Diner’s is one of the new breed of upscale restaurants that are dotted on the DHA landscape away from the Zamzama crowd, owned by the couple who run Sawasdee nearby.

Located smack in the middle of the Khayaban-e-Shahbaz commercial area, we had been receiving mixed reviews about the place for quite some time. People either loved the place, or hated it altogether. There were no mixed feelings about it. The most common complaint was that the quantity was way too low to justify the prices they were charging.

We decided to check out their Iftar deal and in the process get to know what Diner is all about.

From the outside, it projects an aura of a sophisticated food joint with dimly lit interior offering you the opportunity to dine in ample privacy. From the inside, it’s sophisticated alright, but the privacy part does not hold good as it has a fairly bright lighting which we felt they need to tone down to ensure a more calming ambiance. Overall the ambiance is top notch.

Right, now getting down to the business. This Ramadan most of the restaurants have changed their strategy of offering dinner buffet. Now they offer you an Iftar platter after which you’re allowed to choose just one item from their regular menu. While some restaurants are straightforward about their deal, others are not.

Saffron for instance has claimed to offer Iftar dinner buffet but in reality they’re offering the buffet for just Iftar items and in the end it’s back to just one item from the main menu. Which is pretty steep considering that they charge a staggering Rs.1250+ tax which comes out to be Rs.1463 and that does not include the soft drinks! No wonder the place was deserted even on a Saturday evening. Even the rich this summer are selective about throwing their money away.

Diner on the other hand has gone the traditional way of offering a complete dinner buffet like the category leaders Copper Kettle, Arizona Grill and Roasters. But there’s a catch here. It’s not exactly buffet but ‘Eat all you Can’ in the same vein as Pizza Hut. You’re given a menu and you have to order anything you like and as much as you like from that. Then there’s another catch. You can only do so till 9pm. You would think two hours starting from the time of Iftar would be enough to try everything out. If you’ve been to Pizza Hut’s deal, you know it’s a pretty chaotic scheme.

We got to Diner’s in the nick of time and found the place partially filled; in fact the top floor was pretty much deserted. And yet the service was slow, no, make it excruciatingly slow. Everything seemed to be happening in slow motion. On that entire floor, there was just this one table occupied (our entry made it two), there were three waiters on the prowl, and yet they couldn’t decide what to do.

Going by the way the waiters were scurrying about excitedly, it seemed Diner’s had for the first time received even this much customers for their Ramadan deal. The Iftar platter which should have been delivered right away along with the dates, was brought six to seven minutes late. To be fair to them, they were all very courteous and it is the restaurant management’s responsibility to direct their activities.Iftar platter- diner

There was no prayer area. They had just designated a miniscule corner for praying that could accommodate only two persons. And the least they could have done was keep proper ‘Jaanamaz’ for that purpose instead of making people pray on large-sized white napkins.Iftar Menu- Diner

On top of everything, people who were sitting downstairs were coming up to pray in this corner, making it extremely difficult for us to offer our prayers on time. After fifteen minutes had elapsed with no sign of us getting the turn, we asked the waiters to arrange for our prayers in the other corner of the room which had space since the place was mostly deserted even by that time.

Maybe Diner’s hasn’t allocated proper space for prayers because most of their customers don’t offer the prayers after Iftar. That is the only sound logic we could come up with.

We visited the place on the tenth of Ramadan. Why the management hadn’t learnt from its mistakes from the last ten days is beyond us.

Oh, by the way, an appetizer platter  arrived while we were waiting for the prayer turn.Appetizer- Diner

The platter comprised of chicken strips, Buffalo wings and mini beef burgers. The strips were simply divine – chicken with cheese with a thick crispy coating. Buffalo wings are basically deep-fried chicken wings cooked in spicy hot cayenne pepper sauce. They were first made popular by Anchor Bar, Buffalo, New York in 1964, hence the name. The wings were dipped a bit too much in the sauce and they were more sour rather than spicy, but good enough.

The mini beef burger were sumptuous as well but won’t appeal to everyone. If you like your beef heavily marinated in all types of spices and stuff to tone down its authentic smell and taste, then you’re not going to like these. They were the real deal – beef with all its ‘Heeng’ glory.

After this we ordered from the menu which comprised of 12 main entrées along with a host of soups, appetizers and salads, a total of 17 items. The format, as already revealed before, is that you could order any item any number of times, and the total cost of all this is Rs.895+ tax which comes out to be Rs. 1,047.15. You add a further Rs. 75 for a soft drink and that makes it Rs.1122.15. It is pretty steep but considering what the others are offering this year, it’s not a bad bargain.

For the first round we ordered four dishes. The chicken and mushroom crepe was delectable, remarkably similar to the Roasters one. The Fettuccine Alfredo with Prawn, quite a mouthful, the name, isn’t it? Fettuccine (literally “little ribbons” in Italian) is a flat thick noodle made of egg and flour which is wider than the conventional round ones. Alfredo is basically the name of the restaurant ‘Alfredo alla Scrofa’ in Rome. It was named by the Italian restaurateur who owned the place and created this dish back in 1917.Chicken mushroom crepe- Diner

Fettuccini Alfredo with prawn

pepper steak- DinerThe dish would have got full marks had it not been for the prawns. The prawns we felt were a bit on the stale side judging from the strong smell emanating from it. The pasta itself was palatable.

Next up was the Mushroom steak. We had directed the steak to be well-done. What came out was a small lump of meat which was burnt on the outside and raw from the inside.

The Margherita Pizza was a disappointment as well. The razor thin crust wasn’t so much as a problem than the razor-thin topping. It is named after Queen Margherita of Savoy when she visited Naples in 1889 and was served this pizza resembling the colurs of the Italian flag, red (tomato), white (Mozzarella) and green (basil).

This wrapped the first round. The second round for which we ordered almost immediately took more than half an hour to arrive while the first one arrived within fifteen minutes. This was mind-boggling considering the same type of dishes were ordered the second time around.

The grilled chicken with tarragon sauce was the highlight of this round. Tarragon is a type of herb also called ‘dragon herb’. The chicken was succulent and the sauce sumptuous.Grilled chicken with tarragon sauce

penne arabiataFiesta chicken pizzaThe Penne Arabiata with chicken and tomato sauce was the weakling of this round. Arrabbiata is a Roman sauce of garlic, tomatoes, and red chili cooked in olive oil. In this case, it was simple bland with no distinct taste.

The roast beef sandwich was pretty ordinary as well. The fiesta pizza with chicken fared just marginally better than its Margherita counterpart.

If you look closely at the pictures, the portion size is frugal. If that’s tailored to the Iftar deal so that people don’t waste much, then it’s alright. However, if this same size is served in normal offerings as well, then people have been complaining rightly about it, because at more than Rs.500, you expect the dish to satiate you enough.

In the end we tried the solitary dessert on offer, vanilla ice cream with brownie. The ice cream tasted like one of the popular yet bland brands, the brownie was mediocre although served hot.

Overall, we found Diner’s Iftar deal a mixed bag. It definitely scores a whole lot better than what’s on offer at some of its contemporaries, but the slow service especially the serving of the meals which was to be supposed to be buffet-style should have been prompt. We felt there may have been an element of deliberately stalling for time so that the customer consumes the least amount of dishes in the allocated time till 9pm.

However, if you haven’t been to Diner before and really want to sample their offerings, this deal is as good as any to do that.