When I set out for Lahore Eat I had only one question in mind: would it do justice to my rumbling stomach without bankrupting me entirely?
Karachi’s celebrated Eat food festival finally landed in Lahore yesterday. The three-day food extravaganza kicked off at 4pm at the sprawling Jilani Park (formerly Racecourse Park). The supposedly families-only event is ticketed with each person having to dish out Rs200 (and in some cases Rs250) to enter the food haven.
The ticket booth was well-managed and spacious to accommodate a sudden rush of people if there should be one. Security was pretty tight with groups of policemen standing guard all around. And the bulky bouncers at the entrance made sure no ‘stag’ crashed the party.
Still, one visitor told me that despite the event being publicised as strictly families-only, she saw a group of boys being allowed in, adding: “Maybe the bouncers at the entrance thought the boys were too coolly dressed to be chhichora or rowdy, and not clad in shalwar kameez. Who knows?”
Once inside, the first thing you lay your eyes on is a beautiful sitting area set up by Lipton in green and white colours. A large area dedicated to children with jumping castles and a stage set up for performances later in the evening – and even encouraging visitors to perform – is an interesting idea providing some entertainment with the scrumptious food.
Over 40 eateries have set up stalls – creative and some not so – offering a huge variety spoiling one for choice with ice cream, tacos, fries, desi delicacies, sushi to khao suay, namak paray, Khushab’s specialty dhoda, organic baked goods to macaroons and samosas with unheard-of fillings. It’s all there and one will need a completely washed out tummy to accommodate the maximum. Do NOT have lunch or brekkie before heading over to Lahore Eat.
Ticket price was definitely a put-off for quite a few families. A man visiting the park with his wife and two children said he doesn’t plan to go to the festival as it will cost him Rs800 at the entrance only and much more for food once inside. Similarly Shahnaz, standing outside the entrance with her daughter, complained the pricey entry ticket wasn’t a good idea because they will have to pay again for food inside. Or the ticket should be redeemed for food, she added.
On the other hand, chef Muneeze Khalid, who had brought her gorgeous and delicious baked goods to the fest, shared with me that one of the organisers told her security at the entrance were told to let in any family they felt could not afford tickets. Interesting!
The crowd demographics were pretty striking though, as one could see different age groups. Everyone stepped out with their best foot forward; at times you forgot you were at a food fest and not a sit-down brunch.
Now, to the most important part: the food.
Your Ultimate Guide to Lahore Eat
Cris cut fries topped with garlic mayo and BBQ sauces
The first thing that caught my attention was the Venus Foods stall displaying fries cut in various shapes and topped with sauces of your choice, Mozzarella sticks and onion rings.
Besides these they were offering a variety of smoothies and cookies. I chose the cris cut fries – freshly fried round slices of potato cut in waves, and had them topped with garlic mayo and BBQ sauces. What a delightful combo it turned out to be. The fries piping hot, fresh out of the fryer and the sauces not overpowering each other’s flavour, just for Rs110. It was a good beginning.
Orange peel cake
Next I stopped by at the Roshni Organic Bakery stall selling an assortment of baked goods ranging from breads and cakes to brownies and dried fruit direct from Hunza. Trivia: running an organic bakery is just one of Roshni Association's projects; it is a society for the welfare of special persons and the goods have been baked by special persons at the association. This was disclosed by Alexander, a German agriculturist standing behind the counter who worked with Roshni Association.
I tried their Orange Peel Cake, for Rs20 a slice and it was soft and fresh with hints of orange peel inside. Their dried fruit is also economically priced.
The Cube by Nishat Hotel’s Khao Suay had generated quite a lot of buzz much before the event. They also had a little insta photobooth for visitors.
Served in a paper plate for Rs300, first I thought it was a tad bit costly. Second, I wished the portion size was slightly smaller so I wasn't stuffed, leaving no room for more food. Anyway, the khao suay looked great, and The Cube was generous with the chicken. But something about the khao suay lacked. It lacked that punch and tangyness that you want from a good bowl of khao suay. All in all, I've had better. Next!
I must admit I was really looking forward to trying out churros, from anyone, as long as they were there. And voila! Muneeze Khalid of Sugarie was offering them along with a couple of her other delicacies. Her pink and white stall was attracting quite a lot of dessert lovers.
I got a cute little container of six mini churros with FOUR lip-smacking dips: salted caramel, peanut butter, Nutella and vanilla glaze. The freshly fried churros were crunchy, soft and, dipped in those dips, utterly delicious. Full marks, Muneeze.
While Karachi had its share of strawberry samosas at last year’s Karachi Eat, Lahore was treated to an assortment of fillings in samosas thanks to enterprising Daniyal Noorani, the brain behind Awesamosay.
He was offering fresh, crispy samosas with a filling of your choice ranging from qeema, pizza, caramelised onions, apple pie to chocolate and Reese’s candy. Three of these mouth-watering delights for Rs200 is not a bad deal at all. Reese’s, qeema and chocolate are highly recommended!
My next stop was another one on our checklist: artisanal ice cream hand-crafted from fresh and organic ingredients by the much-hyped Lahorelicious. Shermeen Khan, the lovely lady running this growing business, greeted me with a smile and helped me choose my order, which was quite a task after I looked at the menu.
I ended up trying out the affogato: a scoop of vanilla ice cream with a shot of espresso, and the soothing Mint and Lindt ice cream, and wanted to try out everything on offer. The ice cream was, of course, creamy with the right amount of flavour.
There’s no escaping Nutella. You add it to anything and it’ll lure chocoholics like bees to honey.
So when I heard Sarrak Pe Karrak was offering Nutella dumplings, I was intrigued for sure and couldn’t help but check them out. Theirs was one of the most attractive stalls at Lahore Eat with a brightly lit replica of a truck replete with colourful truck art. But the dumplings, selling three for Rs60, weren’t worth the mystery. The dough wasn’t fresh and the Nutella was sparingly shelled out.
Passing by The Shack’s stall, fish tacos instantly caught my attention.
And while the taco tasted yummy, it didn’t look too appetising, and for Rs300 for a single taco it’s a bit steep.
Being a huge sushi fan, I couldn't resist heading over to Sakura by PC.
But I was slightly disappointed to find out one of my favourite offerings was kind of costly at Rs300 for three pieces of maki. Meh!
All the food aside, one word of advice for those planning to visit today and/or tomorrow: try not to drive there yourself; traffic becomes a mess in the congested road that leads the festival location from Jail Road.
And as for my stomach? I'm still pretty full and it's going on twelve hours now.