Comment: High cuisine in Karachi

Published: July 28, 2012
For Okra on Zamzama, a reservation must always be made before a visit. PHOTO: PUBLICITY

For Okra on Zamzama, a reservation must always be made before a visit. PHOTO: PUBLICITY

For Okra on Zamzama, a reservation must always be made before a visit. PHOTO: PUBLICITY For Okra on Zamzama, a reservation must always be made before a visit. PHOTO: PUBLICITY For Okra on Zamzama, a reservation must always be made before a visit. PHOTO: PUBLICITY

Not long ago, inside the premises of the French Cultural Centre (Alliance Francaise) in Karachi was Café Flo, a restaurant offering authentic French cuisine amidst greenery and white painted furniture.

While it is still supervised by Florence, a French lady who married the son of famous singer Noor Jehan, it has now shifted off 26th street, less than half a kilometre from Neelam Colony — an area populated by the underprivileged which borders one of the commercial areas of Defence. Ranked high for its quality of food by most, the bistro is now fairly unpredictable as recent experiences suggest. It may have its ups and downs but remains to be the premium bistro frequented by French cuisine lovers. A few things on the menu which continue to lure the senses of food lovers include:

Escargots:  they are just the best, fried in herbs and butter, making a perfect appetizer.

French onion soup: it is the most authentic French onion soup in Karachi. You will not be disappointed.

Wild morel steak: for meat lovers, this has to be the most exotic entrée. The wild morel (mushroom) has a unique taste.

While there are a number of restaurants in the same vicinity as Flo, (Koel café, The Patio, Saffron and the revamped Aylanto), Zamzama — once touted as the high street for shoppers — cannot be discounted for the options it has to offer to the discerning foodie. Okra is one restaurant without which the history of modern day Karachi cuisine cannot be written. Long serving the best of the best, Okra is also termed an elitist affair where a reservation must always be made before a visit. The regulars know what to order — whether it is one of the essential appetisers, steak or pasta. However, a few things which caught my fancy over time include the following:

Goat cheese with fresh figs: this has to be one of the most interesting and unique combinations where figs open up into the softness of fresh cheese.

Steak with shitake mushroom: the best combination of a succulent piece of meat and some fresh shitake mushrooms.

Spaghetti with prawn and cherry tomato: this dish is a lovely combination of flavours and recommended to those who enjoy pasta.

While Zamzama certainly has its own charm, there is something old-worldly about Pompei, the Italian joint that offers quite a few choices on the menu. Once located on Zamzama, Pompei moved into the old railway club structure that is reminiscent of the colonial era and now houses one of the biggest fitness centre, Shapes. A little off the track as compared to Zamzama and 26th street, where a cluster of restaurants has made a home for itself, Pompei is a nice escape for food lovers who want to be away in the peaceful confines of this historic location.

Given that it offers Italian cuisine, one dish to try is obviously the pasta, which they have plenty to offer. Those looking for an authentic taste in pizzas flock in, but the three dishes which set them apart include:

Spinach and artichoke dip: this starter is one of a kind and leaves one licking their fingers.

Margarita pizza: the simplest pizza is also the best and there is oven-baked and appropriately sauced with fresh tomatoes and cheese.

Risotto:  Italian cuisine is incomplete without a good plate of risotto and Pompei knows how to serve one well.

There are many more restaurants which fit the bill for good cuisine and a great environment for diners, the above lead in most areas and are part of a very personal and non-exhaustive list.

The writer is a former print and broadcast journalist who has worked at The News and Geo TV

Published in The Express Tribune, July 29th, 2012. 

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Reader Comments (17)

  • Awans
    Jul 28, 2012 - 9:27PM

    One face within Pakistan out of many Pakistans within one Pakistan.


  • Muz
    Jul 28, 2012 - 11:21PM



  • Parvez
    Jul 29, 2012 - 12:54AM

    You should have given a rough idea of the per head costs for a starter,main dish and dessert. On the subject of costs I love to tell this story when years ago my wife and I walked into one of the places you mentioned, had dinner and the waiter brought the bill with a Rs.100/- note attached for me. Long story short they paid us to eat (it of course was a short time promotional gimmick) but we went back after that pretty often and it makes a great story. Yep! those were good days.


  • Ali
    Jul 29, 2012 - 1:22AM

    This diversity should be appreciated and not called ‘one within the other’


  • current
    Jul 29, 2012 - 2:34AM

    3 decent restaurants in khi.. and thats it.. there should be more…


  • Supressed, Opressed, Depressed
    Jul 29, 2012 - 3:12AM

    The author should read more food magazines to get an idea of how to write about food.


  • romeo
    Jul 29, 2012 - 11:28AM

    Ahmer Ashraf……such a poor article Recommend

  • Khi Free
    Jul 29, 2012 - 3:21PM

    Not everyone will like this article simply because it is NOT for everyone! Great piece, most definitely the three best of KHI


  • dinner out
    Jul 29, 2012 - 7:03PM

    poorly written. these are 3 of the best restaurants, but very very poorly written article.


  • Asim
    Jul 29, 2012 - 8:25PM

    refreshing read, especially when think the same yourself, these are the best three, finally someone wrote about them.

    @dinner out are you a food critic?


  • Feed
    Jul 29, 2012 - 8:45PM

    Badly written sir….
    I think you never even gave it a second read before submitting it………….
    What was the premise….
    Seems like you wrote it for writings sake


  • Ishrat salim
    Jul 29, 2012 - 8:49PM

    Think of others Who aré living on bits n pieces to just survive…..what a contrast ?look across your shoulder…..


  • Ujala Ali Khan
    Jul 30, 2012 - 1:42AM

    I enjoyed reading your piece. Smelled like home :) But what is up with the retarded haters in the comments. Taubah! Useless people. Khud toh kuchh kar nahi saktey, tanqeed ke ilawah!!


  • ishrat salim
    Jul 30, 2012 - 2:26PM

    Reply to Ujala Ali Khan…what is yr contribution in lessening some burden off poor people ? the amount expats sends for these poor people is un-imaginable to your retarded mind…..Recommend

  • Sal
    Jul 31, 2012 - 9:53AM

    Dear Ishrat, do you stop eating when you see poor people? Do you stop taking a shower and buying clothes and living life the way you live? I guess not. And mind you, all of us have a social responsibility and (I am certain) MOST of us are fulfilling that. My suggestion for you is to do good work and not boast about it on public forums and dont question anybody else’s contribution, you never know they might be FAR FAR ahead of you in helping people


  • Ujala Ali Khan
    Sep 11, 2012 - 3:46PM

    @ishrat salim:
    Actually what is un-imaginable to my ‘retarded mind’ is what exactly you’re trying to say in your comment.


  • Neutral
    Sep 12, 2012 - 6:03PM

    will never understand my view point bcz u guys are living a life of luxury while the poor are looking for bits n pieces to just survive…I hv never boasted about my personal contributions at any level, which is between me & the creator….suggwst read my comments closely before commenting….Recommend

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