On the menu: The Mediterranean experience

By Majid Sheikh

Dawn, Sep 01, 2013


Scores of new eateries come up every month in Lahore, a city virtually legendary as the home of good food. They start with fanfare, sparkle, and after some time, most fade away. The best among them prosper because Lahorites are fond of what they eat and are willing to pay the price. Over the eons it has become a way of life.

As the city expands eastwards, in the relatively newer areas of Gulberg, DHA and beyond, some excellent eateries have come up. In Gulberg near the Mini Market, tucked away in one corner is the Veranda Bistro. Started by a young female entrepreneur, this eatery has firmly established itself as a classy Mediterranean food restaurant, with top chef and consultant Kamran Sheikh leading the way to make this, probably, Lahore’s finest eatery in its class. Last week I went there in fair company to once again enjoy an excellent meal. They serve a buffet, which I tend to avoid. I prefer ‘a la carte’ for one should eat what one wishes, not what others lay out for you.

In the summer heat I tend to avoid soups but I have tried this place before and can recommend their roasted tomato soup. Their mulligatawny is fine, and dare I say, just about fine. We decided to start with a salad. My choice from the reasonable array available was Caesar’s salad with traces of sliced smoked salmon. My companion went for a chicken salad with balsamic vinaigrette. Crisp and fresh, it was a delightful slow start as the salmon tasted exceptionally good. Salmon at the best of times is a first choice fish, especially if baked with an olive oil-pepper mix marinade. The salad made an excellent start and I was able to tease my friend for going ‘chicken’ at the salad stage.

Going for an appetiser makes sense if you are in company and the main meal takes some time to prepare. The intention is to keep you busy. As we had enjoyed our salads, we went straight for the main course. I again went for the seafood section and ordered a fillet of sole laced with olives, walnuts, and a few greens and dabbed to good effect with balsamic sauce. Now this was what I call a ‘light meal’, and this is what most Lahorites would call a ‘starter’. But I love olives and walnuts with fish, not that I am an extreme health freak. Having hitch-hiked for months through the Mediterranean area in my youth I have learnt that this is a staple portion in a long-drawn Sunday lunch, with appropriate lubricants to keep the mood going.

To my surprise my companion went, once again, for the chicken section of the menu. This meat form seems to have taken over our lives, not that I do not myself like it, if prepared well. She ordered the Moroccan barbecued chicken presented with appropriate greens and a chilli sauce. My only comment was “chicken licken strikes again”. She frowned. To calm her I added: “I must taste that, if you do not mind”. “No way, you stick to your fish and olives”. Made me feel sort of feeble by Lahori standards. This place has some excellent pasta, pizzas, paninis and risotto using genuine Italian ‘arborio’ rice, and, of all things, exceptionally good charcoal beef burgers, I mean the real thing, not ‘chicken licken’ stuff.

I enjoyed my meal immensely, and a taste of the Moroccan chicken impressed me a lot. The best thing about Mediterranean food is that one comes away reasonably full and yet knowing that it is healthy. With this thought we went into the sweet calories part of our immensely enjoyable meal. I went for a vanilla ice cream with an orange peel topping, and madam went for a hot bread pudding laced with ice cream. Gosh, that is what I call a solid finish. I like a good hot bread pudding myself and managed to get just one little spoonful of the delicacy. It was good.

The service was polite and prompt and the setting posh to say the least. This is one place where one can relax and enjoy the very finest foods prepared by an excellent set of chefs that Kamran has assembled under his eagle eyes. He is consultant to a number of eateries, and it goes to his credit that they are all a success, more so because he pays a lot of ‘ever present’ attention to detail.

It must be said that Veranda Bistro has carved out a special place for itself among those Lahorites who enjoy quality food. For freaks like me there is the ‘a la carte’, and then there is the ever-present buffet. I must comment on that too. Their food quality makes this a very special fine-dining buffet. No wonder this has become the place to meet ‘people who matter’. Our spirits lifted, we left happy as the valet brought us our vehicle and the light rain added to the mood. Definitely a place I would recommend.




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