Food Street: Gowalmandi site reopens this week

Old favourite returns after Fort Road Food Street fails as a replacement.

Rameez Khan April 30, 2013
The caretaker chief minister will inaugurate the renovated street. PHOTO: FILE


Diners will be able to choose from 45 restaurants offering some 200 dishes from around Pakistan  all at the same table – as Gowalmandi Food Street, closed four years ago by the provincial government, reopens for business this week.

The caretaker chief minister will inaugurate the renovated street on Thursday, Friday or Saturday. Workers are currently finishing off the Rs4 million renovation project, which involved the installation of gates, lighting and new tiles and some fresh coats of paint.

DCO Rizwan Mehboob had announced the city government’s plan to reopen the street on April 19. The renovation work began five days ago and will be finished in a day or two, said Executive Engineer Rao Shakeel. Some 50 workers were deployed.

Tariq Zaman, the staff officer to the DCO, said that the street would be reopened by Saturday and Chief Minister Najam Sethi would inaugurate it.

The restaurants on the street have been around for a long time, but became Gowalmandi Food Street only in 2000. It quickly became a popular tourist attraction for its delicious dishes and low prices.

The provincial government closed the Gowalmandi Food Street in 2009, stating that the restaurants were a nuisance to local residents as the closed street made it very difficult to access some homes, even in emergencies.

It then decided to develop an alternate on Fort Road, which opened for business on January 21, 2012. The new Food Street is located in a beautiful part of Lahore next to historical architecture, offers a wide range of cuisine and novelties like a horse-drawn carriage ride from the car park to the restaurants. However, it has not replicated the popularity of Gowalmandi.

In an earlier interview, DCO Rizwan Mehboob suggested that this was because of the higher prices of the food, and its distance from eastern Lahore, where most of the Fort Road Food Street’s potential customers who could afford the higher prices live.

Another factor may have been that at Gowalmandi, customers could sit at one of the tables outdoors at the main dining area and order dishes from multiple restaurants, whereas the Fort Road Food Street has distinct seating areas for each restaurant.

Khawaja Shakeel Ahmad, the chairman of Gowalmandi Food Street, told The Express Tribune that the renovated street would have space for 1,300 diners outdoors and another 500-600 indoors at the various restaurants. “Dishes from all over Pakistan like Balochi Sajji, Peshawari Karahi and Karachi Bhel Puri will be available,” he said.

Ahmad said that some 2,000 people had been left jobless after the street was closed in 2009 and only four of the 45 restaurants there had remained in business in the intervening years. He said that the restaurants, which will be open from 5pm to 1:30am every day, were no hindrance to local residents. He said that restaurant owners had been told that the opening would be on Thursday or Friday.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 1st, 2013.


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