Tag Archives: latte lounge

Will Latte Lounge become the next Copper Kettle?

Latte Lounge Rustic Café and Bakeshop is a  ‘CK-esque’ type café that serves you an amalgam of sheesha, burgers, pastas and steak while doubling as a bakery as well.

The fact that it has remained below the radar for so long and yet continues to exist says something about its resilience. Located at the obscure Nishat Commercial Area with not an eatery in sight, Latte Lounge couldn’t have chosen a worse place to open shop. At night, the whole street gives the aura of a ghost town. Grillers in the Mist is the only other restaurant nearby and even that has opened up only recently, while Latte Lounge has been around for about five years.

We visited the place in the evening on the 2nd day of Eid and the place was doing brisk business at that time. The three-in-one strategy (Sheesha/bakery/diner) is working great for the place.

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Although from a branding point of view, this is a bad ploy – offering everything under the sun – given the location of Latte Lounge, it’s actually working to its advantage.

Latte Lounge is a strange little place. There’s no proper layout to the place. You’ve got the sofas, chairs-tables and the couches, not to mention a ‘takht’ as well, all arranged haphazardly around the joint. There’s nothing baroque about the décor. What Latte Lounge has tried to do is emulate the typical American home – the use of bricks, predominance of wood especially the floor panels – all this and more reek of the American Dream.

What we particularly liked about the place was the dim lighting. Most of the cafes have the tendency to literally flood their joint with lights. Not Latte Lounge. And no it’s not pitch dark either a la Purple Haze.

We tested three of their offerings: Smothered Steak Burger Rs.395, Chicken bbq panini Rs. 460, Jalapeno cheese burger Rs.385.

Jalapeno cheese burger was scrumptious. However, the patty didn’t taste all that fresh. Tasted like it had been frozen for a couple of days before seeing the fire of the grill. It goes to their advantage that they still managed to pull it off loaded with jalapenos, cheese and a fat juicy patty.

Chicken bbq panini was good but a disappointment compared to the other two. For one, it was too small compared to the other two and almost a hundred rupees costlier. On top of that there was no coleslaw. And if that wasn’t enough, fries were replaced by onion rings.

It would have been better if they had used onion rings with the burgers, if they had to be used at all. The advantage with fries is that they have a universal appeal as well as the ability to satiate your appetite at no great cost.

At the very least, the option of fries ought to be offered with the panini.

We considered testing one of their desserts as well but when we found out that the ice creams used in the dessert was Igloo instead of one of their homemade ones, we decided against it.

No use spending a couple of hundred bucks on a branded ice cream you can have for less than Rs.50 in the market.

They really need to come up with their own versions of ice creams if they want their dessert section to have the ability to lure the crowd. Copper Kettle’s success had a lot to do with the enigmatic Caked Alaska with its sumptuous ice cream than any other single factor.

One good thing worth mentioning about Latte Lounge is that the GST is included in the menu prices, what this means is that the value for money is far better than any place on Zamzama or even the emerging food street of Shahbaz.

Another tempting feature is the offer of free ice cream with any of the main entrées, although a scoop of Igloo doesn’t sound very tempting.

In fact that’s not the only special deal on offer. You buy two appetizers and get the third one free. Brilliant marketing tactic.

Latte Lounge is always in the thick of things – offering something or the other- ensuring that the brand is in a constant state of motion. When it rained, they turned even that disastrous event into an opportunity, offering a deal tailor-made for the rainy season.

And all these deals are intimated through their Facebook page, which is yet another success story. Having an astounding 28,000+ fans, Latte Lounge is fully capitalizing on the power of social media.

Its Facebook page is created with pagemodo and has all the bells and whistles, making use of such varied apps as goso and autobudder to create birthday packages, loyalty cards, graffiti option for the fans, and a whole host of other options to engage and involve the target audience.

The page is always abuzz with some news, mostly announcements of viewing of English Premier League matches. The page also carries numerous superb pictures of customized cakes and cupcakes that Latte Lounge offers.

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In short, Latte Lounge has left no stone unturned in keeping its customers engrossed, whether through screening of sports events, special deals or customized desserts.

One thing that becomes clear from all the people active on the facebook page as well as those frequenting the joint is that Latte Lounge is geared towards the youth.

As such it wouldn’t be a great idea to land at the place with your family. Just go there when you want to have a good time with your friends.

