Thanda Garam is a small eatery in DHA, Lahore that specialises in healthy food. Faraze Niazi along with her husband Babar Hamid established the little Parisian styled tea room when they realised there weren’t many healthy food options in the constantly growing web of restaurants in the city. Faraze reveals how Thanda Garam’s menu brings something different to the table and the secret to sustaining a restaurant
What inspired you to establish Thanda Garam?
This was my husband’s idea. Both of us have always been into healthy eating. I was quite apprehensive at first but then everything jelled together pretty nicely. The inspiration behind Thanda Gram was the lack of healthy eateries. Whenever we used to dine out we weren’t able to find that many healthy options. Lahori food is pretty rich in calories and fat and I do not enjoy that kind of food too much. When you’re eating out somewhere abroad, you have so many healthy options to choose from. We wanted to introduce a restaurant that had a diverse menu of healthy food items like cold pressed juices, cereals, smoothie bowls and salads that are actually healthy. It was the desire to eat healthy that led to the opening of Thanda Garam.
What is the process of developing a new menu or new dishes at Thanda Garam?
There is no set process to developing a new dish. When we started off the menu remained the same but we started introducing new dishes six months in. If you take a look at our menu it is very diverse. We have smoothie bowls and healthy salads but we also have waffles with whipped cream which is not too healthy but it is there to cater to people who wish to have a cheat meal or are just in mood for a dessert.
What is your favourite dish from the menu?
I love eating healthy. I love greens and salads but I also love my carbs so there is one particular dish that I am very fond of; the Garden Bowl. It has a healthy blend of carbs and protein. It comes with whole wheat bread that covers carbs, it has eggs for protein, and it also has rocket leaves, baby spinach, halloumi cheese, sausage, quinoa and lentils. It makes for a perfectly balanced meal which is why Garden Bowl is my favourite.
How is Thanda Garam’s menu different from what other restaurants are offering?
We serve actual healthy food. We incorporate cheese in a healthy quantity and lentils and seeds as well. We have cereals and granolas; it’s more of a lunch and breakfast menu that we are catering to. Our juices are cold pressed juices; so none of the nutrients are wasted. Thanda Garam is a place that takes healthy eating very seriously.
How has Pakistan changed in terms of spending and eating out?
If I compare it to when I was growing up, it has changed a lot. Back then, there used to be only a few Chinese restaurants and some traditional Pakistani food places. Then of course McDonald’s and all these fast food places sprouted up in the late 90s. These days there are so many new places opening up and we have such a wide variety of cuisines at our disposal. There is French, Japanese, Italian, Chinese cuisine and so on which is excellent. It has played a major role in the modernisation of our society. Our food palettes have evolved because of all these new options.
In your opinion what differentiates Lahore and Karachi in terms of taste and food choice?
People in Karachi are simpler than those in Lahore, they keep everything minimalistic but here in Lahore we tend to glamourise everything. In other words people of Lahore celebrate more whether it’s food or weddings or anything. In Karachi when you walk into a restaurant it’s much more ambiguous, whereas in Lahore it’s all about ostentatiously designed spaces as well as elaborately presented dishes so I would say things in Lahore are a bit more exaggerated.
What trends do you see shaping the food and beverage market in 2019?
As people are becoming more aware, feeling good and eating healthy has become a priority for many. Mental health is also in focus these days, that of course again also depends on whatever you eat. I feel 2019 is going to be more focused on leading a healthier living. Keto diet is being considered the new fad that many people are following. Also small eateries in my opinion would replace big fancy restaurants. The only entertainment that we have here is eating out, we don’t have the concept of clubs and things of sort so for the younger generation it’s all about going somewhere, eating and chatting so I think smaller eateries would become more popular than the bigger, more fancier restaurants.
What is the secret behind sustaining a restaurant?
It has a lot to do with taking care of your employees. You need to have a strong bond with your team. As employers you need to look into their needs, be it emotional, financial or medical. Apart from that you also need to have a cool head, if something goes wrong you need to deal with it very patiently. Say the generator stops working, it’s a normal thing but if we start panicking it will do nothing but put our team under more pressure. Taking note of negative feedback is very important. Hygiene is also another key factor.
What continues to motivate or inspire you in coming up with a new idea for your restaurant?
It gives us a great sense of achievement when we see familiar faces in the restaurant. Feedback from regular patrons is one of the biggest motivations.
What is your least favourite culinary trend?
The fast-food trend for sure.
How would you describe Thanda Garam and its meals?
Quaint little café which offers healthy meal options.
What’s in store for Thanda Garam in the future?
We’re working on opening up a few new branches. We would like each of our restaurants to have that quaint Parisian feel to them. Simple, small and cosy, that’s what we’re rooting for.