Saturday, November 23, 2013

Venus Cafe, Carlton Hotel, Defence phase 8

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيمِ

Sometimes one wants to go to a quiet place for a simple bite to eat. A place where there will be no crowds and no noise.

Someone had told me about a cafe at Carlton Hotel that serves decent enough food round the clock, and is almost always quiet, so that one can have a cup of coffee or dessert there in peace.

So we decided to give it a try some months ago. 
Actually, my restaurant reviews have been getting delayed by more than a few months this year. 
Although I try to, I don't always get around to finishing off and publishing my pending drafts as quickly as I'd like.
So, truth be told, I actually visited this cafe in February this year!

The hotel lobby is spacious and sprawling.
And eerily silent. :)

The balconies outside the hotel rooms on the upper floors are clearly visible from the main foyer. 


Well decorated with creepers and indoor greens. 

Next to this huge, winding spiral staircase that is clearly visible from the main lobby, lies Venus Cafe.

I always like open interior plans. 
The cafe has no concrete walls, and is located on the ground floor of the hotel just off the main reception area, next to the huge spiral staircase.

There are half-walls around it that offer partial privacy.
Wicker furniture adds an informal touch to the whole place.

An indoor tree planted in it's midst, and a short wrought iron fence - all in all, a different ambiance, eh?

There are some tables in the cafe that have couches, which are cordoned off by the short wrought iron 'fences' for a little more privacy, I guess. A small bar is located adjacent to it. (We asked, and were told that no alcoholic drinks are served at the bar) 

Now to the menu....

The menu offers a variety of sweet snacks and savories that you'd find at any patisserie or cafe, such as croissants, brownies, and pizza, in addition to other munchies and main dishes.

There are starters, soups and sandwiches too. I hope you can read the prices - somewhat lower than standard hotel rates.  

More for the sweet tooth..

Hot and cold beverages. 
The coffee prices are a bit on the lower side, compared to other places.

Apparently they have a hi-tea buffet as well.
Call them before going though (+92-21-111-727-272), as this review is not based on a recent visit.

We ordered a club sandwich - Rs 295 plus tax.

Cheese Cigars (Sticks) - Rs 190 + tax

Check out the melted mozzarella oozing out of that crumbed stick!
It was good. 

Accompanying condiments: a mustard-based sauce and mayo (or was it tartar sauce? I can't recall).

Cold Coffee and Fruit Trifle.

The cafe seemed quite short-staffed. There was just one waiter in attendance, since no other customer was there besides us. Heh!

This was actually quite yummy, as it was fresh. I remember that much. :)

Verdict: A small, quiet place that offers a chance to have a quick coffee or snack-like meal if one wants to avoid crowds and the hustle-bustle of busy and cramped cafes and restaurants. Not to mention, the washrooms near Venus Cafe are very clean. The food is above average but nothing out of the ordinary. 

Keep in mind that Carlton Hotel lies way off in one corner of the city (further ahead on the same road as DA Creek Club and DA Marina Club), so you'll need extra fuel to reach there, unless you live in or near Defence phase 8. 

Pizza Point, Badar Commercial, Defence phase 5

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيمِ

It took us a rather long time to discover Pizza Point.
Apparently it has been around for a while, considering that it delivers 24/7 for free all over Karachi, and already has many outlets in the sprawling metropolis.

Earlier this year, a new Pizza Point outlet opened up in the Badar Commercial area, right across the road from Bundoo Khan

This bling announced its arrival on the street that already embodies a thriving 'food avenue'.

The outlet has 2 floors. The ground floor has a 'starry night', outdoorsy kind of theme as it's interior decor, with lots of fake plants.
That's the salad bar in the background - a bit 'bare bones' as you can see.

Couches and booths predominantly serve as seating for larger groups. 

The upper floor is more airy, spacious and well-lit.

Reminiscent of Pizza Hut, the red-walled upper floor has both tables and chairs, as well as booths and couches.
Don't even think about setting foot inside the washrooms in this outlet, even to just wash your (or your children's) hands. They stink! [*gag*]

There is also a private dining area/room in one corner of this floor, which can be reserved in advance.

There is the room, visible in the background in the above shot, where you can see glass windows. We once reserved it for a larger, extended family dinner.

Chicken Lasagne - Rs 300
The lasagne was delicious! And I was really glad to be able to order it with chicken instead of beef.

Another shot of Chicken Lasagne, from a subsequent trip.
For the whole menu at Pizza Point, click here.

