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Hobnob Cafe Iftar Dinner Buffet

Hobnob Café has risen from the ashes of Copper Kettle and straight away plunged into the Ramadan Iftar mania. Hobnob Café iftar deals which costs Rs.1200 includes all taxes and is more or less an emulation of Copper Kettle’s Ramadan deal offers the following:

  1. Chana Chaat
  2. Fruit Chaat
  3. Dahi phulki
  4. Chicken sandwich
  5. Aaloo Samosa
  6. Spring Roll
  7. Chicken corn soup
  8. Chicken wings
  9. Chicken crust
  10. Manchurian chicken
  11. Ginger chicken
  12. Egg fried rice
  13. Italian steak
  14. Bbq mix
  15. Fettuccine
  16. Beef chili dry
  17. Grilled fish olives and capers sauce
  18. Henny penny
  19. Beef and prawn sauce
  20. Mini-tarts
  21. Caramel Custard
  22. Chocolate cheesecake
  23. strawberry cheesecake
  24. Caked Alaska

 

One thing Hobnob Café has done tremendously well over its competitors is the use of soft drinks. While almost all its competitors offer a miserly glass of sherbet, or even if they do offer soft drink, it’s just a solitary glass, Hobnob offers an entire 1 litre bottle to each table in addition to a bottle of home-made lemonade. In fact they’re offering unlimited refills of soft drinks.

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And yes, there’s the option of hot beverage at the end of the meal as well. Now these three drinks wouldn’t put a dent in Hobnob’s pocket but the goodwill it generates is tremendous. If anything, this simple gesture won us over.

 

Although the service was generally good, we felt that the waiters were a bit late in identifying the empty plates on the tables and picking them up. This was evident even at Necos, the sister brand of Hobnob. The reason is that  both restaurants are a la carte, Ramadan being the only time they offer buffet meals. Therefore the staff is not that well-versed in the art of buffet.

 

Although both brands are owned by the same entrepreneur and serve pretty much the same categories of continental cuisines, you could clearly see the distinct demographics at each restaurant. While Necos had the A-listers frequenting it, Hobnob Café had an amalgam of SEC (Socio-economic class) A and B. Even Nilofer Saeed is well aware of this fact, hence her presence at Necos instead of Hobnob Café.

 

Overall there’s more diversity and depth in menu at Hobnob café compared to Necos.

 

The crusted chicken was an awesome experience. Akin to Arizona Grill’s chicken with mushroom, Hobnob’s version had the same feel to it but more generous pieces of mushrooms and an eclectic creamy cheese feel to it.

 

Fettuccine was a peculiar dish, eons away from its authenticity. By definition, Fettuccine is a type of pasta in the form of narrow ribbons. Here the pasta was nowhere to be found, unless the chef had shredded the pasta into pieces. All you could find was the sauce with all the frills. But without the main attraction, the frills all but fizzled out.

 

The egg fried rice was the standard  affair. So was Beef chili dry.

 

There’s something wrong with the recipe of chicken wings and drumsticks being used both at Necos and Hobnob Café. Not only was the taste awful, the chicken actually stunk!

 

The chicken sandwich was a pleasant surprise. Not many restaurants put much effort into getting their sandwiches right, but Hobnob Café came up with something that was truly scrumptious. The fact that it was served hot also enhanced the flavor.

 

We didn’t try most of the traditional items, but judging  by the taste of samosa and roll we did try, they weren’t anything to write home about.

 

Grilled fish olives and capers sauce was a no-frills affair. If you like your fish to be least tampered with; you’re going to love this. Generous fillet with no rich condiments.

 

Beef and prawn sauce had an overwhelming taste that pervaded your olfactory buds.

 

If you loved Copper Kettle’s Henny Penny, then you’re going to be disappointed with Hobnob Version. We don’t know what went wrong, but the magic just wasn’t there.

 

The Italian steak was a mixed bag. Just like Karachi’s ethnic wars on top of gas and electricity shortage, it had too much going at the same time. We felt the benign presence of pepperoni, then there was this larger slab of beef that wasn’t so benign. Sometimes you felt it wasn’t a steak but lasagna. They could definitely do with simplifying matters here.

