Now that the fasting days are over we all find ourselves pushed into a weekend of indulgence. From the austere to the lavish. That is what Eid is all about.
The food in the house would surely be special, with an emphasis on methai and sayveenan. If fasting depletes your energy level, rest assured the Eid weekend will restore it. It is not without reason that Eidul Fitr is called Meethi Eid. So what choices does one have in Lahore if you insist on ‘Eating Out’? From the posh to the awami -- the choices are staggering. In this column we will focus on one outlet, and then suggest a few traditional ones to try out. For the modern ‘in’ places, I have to depend largely on my nephews and nieces. It seems they live in the eateries of Lahore. So I followed the choice of Bairam the Banker, who is all poised to fly back to Canada after Eid. But he loves a place called Hot Spot. This has several branches, but it is to the DHA Phase 4 Sector CCA shop that we will focus on.
Incidentally, this chain of shops started in Islamabad and now has branches all over the country. The owner is the son of a former foreign minister during the East Pakistan days, who started off as a schoolteacher in Lahore. The décor is chic in a strange sort of way with a mix of desi and arty symbolism. But tasteful it surely is. Now to the sweets.
Bairam ordered his favourite, which is Crunchy Nutcase, an amusing name that dares the young. Naturally, like most sweets these days it has streaks of chocolates. My choice is invariably a sedate vanilla, or if in a better mood strawberry. The quality of the ice cream is really good, a wee bit creamy, but soft and easy to consume. The real teaser is the after-taste, which lingers and is testimony to the quality of the product. I purchased a cheesecake, which is preferred over ice cream at any time.
How would I rate this place? Measured on a scale of one to nine, the quality gets seven, the taste six, the prices are quite steep and gets five marks, the ambience gets seven, and the service will do with six. So based on just five attributes, this place averages 6.2 out of nine, which my nephew thinks is a very fair marking. Worth trying over the long Eid break.
But from the posh to the traditional. If you want to buy the finest methai then do try one of two places, they being Salman Sweets on Ferozepur Road near the Mozang Chungi crossing. The second place is certainly the old Amritsari Sweets shop on Beadon Road. Two copycat shops have appeared near the original shop, so be careful. The same is the case with Rafique Sweets inside Mochi Gate opposite the Lal Khoo. His ‘barfi’ is amazing. If you have ventured so far might as well walk a few extra steps to buy a box of Khalifa’s ‘khatai’. This is a must as a posh snack with tea for your guests.
After the vermicelli at home, which comes in milky and dry variations, it is best to go slow on these. These days a new condensed milk ‘caramel’ variety is available in the shops, which can easily convert a traditional ‘kheer’ to a Multani variety. But then families prefer to eat out in the evenings in one of thousands of restaurants that dot the city. After a spicy meal it is normal to go around looking for something sweet. Let me suggest just three places.
One must visit Haji Sahib at Gowalmandi crossing. His ‘kheer’ as well as ‘firni’ are a class act. Whenever we are in the area we take it home. As this is a food street, it is best to consume these delicacies cold there, for ample sitting spaces are available.
If you venture towards the Walled City, just at the beginning of Shahalam Bazaar is another Haji Sahib who specialises in ‘kulfis’. This shop opened up just after the 1947 riots brought in thousands from Amritsar. His wares are probably the finest you can manage to find in Lahore.
At the end let me return to where my daughters love to go, that being the Chaman ice cream shop on Beadon Road. Their variety is staggering and instead of wasting time going to the shop just read their menu which eager waiters provide in your car. Their quality is very acceptable and their shop is clean. If ever there was an awami shop, this is it. That is enough sweets for one column. Have an exciting Eid and, please, go slow on the sweets.