Kahva café and grill located just on the outskirts of the Sindhi Muslim Food Street has been around for the last several years. How it has managed to survive all these years is amazing considering the fact that you would hardly find it buzzing with people. Not that it wears a deserted look every time, but it just doesn’t have the appeal to make crowds throng to it just like Roasters or even Nandos a few 100 metres away from Kahva do.

Kahva has all the ingredients of an upscale café, the ambience, the upholstery, even the prices. The dining hall has the perfect blend of lighting something which so many upscale cafes and restaurants fail at.

And yet it is not pulling the sort of traffic that its brethren Roasters is. To be fair, Roasters had the brand essence already established via its Zamzama outlet, so the consumers thronging the place already what they were getting into. Roasters also had the competitive advantage of being owned by Nadeem Raja, the owner of already famous Arizona Grill who knew how to make a restaurant successful.

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Kahva on the other hand had to start from scratch. On top of that, the name doesn’t exactly exude the image of a sophisticated suave café. The most you would associate with the name Kahva is a swanky Shisha bar. And Kahva doesn’t even offer Sheesha. It does, however, offer numerous coffee options, from Mocha to Latte, the complete works.

Just like Roasters and in fact most of the eating houses on that strip, it is located on two floors. Both floors are styled on the pattern of a lounge with sofas and all. There is of course the conventional dining table arrangement also incorporated into the scheme. The aesthetics of it all is right up there with the very best.

What Kahva is lacking behind in is the core product- the food. Not all, but one of the items that we tried- something which is common and sure to be tried by most of the people coming to the place – was totally horrendous. Called the Biccacio sandwich, it was supposed to be made of chicken cubes marinated in herbs and spices and served in freshly baked oregano bread along with fries and coleslaw. Priced at a whopping Rs.345, the sandwich was, to start with, just below the average size. In fact if you compare it to what you can get for pretty much the same price at Roasters, it can aptly be called tiny. And remember that GST is charged in addition to the price. So the actual price of the sandwich is a mind-numbing Rs.407.

The size, sadly, wasn’t the only thing wrong with the sandwich. The description belied the ground reality. Instead of being marinated with herbs and spices, the chicken cubes seemed to be inundated with tomato sauce. Again nothing wrong with that if the sauce itself was palatable which it wasn’t. The coleslaw that accompanied it wasn’t upto the mark either. The only saving grace was the fries, both in taste and quantity.

Two of the other items that we tried were, thankfully, the complete opposite of this torrid experience. The Alfredo Fettuccini, a special pasta made with mushrooms, chicken and a garlic cream sauce was simply divine. Priced at Rs.390, the quantity was also just about right. Yes, the chicken pieces could have been a few more but it doesn’t matter that much. The garlic essence in the sauce was not overdone which some restaurants are prone to do.

The jumbo prawns in peppercorn sauce served with garlic rice were sumptuous. Priced Rs.545 they were at par with the Roasters and Arizona Grill’s offering. The only glitch was that the shell wasn’t removed and that spoilt the mood a bit working on that.

One mind-boggling we found at Kahva was that the soft drink was priced at Rs.75. Add GST to that and it comes out to be a staggering Rs.88.5. If you were lounging at a five star hotel and paying this much premium on an ordinary drink, it would make sense. Here it is nothing short of mind-boggling. The only rationale we can come up with is because the place is a wi-fi hotspot and has plasma screens installed, people come to enjoy the ambience and order a soft drink for that privilege. So Kahva is charging the premium for sitting around in the soft drinks.

But they need to at least reduce the rates for those who’re already having a meal there, or better still include the drinks free of cost in the meal. It’s not a big deal but it would help to boost the brand loyalty.

Kahva maybe a good place to dine out, but being good alone is not enough to prosper as many restaurants and cafes have found out the hard way. Kahva will need to ensure a decent turn-over to be able to succeed in the long run, considering the cut-throat competition it faces in the neighborhood.

One thing it needs to immediately implement is offer lucrative meal deals especially on its snack category, because the few people who came in while we were there went for that option. The most popular deal on that food strip is buy one, get 50% off the second one. It could go for that option, or any other option, as long as it is attractive enough to lure the consumers in and then works its magic on them to keep them for life.