 

The bbq mix was an assortment of bbq chicken pieces and seekh kabab. While the chicken pieces were sumptuous, the seekh kababs were pretty ordinary. It was a strange dish, completely out of line with the rest of the menu, and probably put there to add another dimension to this iftar deal.

 

And it was a hit with the customers as the dish was finished quite soon and wasn’t refilled.

 

Chicken Manchurian and chicken ginger didn’t look very inviting, probably put there as a filler material to up the number of dishes. Besides, there was enough attraction in the rest of the menu that you could afford to leave these two items. Therefore we didn’t test them.

 

We also skipped the chicken corn soup.

 

In the dessert section, you had a plethora of standard items including assorted mini-tarts, chocolate and strawberry cheese cake, caramel custard and pudding. And to trump it all, Caked Alaska in all its glory. Okay, maybe not in all its glory as the brownie tasted a bit out of character especially the freshness factor. It wasn’t on the buffet table and was served when you asked for it.

 

Contrary to Necos, most of the dessert items were fresh. In fact the chocolate cheese cake was finished by the time we had advanced to the desserts. And it wasn’t refilled. In a way that’s both good and bad. Bad in the way that the customer gets pissed off when he can’t get his hands on something that others had. And good in the way that nothing is left over to be used to piss off the customers the next day.

 

 

Compared to Necos, Hobnob Café offers more bang for the buck. Not only is the menu more diverse, it also offers soft drinks and the deal costs almost Rs.150 less than Necos. The difference between the two brands is that of demographics as well as the method of preparing the food. While Hobnob’s dishes are oozing with creamy concoctions with a bit of desi touch, Necos focuses on sparing use of artery clogging concoctions as well as sticking to the authentic recipes instead of introducing the desi dimension.

 

 

Of the deals we’ve tried in the last three years, Hobnob Café offers the most value for money in the category of Continental Iftar buffet. Maybe the reason is that this is the first year of Hobnob Café after the demise of Copper Kettle. Having a point to prove, they’re doing that extra bit to exceed the customer expectations.

 

In any case, if you’re looking to stuff yourself silly this Ramadan for just once with something other than desi and bbq items, we recommend you do it at Hobnob Café. Just ensure you make prior reservations.

 

You can have a look at the buffet table pictures posted on Hobnob Café Facebook page to help you nail your decision.

Olivetto’s Iftar Deal

Olivetto, the brainchild of Afroza Bhamani, is the latest addition to Karachi’s fine-dining foodscape.

Olivetto’s foray into the Ramadan iftar deal bandwagon in its very first year is a mixture of buffet deal and a la carte. While it’s far better than the other iftar platter + main entrée + dessert combo deals like the one offered by Fuchsia, it falls far behind the ones offered by veterans like Hobnob Café, Arizona Grill and Roasters. Even Necos‘s iftar deal although slightly expensive than Olivetto, fares better than Olivetto.

When we say it’s better, the major reason is that of the diversity of items on offer. Not only any item, but main entrees. For instance, Necos is offering its main entrées, each item worth over Rs.500, as part of its iftar dinner buffet. Same goes for Hobnob Café, Arizona Grill and Roasters.

Olivetto’s buffet is confined to Iftar items only: chana chaat, fruit chaat, samosa, jalebi, pakora, dahi phulki, sandwiches, khatta aaloo – the usual suspects. However, it has tried to innovate a bit with the addition of falafel, hummous, baba ganoush, moutabel and pita.

Olivetto followed the brilliant marketing acumen of ‘Under-promise over-deliver’ to the hilt by offering a single slice of pizza and a glass of soft drink that wasn’t mentioned on the menu. What’s more, the slice of pizza was brought individually to the table and not kept on the iftar buffet table to ensure that people didn’t take it for granted.

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What’s more, it was hot, fresh and scrumptious, showing that Olivetto really put the effort to get it right in spite of the fact that customers weren’t even expecting it. Simply brilliant.

In addition to this, there was a bottle of mineral water served as well which again wasn’t mentioned. The only drinks mentioned were tea and rooh afza. It seems Afroza Bhamani knows a thing or two about marketing.

Yes, they could make this strategy even more brilliant by offering a second round of pizza and drinks. Judging by our satiated appetites by the items on offer, we don’t think many people would opt for the second helping let alone a third one, but the goodwill this simple gesture would generate would be tremendous.

