Lahore is the culinary capital of Pakistan catering to ever-increasing demands of food lovers for new venues, trendy food menu and a mix of traditional and modern cuisine. A recent trend towards more healthy and vegan choices in food have seen growth in new cafes and eat-outs experimenting with new culinary ideas. I have explored some trending places in town and tried to capture some latest trends in eating out.
Cafes and Casual Dining
Gulberg has always been the foodie hub of trendy and uptown cafes and restaurants. Some of the residential properties in the back alleys of Gulberg have turned into trendy restaurants, offering low-key yet savoury adventures for food lovers. Winter is a great time of the year to visit Lahore as the northern areas are too cold to travel. The start of winters is also the wedding season in the country with plenty of overseas Pakistanis travelling back home to spend time with their families. If you are planning to visit Lahore this year, here is my shortlist of must-visit places for gastronomical adventures.
A low-key, difficult to find, exclusive fine dining experience in the heart of Gulberg, Lahore. The establishment is run by a Michelin star chef who has worked in both New York and Paris. The dishes are both authentic in taste and visually tantalizing. To add to the aura of exclusivity, you need to make an advanced booking for the dining experience. The menu is limited to two to three options for a four-course meal.
To add to the food adventure, the menu is not set and changes every week. Amu is known for its sumptuous brunch in Lahore. Amu is open only on the weekends. It is a perfect spot for a romantic date. It is housed in a refurbished grand house that keeps the integrity of the original structure intact. Avant-garde experience is available at 59 USD per head.
Lahore Sweet Tooth, famous for its vibrant truck art décor and decadent desserts has branches both inside and outside Lahore in idyllic places. The branch you want to visit though is the Heera Mandi branch which boats a quirky desi fusion menu and some Sweet Tooth signature dishes as well. Enjoy an evening going late into the night with delicious food, a view of glorious old Mughal architecture and a tinge of mischief surrounding the once-famous street of the Mughal courtesans, Heera Mandi literally translates to Red Light District. S
Sweet Tooth Heera Mandi is open throughout the week except Mondays from 5 pm to 2 am. The rest of the branches in Gulberg (12 pm to 1 am) and DHA phase 6 (12:30 pm to 1 am) are open every day. Don’t forget to invest in their famous chocolate sizzler, deep-dish pizzas, ice-creams, monster shakes and experimental food like chocolate gold gappy (pain purri) when you are there! A drink and a main dish maybe around 8 to 11 USD
Located in DHA phase 4, Sarrak Kinaray literally translated to ‘on the roadside’ is a haven for desi street food lovers done up on a rooftop in a Dhaba style with simple wood benches and basic tables. Due to its location and reputation for being easy on the pocket, it is frequented by nearby high school students and university friend groups as a spot for hanging out till late into the night especially in the foggy winters of Lahore.
Enjoy an array of spicy Pakistani street food, aromatic sajji and biryani, crispy delicious sweet and savoury parathas and a variety of chai. A drink and a snack may amount to 7 USD Karak Khel (11 am to 2 am) Located near Lahore Ring Road, Kamahan exit, this Dhaba style restaurant boast a vast open floor plan with lots of foliage, traditional oil lamps and an absolutely spot-on desi menu complete with deep-fried samosa, multilayered sweet and savoury parathas, chai and the traditional Punjabi lassi (butterbeer).
It also has a wide drinks menu ranging from desi chai to coffees, lattes and other soft drinks. Karak Khel is easy on the pocket and heavy on the ambience with great food and a thriving social scene. It is also a great place for breakfast/ brunch in Lahore at around 7 USD.
Loft 29 (4 pm to 1 am)
Loft 29 boasts a unique after-dark feel complete with neon signs, low lighting and pops of colour. It’s an industrial themed setting with glass shipping containers supported on brightly coloured beams is a complete vibe in the winters. It’s ideal for a friends’ hangout or a romantic dinner. The menu is quite simple with steaks. sandwiches, pizza and pasta, desserts and a few basic soft drinks. Do check out their stuffed chicken and pasta alfredo. A drink and main costs about 10 to 12 USD
Strictly Social (1 pm to 12 am)
Strictly Social on Hali Road, Gulberg is Lahore’s first food bar that combines food with a hyped-up social scene. They have live music days and qawali nights, open mics, stand up comedy days and a karaoke room. To check out Lahore’s cool crowd, this is the place to be. Food is not one of its strong suits yet the social scene alone is enough to gather the youth of the city every night. The Rice Bowl and
The Wok (Gulberg branches)
are the best cafes in Lahore for Chinese cuisine while Novu is also worth a visit for its delightful Pan Asian menu and famous dumplings! These cafes charge around 10 to 12 USD for a drink and a main dish. For the best breakfast in Lahore that does not burn a hole in your wallet head to Capri in Gulberg with their signature halwa, puri and chanay breakfast, plain omelette and paratha, and chai/lassi. The best breakfast in DHA Lahore (H block and Y block) can be found at Dogar Dhaba.
The Wok serves a variety of desi breakfast choices. A standard meal and drink cost under 1 USD. These are also known for the best brunch in Lahore If you are on a journey to experience food in urban areas of Lahore like Gulberg and Defence, do check out Mall 1, M.M. Alam Road and Y/Z block DHA phase 4. These places have clusters of eat-outs a stone’s throw from each other. Other trendy cafes/restaurants in Lahore are Arcadian Cafe/Restaurant Gulberg, English Tea House Gulberg, Fuchsia Kitchen Gulberg, Cosa Nostra Gulberg, Rina’s Kitchenette Gulberg and Chai Khana Gulberg.