Seasoned with salt n' pepper

Food byte

When one has the time and wants to make the effort to really satisfy one’s taste buds, a trip to Lahore’s Salt n’ Pepper Village Restaurant (popularly known as Village) is no less than a pilgrimage for a gourmand! I visit Lahore only for Salt n’ Pepper Village — world’s best in the comity of restaurants for its 64 high tea items, 70 varieties of food for lunch, and 78 others for dinner. And, it never leaves a hole in your pocket.

The Salt n’ Pepper Village Restaurant depicts a picture of the Punjab province in Pakistan. It has changed the dining experience by offering classic Pakistani dishes in a live buffet style. Dining at Salt n’’ Pepper makes one feel special and royal.

Located at Lahore’s posh Gulberg-III, M M Alam Road or ‘Food Street’, Village is the one and only eating jaunt of your choice — and the entire family’s for that matter. True to its name, the entire street is lined with restaurants of all varieties. New restaurants are constantly opening and business is extremely competitive. Many boisterous restaurants are open late into the night.

The setting of this eatery is very much like that of its name — village-like, with interiors that make one feel like it were a medieval fortress or a cheiftan’s mansion. As people in Punjab can be true gluttons, the tables here are huge, topped with a lot of food. Some of the best items at lunch, dinner and high tea are — mutton karhai, nahari, shami kebab, stuffed qeema karela, chicken chilly vegetable, sweet n’ sour chicken, chicken haleem, kofta gosht, chicken gola kebab, mutton paya, moti pulao, chicken chowmein, palsk gosht, ghiya gosht besides many others.

Even the vegetarians have the best of Punjabi food with dishes like Lahori chana, achari aaloo bhaji, pakora curry, bhindi pyaaz, gole gappa, garam chana chaat, mix daal, achari paratha, dhaniya paratha, aloo paratha, saada paratha, dahi barhe, etc. One can help oneself to the ‘Salad and Chutney Trolley’, from where one can pick up any chutney — sweet, hot or sour.

If you have a sweet tooth, you are really blessed, for you can have inimitable varieties in the form of kheer, sewaiyan, jalebi, andarsa, sweet samosa, firni thoothi, chuqandar halwa, lauki halwa, rooh ki kheer, zarda, kulfi falooda, gulab jamun, ras malai, etc.

The all-important lamb chops have a good amount of meat on them, a proper cheek-coating crust with a welcome citrus burst at the end, as if they’d been doused in lemon juice as they came off the flame. Seekh kebabs — minced lamb — were soft and tender and not overly fiery. The stars, though, were pieces of tandoori fish. In a cooking culture which favours the mallet over the feather, the thump over the tickle, there is always the risk that fish will be cooked until it surrenders. Here, the flakes fell apart with just the tap of the fork, and the rub did not overwhelm its flavour.

Kashmiri Lal Zakir, famous Urdu and Punjabi writer from Chandigarh, has truly said, “Jinne Lahore nai vekhya/ Wo te jamiya hi naiee!” (He, who hasn’t seen Lahore/ He isn’t even born!). As far as good food is concerned, going to Lahore is a pilgrimage. The city is known for food and feasting. If you go to Lahore and miss the Village, you would have missed the world!

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