Spice of East: An Open Air Affair
As the chilly winter winds start to blow, I always find myself looking for outdoor spaces. The search is not only for good food but also for lively ambiance. No better combination than juicy barbecue platters and cozy bonfires. One day, while aimlessly scrolling through my newsfeed, Facebook began auto-playing a video. It was a singer performing at an outdoor venue, upon a little more investigating I learned about a fantastic new place; Spice of East. I reserved a spot for Saturday night, hoping to catch a music session like the one I had seen in the video. My experience certainly did not disappoint.
Spice of East for Winter Nights
Upon entering, the restaurant with my friends, I was taken aback by the balmy outdoor setting that was sprawled out before me. Spice of East is divided into two slightly distinct sections. One covers the restaurant while the other half is a lively outdoor tea place; Karakhel.
The outdoor space was well-lit with a lovely provincial vibe. The seating arrangements were sprawled out across Spice of East in a remarkably posh manner. I adored the warm festive huts that were constructed on slightly raised platforms and immediately lamented my friend for not picking out a better place to sit. We were seated right in the middle of the restaurant in the serene and peaceful dining area. However, the action was clearly at Karakhel. Hence, after placing our orders, we ventured over to the high-toned festive environment that the tea shop had to offer.
Karakhel: The Outdoor Spot
I found myself incredibly impressed by the ambiance that Spice of East had to offer. Within a few minutes, I knew it would become my new favorite winter spot. It had the most striking outdoor décor with a juxtaposed mixture of tribal accents and the quirkiness of a roadside dhaba. The walls had been painted a bright yellow and decorated with riveting frames depicting truck art and horse shows from across the country.
The most fascinating arrangement was perhaps their bonfire, which also serves as a tea stall for their tandoori chai and various other specialties. The wooden bowls that are used to serve the tea are first heated on coals, while the kettle is also bubbling nearby. While I’m not big on tea, the experience was so fascinating that I couldn’t help but try a cup. It had a sublime aroma and I could taste the tandoori flavor synonymous with the coals. The sugary richness of pure gurr (jaggery) took it to another level. If you’re a tea lover you’ll love this experience. Karakhel offers a variety of green teas, and I really enjoyed sipping their suleimani and peshawari kehwa.
For the Foodies
The food at Spice of East will take your taste buds on a joyful ride, exploring the rare tribal cuisines of Pakistan. We ordered their mutton khada, a specialty that is prepared in a makeshift underground oven. My friends agreed that it was the best rendition of the dish in Lahore. I ordered a Kashmiri specialty, chicken hara masala handi. It was a creamy delight that I thoroughly enjoyed. We also devoured a scrumptious barbecue platter, the meat was juicy and well done.
After the feast, we ventured over to the live music venue near the campfire. Hamza Abbas Malik, a budding singer was performing. Everyone was seated around the bonfire, creating a merry arrangement for a riotous affair. As we sang along with Hamza, crooning romantic songs and old Indian numbers, the warmth of hot tea cups shielding our palms against the chilly wind. The merriment of the affair left us craving for more.
It was an unpretentious and oppressively magnificent affair and I strongly recommend that everyone head out and bask in the warm and festive glow that this place has to offer. It is truly a place where you can spend hours and hours, without realizing the need to get back home.