05 Feb, 2016

In Pakistan, if we’re not chowing down on good ol’ desi food (because there’s really nothing like it), then the next widely favourite food has to be burgers. Just take a look at the number of burger joints that have cropped up in the past few years.

Islamabad recently saw the opening of Habanero Express, named after a pepper that’s considered among the spiciest chillies in the world.

I paid a visit to find out if Habanero Express’ burgers have the poential to become a hot favourite.

Where to go

The eatery is centrally located in F-7 market, a stone throw away from F.G. Women’s College, business hubs and old residents of the area at a junction where Islamabad’s arteries intertwine.

The eatery seats around 20-25 people at a time - Publicity photo
The eatery seats around 20-25 people at a time - Publicity photo

In terms of ambience, the burger joint seems to lacks the Habanero touch. I expected red hot interiors, but instead walked into a very contemporary theme, with red seating, a dark wood roof and a wall artistically built with oak wood trunks. The hope was that the food will live up to the eatery's name.

“We are a hybrid restaurant where food is served in 15 minutes but infused with the American dinner pattern so that customers can enjoy their meal as well as a peaceful conversation,” explains Faraz, one of the two brothers who have launched this venture after 6 months of research and prep but no past food experience.

When to go

For a burger joint, the folks at Habanero Express are quite the early risers.

The eatery opens its doors at 8am when they serve breakfast and close shop at midnight.

Breakfast is also on the menu at Habanero Express - Publicity photo
Breakfast is also on the menu at Habanero Express - Publicity photo

Unsurprisingly, post-9pm dinner time is the busiest, and the place can only accommodate 20 to 25 people at a time. So patrons will have to chill in the open air for at least 5 to 10 minutes before enjoying their dinner.

What to Order

The menu at Harbanero Express is simple and limited.

Eight burgers, three sandwiches, two salads, and a few pastas entrees are on offer, in addition to a wide variety of fries. For breakfast, customers can choose between the English and Tunisian platter.

If you’re not a fan of beef burgers, then you’re not exactly spoilt for choice. Six out of eight burgers happen to be beef.

The Acapulco Burger is named after a Mexican city to justify its spicy taste. Served with banana peppers and beetroot slices on the side, the platter seemed to have it all: two strips of turkey, a thick layer of guacamole, a 6oz ground beef patty (medium rare or well done) topped with homemade sauce, raw onion rings and a perfectly fried egg, sunny side up. It seemed the work of a technician rather than a chef.

The Acapulco Burger seemed the work of technician, not chef - Publicity photo
The Acapulco Burger seemed the work of technician, not chef - Publicity photo

The next burger we tried was Habanero Fire. The waiters warn customers about its fieriness but this burger turned out to be a must try for those who like their burgers hot.

Living up to its name, the beef patty was infused with Habanero chillies, topped liberally with cheese, a ‘green goddess sauce’ and mayonnaise, all laid on a bed of homegrown iceberg lettuce with enough crunch to prove its freshness.

The Habanero sauce, however, overpowered the taste of beef and cheese, so there weren't as many fireworks in my mouth as expected.

We also chose to try one breakfast item, and settled for the Tunisian speciality Shakkshuka.

Shakkshuka is a delicious new way to have your morning eggs - Publicity photo
Shakkshuka is a delicious new way to have your morning eggs - Publicity photo

This breakfast delight features a sauce made from diced tomatoes, spinach, chunks of beef sausage and chicken cooked on low heat. Once it’s simmering, the sauce is transferred to a waiting skillet where the chef breaks two fresh organic eggs before shoving the skillet into the oven for 3 minutes.

”The idea is to cook the yolk to a point where it can flood the skillet once broken,” explains Faraz, who sounded more excited about the recipe than me.

Fries vary from simple Honey Mustard fries to Brie Cheese fries, which are dripping in the French cheese made from cow’s milk. Although it is called the ‘queen of cheeses, the eatery has been able to sell very few orders of Brie Cheese Fries, since not many people know about this delicacy.

