Having missed Lahore Eat last year, having attended instead the Karachi Eat festival at Frere Hall, I was really excited to see what my hometown event had to offer.
Karachi Eat was a wonderful foray into the eclectic taste of that city, with nutella gol gappay and Bond Street Waffles coming up trumps. So, Lahore Eat had a lot to live up to.
Last year, the headlines in Lahore were stolen by an independent venture called ‘Awesamosas.’ Putting nutella chocolate and apple pie in a crispy samosa shell, much to the delight of many, the Awesamosas now has its own outlet. So, I was excited to see who would come up with an ingenious fusion food leading to a fixed outlet this year.
The excitement kind of ebbed after the first cancellation and postponement. It was almost dead by the fifth. I wanted to shoot myself. Week after week there was a postponement and change of venue. Now it said Fortress Stadium, March 31.
I didn’t believe it until people started tweeting about it. Then there was a frantic search for a female guardian to chaperone me into the stadium. There was a strict, no-stag policy. Which I can wholeheartedly get behind. (In fact, I think whenever you see a group of men who look like they all go to the same barber, just deny them entry, into whatever it is, even a toilet.)
It took me a while but a friend of mine agreed to play chaperone, bless her.
At Fortress, there was the usual rush of weekend shoppers and people who were just there for Lahore Eat. The bouncers at the stadium entrance were doing an admirable job of discouraging anyone from going in. Even, accidentally, some women.
Once inside, the food was still not readily apparent. There was a scanner to go through and some gigantic advertising boards to negotiate before I stepped onto the cricket ground itself. My first impression was that, wow, this is massive! My second impression was that, hell, this is massive! Going from one end of the stadium to the stalls on the other end was criminally close to exercise, for a food festival, and incredibly tedious.
Tedious also because of the weather. Something that was supposed to happen in the first week of February was happening at the start of April. More like the Lahore Heat, then, eh?
The stalls themselves weren’t that impressive at first glance. Nurpur? Sprite? Peek Freans? Walls? Sensodyne!? To deal with that initial disappointment I headed straight to the Awesamosas stall, trying their signature stuff from last year when the person serving me directed my attention towards a new entry to the menu — Chicken/Beef Samosa Burger.
It had the patty, it had the cheese, it had the buns and lettuce and whatnots, but what it also had was a crispy samosa shell right in the middle, transforming the entire texture of the burger, making more than a burger.
My appetite whetted and mood finally lifted, I ventured on from one stall to the next. The stalwart Waris Nehari, the adventurous Café Upstairs, a sugar-free ice cream stall called Vaneela, some lovely Chapli Kebabs, fries drowning in sauce, cheese, caramelised onions and pickle by Mimiz, smoked salmon and cream cheese on a bun by Nordic Platter, fried Oreos and Snickers with vanilla ice cream by Sarrak Pe Karrak.
All these concoctions redeemed a disappointment months in the making. The food, all around, was just excellent; the variety good, and prices reasonable. The seating was adequate as well, although it got a bit overcrowded on Sunday.
Still, top props to Lahore Eat for, well, happening in the first place, and being almost worth the wait in the second. Almost.