KARACHI: On Thursday evening, Café Cilantro opened its doors to customers on Khayaban-e-Shahbaz. The owner, who named the new food joint after the herb because of its fresh smell, said, “Cilantro is commonly known as coriander in our part of the world. There were hundreds of options before me, but people close to me voted for Cilantro.”
The owner of the restaurant, Pervez Iqbal has a history with restaurants. His previous venture was Lebanese restaurant Abaan, which started off in late 2010 but had to shut down after a year and a half because there weren’t many takers for authentic Lebanese food.
At the launch, prettily decorated trays of simple sandwiches, bruschetta and shish taouk were served, along with some delicious crispy fried okra. Iqbal said, “Cilantro Okra will be made according to my wife’s recipe and Cilantro Guava Jelly — which will be available on sale in jars — according to my mother’s.” While the food was aplenty, it was simple and unadventurous, with cheese and crackers also on offer instead of mouthwatering specials.
He explained why he chose to open it at Shahbaz. “Zamzama has lost its place and glamour because it is too congested a place to park your car,” said Iqbal. “Also with eateries picking up in the city, it either had to be Shahbaz, Badar Commercial or Do-Darya. But for everyone, BBQ Tonight remains a hot spot.”
The interior, which has been designed by Iqbal’s younger brother Shahid, gives the feel of a sailor’s cabin. The restaurant is a small wooden café with wooden flooring and wooden seating arrangements. “This was done to give it a homely feel and make it a cosy place for people to unwind at the end of the day.”
The walls of the café are decorated with funky plates, which are part of Iqbal’s collection from across the globe. Pictures of 50 world-renowned chefs are adorned on the other wall. “Apart from our regular, we will have a weekly feature of the Chef’s Special on weekends. It will include one recipe from the cookbooks of these chefs.”
The eatery might end up as a family business with Iqbal’s wife Shazia hoping to assist him someday. Even their 16-year-old daughter Amna has her eyes set on it. “I am hoping to take up this venture after my A Levels,” she smiled.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 30th, 2013.
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