One thing worth noting here is that even the two types of sandwiches on offer were not part of the menu and were in fact part of the ‘over-deliver’ strategy. In order to ensure that people don’t take these sandwiches for granted, Olivetto would do well to serve the sandwiches separately just like the pizza.

While the roast beef sandwich was just okay, the chicken grilled sandwich was simply divine.

The fruit chat although refreshing was just another chat. Olivetto could definitely have sexed it up by including as many seasonal fruits as are available these days instead of just the rudimentary essentials. What’s more they could have made a cream fruit chaat! Now that would have given the customers something to cherish and the competitors  to think about since fruit chaat is one area no one pays much attention to.

Baba ganoush was delectable. Hummus we felt was a bit of a let down in the sense that the tangy taste of baba ganoush was present in it as well.  There are numerous ways of preparing the hummous and one of the most common ways is sans the tanginess. Here when you’re already offering one sour salad it makes sense to vary the taste of the other one.

The pita bread served with the iftar was in the form of long narrow strips and strangely hardened to the point of being crisp. However, the one served with the main entrée was hot and soft.

Apart from this iftar menu, Olivetto offers two different platters from which you can choose one. One they call the house platter and the other Mediterranean platter.

Both the platters comprise of a main entrée with a sideline thrown in for good measure and a dessert. However, there’s not much choice within the two platters. Once you choose one of the platters, you’ll have to go with the fixed items on the menu.

The Mediterranean platter comprises of the following:

  1. Lamb Chops and Beef Kabab or Samak Harra
  2. Shish Taouk with lemon and coriander sauce
  3. Vermicelli rice
  4. Om e Ali or Crème Brulee

We tried both the lamb chop version and samak harra version (you could choose only one in a platter).

Samak Harra is a Lebanese chilli fish. It is basically Sautéed fish fillet topped with garlic, cilantro, pureed tomatoes, onions and spicy seasonings, and sometimes sprinkled with toasled pinenuts. The Olivetto version was scrumptious.

Shish Taouk is a common Lebanese dish that comprises of grilled chicken skewers  marinated in olive oil, lemon, parsley, and sumac. While every other restaurant these days is offering this delicacy including BBQ tonight, the shish taouk at Olivetto far outweighed the rest of the competition. The biggest difference was in the quality of the meat itself and the way it was prepared. The chicken pieces were not only succulent; they literally melted in your mouth. Normally the chicken you would find in shish taouk at most Pakistani restaurants is rough and dry. What’s more, lemon is an inherent ingredient of shish taouk which almost all pakistani restaurants fail to incorporate. At Olivetto what you get is a rare gem.

The lamb chops were delectable as well. Maybe a bit over-marinated to offset any smell that is associated with lamb meat, but worth digging your teeth into.

For dessert, you could either go with Om e Ali or Crème Brulee. We tried both.

Om e Ali is an Egyptian dessert that contains phyllo dough or puff pastry, milk and nuts. There’s no rule as to what nuts to use, and we felt that Olivetto went a bit overboard with the nuts and all. It was too rich a dessert, but if that’s your cup of tea, then you’re going to love it.

Crème brûlée also known as burnt cream, crema catalana, or Trinity cream is a dessert consisting of a rich custard base topped with a contrasting layer of hard caramel. It is a strange dish, with sugar sprinkled on top of the custard and caramelized with usually a butane torch.

Although the custard base can be flavored with pretty much anything including chocolate, orange and coffee, at Olivetto it was vanilla flavored and served cold. Although we couldn’t get through it, having stuffed ourselves already, it was pure heavenly bliss. And if you yearn for your toddler days, the semblance of Cerelac taste in this french dessert is sure to give you a jolt of nostalgia.

The House Platter comprised of :

  1. Penne Arrabiata
  2. Chicken with mushroom sauce or pepper steak
  3. Gratin/mashed potatoes in sauce
  4. Roasted vegetables
  5. Italian bread pudding with ice cream

The chicken with mushroom sauce that we chose over pepper steak was simply divine.

The Penne Arrabiata however was mediocre.

The roasted vegetables were done sparingly. If you like your vegetables to be a bit raw, you would enjoy it.

The mashed potatoes with sauce wasn’t anything to write home about either.

The Italian bread pudding with ice cream was sumptuous, with the quantity enough to satiate your desire.

