Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar would never have imagined that one day, in a nondescript corner in Pakistan’s sleepy capital, a burger joint would be named after him.
But such is the power of the small screen and the popularity of the TV show Narcos, that it inspired friends Zoraiz Khan and Ghazi Ali Hassan to theme their recently-opened restaurant ‘Pablo’s B.Y.O.B’ after the world’s most notorious drug baron.
Jostling for position among other food outlets in F-11’s Liberty Square Plaza, Pablo’s is a tiny restaurant with the capacity to seat only 15. But what little space is there has been creatively utilised and the industrial warehouse interior with naked bulbs and exposed wires is true to the theme.
Prison bars hanging over the counter and mugshots of members of the Medellin cartel are displayed on the walls, along with a giant poster of Escobar.
Zoraiz, a recent graduate of the Lahore University of Management Sciences, came to Islamabad a few months ago with the sole purpose of opening a burger joint. “I noticed a gap in the market. There are a lot of apartment buildings in F-11 and E-11 where a lot of young professionals and students live, but there was no fast food joint to cater to them,” he said.
Unlike most themed cafes in the city, Pablo’s is not all about the décor; the food takes centre stage.
B.Y.O.B. stands for ‘build your own burger’ and the building blocks aren’t too shabby; the buns are brought in fresh from Lahore every day, and the beef is driven in from Mirpur.
With a Lahori chef overseeing the kitchen, Zoraiz contends his burgers can beat the best Islamabad has to offer.
Diners can customise their own burger, or choose from the preset options on the menu, which also offers a small range of bar-styled starters, pastas, burgers and steaks.
For the B.Y.O.B option, customers are given a printed menu and a pencil to mark their choice of bun, meat, salad, cheese, sauces and toppings. ‘Premium’ toppings such as turkey bacon and sweet corn as well as extra meat and cheese are charged separately.
With a variety of options to mix and match, customers can build a burger which combines their favourite flavours. “Some people choose to eat their burger without a bun, which reduces the calorie count. We will also be offering whole wheat buns soon as well,” Zoraiz says.
From the menu, the most popular item seems to be the Colombian Beef Lord, which features 180 grams of hand ground beef, topped with cheese, pickles, onions and strips of turkey bacon packed between a soft black cumin bun. The ensemble is held together by a charming little Colombian flag on a toothpick.
The barely-charred beef is the true star of this burger, which unleashes its juices with every bite and requires little adornment. The bun is delectably soft and complements the meat.
A close rival in the burger section is the El Padrino’s Mushroom, which drowns the same juicy patty in a creamy blue cheese and mushroom sauce, combined with sweet caramelised onions. But this seemingly rich collection of condiments, teamed with a soft sesame bun, makes a burger that is surprisingly light on the palate and disappears as soon as you sink your teeth in.
Although the owner claims he doesn’t care much for pasta, Pablo’s also offers a delicious Fajita pasta. Unusually spicy for a pasta, the dish combines fiery mexican flavours such as jalapeno peppers, olives and grilled chicken in a creamy sauce.
Originally published in Dawn, May 22nd, 2017