Japanese sushi, Chinese chowmein, Turkish donor kebab, spicy Thai curry, Mexican tortilla, Indian dosa – when it comes to world cuisine, Lahore's offerings are diverse. When in the mood for something different, Lahore's foodies can give Lebanese food a try.
It’s a lot like our own good ol’ barbecue, but get into the finer details and you find that you may have used the ingredients before, but not in the same combination as the Lebanese do.
A restaurant offering Lebanese food as their specialty – and claiming to offer authentic fare – is Café Backyard. This café has been around for some time, but never really took off, most likely due to its run-of the-mill menu and unimpressive decor.
Fortunately, they realised their shortcomings (unlike some eateries that simply shut down) and went into overhaul mode. They have a new revised, crisper menu offering the best of continental food, which includes a separate Lebanese menu that they claim to cook with mostly authentic ingredients imported from Lebanon.
Where to go
Café Backyard’s location was perhaps one of its drawbacks when it started out. It is located off the mini food street, M.M. Alam Road, in the street adjacent to the legendary Café Zouk. Quite like a hideout, but there’s much more to it once one visits. The interior needed some work, and they've made some lovely additions to their decor, including an artificial waterfall and a little pond.
When to go
Lunch or dinner, you’ll enjoy the subtly lit ambiance with chandeliers and lamps in the main hall. The soft lighting is appropriate and the cafe's noise level is quite low. Unlike many other restaurants, tables aren’t ‘too close for comfort’, so your privacy is guaranteed even during rush hours. Still, try grabbing a table in their spacious hall instead of one close to the entrance.
What to order
For starters, we would recommend the fresh, crispy Falafel with delicious tartar sauce. Take the first bite and you will instantly notice each ingredient in that unique combination of chickpeas and Lebanese herbs.
Also try the Moutabbal – a soft, creamy eggplant puree mixed with tahini (sesame seed paste), olive oil and lemon juice, served with hot pita bread made in-house.
If you’re a cheese lover, I strongly recommend Labneh – creamy cheese made with strained curdled milk, and had with or without pita.
If you’re not in the mood for a proper meal, try the delicious Hummus with Grilled Kafta. A generous portion of Hummus, a chickpea puree with olive oil, is served with juicy, appropriately spiced lamb cubes topped with pine nuts. We loved this combo.
From the main course, both Grilled Chicken Kafta and Grilled Lamb Kafta – served with hot pita, tabouleh, French fries, and delicious garlic mayo sauce and a house special made with dates – are fulfilling meals.
We’d also recommend the Grilled Moroccan Chicken, which is grilled chicken skewers sprinkled with herbs served with garlic butter, rice and two sauces. Their portion may not be enough for some, but still makes for a good light meal.
Close to this is the very well-known Shish Taouk. Marinated grilled chicken skewers served with the usual sides of tabouleh, French fries, garlic mayo and the house special date sauce. This one’s a must try.
When you’re done with your meal, try their array of desserts and milkshakes. Our favourites would be the Kit Kat or Ferrero Rocher shakes. They also have a wide range of pastries to choose from: lemon tarts, caramel crunch, and so many more.
Damage on the pocket
The Lebanese starters and appetisers are appropriately priced. Among the Lebanese mains, the chicken dishes are priced at Rs700 on average, while those with lamb and seafood go up to Rs1,500, and the platters over Rs2,500.
'Weekend grub' is a weekly column published on Friday that features new cafes and restaurants across Pakistan. Can you think of an eatery that should be reviewed? Leave your suggestions in the comments below!