When she left her job as a corporate lawyer and moved with her husband from London, Nicole Waheed noticed a niche in the capital’s food scene and decided to open an eatery in the heart of the city, which offers a menu based on continental European breads, particularly sourdough.
Aptly named Loafology, the cafe-deli is located in Blue Area, right opposite the Ufone tower and has now been open for about two weeks.
The restaurant is done in yellow, which gives a nice, open feel to the already large space, further accentuated by lots of sunlight coming in through the floor-to-ceiling windows along the right side of the space.
The air conditioning ducts running along the ceiling and the huge wooden door fixed on the front wall, resembling those typically found in barns, gives the space a very industrial look. An archway leading into the back of the eatery, where there is additional seating space - this one overlooking a very green parking space - is inspired from Poland.
“A lot of buildings in Poland were damaged during the world wars and they still have not been repaired, some deliberately. You see a lot of naked bricks, which was the inspiration for this wall,” Ms Waheed said.
The whole of the left side is a large bar, fenced in by large glass panes and displaying various food items.
“I wanted to design the space so that customers are tempted by the food we are offering, so they know what they are getting when they order,” she said.
The front wall at the end of the bar has an Oscar Wilde quote saying, “I can resist everything except temptation”. Coming to the menu, what this cafe-deli is offering is certainly new to the city. The bill of fare is largely based on bread-based items.
“Our sourdough is 15 years old,” Nicole said, meaning that the chef she has brought in has been making them for a decade and a half. The breads are from across Europe including Italian, Polish, and French.
The sourdough - including but not limited to walnut and raisin bread, rosemary bread, baguettes and ciabatta - is made in the live baking area every morning at nine, though it takes two days to prepare a batch. Customers can see the bakers measuring ingredients, forming, baking and letting to set the various types of bread, which is sold in sharing platters, cold sandwiches and hot, toasted sandwiches.
Focaccia, which is an Italian bread, is served with a dollop of hummus, which is made in the house. The bread is fluffy and well-risen and has a rough salty taste to it which comes from the Himalayan rock salt in the recipe.
The hummus is smooth, but not as much as mass produced, industrial ones are and the garlicky taste of the condiment is accompanied by a zesty flavour, which comes from organic lemon.
Brioche is used to make French toast which is served at the perfect warm temperature and comes drizzled with pancake syrup and garnished with slices of fresh seasonal fruit.
The use of brioche instead of just slices of bread makes for a pleasantly heavier serving. The toast can be paired with citrus butter, which is also used in the lemon meringue tartlets.
The sandwiches in the restaurant are new to the city. The first difference being the use of sourdough and the second being the lack of reliance on sauces and spices for taste.
For instance, the chicken sandwich is simply slices of chicken marinated beforehand in a sauce made of gherkins, mayonnaise, tomatoes, lemon and thyme. The chicken is then sandwiched in the bread along with seasonal greens. The lack of condiments and spices makes for a powerful mix of tastes, further complimented by the crunchiness of the fresh greens.
The restaurant has outdone itself with its broccoli salad for which broccoli is blanched for two minutes, giving them a creamier texture, and mixed with light mayonnaise, raisins, sunflower seeds, onion and cheddar cheese. The result is a dynamic medley of creamy flavours and textures.
The mushroom quiche is the perfect warm, soul food for the winters, especially during the rains. The pastry itself is light and toasted to just the right golden brown and contains eggs and mushroom slices seasoned with nothing but pepper and oregano. The crustiness of the pastry combines well with the soft mushrooms, a bite of which has a strong peppery kick.
Coming from a heaven for those with a sweet tooth, the cheese cake is the fluffiest, lightest and softest cheesecake in Islamabad. The base is thin and light, topped with a Philadelphia cream cheese, baked cake, which melts in the mouth, perhaps because gelatine is not used in the recipe.
The lemon drizzle cake is just that, and is lemony with a sweet kick rather than the other way around while the granola recipe, one developed by Nicole and her mother, calls for the use of leatherwood honey, which is only produced in Tasmania, Australia.
The honey is citrusy and buttery, tastes like flowers and is lighter. Nicole has combined the honey with pumpkin seeds, walnuts, sunflower seeds and seasonal fruits and serves it on top of a serving of fresh, homemade yogurt.
“I just wanted to provide the people of Islamabad with a nice, comfortable space to hang out and talk and work,” Nicole said. The lights in the cafe-deli are dimmed in the evening to make the perfect space for heart-to-hearts.
Originally published in Dawn, February 6th, 2017