ISLAMABAD - It’s a game of numbers when it comes to Iftari competition in Islamabad. The larger the number of items offered, higher the price.  In last one year, new eateries have popped up in different sectors of Islamabad and F-7 is now the new Mecca for the food aficionados with exponential growth of eateries, replacing Khosur Market in F-6, Islamabad. This time around, the emphasis has been on the dinner items, rather than iftari platters at most of the eateries. Gone are the days when Iftari was a close family and friend’s affair. It has now turned out to be a full commercial venture with restaurants competing on the iftar and Sehr deals with innovating offers to attract the clients and rope in as many customers as they can.  Customers too on the other hand have become very cautious on value for money so they do not fall in the trap easily.  Secondly official or company paid iftars are also on the rise. This trend has picked up very fast in last few years and is increasing the numbers with every passing year. Corporate iftars are organised on company expense to please stakeholders, clients and it eventually pays off as pending and proposed deals with the clients are locked over the table. So, it’s like putting the money where the mouth is. In a nutshell it’s a win win for all. The restaurants are full to capacity and the guests get an opportunity to try different iftaris at different eateries.  A few iftars marked in the check box this Ramazan are put forth for the readers pick.

Yum Chinese café in F-7 iftar dinner is all pan-Asian menus. Chinese, Thai and a few Indonesian dishes comes down pretty heavy on the pocket as it’s priced at Rs2150 plus tax.  A bill for a group of four Roza-daars , exceeds Rs10,000 in total and the guilt only hits at the time of billing.  There is no doubt that the food items on display counter, justify the cost charged but the question is how much a single person can eat out of the 10-15 dishes at one time when one has already gulped a glass of lemonade, Roh Afza, few fried  samosa, rolls and pakaora’s, not to mention fruit chat and channa chat bowl. So it’s better if you are invited by a client.

Nirvana Café which is now housed in Aks Gallery next to Pak-China centre near Shakarprian is priced at Rs1,350 plus tax. Iftari at Nirvana is not only affordable but sumptuous as well.  The café lays iftari at first and after 15-20 minutes the same stationed, dinner is served. The menu is a mix of Pakistani and a few continental items which includes curry dishes, bbq and a few fried items. It’s an easy to pick and choose and the combination is just perfect. 

Mughali Courtyard in F-8 makes your quest for desi food answered to the fullest. An all l Desi menu, Mughali courtyard satisfies all genres as the items on the offer are tried and tested many a times. BBQ and gravy mix platters supports the gastronomical need of the hour. The aroma coming out of the open kitchen, the sound of Kat-a-Kat, replenishment of aromatic kebabas and chicken boti, forces the guests to pilgrim the display table stationed at the courtyard. The ant above the sleeve is the Shinwari Dumba Karahi and the mini chapali kebabs a must savour item. The price tag at Mughali Courtyard is Rs1599 plus tax.

Wild Wings in F-7 has something different to offer. All you can eat platter wings come with a tag price of Rs649 plus tax and one can go bonkers. From 7PM - 9PM, unlimited amount of chicken wings served with five different Dipping sauce in the likes of Spicy mayo, Garlic, Honey mustard, Ranch and Chili garlic sauce. By the time the clock strikes nine, customers prefer flying over walking out of the door. 

However, the showstopper in this Ramazan is no doubt Shakespeare’s Lounge in F-7 located on First Floor opposite Flower Market. A close to home setting, the place has a capacity of 40 guests excluding the balcony overlooking the Margalla hills.  Iftari at Shakespeare Lounge is priced at Rs899 plus tax and it’s worth every penny. The owner is present throughout the Iftar time and one can see the dishes being replenished round the clock, Lemonade containers being refilled and customers being served hot assortments on the table. Peri Peri wraps, Lollipop Chicken, Pepperoni Crostini’s and Potato Wings were simply irresistible and the servers were seen coming in and out of the kitchen door time and again as the platters got polished off in a matter of minutes. Cozy ambience, personalised service and hot from the oven simply makes Shakespeare Lounge cut above the rest.  The dessert comes in a three tier platter filled with brownies, éclair’s caramel pastry and profiteroles.  Lollipop chicken is crumb fried boneless chicken chunks on skewers accompanied by Honey mustard dip which was lip-smacking. The tender juicy chicken, coated in bread crumbs was crunchy enough to justify its freshness. Pepperoni Crostini’s were fresh bread slices cut from the baked loaf and laced with pepperoni sauce and cheddar cheese toping before being put under the heat to melt. The cheese oozing out of the slices in a mix of pepperoni lava was divine. Panini was three tier square slices with chicken, beef and salami, julienned green veggies and garlic mayo. The basil leafs, sandwiched in between managed to infuse its distinctive aroma in the light toasted bread. Fruit Chat was creamy, thus forming a laced texture over the mix fruits, papari chat oomph the taste of the yogurt with tamarind mix and crispy papadoms on the top making noises in the mouth. Hot cup of tea went well with the golden brown and cheesy wraps. For the year, 2018, for sure Shakespeare’s Lounge has won the trophy of Iftari of the Year.

–The writer is a freelance contributor