It’s a cozy little nook, tucked away in a small market area in Phase 3 of DHA, catchily named A Piece of Cake.
Co-owners Anam and Hafsa, also friends, first ventured into Lahore’s crazy food world through a home-based online service. A Piece of Cake has become a fixture in the city’s food markets, with stalls of baked goods at events like Haryali and the Coke Food Festival. Their previous success has been a big motivation behind finally opening up a café, and the young ladies hope their focus on quality food and service shall bear similar results.
The café itself is a tiny place right now, but utterly charming — bright colours, quirky posters, and a couple of tables that can seat two reasonably sized groups of people are its hallmarks. The atmosphere is made all the more welcoming by the fact that Anam and Hafsa are completely hands-on with their approach: Anam makes all the food, and while she occasionally pops into the venue, Hafsa is at the front all day to greet customers, recommend favourites, and in my case explain to Careem drivers exactly how to find the street.
The menu is small and intriguing, with a selection of light, savoury items — sandwiches, salads — and various baked desserts. Anam says that the inclusion of a savoury menu is very recent, a response to people’s desire to pick up a quick, light meal before dessert. They are only in their second week of operations, so the menu’s still rotational, and will settle down when they’ve gauged what people like best.
A quick light meal is about all I feel capable of managing, so I order the strawberry-chicken salad on offer that day, and mint lemonade. Anam has already told me that they rotate their menu based on the seasonal availability of vegetables, and I can see why the salad I’m having is indicative of the results. It’s light, and fresh, with lots of green and unexpected bursts of flavour from the strawberries — a pleasant change from the ubiquitous Caesar Salad you have to order at most places if you want something green.
I want to know if it’s difficult to track down ingredients for this sort of food. Both Anam and Hafsa agree that it is, especially because some things they use aren’t locally available, and that’s always risky. “But,” Anam insists, “that’s where people can really tell the difference. The quality of the ingredients can change the entire character of a meal.”
The proof, it turns out, is literally in the pudding, because they follow up the salad with a small selection of their desserts: a moist, tender carrot cake, a decadent, caramel glazed brownie, and a chocolate chip cookie/cake hybrid that just begs to be had with tea.
The young ladies reveal that they have been working at the venue for a while now, and because it’s just the two girls, “all the uncles from the surrounding shops assumed we were opening a parlour!”
It’s a difficult business to get into, but their families have been very supportive. I am interested to know what direction they want to go in, and what their plans for expansion are. Hafsa laughs and gestures to the small staircase in the back of the shop, and says, “For now, just upstairs.”
Anam chips in to say that they would love to grow into the sort of communal space where people could work, hang out, and eat with friends, and meet new people. Even now, sometimes people strike up conversations across tables and two groups will somehow merge.
It is certainly a friendly atmosphere, and a refreshing change to see the owners so present in the daily running of the café.
A Piece of Cake is still taking baby steps, but it seems to be taking them in the right direction. Anam and Hafsa’s enthusiasm, friendliness, and commitment to good food may well be exactly the recipe for the interactive communal space they want to develop.