From the kitchens of Lahore, Pakistan to Delhi’s Meherchand Market, comes a cuisine which the Indians would love to savour.
Once upon a time, we were one land, one people, until 1947. But there are still the roots which remain the same and the language nuances and the palate. We are still a wheat roti, rice, vegetable and ghosht eating people and our foods are loaded with spices and flavours. Lahori Gate is an amalgam of this common thread. Owned by Gazala Akbar Sharma, the base of the recipes in this restaurant is what Gazala’s nani used to cook in Pakistan.
This story is a story of opposites, while most of us have heard of people moving from Pakistan to India, Gazala’s mother’s family moved from India to Pakistan. “I was very small and remember my mother, Imtiaz, had to tear the letters from her family in Pakistan. It was like tearing an emotional bond.” The family did not travel to Pakistan for many years, in fact the mother’s side has never come to India. Though Gazala and her famous journalist brother, MJ Akbar (now spokesperson for BJP and Rajya Sabha MP from Jharkhand), have gone to the neighbouring country a few times. And eaten in the streets there and experienced the culture. Gazala is more of a theatre and arts person.
Since the review was extended to many bloggers, it was like a party. Starters were served on the table but the main course was an interesting self service. The aromatic dishes were served in large copper utensils. This is not the norm though, Gazala pointed out. The normal servings are in blue khurja pottery.
What I liked
Breaking the most prevalent myth, Gazala said that people do eat vegetables in Pakistan. So our neighbouring cuisine is not about ghosht alone and our meal was a fine balance between vegetarian and non-vegetarian which included chicken and red meat.
Amongst the starters I liked the Lahori Paneer Tikka, Dahi Kebab, Lahori Murg Tikka and Mutton Seekh Kebab. The Lahori dishes had a distinct red colour so one could make out that they had been marinated with a different set of spices. The paneer and seekh kebab were simply melt-in-the-mouth.
The main course had yummy Dal Lahori which was a mix of many dals, Vegetable Soya Nihari and the most delicious vegetable and chicken biryanis. In fact, my suggestion is go for the vegetable biryani which had all the seasonal veggies and some raisins. And you got all the right aromas and flavours, leaving you full and satisfied. Care has been taken to not add a heavy dose of oil and masalas and focus is on a light aromatic tinge.
There were four kinds of roti but I loved the khamiri roti—it was soft and light to eat.
What could have been better
The welcome drinks—Lahori Gate Cooler was a mix of guava and orange juices and some blue syrup. The green colour was lovely, but I couldn’t find the taste of orange anywhere, only the guava juice was stronger.
The other cooler, Mukti, was also a blend of orange juice but there was a little too much fizz and I couldn’t find the orange flavours.
The place is done well over two floors. It’s light and airy interiors are pleasant on the eyes. The lighting is good. There walls are decorated with photographs of well known faces who have connections with Lahore. The old-world Bollywood music was the added charm.
The restaurant also serves liquor. And has arrangements to cater to parties or groups of 25-50 easily. Gazala is also open to wedding catering and there are around 70 dishes on the menu. I loved the food which matches our Indian palate and sensibilities; even though a friend found the pricing on the higher side (meal for two with some drinks could come close to Rs 4,500). But this restaurant adds flavours to the growing F&B space and speciality around the diplomatic areas is a good idea. Gazala also has plans to add some Sufi evenings and other eventful things to the place.