In Lahore, one never runs out of places to eat out at. A city overcrowded with eateries and delicacies of all types and kinds, one is always spoilt for choice. However, if you are not one but many — out and about in town, struggling to break the deadlock between, say, Chinese kungpao chicken, club sandwiches or mutton chops — then might I suggest you to take a gander at Dervish – The Food Souq.
Situated on Burki Road, near Paragon City, the place provides an outdoor, open-air dining experience — available to house over 200 individuals at present. If you can think along the lines of backyard and barbecue — albeit with café lights on rooflines above patio styled chairs and tables, with a line of street-style lamp posts dividing a garden with a grain track parallel to it leading towards another seating arrangement underneath the shelter of a tree which is home to an assortment of lanterns hanging leisurely from its branches — then you’ve painted an acceptable picture of The Food Souq.
The word ‘Souq,’ which is Arabic for ‘marketplace’ is commonly used in the UAE. As such, The Food Souq in Lahore is a marketplace enlisting five restaurants. For fast food cuisine you have The Backstreet Kitchen, where you can enjoy succulent burgers and wash them down with some tropical island beverages. Thela offers a host of scrumptious desi entrees. If in the mood for some barbecue, you can devour platters at Kababchi. For fans of Asian cuisine; there is the Dragon Bowl with an array of authentic Chinese dishes.
On the sweeter side, Shai Al Haqiqi presents an assortment of Chai’s and traditional desserts including the very palatable ‘Sharaqpur kay Gulab Jamun.’
However, Dervish’s uniqueness doesn’t just lie in its outdoor theme or the variety of food it has to offer, but in it being Lahore’s — and, in fact, Pakistan’s — first ever Food Incubation Centre. As such, it offers food entrepreneurs a large space that boasts several commercial kitchen build-outs. Over the year and half since it was started, The Food Souq has helped to provide startups a gateway to operate in the market and run their businesses independently.
Fareed Zaheer, co-founder of Dervish, says that despite it being the most challenging project of his life, he still considers it to be the best thing to have happened to him. And, he is sure to take it to the next level: “By the start of next year, we are looking to open another food incubator,” he tells TNS.
Zaheer speaks of having signed an MoU with the College of Tourism & Hotel Management (COTHM) that “shall facilitate the exchange of culinary resources and trainings for our staff, and also invite students enrolled in COTHM culinary programmes to come to our incubator and get some hands-on learning at a commercial kitchen.”