Mews is the latest example of Karachi’s burgeoning café culture. The elegant café opened last week on E-street and has a unique ambiance. Modeled as a British mews, that is, a group of buildings originally containing private stables, the entrance opens into a narrow alley that leads to a series of attractive, inter-connected dining areas. Mews combines brick walls, clever natural lighting and contemporary furniture for a modern, relaxed and very European feel.
|People who have travelled to Europe will get pangs of nostalgia at Mews. - Photo courtesy: Mews Official Facebook page.|
|The eatery has a fresh and modern feel to it. - Photo courtesy: Mews Official Facebook page.|
Mews is spacious compared to some of Karachi’s most popular eateries such as Okra (tiny) and Xander's (petite). Like Xander's, Mews makes use of both interior and external seating. There are three distinct, spacious indoor rooms and three pretty outdoor areas. A great deal of thought has been put into ambiance and presentation, with customized wooden serving platters and quirky details.
Mews is the brainchild of Amir Tariq and Neeshay Rabbani and offers a mix of comfort food and healthy, wholefood options. It may seem strange to see Mac n Cheese and Burgers jostling with Black Quinoa salad on a menu but there is an underlying commitment to quality and flavor.
Neeshay Rabbani says, “We wanted Mews to offer hearty café fare as well as lighter options. What’s key about our food is that everything is freshly made – our sauces, our jams and our baked goods are all made from scratch. We use authentic guacamole and homemade clotted cream. Freshness and flavour is the cornerstone of our menu.”
The menu has been developed in collaboration with Samar Hussain, a food consultant who has also worked with Lal's and Chatterbox. They have separate breakfast and teatime menus that include dishes such as steak and eggs, red velvet pancakes and scones with jam and clotted cream.
|Breakfast at Mews is unique and includes scrumptious savory items such as shakshouka, as well as sweet dishes such as red velvet pancakes and Nutella french toast.|
The mains at Mews are a smorgasbord from around the world, including a kimchi wrap, Korean beef bowl and flatbread pizza. The menu also includes a handful of healthy options – calorie-counted, wholesome dishes like their Black Quinoa Salad.
Despite the range of cuisines offered, the menu is not extensive, featuring only five desserts and four starters. Two of the starters are salads and the other two are sharing platters. Sharing platters are great for larger tables but if you are a table of two or three, salads are really the only option you have for a starter. Of course you don’t necessarily need starters in a café, and many cafes don’t have them. Mews apparently plans to expand the menu as time goes by.
|The sharing platter offers a wide array of items such as calamari and crab cakes.|
Both the seafood platter, with crabcakes and calamari, and the ribs and wings platter sounded intriguing but as we were a group of three, we opted to start with the Asian Steak Salad and the Black Quinoa Salad. I would have preferred the steak to be pink in the middle but had no other fault to find. Both salads were delicious and played up the freshness of the ingredients, with an excellent balance of flavor and texture.
|The Black Quinoa Salad at Mews.|
There is much more choice as far as main courses are concerned. The menu includes pizzas, sandwiches, wraps, grilled fish, laksa, mac n cheese and a burger, among other dishes. Our group tried the Chicken & Prawn Laksa, the Korean Beef Bowl and the Tuscan Flatbread Pizza.
The laksa had wonderful depth of flavor and was well-spiced without being overpowering. It would have benefited from something crunchy to add another dimension of texture but it turns out that the server left off the garnish by mistake. The crisp beansprouts, fresh cucumber and peanuts he omitted were just what the dish needed.
|The laksa lacked a balance of textures but made up for it in taste.|
The Korean Beef Bowl was possibly the dish of the evening, with deliciously more-ish umami flavours. Although one of my companions refused to touch the egg on top, we all agreed that this was something we would all come back for. The pizza was also a success – crisp, hot and flavourful.
|The Korean Beef Bowl was the star of the evening.|
Over two sessions, we tried four of the five desserts available at Mews. The best is undoubtedly the Triple Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie developed for Mews by A Whisk Come True. Don’t be misled by the word cookie – this is in fact a warm, fabulously decadent chocolate dessert that is served in a ramekin with a scoop of ice-cream on top. It’s fudgy and delicious with a hint of salted caramel – well worth the calories.
The lemon meringue pie was the only true disappointment on the menu. The meringue was beautifully airy but the pastry was much too thick. It was pale and undercooked and it let down the dish. It was a shame because the pie was served with a superb lemon syrup with strands of candied lemon.
|The dessert menu at Mews has been designed by A Whisk Come True.|
The banoffee pie is rich and appetizing, though a little sweet, but the serving size is very small. They need to adjust the size of the portion, perhaps tweaking the composition to reduce the impact of the sweet caramel. The pistachio cake meanwhile is light, fluffy and scrumptious.
Mews has the potential to become one of Karachi’s favourite cafes but it has to contend with the mixed reactions it received on Karachi’s increasingly powerful Facebook foodie groups. In the age of social media, restaurateurs do not have the luxury of a grace period to deal with teething issues.
|The crisp Tuscan Flatbread Pizza.|
While Mews’ owners are frequently on the spot to smooth issues, the initial period is trying because wait staff can only become truly comfortable with a menu when they have served it for a few months. Add the inevitable crowds that flock to a newly opened restaurant and you have a situation that can put off customers. The teething period needs to be navigated with charm and generosity on the part of the hosts. Good front of house management is an art and keeping customers happy is crucial.
In terms of service, we had an excellent experience apart from the fact that our food came at the same time as the salads we had ordered as starters. This wasn’t a huge issue except for the fact that it became difficult to fit everything on the table. It’s also worth pointing out that salad portion sizes were not huge, although the other dishes were more than ample. The price range is in the same ballpark as other premium cafes – we paid just under Rs. 2500 a head without the banoffee pie or the pistachio cake, which I sampled on other visits.
Overall we really enjoyed our dining experience at Mews and that was down to the food. Almost everything we tried was very tasty and the quality of the ingredients shone through. My companions and I all agreed that we wanted to return to try other items on the menu.
Mews has all the elements to make it big in Karachi’s food scene. It has a wonderful vibe, a good location and owners who are passionate about food and who are committed to using the best ingredients. If they can weather the hiccups associated with opening, Mews can easily join the ranks of Karachi’s best-loved cafes.
All pictures have been taken by Neeshay Rabbani and Amir Tariq.