A deli affair

May 31, 2015

The Pantry is chic enough to pass off as a European café, except for the sweltering temperatures outside, typical of May in Lahore

A deli affair

A fresh initiative by the owners of the Polo Lounge, Lahore, The Pantry is the new rage in town. This delicatessen is chic enough to pass off as a European café, except for the sweltering temperatures outside, typical of May in Lahore, which is a fry cry from the cool, gusty winds of a European summer.

Having Cosa Nostra Deli and Mocca as its immediate neighbours may appear daunting but this does little to take the limelight way from the new eatery in town.

Standing proud and secure, The Pantry is luring attractive numbers. Its strength lies in its unique menu and the ambience it offers. The décor is very French and appeals aesthetically to the eye. The white furniture is cool and refreshing and very well suited to a climate such as ours. The understated, muted earth tones are relaxing and refreshing.

The selection of food and beverages is certainly interesting. From Strawberry Mojito to Caramel Lemonade, there is an entire range of cool summer drinks to choose from. I miss the age-old cold coffee, though, something milky and sweet to go with the dessert on a day this hot; something that works in every café in Lahore in the long summer months.

Under the healthy option range, The Pantry could offer Lassi as well, lending a further touch of rural charm to its drinks like Sattu (Buckwheat). Good old lemonade is another option.

The selection of sandwiches is impressive. A house speciality is the Beef Brisket -a grilled beef sandwich with caramelised onion and rocket. The Hot Salt Beef Sandwich reminds me of the Selfridges famous Salt Beef Sandwich, freshly made and savoured with a steamy mug of coffee on a Sunday afternoon. The Herbed Chicken Sandwich is another treat -- a delightful savoury topped with cheese, tomatoes and spinach.

The Soup and Sandwich combination are easy on the pocket and a noticeable rage among the youngsters. Although Pantry has not yet begun the Wood Fired Artisan Pizza, it is the only eatery in town offering the original wood fired oven.

The array of Patisserie is an exciting one. Boasting novelties such as Orange Almond cake and Raspberry Pistachio cake, the variety is very different from the one being offered by the delis next door. The Chocolate Tart goes perfectly with the just right latte I ordered.

The only disappointment is the Strawberry Tart. Wilted fruit is a turn-off and belies the tart that is otherwise crisp and fresh. The Mini Cheese cake and Carrot Cake are other mouth-watering desserts to watch out for.

Here is an eatery that has started out well, as is evident from the response of the Lahorites who have embraced it with open arms. The menu is very cosmopolitan and blends local taste with exotic possibilities. The challenge, first and foremost, is to maintain a niche in a market flooded with coffee shops and cafes. What started out as a new concept in the food industry in Pakistan has become a general trend, with a café open within yards of each other. Maintenance of quality together with the introduction of seasonal offers in periods such as Ramazan could keep the numbers rising.

Since demand has exceeded the supply, one encounters empty shelves of food towards the evenings. This deserves a serious analysis so that potential customers are not turned down. The Pantry is a bold step in the locality it is situated in, with one café after another shouting out food and coffee. The popularity shows that it also a correct one.