There are fries to suit every palate, from honey mustard (left) to jiang fries - Publicity photo
There are fries to suit every palate, from honey mustard (left) to jiang fries - Publicity photo

All novelty fries are made from A-grade imported American potato, cut served in a small container and dipped in different sauces.

“We buy homemade Kmichi sauce from a Korean lady for the Kimchi fries, whereas sauce for Beef Steak fries is made from the stock we take out from the beef we use for our burger patties,” claimed Faraz.

Damage on the pocket

The burgers range from Rs500 -600, sandwiches from Rs350-525 and the pastas all cost under Rs700.


Indian Feb 05, 2016 01:24pm
Even Pakistanis are getting addicted to western junk food rejecting healthy home-made foods
Acorn Guts Feb 05, 2016 01:31pm
Portions look a tad small. The toast on the bun doesn't exist. The patty looks frail and the eggs look a little under. Can't comment on flavour but this didn't get me excited at all.
Bajrangi Bhaijaan Feb 05, 2016 04:47pm
Mouth Watering ;)
Skeptic Feb 05, 2016 09:01pm
So it is ol' fashion 'bun-kabab' with a fancy name, and an egg on top! The only difference is the price. You will may 10 times the price of the erstwhile desi version of it! Enjoy!
Usman Feb 05, 2016 09:35pm
@Indian Desi Food is not nutritious, it has been cooked, fried and buttered to such a degree that important vitamins have been removed, natural vegtables cooked the Western way boiled and steamed preserve the vitamins, plus they are not covered in unhealthy oil,butter or ghee. Western method of cooking meat grilled preserves tastes and more of the vitamins than frying. Sorry to tell you Western food, preserves the natural state of food better than desi dishes.
Imtiaz Faruqui Feb 05, 2016 10:33pm
What's egg got to do in the Burger, few slices of tomatoe and some fresh greens will taste good and look good.
ak4pk Feb 05, 2016 10:35pm
Sounds great,
Mir,Jehan Zeb , M.D. California USA Feb 05, 2016 10:40pm
Habanero ,the hottest chilly finally made its way into Pakistan. The hamburger is more expensive in Pakistan than in U.S. A small beef patty like the one in the picture would cost you in U.S.for 2-3 U.S. Dollars.
Tsmilselvan Feb 06, 2016 07:38pm
FYI, hottest pepper is found in Assam locally called Booth mirchi
Istaburg Feb 06, 2016 08:07pm
@Acorn Guts ... dude thats how it is supposed to be ... or are you used to the Munchies Anda burger ... go get it !!
Imtiaz Faruqui Feb 07, 2016 09:41am
When I visit Pakistan I find every thing more expensive than in USA from a Shirt, Pant, shoes, toothpaste or a burger, and inferior in quality. Business man want to make money with one sixer. I do not spend my hard earned Dollars there any more. In the 90's I use to spent at least more than 1000 dollars, in shopping every time I went there, not any more same is in Dubai. God bless the USA.
anees from zaida Feb 07, 2016 06:22pm
It will be tasty if someone else can pay the bill for me. :P
Jingo Feb 07, 2016 11:15pm
Gosh...we desi's over here in the Europe..."long for traditional dishes" when we visit our homeland (once or twice in a a few decades) and our" favorites dishes to die for" are: Aloo Paratha's with desi makkhan! Cornmeal roti even bajra roti and saag! a variety of seasonal vegetables, daals, rice made with gur! Kulfi on a stick! falooda, roasted sweetcorn and sweet potato and pani puri! .........nothing in the world can beat these simple basic dishes, they are "out of this world and will "beat this Junk food anyday" The last thing I will be doing when visiting Pakistan will be to "avoid these unhealthy food joints!"
Bilal Feb 08, 2016 08:10am
Beef Roasted Salad is a sheer waste of Money, Burgers were average and ambiance below par, even the space has no restroom. I would say it as average.
Reality Bites Feb 09, 2016 11:31am
Why not call it the fried egg with whatever. Not very appetizing when everything is deep fried , oozing with sauces and laden with one or two fried eggs.