In spite of its shortcomings, we did like Latte Lounge and are definitely going to test its main entrées the next time around.

As to the million-dollar question about Latte Lounge filling the void left behind Copper Kettle, there are too many nostalgic moments associated with CK especially for the generation that grew up in the 90s to be able to do that.  Then there are too many cafés vying for a share of the market for any single one to be able to hold his own. Copper Kettle had the competitive advantage of being the first and the only one for a long time that it was able to firmly etch itself in the prospect’s mind.

However, Latte Lounge is fast endearing itself to a niche community of youngsters and if it continues to follow this strategy to the hilt, very soon it would have cultivated a crop of brand evangelists that could take it to the brand pinnacle.

Location
Hours
Mon – Thu: 11:00 am 12:00 pm
Fri – Sun: 11:00 am 1:00 am
Email
[email protected]
Phone
021-35350877,021-35348631, 0321- 2434406
Website

Gourmet Burger Company Forays into Karachi Dine-in Scene

Gourmet Burger Company now lovingly christened GBC is the new kid on the burger block in Karachi’s foodscape.

 

Gourmet Burger Company started off as a delivery-only joint about a year ago and recently GBC opened its dine-in outlet in Khadda Market DHA phase 5.

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Ever since Gun Smoke catalyzed the gourmet burger mania back in early 2000, there has been a rat race to jump onto this bandwagon. Every fine-dining restaurant is compelled to offer at least one type of burger as if its very survival depended on it. Okra and Olivetto are just two examples to boot.

 

Pre-Gun Smoke, the burgeoning café-sque restaurants, viz Copper Kettle and Arizona Grill did offer the proverbial hamburger, but there was no real focus on the category.

 

When Gun Smoke came all guns blazing (no pun intended), all of a sudden everyone wanted to cash in on the craze, so much so that even premium ice cream parlors like Hot Spot and Gelato Affair wanted to have a piece of the action. And in the wake of this competition, the pioneer of the category Mr. Burger, suffered big time, more so because of its own lethargy to step up to the competition.

So why is everyone rushing to come up with his own burger joint?

 

Because everyone thinks they’ve got the recipe for the ultimate gourmet burger, the likes of which have never been seen in Karachi and as such they can dominate the premium burger scene in spite of the cutthroat competition.

 

At least that’s what Gourmet Burger Company’s owner Mr. Zahid Usman believes. Having lived in the US for six years, he said he couldn’t find the genuine hamburger anywhere in Karachi and his yearning for the real thing led him to launch GBC.

 

Asked why start out with a delivery service instead of going the full monty, he replied that he had been burnt once with a restaurant on Khayaban-e-Sehar and he wanted to test the waters with a small set-up before expanding the operation.

 

We asked him why the delivery service was limited to just DHA, Clifton and the adjoining areas (as stated by the staff before he arrived), Zahid Usman negated the statement, saying that delivery was confined to those areas only initially and that now almost the entire Karachi is covered, provided that the order is minimum Rs.1000 and a delivery charge of Rs.50 will be added to the bill.

 

Delivery service aside, it’s a good thing GBC has opened a diner. Although it’s one of the tiniest diners you’ll ever find in Karachi, with a very Spartan décor, the main benefit is that location, smack in the middle of Khadda market just adjacent to the popular Red Chili with OPTP just around the corner. What this will do is propel the brand from being just a niche brand known and endeared to just a select group of people to diverse segments of the market.

 

GBC owes much of its fame to a Facebook Group called SWOT where GBC has been talked about and recommended as well quite a lot. However not all of its reviews on that forum are raving like the one below written by the group owner Nezihe Hussain:

“Well so we SWOTTED Gourmet Burger Company – new dine-in facility. Nice cozy diner atmosphere…the tables not made for us with legs…long one I mean and it needed a little more chilling (AR and NK gave suggestions to improve that so we move on) – the service first – since attended by Adeel (the owner) it was obviously top grade. The food – we ordered 1 Classic GBC burger, 1 Classic GBC burger with wasabi (special addition) and jalapenoes, 1 Chili Cheese Burger, 1 Chili Hot Dog, 1 masala fries, 1 starter of chicken strips (yes before someone says it – we manage to eat quite a bit) the verdict – ever thing was very nice fresh and tasted good. The problem is that its not Gourmet Burgers…they are better than fast food chains but wish they had not set the standard that high by calling it “Gourmet”.”