Salad - Rs 275
We have found the salad bar items (pastas, seasonal fruit, croutons, boiled potatoes, and dressings) to almost always be very fresh. Notice how the croutons resemble 'namak paray'? :)
What we usually order at Pizza Point for our main course, is one of the "Dhamaka" deals, as well as the 'Buy one, get one free' offer on pizzas that can be availed via the Rs 500 membership card.
Click here to view latest deals on offer.
The deals prove much more economical.

Two large pizzas and one pitcher - Rs 1299
In the background: Cheese 'n Pepperoni 
In the front: Afghani Feast
The Afghani Feast flavor rocks, because of a special sauce that they use on its base.
It is a bit on the spicy side.

The Cheese 'N Pepperoni flavor is loved by my family.
As the name suggests, it has only two main toppings: cheese and beef pepperoni.

Arabian Green
Arabian Green is one of my favorite pizzas at Pizza Point!
It is quite spicy, because of an underlying base of green chili sauce (hence the name).
The jalapenos and generous swirl of garlic sauce on top of it also add an awesome twist to its flavors.
Don't have this if you don't like spicy food, though.

Another shot of the large Cheese 'N Pepperoni Pizza

The Arabian, without the flash: Check out the garlic sauce that accentuates every bite.
Verdict: Pizza Point offers great pizzas at comparatively economical rates, especially if you avail their membership. 

Some of their flavors are very unique, such as Afghani Feast and Arabian Green. We have also tried a lighter tasting flavor, called Italian Lite, which will be loved by those who dislike spices. 

A great alternative to Pizza Hut, in my opinion. No offense. :)

Note: This outlet at Badar Commercial has no play area for children. Also, their management needs to seriously spruce up and maintain the washrooms' level of sanitation.

Here is a link to the Pizza Point Facebook page.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Burger Shack, Sehar Commercial, Defence Phase 6

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيمِ   

TBS, or The Burger Shack, is the latest rave among the burger aficionados of Karachi since a few months.

The Burger Shack is located in the Seher commercial area, near the Defence Authority Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed College (DASKBZ).

Masjid Khadija-tul-Kubra
A mosque called Masjid Khadija-tul-Kubra is the prominent landmark that you should be searching for when you go looking for TBS for the very first time.

Note, reportedly, the staff at TBS takes timeouts for namaz breaks to go and pray here. A big positive in my book! :)

I actually took this screen shot myself from Google Maps, and highlighted the masjid in order to make future TBS customers' search for its location easier.

Just visit yourself, and type "Burger Shack, Karachi" in the search box. Very simple. 

Visit their website for more details about menu and prices.
It is a takeaway-only business right now, and queues are never short because of the high customer demand. From the time you reach TBS till the time you receive your order, expect to wait any time between 20-40 minutes.

And the queue comprises mostly of boys and men. 

Burgers and men seem to go together like bread and butter. ;)

Anyhow, don't be demoralized because of the long queues, because they have a very efficient, computerized token system in place to process orders. And patrons always wait patiently in line.

The prices are the same as KFC or McDonalds
 A burger deal/combo at The Burger Shack won't cut you back any more than the ones sold at international franchises, such as KFC or McDonald's.

But the food-quality difference is worlds apart! Which is great.

Shack Loaded Fries - Rs 140
For the complete menu, click here.
They sure serve some awesome fries! 
These fries came very hot, fuzzy-edged and topped with a yummy sauce that seemed to be a combination of garlic-flavored mayo and melted cheddar. 
Portion size is pretty good for the price, because of the high food quality. 

Classic Crunch Chicken Burger
- Rs 230
This bun that you see above, it was extremely soft and fresh. It didn't flake apart even a little. 

I saw large unbranded packets of buns inside their outlet when I took my order from their window, so it definitely seems that their buns are made for them in bulk privately. 

Hence the quality, eh? 

A fillet of crisp, fried boneless chicken topped with a slice of cheddar cheese, sitting on some lettuce and dressing/sauce, made up the contents of the sandwich.

 The succulent, crisp and juicy chicken patty inside the burger
Excellent quality of food (again)! 
It was extremely fresh and juicy. 

Chocolate Shake - Rs 150
 This is a cross between a milkshake and one of the "chillers" you can have at Gloria Jeans or Cinnabon
Rich in chocolate content, thick in texture, but low on milk quantity, it was topped with froth and had a layer of crushed ice at the bottom, the way other chillers have. 
All in all, a nice shake to have with your burger.

Verdict: TBS is a must try for burger fans. I think we all should try to endorse, support, and promote local business enterprises that are striving to provide us with good-quality burgers that are more than passingly comparable to those offered by international food chains. Other examples of these are Gourmet Burger CompanyBig Thick Burgerz, and The Burger Factory (a recent addition).

