The recently opened Café Barbera isn’t just another coffee house with an impressive décor and a great ambience. It is decidedly a lot more.
Off Khurshid Kasuri Road, Café Barbera is a franchise from Italy that boasts a history of 140 years in coffee business and is presently available in over thirty countries of the world. In Lahore alone, the owners have already planned to open another five outlets over the next two years. This is quite ambitious, given the plethora of cafes in the city which are doing exceedingly well.
Walking along the ‘History Wall,’ as they call it, right outside the café, one can’t stop inquiring about its relevance. The manager operations is gracious enough to relate the entire tale behind it.
As the story goes, in the late 18th century, a young man named Dominico Barbera fell famously in love with a girl which resulted in an unfortunate loss of his job in the army, forcing him to start roasting beans in the streets of Italy.
The roasting of the beans was unheard of at that time and Dominico was dubbed a magician by many. Things soon became viral and the young man was led to open what was Italy’s first roasting company, back in 1870. He called it Café Barbera.
The café, said the manager operations, is now being run by Dominico’s fifth generation.
After hearing this, I became ever more excited to find out about the quality of the coffees that the café has on the menu. As I made my way into the spacious lounge, large enough to accommodate a number of people, I wasn’t disappointed at all.
There were some very interesting (read creative) choices in coffees on offer, aside from the world famous espresso Italiano and Napoletano, blended with high quality beans, both long and short shots.
The shots are dependent on the taste of the consumer for if you desire a strong flavour, you can go for half a shot. In this way, the coffee doesn’t become too creamy, milky or bitter and is served just right for everyone to enjoy.
Café Barbera’s interior deserves a mention. It is typical of a fashionable Italian eating joint, appended with comfortable sofa chairs in red and charcoal grey. The side wall boasts merchandise coffee cups and a wide array of beans displayed for customers to peep into.
“In Pakistan, coffee lovers are increasing but there is a dearth of authentic coffee houses,” said Sharjil Alam, the proud owner. “Italian coffee is still a novel concept here.”
Eventually, I started off with the much recommended combination of cream and chicken soup which is served with garlic bread and tastes divine; probably the best one in town.
There was a variety of salads and breakfast options to choose from but I settled for the world’s favourite chicken Caesar salad served fresh over hearts of romaine lettuce, croutons and shaved Parmigiano cheese with dressing on top. This delightful dish is a revelation and a must-try.
Roma, an Italian espresso, consisting of hazelnut syrup, chocolate sauce, chilled and foamed milk and fancy topping is more like a dessert which one can eat while mixing everything with tiramisu and the milk that they use (not available elsewhere in Pakistan).
The brick oven is placed in a separate corner where experienced pizza makers bake thin-crust pizzas under the customer’s watchful eyes. The sight of vegetable/Quatro Stagioni with artichokes, button mushrooms, green peppers, olives, sun-dried tomatoes and rocket leaves with cheese was tempting enough for me to try it. I was told that there is an option for a customised pizza and includes pepperoni and chicken.
“Our team was sent abroad for a rigorous two-week course at Café Barbera training school,” said Sharjil Alam.
The CEO Enrico Barbera, a PhD in Coffee and belongs to the fifth generation of Dominico, had flown in especially for the launch of the café, with the Italian ambassador also present on the occasion.
After stuffing myself with the savouries, I was served the best from the desserts. It would be a shame to visit the café without having tasted the melt-in-mouth cheese cake, molten caramel chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream, tiramisu served with coffee and, last but not the least, the bread pudding with caramel sauce (an ultimate delectable burst of sweet that one can dive into without thinking too much of caloric consumption).
The prices at Café Barbera are competitive and highlight a rich culinary experience. The place is sure to give other cafes in town a run for their money.