Sheikh Abdul Ghaffar Kabab House has been around the Karachi foodscape for almost two decades, and yet it hasn’t gained the popularity as some of the other eateries in its genre. Two major reasons for that. One, the place is situated in an obscure lane in a residential district of Delhi Mercantile Society. Secondly, it is the only major eating house in that particular lane, hence it cannot be really called a food street, although looking at the number of people swarming around with cars jampacked, it definitely is a happening lane.
However, most of the people visiting it are the people living nearby. Very few people outside of this area know about it, and that also only through word of mouth.
In contrast, hardly a few blocks away is the Alamgir welfare street with Gaffar’s nemesis Zameer Haider that is generating far more publicity and customers than Ghaffar.[slickr-flickr tag=”ghaffar”]
Ghaffar offers a plethora of different items although its specialty remains kabab and malai boti. On this particular visit, we tested three items from its menu, namely, malai boti, behari boti and maghaz nehari.
Nehari is not Ghaffar’s forte and yet it manages to churn out quite an acceptable taste. The spices were also quite balanced unlike the Nihari Inn one which is brimming with spices so much so that you can’t discern the actual taste of the dish.
The Malai Chicken Boti was as always delectable, with the spices just enough to tingle your taste buds without burning them to hell. However, the quantity has gone down drastically (see the snapshot) whereas the price has climbed to an exorbitant Rs.150. Before, two people could share one plate if they had one other item to go with it. Not anymore.
The Behari Beef Boti was delicious as well, and although its price is barely reasonable at Rs.86 per plate, the quantity is an issue here as well. Also the pieces of beef were a bit too stiff and they needed to be marinated and grilled a bit more.
The Nehari quantity was quite a mouthful, but then so was the price at Rs.140. Paratha, particularly the one that goes with the barbeque items is not something every eating house can churn out perfect. Most of the time it’s way too ‘karak’ and crumbles in your hands so much so that you cannot make a decent ‘nivala’ with it.
Ghaffar’s paratha are as close to perfect as you can get- large in size, no crumbling fuss, and sufficient width, simply great. The chatni they serve with the meal is not that good, and they really need to improve on that count. The Nan’s were good as well.
All in all, Ghaffar is a good place to crash if you are in the mood for some BBQ delicacies but don’t want to spend a fortune at BBQ tonight.
The genuine hamburger. How many restaurants and cafes and fast food joints and what not have you visited that offer you this modern delicacy? Not many, I bet. Take out the foreign franchises and the number goes down even further.
There’s Gun Smoke, there’s Indulge, there’s Mr. Burger, there’s Texas Burger but then that’s just about it. There are, however, a number of restaurants like CK, Arizona Grill and Roasters which offer burger as a mandatory side item on their menu and are not particularly specialist in this category.
Most of the burger walas especially the desi fast food joints like Kaybees, Tooso’s, Kundan, Pioneer, Khan’s and Red/Green Apple offer the hamburger more in the vein of a shami kabab burger. Their main focus is on the Zinger and for good reasons because the ‘pirated’ zinger or crispy burger has become one of the hottest selling items on the local fast food scene.
Coming back to the hamburger, you would be hard pressed to find the genuine version any place other than an upscale fast food joint and that also on the other side of Kala Pull.
Enter Chili Wili, a small café in the not-so-upscale area of Dhoraji, on the road leading from Agha Khan Hospital to Muhammad Ali Society’s food street. Although it is on the main road, it’s not very prominent, and the owners haven’t carried out any launch party to announce the arrival either. And that may just be its downfall. Because that is the only thing that is going to bring its downfall. That and maybe the premium pricing as well.
At Rs.180, the hamburger with cheese, fries, coleslaw and a soft drink is a bit too much considering the area in which it is located. The thing going in its favor is that there’s no worthwhile competition in that entire strip, just a small restaurant at the end of the strip called Spicy and even that is struggling big time.
However, when we met the owner, he was very upbeat about the future of his café which he based solely on his offering. According to him, he’s offering a Rs.400 burger at a mere Rs.180. That was before the meal. After having just a couple of bites, we had to admit he was right. We tried the chicken wrapper and the hamburger, and I don’t know if they look sumptuous in the snapshots or not, but they were totally scrumptious and more.
The hamburger had one big beef patty unlike any you would experience in this side of town. It had that ‘hieng’ that you associate with anything beef and which the local fast food walas try to tone down with all the desi masalas. Chili Wili didn’t. And that brought out the genuine taste, accentuated by the addition of pickle and the mandatory salad. As far as the size is concerned, it wasn’t gigantic like Gun Smoke or Roasters but still big enough to stuff you completely. The Fries were good as well. The Coleslaw wasn’t the usual desi one submerged in rich cream which the Pakistanis love but the variant that Gun Smoke has come up with.
The chicken wrapper was better than KFC both in size and taste. It costs Rs.105 outside of the combo.
The rest of the menu seems to be just as scrumptious, and definitely warrants one other visit.
Unfortunately for Chili Wili, the fact that we approve of their product offering doesn’t mean that it’s going to go on to make it big. The history of restaurants in Karachi has the rise and fall of some terrific restaurants which had fantastic taste and yet didn’t make it.
