In Islamabad, cafes and restaurants are sprouting like there is no tomorrow. Every now and then, we hear of a restaurant opening up with a fancy launch featuring models, paparazzi and all kinds of sizzle. Most of these eateries don’t get it right precisely because they are focusing on the wrong things and not putting in so much effort on what really matters – FOOD! The Side Walk is an exception and a breath of fresh air. It opened in the Diplomatic Enclave in Islamabad last week and has been consistently serving appetising quick bites and a very interesting menu since then.
I dropped by at The Side Walk on my way back from some work at an embassy and I’m glad I did; I’m still a little bummed that it’s not on my everyday work route. The Side Walk is the sister concern of Street 1 Café – a place that has been consistently serving ‘just good food’ as they claim in their tag line. It’s a small deli that looks like a sidewalk area, hence the name.
The Side Walk has a simple menu – four salads, 3 sandwiches, 4 crepes and 9 flavours of thin crust pizzas. The dessert and drinks menu is much more diverse though and they definitely serve some of the best coffee in twon. The deli features an open kitchen, which makes everything even more interesting and customers have an option of making their own sandwiches and selecting their preferred toppings in pizzas. What is even more interesting for people who are always broke (like me) is that most of the items on the menu are under PKR 500 – with the exception of thin crust pizzas! It can’t get better than this.
Starting with the salads, they serve Tataki, Aubergine, Taco and Grilled Zucchini salad. All of these are unique choices and make you go beyond your typical choices like the Ceaser Salad and make your taste buds experiment new flavours. I tried the Aubergine salad particularly to try something new and to say my taste buds were impressed would not be an overstatement. The salad had roasted caramelised aubergine served with Greek yogurt and pine nuts in its dressing, all of which made a very unique flavour. The Beef Tataki salad is also one that caught my attention and trying it definitely was a good idea. The salad is a blend of mixed greens, beetroot, caper, feta cheese tossed with sesame dressing and thin slices of Tataki beef on top, making an appetising salad that one can’t have enough of.
The sandwiches are served cold and can be turned into Paninis depending on the customer’s request. There are three options; Hunter Beef, Pesto Chicken and Vege Lovers. The Hunter Beef and Pesto Chicken are delicious. I am a Pesto fan so really particular about the taste and found it absolutely on point – just the right blend of basil, olive oil, garlic, cheddar cheese and pine nuts. The Hunter Beef tastes rather simple, featuring homemade hunter beef with tomatoes, lettuce and cheddar cheese.
Among the crepes, they serve Chicken Mushroom crepe, Mexican Chicken crepes, Nutella crepes and the best thing is that they also allow you to do a ‘build your own crepe’ in which one can pick from mushrooms, black olives, grilled aubergines, jalapenos, peppers, sundried tomato and spinach. I tried not to experiment with building my own crepe but to go with one of the standard ones and tried the Chicken Mushroom, which was a freshly made crepe with diced chicken cooked in a mushroom cream cheese sauce. This was served with perfectly grilled tomatoes and left me asking for more.
But if there is one thing Side Walk does better than any other restaurant in town, it’s thin crust pizzas – crispy, thin and just the way a thin crust pizza should be! The thin crust pizza menu is separate because of its diversity and prices. While the rest of the menu is under Rs. 500, these pizzas range between PKR 775 to PKR 1095. The pizza menu has basics like Margherita, Chicken Jalapeno, Chicken and Spinach and Pepperoni but it also has some unique flavors like Eggplant & Mushroom, Roasted Garlic with White Sauce and Quattro Formaggio. There is also an option to build your own pizza, which caters to everyone who is particular about their own preferences of toppings.
For someone who always wants to experience new things, I tried the Quattro Formaggio because of its name and I realised it was much like the four cheese pizza (that is exactly what Quattro is actually). Upon inquiring, the chef told me that this is an Italian version of the classic four cheese pizza and they have combined mozzarella, blue cheese, parmesan and goats cheese in its topping. The eggplant and mushroom, as the name suggests, was also a treat; it was a perfectly crispy thin crust topped with roasted eggplant, mushrooms, olives and mozzarella cheese.
Towards the end of it all, I had no space for dessert but the cheesecake, almond éclairs and dark chocolate brownies with cashew nuts seemed interesting and will be devoured on my next visit. For people inside the Diplomatic Enclave, The Side Walk is the perfect place to head to for morning coffee or for a quick bite on their way back from work. The prices are unbelievable for the quality and venue and what more can one really ask for? All we can ask for is a branch that is more accessible!