant evolution of the menu has to stay and the innovation is what keeps us unique. We are looking to do special events more frequently, focusing on global cuisines regularly. The goal has to be to deliver top quality food and customer excellence on a daily basis.