Although both the platters are enough to satiate your appetite especially when you take into account the iftar items and the pizza, on the face of it, it looks like you’ve been duped. Maybe because the menu claims it to be a platter and what you’re presented with is a solitary plate with all the items advertised bunched together.

Maybe they need to change the wording, removing the word ‘platter’, or if they continue to use it, rearrange the items to appear more expansive.

Although the service was generally good, one minor irritant we felt was the over-eagerness of waiters to leap to our table at every opportunity to pick up the plate irrespective of whether they were empty or not!

There’s a very thin line between being too attentive and too ignorant and the staff ought to be taught about the right timing.

Olivetto may have become relatively popular but the fact that it was completely deserted (once the Iftar deal was over) on a Saturday night ought to be a cause for concern. Maybe people were present in one of their private dining rooms but not a soul was in sight in the main hall. Maybe they need to constrain the liberal use of their private dining rooms so that customers have nowhere but to use the main hall. Unless there are sufficient people in a party, use of private dining room shouldn’t be allowed. If they don’t put a check on this practice now, pretty soon what they’ll have is an empty dining hall while everyone would be sitting smugly in their private rooms. That would not augur well for the brand one bit.

Olivetto’s tentative foray into iftar deals is quite good but if Olivetto is to compete with the likes of  heavyweights Hobnob Café, Arizona Grill, Roasters or even Necos, it will have to delve into the iftar dinner buffets big time.

N’eco’s Natural Store & Café Iftar Deal

N’eco’s Iftar Deal Rs.1343 inclusive of tax and service charges.

8-C- Lane 1, Bukhari Commercial Area

Phase 6, D.H.A.

Karachi, Pakistan.

Tel: (92-21) 3-584-4517 | E-mail: [email protected]

N’eco’s Iftar Buffet Menu:

  • Aaloo Samosa
  • Aaloo Roll
  • Pizza
  • Dahi pulki
  • Chana chaat
  • Fruit chaat
  • Chicken sandwich
  • Pepper Steak
  • Pasta in Tomato Sauce
  • Cumin Chicken
  • Beef in oyster sauce
  • Chicken wings in bbq sauce
  • Mexican chicken
  • Necos fish
  • Seafood Al-Forno
  • Plain rice
  • Tiramisu
  • Chocolate cake
  • Cup cakes
  • Chocolate mousse
  • Kheer
  • French Toast
  • Custard
  • Lassi
  • Imli Juice
  • Lemon lime
  • Cucumber detox drink

N’eco’s Natural Store and Café is a novel concept in Karachi’s foodscape. Nestled in the midst of pimp habitat and infamous spas in the obscure Bukhari commercial area (DHA phase VI), Necos is an ultra-niche café fixated on natural and organic products. It won’t appeal to everyone’s olfactory sense and it hasn’t tried very hard to do that. Until now.

It’s a fairly small café with hardly enough accommodation for roughly 30-35 people.

Although Necos is only a year old, with chips broken from wall edges, it seems that the place was being used for some other purpose and that it wasn’t renovated properly when Necos management took over.

Necos Iftar deal will not be able to hold a candle to the likes of Roasters, Arizona Grill or even Lal Qila and Village both in terms of variety and value for money, but it does offer unique varieties worth having a go at.

Nilofer Saeed, the owner not only of Necos but also Hobnob Café and Hobnob bakery, was seen schmoozing around right off the bat, playing the proverbial hostess. It looked as if she knew pretty much everyone present. It also points towards the fact that Necos has a very specific clientele who return and keep the café running. Obama needs to take a leaf from her book if he stands any chance of getting re-elected.

What’s more, contrary to other restaurateurs, Nilofer Saeed was happily devouring her own delicacies along with the others, showing by example that she herself is the biggest brand evangelist of Necos.

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One of the biggest flaws we found with Necos Iftar deal was also one of the simplest. For a café having the brand essence of being in line with nature and then going ahead and serving lemonade made from the packaged Limopani is definitely not on.

How much would have real lemons cost Necos? It’s all the more ironic because they also served one of their fresh detox juices which was flavored with herbs and cucumber.

The Imli juice tasted more like vinegar drink and didn’t appeal to our senses. Then there was the chilled lassi as well. All in all the drinks section was covered pretty well contrary to Necos’ contemporaries who are content with serving a miserly glass of lal sherbet.