This is in fact one of the less critical reviews on that SWOT group. Initially when GBC came out with the dine-in option, social media was abuzz with either their appalling service or the quality of their buns.

We didn’t face any of these lapses – service was quick and prompt and the buns were alright, although nothing extraordinary about them. They could really tinker with their buns, differentiate them in some way to support their gourmet claim.

One thing we did feel or lack thereof, the ‘piping hot’ factor. Yes, burgers are not supposed to be served that way but when you’re griling a burger patty, shouldn’t the heat within last a little longer until the customer has had bitten into it? Of course, in the case of delivery that feeling cannot be replicated, but when you’re serving right then and there….

To cut a long story short, we felt our burgers were a little on the cold side and that the taste could have been enhanced if they hadn’t been that way.

GBC is very much conscious of its minimal dine-in option and to make it as accommodating as possible, they’ve put a hand sanitizer on the table along with the sauces and all. Now it may not be a big deal, but the concern GBC shows for the hygiene of its customers will only add to the brand goodwill especially since we haven’t come across a single restaurant or fast food joint that shows this much concern.

 

Another little differentiation is the use of imported Heinz ketchup. Again not a big deal, but with Knorr and other local brands being used by even the most popular fast food joints, this little consideration surely adds to the brand equity.

 

Although the brand essence of the place by virtue of its very name is that of a burger, surprisingly there are only six varieties of burgers on offer, out of which a mere two are beef.

 

Apart from them, they offer the usual items that are typical of a café – from pastas to quesadillas to fajitas to crepes to flavored fries and what not.

 

We strongly suggest cutting down on any item that does not add to the core competency and put its entire weight behind the brand’s forte – gourmet burger.

 

Extending the brand essence just dilutes the brand – no matter at what stage of its PLC the brand is. And GBC is still in its infancy stage – all the more reason for it to be hammering on its true essence.

 

Yes, in the short run it does help to offer everything under the sun, but brand-building is a long term endeavor and it pays rich dividends if you stick to the basics.

 

Although you do see mega brands extending their essence like hell, they attained this stature by sticking to what they did best, and now are being sucked dry by aspiring brand managers trying to make a name for themselves.

 

Okay maybe matching Gun Smoke’s plethora of burger varieties maybe taking things a bit too far, but something definitely needs to be done with the current burger varieties which are just too few.

 

We tried three of their offerings, both the beef burgers and a chicken burger.

 

 

The Italian Grilled Chicken Burger priced Rs.395 comprises of a flame grilled chicken breast marinated in Italian spices and topped with creamy Italian dressing, lettuce, tomato and onion.

Italian grilled chicken burger
Italian grilled chicken burger

We’ve no idea what these Italian spices were, but the result was one hell of a scrumptious burger. We did feel that the chicken breast was from the starved plains of Africa – it was that thin – and we let Mr. Zahid know as much.

 

The Gourmet Chili Burger on the other hand had the fattiest patty of the three burgers. It also happened to be the most expensive item on the menu at Rs.400, more so than even the pastas.

Gourmet chili burger
Gourmet chili burger

It comprised of flame grilled prime ground beef coupled with chili con carne and loaded with the usual condiments – cheddar cheese, mustard, mayo and the salad.

 

Chili Con Carne is a one of those strange dishes whose origin is disputed. The dish derives its name from the Spanish chile con carne, “chili pepper with meat” and is basically a sort of spicy stew comprising of ground beef, tomato and beans.

 

The Gourmet Classic Burger priced Rs.350 is pretty much the same as the chili version, the only change is the type of patty used. It’s your standard hamburger.

Gourmet classic burger uncut
Gourmet classic burger uncut

Incredibly, none of the burgers have jalapenos or even the option of adding them.

 

What about the size and value for money?

 

The size of the two beef burgers were your standard size, not humungous but enough to satiate your appetite, although the size of gourmet chili’s patty made it more than fulfilling. If quantity is what you’re after, in this price range you can get a better deal at Latte Lounge which we recently tested which offers coleslaw.

 

Gourmet Burger Company has no sidelines in the offing other than a generous helping of fries. When we pointed out this fact to Mr. Usman Zahid suggesting the inclusion of either coleslaw or garlic sauce, he was adamant that the gourmet burger anywhere in the world apart from Pakistan is not served with any such sideline. And if someone is indeed interested in them, they can buy the sauce separately. However, we didn’t find either any sauce or coleslaw on the menu.