The only down side is having to eat the fresh, hot and great-tasting TBS food right after you receive it, sitting in your car, if you truly want to enjoy it. 

Otherwise, by the time you reach home, it might be somewhat cold and soggy, but still enjoyable. 

They give you the food in paper bags, so don't expect any waiters serving you on trays. Plus you'll have to stand in a line and then grab a paper bag of food once your order is ready. 

Finally, I must remind you that burgers and fries are not considered healthy food that we can allow ourselves to eat on a regular basis as a habit. :)

So it is wise to save the jaunts to TBS and other burger businesses as rare, once-in-a-while treats. 

Either that, or go for a long walk or sprint right afterwards! :P

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Burger King, Nishat Commercial, Defence phase 6

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيمِ

Similar to the hype surrounding the launch of Hardees and Fatburger, Burger King has also finally opened it's doors to Pakistani customers with the simultaneous inauguration of 3 of it's outlets recently in Karachi. 

One of these branches is based in the Nishat Commercial area of DHA phase 6, a stone's throw away from the crossing of 3 major double-roads: Khayaban-e-Shujaat, Khayaban-e-Shahbaz and and the diagonal Khayaban-e-Nishat

It is right opposite a prominent supermarket; hard to miss:

Burgers from abroad arrive with a bang in Karachi, for some reason, with boys (of all ages) turning into salivating burger junkies as soon as they hear of a new joint about to hit K-town. :)

You should see the crowd of boys always standing outside Burger Shack as proof (a review of which is due, yes I know).

So, on the readily accepted request that I wouldn't stand with hubby this time in the long queue outside with the kids, we found ourselves outside this outlet of Burger King 2 days after it's reported launch (5th october 2013). 

As you can see, mostly men throng the long queue while the women and children are allowed to take up seats in the outlet, conveying their orders to them via cell phones. Feminism, anyone? ;)

A life-size wall mural announcing the arrival of the King of Burgers all over Pakistan. 

The furnishing and layout of the outlet reminded us eerily of the one at Hardees
Excuse my children's water bottle spoiling the photo above. :)


The walls, couches and chairs have the same color theme: red, orange, white and beige - with a few more colors thrown in here, there and every where. 
All in all a nice layout for a junk food outlet. 

Thankfully there is enough space in this Nishat commercial outlet of BK to maintain privacy and prevent that feeling of "too-close-for-comfort". Not cramped at all. 

There are booths next to the windows (we were able to get one), as well as smaller round tables.

Spotlights and other kinds of lights. Nice lighting overall, except that our "city of lights" is usually without these said lights due to frequent power outages. 

Our business franchises should therefore go easy on the large number of lights in their outlets. 

The coveted tray that you lay your hands on after a wait of around 45 minutes (nowadays), starting from the time you arrive till the time you take your first bite. 

The Mini Whopper (without fries and drink), Rs 270 + tax


It was full of this dark sauce, which looks like BBQ sauce. It probably was.
The children liked it, but after they had pulled out all the veggies. 

The famous Whopper (single patty) with fries and drink ~ Rs 440 + tax

I liked the fresh and soft, sesame-seed-sprinkled bun.

The patty was thin and tender, crisply charred on the outside. 

The vegetables comprising of sliced tomatoes, onions and iceberg lettuce were fresh and crisp as well.

All in all a very tasty meal, alhamdulillah.

Hershey's Sundae - Rs 200 (from a subsequent takeaway visit)
This dessert was decadently indulgent and rich! Any chocaholic's dream come true. Have it if you are willing to ingest the extra calories. :)

Verdict: We think the burgers at Fatburger and Hardees are better, but we weren't expecting anything out of the ordinary. The last time I had Burger King was back in 2002, in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, so I knew what to expect. 

For now, Karachi-dwellers need to take a chill pill and can probably afford to take their sweet time in visiting Burger King (especially if they've already had it abroad), not just to join the race expecting a burger from heaven, or solely for the pleasure of telling their friends that they've had it already. 

I personally wanted to go after the initial BK hype in the city (as well as the length of the long queues outside every outlet) had diminished, but my husband wanted to go earlier. 

So enjoy your Eid barbecues next week. :) Then visit Burger King when the weather gets more pleasant, because, as I forgot to mention, they don't have any of the other burger flavors on the menu yet - they have just the whopper. They also do not have wifi yet.

Go and try Burger King once the full menu arrives for your choosing (including the chicken and fish burgers). Business timings are from noon to 2 a.m., or so the guard stationed outside the outlet told us. 

Bon appétit!