The chicken mozzarella pizza was delectable. The thing commendable about it was that the entire crust was loaded with mozzarella with the chicken pieces interspersed in just the right balance instead of being stuffed. Nilofer Saeed had also done well to keep the  pizza coming in small quantities right from the oven as well as keeping the plate on a small burner to ensure the ‘Al Forno’ effect.

The beef steak with pepper sauce had to be the best of the lot. But it’s no wonder considering Nilofer Saeed’s prior expertise with steaks at Copper Kettle. Of course those who prefer the rare or well-done steaks are going to be disappointed, because the pepper steak was just about medium but the beef tender enough.

Cumin chicken was sumptuous, a concoction where the herbal condiments of Necos were felt in all their glory.  It comprised of grilled chicken breast topped with roasted cumin sauce. Cumin (Zeera) actually is a small plant of the parsley family whose aromatic seeds are used for flavoring purpose. Strangely enough, the true taste of zeera didn’t come through, which was a good thing.

The chicken wings were the worst of the lot. The crime? Stale foul-smelling chicken. In fact the smell was so strong that even the strong sauce couldn’t stop it from pervading your senses.

Lesson: It’s better to serve one item less if that item has the potential to be your undoing.

Necos fish seemed to be another entrée accentuated with herbs and stuff to the extent that the real taste of the fish was lost in between. It comprised of fillet of sole, pan-fried and served in an Asian style yellow-curry sauce. Maybe a bit toned-down version would do the trick. Not that the entrée wasn’t palatable.

Seafood Al Forno was an interesting concoction of shrimps and fish. In cooking, al forno is an Italian phrase describing food that is “at/from the oven”. What’s more, it is usually used for pizza, bread and pasta.

In this case Al Forno phrase didn’t make much sense as the entrée didn’t appear to be ‘straight from the oven’ by any stretch of the imagination.

Mexican chicken, a sort of a chicken chilli was remarkably mediocre and looked like to be a filler item rather than any worthwhile entrée. Here again grilled chicken breast was used immersed in what they claimed to be spicy Mexican-style sauce.

Pasta with chicken and tomato sauce may not compete with the high-end pasta varieties but surprisingly scrumptious.

Beef in oyster sauce had the most peculiar of tastes, with the beef coming across as if it had been overcooked.

Desserts overall were disappointing. And the major reason for that wasn’t just the lack of variety but the lack of fresh products on offer.

To begin with, both varieties of cupcakes although appealing to the eyes were downright stale beneath the façade. Same goes for the humungous chocolate fudge cake with cream sandwiched in between that you could just devour with your eyes. Unfortunately not with your mouth, because your taste buds instantaneously told you that the cake had seen better days.

We didn’t try the Tiramisu but have a feeling it wouldn’t have fared any better than its chocolate sibling.

The saving grace was the chocolate mousse and the French toast with whipped cream and banana.  Their forte was their freshness which came out refreshingly in each bite.

We tried neither kheer nor custard.

Although a total of 48 dishes were being advertised by Necos, 26 dishes were on offer for the deal.

We feel Necos could do a whole lot better by offering more specialties from their main menu in the Iftar deal. One particular entrée conspicuous by its absence was the crepe. Crepe are not only cost-effective but they would add another dimension to this iftar deal.

We also feel that Fettuccine Alfredo would serve much better than the simple pasta with the tomato sauce, adding prestige to the buffet menu.

Also Crispy Fish which is deep-fried fish fillet and comes with sautéed vegetables and tartar sauce is a much better choice than Ne’cos fish.

The second improvement needed is that of freshness, especially that of the desserts. If any of the items is not fresh, it’s far better to avoid serving it, even if that means curtailing the menu. By now they should have a fairly good idea of what customers love and thus adjust the quantity of each item accordingly.

All in all Necos iftar deal is fair enough viewed in the context of their normal menu prices.  Go for it only if you’re looking for something different from the mainstream buffet bandwagon and are not concerned about the number of dishes or the value for money.

However, if you fancy a buffet loaded with artery-clogging concoctions, this is not the place for you.

Necos is finally spreading its wings, aggressively promoting itself on KarachiSnob. However, it’s torn between focusing on its organic retail products and its café offerings. It would do well to divide them into two different sections, placing emphasis on each one at a time. In short a rethinking of their branding strategy.