The Patio: Under a Pomegranate Canopy
Rainy Friday afternoons are meant for long, relaxed lunches, especially if you live in Karachi. For precisely 3 weeks, our city will have a “winter”. Karachi’s winter is equivalent to a casual breezy autumn day elsewhere in the country, which is why every Karachiite frantically attempts to enjoy this weather while it lasts. I’m no different, which is why I ended up at The Patio with my BFF.
The Patio has a special place in my heart. It is one of my favorite places for dinner in the city and the fact that I don’t visit it often enough is a travesty. You may well wonder what is so great about this place, given the sheer number of fine dining restaurants present in Clifton and DHA. In response I say; there’s just something about The Patio. It is a charming, unobtrusive little nook in Clifton Block 4, with a discreet little sign on the gate being the only indicator that there is a restaurant here at all. It makes me feel as if we have stumbled onto a place unknown and secluded, a veritable oasis of calm in the city.
Once inside we occupied a seat on the patio, of The Patio. Haha. Pomegranate trees formed a canopy above us and fat fruit dangled overhead, how romantic. A sleepy marmalade cat lounged under our table. The trees are festooned with glorious brass lights. I felt like we were sitting in a glade in a forest. All outside sounds are muted, the traffic a distant hum and all we heard was a soft rustle of the newspaper being read by a lady sitting at the next table. The order had yet to be placed.
An eager young waiter handed us our menus and scampered off to get our drinks; a peach iced tea for me and a fresh lime Sprite for my friend. The peach iced tea was that perfect balance of sugar and bitterness, with a hint of fruity goodness. Sprite is Sprite.
A glance at the menu, and we were set. I’d been craving the paneer shashlik, so that one was ordered forthwith, while Sidra was in charge of the main. Since we had decided to split the dishes between us (and thereby also the calories therein) we promptly lost any and all restraint. We ordered a decadent chicken fettuccine alfredo and a rich chocolate mousse for our “no carb left behind” meal.
The paneer (cottage cheese) shashlik was so pretty that we almost didn’t want to eat it. Fat chunky cubes of paneer paired with wedges of tomato and paper-thin slivers of onions skewered together and grilled to perfection. Served with a tangy green chili dipping sauce. A perfect appetizer!
A skewer per person and we dove right in. Straight off the bat, there was that lovely crispy skin on the paneer, which had a little bite to it. Cut through that, and it’s all smooth, creamy cheese, which is heaven when dipped into the green sauce. I could consume that green sauce by the gallon. It’s the sauce you can pour onto anything, be it samosa, roll, chicken, beef, fish. You name it, and that sauce will elevate it. Getting back to the paneer, you can tell that it has been in some spicy marinade because the outer layer has a nice spicy zing to it. The paneer skewers were consumed within seconds and Sidra and I were debating ordering another serving when the chicken fettuccine made an appearance.
Now here’s where Patio service stands out. We had asked for a dish to share, as mentioned earlier, and I was expecting the servings to be on the small side, with the requisite grilled chicken breast to be split between us. Instead, we get two huge dishes of fettucine, with two grilled chicken breasts- one per person. That right there is golden. It is also indicative of the level of service we can expect to get at the Patio.
One bite and conversation abruptly halts. That fettucine was a perfect dish. Fettucine Alfredo is commonly seen on pretty much every menu, so for The Patio to take this dish and elevate it is a feat in itself. Perfectly cooked pasta, slightly al dente, with a smooth creamy cheese sauce, not too mild, not too strong, not too watery or too thick. Tender chicken chunks on top, with a sprinkling of parmesan and freshly, cracked black pepper. A feast for the gods.
We rounded up our calorie-laden feast with the utterly decadent chocolate mousse. Now, this wasn’t your mama’s chocolate mousse. Whatever chocolate was used in the making of this dish must have been top notch because all I could taste was deep dark, divine chocolate. The only quibble I had here was that it was almost too rich. You need something to cut into that intense flavor.
And so we spent a glorious afternoon, whiling away the time, talking of shoes, ships and sealing wax, cabbages, and kings. Every so often, the discreet and unobtrusive waiter flitted around, placing dishes on the table and removing, topping up our drinks and changing the cutlery as needed.
Eventually, we called for the bill and stepped back into our busy, hectic lives. But whenever I want a breather, a decadent paneer shashlik to be consumed, or even just a place to while away the hours under a Karachi winter sky, I know where to go.