Its biggest problem is that of the location. Locals of that area are not going to be visiting much owing to the high price. And if they are not going to come, the place would need people from other areas to throng the place. And for that to happen, it needs positive word-of-mouth, and fast. Once they come and check out the place, then it’s going to be alright because apart from the quality food, it has managed to create a nice ambience in line with upscale cafes. But the place is tiny, the main dining area at the top seems to be created for elves.
Of course there were a few minor shortcomings as well. For instance, the drink was offered in a disposable bottle but there was neither straw nor glass available to consume it. The guys would have no trouble drinking it like that, but for the girls, they wouldn’t have any of it. In any way, an upscale fast food joint shouldn’t have such minor shortcomings.
Then there was the ketchup issue. The ketchups were offered in satchets and yet there was no place to pour it. In the end we had to pour it on the paper wrapper. Not very elegant. When you are charging premium prices, the least you could do is offer unlimited ketchup in a bottle to be poured in a small bowl.
So how can they induce word-of-mouth? One opportunity they missed was at the launch when they could have really driven traffic their way by offering discounted meals. What’s done is done.
They could easily offer the discounted deals they ought to have offered at the launch now. It’s never too late. Make a facebook page. Get on twitter. Get people talking about the brand. Opening a café maybe hard, but sustaining it profitably over a period of time is infinitely harder. They just need to have a marketing budget. Then whether they spend it on discount offers, advertising, or a combination of both depends entirely upon on them. There’s no right or wrong answer.
In fact, it’s so easy and cheap to come up with a TVC these days that they could opt for that option as well. Agencies like Time & Space Media specialize in making TVCs at reasonable rates ranging from Rs.1-3 lac. That’s dirt cheap when you consider a standard TVC by a big media agency gets made for anywhere from Rs.20 lac to as high as Rs.2 crore. Mostly it’s the telecom and bank TVCs that have exorbitant budgets for TVCs.
The second expense is the placement on channels. Again here as well, if you can steer clear of prime time and upscale channels like Geo and Dawn News, you ought to be ok.
Of course the money you spend on this could well be spent on giving extra discounts and stuff to the customer. Membership cards, repeat visit free meals, the sky is the limit on how you can exceed customer expectation.
In short, Chili Wili has the basic ingredients of being a top notch fast food joint.
If there is one thing that Karachi seriously lacks in, it’s ice cream parlors. Yes, there are a few of them, some of them really good ones, but that hardly justifies the stats considering the sheer size of this mega city.
Milano, a highly unlikely name for an ice cream parlor, is a new entrant in this category. Location-wise it’s right up there, on the busy thoroughfare of Dhoraji, right alongside Meerath Kabab house. And the fact that there’s only one other ice cream on the entire street, and that also neither upscale nor close to it, adds value to this place. Continue reading Milano Ice Cream Parlor→
When it comes to special offers, Subway takes the lead over all the other foreign franchises operating in Pakistan. Maybe this has got something to do with the fact that amongst all the foreign brands in Pakistan, Subway has had the toughest time. 10 years down the line, they have managed to capture a meager 6% of the market share in contrast to KFC lion’s share of 29%, Pizza Hut with 23% and McDonald’s with 18%. Although Nando’s is at 6% as well, but then Nando’s hasn’t had the run that Subway has plus it doesn’t have that many outlets compared to the strong network of Subway.
Silver Spoon Snacks was the pioneer of the kabab roll, but the credit for creating the modern kabab roll goes to Red Apple, Eaton and Hot n Spicy. The difference between the two is that the new one is bulkier and has an array of choices to go with the actual filling. You can have garlic mayo sauce with chicken malai boti, cheese with beef behari boti, or plain boti with chutni- the varieties are endless.
Following the success of these four giants, everyone is on a rush to jump on the roll kabab bandwagon. Hot n Tasty is one of those. Neither the name nor the signboard has any originality to it. You could visit dozens of such shops with the same name and aura. Hell, even the product offering is virtually the same. It’s a second degree clone of the actual thing. The size is slightly on the smaller side, even the ‘botis’ are not sufficient, and the paratha is way too soaked in oil. The garlic mayo sauce, however, was tasty, something which many of these me-too shops fail to emulate.
The inside of the place is something best not talked about. It looked like it was a barbershop which got converted into a restaurant. The walls are painted with some strange reflector material. It’s best to stay outside in your car and eat there instead of entering this small hall devoid of any pleasant ambience. That way you wouldn’t have to know the hygiene factor of the place, which it isn’t on the high side either. But then what do you expect from such a place.
The location of the place, well that’s it’s biggest advantage. It’s right on the front road coming from the Bahadurabad chowrangi going towards Sharafabad. What’s more, it doesn’t have any competition on the front, except Roll Corner which is situated deep in the lane opposite the Tooso. But it’s a pretty stiff competition. Roll Corner is right in the league of the four major giants and had it been on the front street, it would have blown away any competition within striking distance.
We tested the tikka of Hot n Tasty as well, and like its other items, it’s also just alright, nothing more.
In short, this fledgling shop has all the ingredients for going up the success ladder, the biggest being its location. All it needs is for its owner to shed his myopic vision and aim for the long term by exceeding customer expectations instead of disappointing them by offering below average stuff.
Arizona Grill was one of the early brands to jump on the bandwagon jumpstarted by Copper Kettle. Pre-CK era, Chinese restaurants ruled the roost. Then came CK and the café-esque culture with bizarre names and menus chalked on blackboards came into vogue.