This weekend, the roads were chock-full in the capital as people followed their hearts to a whole lot of carbs and gluttony at the Islamabad Eat.
The three-day Islamabad Eat festival opened at the Jinnah Convention Centre on Friday with a bustling start, despite life generally being at a halt in the capital due to the Chehlum procession. A considerable number of people still made their way up at Islamabad Eat to see what their city had to offer.
Entry was free on the first day but for Day 2 and 3, there was ticket worth Rs200 per person. Faysal Bank platinum cardholders also went in for free on all three days, which had gotten me super excited until I realised my card wasn't 'platinum' enough. #FAIL
Most of Islamabad's famous eateries, including Tuscany Courtyard, Table Talk, Jessie’s, Chinese Café, Zigolonis, Chatthas, Khokha Khola among others, were present at the festival but what was most interesting to me is that Islamabad Eat managed to get some of the best from Lahore and Karachi to come as well. A lot of home-based chefs and bakers put up stalls... a wonderful way of discovering new delicacies and trying out unusual food.
Live music added to the festival's ambience, the highlight though was this nine-year-old rockstar's rendition of Despacito. Little Eman's lyrics may have been all over the place but her confidence and her performance was extremely on point. No wonder it went viral!
It was an overall well-managed event (though more seating arrangements could have better accommodated the elderly so they could too enjoy the festival with ease and comfort).
I was impressed to see how the cleanliness was taken care of throughout the festival. With no untoward incident (thankfully!), I enjoyed myself a lot, relishing the food and soaking in all the glorious calories.
What were some of the best dishes I tried at Islamabad Eat? Here's my list:
If there is one thing that can bring us Pakistanis together (after cricket), it is our love for samosas! We just can’t resist them. Perhaps this is why Awesamosas attracted the longest queue at Islamabad Eat and I must say, it was worth the wait! The eatery definitely lived up to its name.
This stall had the simplest menu – six Awesamosas; three savoury and three sweet. A plate of three Awesamosas cost Rs250. One could pick the flavours out of Dam Ka Qeema, Pizza, Caramel Onions, Apple Pie, Chocolate S’more and Reese’s. Yum!
The consensus at the festival was that the Pizza, Chocolate S’more and Reese’s samosas were the best. While the latter two were sweet and crispy, the Pizza Awesamosa offered the perfect fusion, a blast of flavour of the samosa and a cheesy pizza. I just can't get over it.
The Awesamosas made me question all the samosas I had ever had in my life. I can’t wait for Awesamosas to have its own branch here in the capital! Daniyal Noorani, are you hearing? I hope the response at Islamabad Eat has convinced you!
Wingitt was another new name for us Isloo-ites. We hadn't heard of it before but we fell completely in love.
Wingitt came to Islamabad Eat all the way from Karachi and we couldn’t be more thankful. The eatery attracted people from all age groups; the Honey Mustard wings and the Sweet Thai Chilli wings were the hottest sellers. The wings just melt in my mouth; the Honey Mustard had the perfect proportion and the Sweet Thai Chilli wings had a nice, tangy zest to them.
A definite winner, we're counting the days in Islamabad till Wingitt comes to us for good.
And of course, what food festival in Pakistan is complete without some classic BBQ, delicious halwa puri and good old Kashmiri chai. Chatthas, an eatery native to Islamabad, took care of our desi food cravings.
Interestingly, Chatthas had a lot more than just barbecue and halwa puri (which is what they're best known for). New to their menu was an absolutely scrumptious saag complemented by makai ki roti ─ it left us wanting more of it. The jalebi maker, frying the swirls of heavenly goodness live in front of us, gave us jalebi after jalebi after jalebi and put everyone on a sugar high.
Waqar Chattha, the mastermind behind Chatthas, was also at the stall throughout, mingling with the foodies and ensuring Islamabad eats to their heart’s desire!
4) Baking Me Mad
Islamabad Eat unearthed so many hidden gems.
Baking Me Mad was one of them. An initiative by Fatima Zeb, who has been baking for friends and family since years, Baking Me Mad became an instant hit at Islamabad Eat.
Their New York Baked Cheesecake was hands down the best! It was thick and fluffy with just enough sugar. Even though it reminded many of the popular Loafology cheesecake, it was not as sweet, which made it taste even better.
They also had coffee cake, apple pie, biscotti and cookies on the offering but the cheesecake stole our hearts. If the presentations were to be rated, Baking Me Mad had the best decoration and presentation. All items displayed beautifully and little details taken care off. Kudos to the team!
5) Capital Delights!
Ever heard of chocolate lasagna? I’m sure you have but Capital Delights made sure everyone tasted it this past weekend in the capital. Packed in one-person servings, albeit a healthy serving, the chocolate lasagna had layers of brownie, cream and choco chips.
You'd think with so many sugary ingredients, you would hardly get any other flavour... but the chocolate lasagna was surprisingly just the right kind of sweet.
Capital Delights also did really good home-style lasagne, which was a hit throughout the three days of the festival.
Besides these eateries, there were quite a few individual items that became very famous over the three-day festival.
Zigoloni’s pastas were popular among all age groups. Jessie’s made the kids very happy with a burger combo deal that included a small burger, fries and drink for only Rs300. Raahdari’s golgappa shots got quite popular, partly because of the taste and partly because of the interesting and modern take on the classic golgappa. Noor’s Kitchen’s dossa was just as much of a hit.
The beef sliders from Kitchen 23, priced at Rs150 each, were popular throughout the festival. An interesting revelation from Islamabad Eat was the almond milk from Haleem Ghar. This was a delicious milk shake made with almonds and other nuts and it tasted like ras malai.
Many of us were just so glad to have found this absolutely delicious drink here in Islamabad. Nurpur’s delectable doodhpatti made sure people were warm and comfortable even during the evening as the temperature dropped.
Oh and how can we forget Karamel?! Karamel – the famous ooey, gooey and chunky cookies from Karachi, came to Islamabad Eat and were a complete hit.
They reminded me of Bens Cookies in London and I personally loved the triple chocolate and the delicious cookie dough fudge brownie. People lined up at the eatery even though it opened late and most of us secretly wished that Karamel starts stocking up somewhere in the capital too if a branch is too much to ask for.
Although the festival would have been much more abuzz had it been held on a different weekend and if the cold was a little less harsh, it was a weekend to remember with lots of good delicious food for people in Islamabad! We can’t wait for the next Islamabad Eat already.