 

So where GBC’s burger stand in the comity of burgers? GBC’s burger stands apart from the lot and your appreciation of its offering would depend upon which of the two ‘burger’ schools of thought do you subscribe to. And here by burger we mean the hamburger.

 

The first school holds sacred the beef patty that is firm and succulent so that when you bite into it, the juice oozes out tantalizing your taste buds. And the firmness of the patty ensures that your jaws have to work at it.

 

The second school of thought preaches the virtues of a patty that is made from ground beef loosely held together so that when you bite into it, it literally melts in your mouth- more of a minced meat version.

 

GBC follows the second school of thought, and if this is what catches your fancy, then it’s gonna be “Love at First Bite”.

Gourmet Burger Company
Gourmet Burger Company

Gourmet Burger Company

Opp. Bombay Store

Khadda Market DHA 5

3524-8666

3524-8665

0332-3268440

www.gbco.pk

Grillers in the Mist

Grillers in the Mist is yet another upscale restaurant of Karachi located in Nishat Commercial Area DHA phase 6.

Grillers in the Mist has been receiving some good reviews in the mainstream media as well as the social media. There was a review of Grillers in the Mist published in Dawn magazine. Then it has come up in the discussions on the facebook group SWOT as well.

[slickr-flickr tag=”grillers mist”]

Location is the biggest impediment for Grillers in the Mist as it is for any business, especially one in the food service industry. The only other restaurant in the area is Latte Lounge and even that is at the other end of Nishat.

At least Latte Lounge is on the main road of Nishat Commercial. Grillers in the Mist doesn’t have even that advantage. You are unlikely to find it unless you’re really looking for it. And this problem was evident from the fact that the place was deserted on a Saturday night.

This does not augur well for a restaurant. Not on any day. And on a weekend night it’s criminal. Although both Grillers in the Mist and Latte Lounge are similar with respect to their offerings, there’s actually a world of difference between their brand essence.

Although both have dual floors, Grillers in the Mist a basement, and Latte Lounge a first floor; Grillers in the Mist has contrasting ambience on its two floors. While the basement is geared towards a younger clientele with dingy dark interior and huge cushion sofas with a bar at one end serving Sheesha, the ground floor has a picture perfect ambience meant for fine-dining with your standard chair-table arrangement.

And with the place deserted most of the time, you’ve the entire place to yourself, an ideal place for you to take that special someone to have a quiet private dinner. They could definitely do with the dimming of the light on the fine-dining floor  a bit as it is a bit too bright, especially when compared to the dark interior down below.

 

One thing worth mentioning about the basement is that one of the walls is adorned with pictures of Pakistani film and TV stars of yesteryears. Whether these pictures are exclusive is not known, but the reason for this addition to the décor is the father of the restaurant’s owner who was a stalwart of the film industry. Latte Lounge on the other hand has a laid-back ambience through and through. Apart from a sheesha lounge it also doubles up as a bakery.

When it comes to menu, Grillers in the Mist has a far more extensive offering than Latte Lounge, offering numerous varieties of pastas, burgers, steaks other similar stuff. Yes, Latte Lounge does all of these things, but the varieties are less. We tried two of their offerings:

Fettucine Alfredo, one of the most popular pastas especially in this part of the world  Rs.495 was good but not great.

It’s biggest drawback was lack of adequate salt. Now salt may be the most underestimated ingredient if there ever is one. Overdo it, and you spoil the whole dish, underdo it, and the inherent taste of the entrée just doesn’t come forth. It doesn’t matter if you sprinkle salt on top. It just cannot compensate for the salt added whilst cooking. At Rs.495, it had sufficient value for money as far as the overall quantity and the quantity of star ingredients is concerned.

Chicken Stroganoff at Rs.500 was palatable with adequate quantity but again the flavor was not strong enough. It would be premature to pass judgment on Grillers in the Mist based just on these two dishes considering the fact that it scored pretty well on other fronts including the service. We felt we should have gone at least for one of the grilled items especially when the name of the restaurant carries the word grill.

The dawn review for instance lavished praise on the chicken with tarragon sauce and one of the beef steaks. Having said that, there’s no doubt that these two dishes are not the specialty of Grillers in the Mist as many of the other restaurants in this category make better versions of them.

What Grillers in the Mist ought to do now is how to overcome its shortcoming of an obscure location by offering unbeatable offers, the likes of which have never been seen in the fine-dining category of Karachi.