May Issue 2010
Back to Basics at Organic CafÃ©
The appetite for all that is organic and eco-friendly is growing the world over, and one knew it would only be a matter of time before the craze would catch on in Pakistan. In fact, I am surprised it took as long as it did — but as they say in Urdu, ‘dair aaye, durast aaye.’ Nilofer Saeed, of Copper Kettle and Hobnob fame, has taken the plunge and established N‘eco’s, a one-stop organic store, deli, and cafÃ©. The one-of-a-kind outlet has a variety of goodies to tantalise the taste buds and tempt the health freaks among us.
Unobtrusive-looking from the outside, there is something inherently warm and welcoming in the simple and nature-friendly interior of the outlet. A tree stands in the middle of the cafÃ© with trunk-like tables and wooden chairs occupying the area around it. At one end is an open kitchen where items are freshly produced for the deli and the diner. On the other end is a display of goodies, comprising both sweets and savouries, a chilled section stocking sauces, compotes, etc., and an attractive area with herbs and plants — all for the customers to take home and enjoy.
And it doesn’t end there. A well-stocked basement boasts an assortment of products ranging from natural handmade soaps to candles and oils, and even fresh vegetables and aata (wholegrain wheat). So for those planning to visit to just grab a bite, I suggest that they be prepared to loosen their purse-strings for more than just a wholesome meal, as the other goodies are too hard to resist.
Breakfast is served throughout the day so anybody craving eggs or pancakes after 12 p.m. can make their way to N‘eco’s. The regular menu includes a variety of soups and salads but the snacks are limited to two kinds of items (flat breads and sandwiches) within which there is a substantial variety to choose from. We opted for flat bread with tomatoes, feta cheese, capsicum and olives. Similar to an ultra-thin pizza, we found the platter appetising, particularly after sprinkling some extra salt and pepper on it. However, although freshly baked, it was not as warm as it had been on the opening day, when it would have been understandable for the food to have been pre-prepared, and thus cold.
From the sandwich section we opted for a grilled moist chicken breast with mild, smoky, chilli aioli and lettuce. A filling and wholesome platter, it was accompanied by a katchumer-like concoction, except that it also had potatoes.
Since we had spotted some tempting desserts on the deli counter, we decided to try them. We opted for three items and were not disappointed. The chocolate cake had a rich, soft texture with melt-in-your-mouth butter icing. The lemon tart was scrumptious: the tart was crisp and the lemon mixture had just the right amount of tartness. The strawberry tart on the other hand, served as a slice of strawberry pie, was tasty enough, but could have done with a little more pie crust, as one could only taste the rich filling and not enough of the pie.
The beverages we ordered were unfortunately all disappointing. The latte seemed more like coffee mixed in lukewarm water. Reheating it did improve the taste, but it was still far from the real thing. Similarly, the iced-mocha latte was anything but iced: it was hardly cold and lacked authentic flavour. The mint tea was not great either and was unpleasantly sweet.
We found the service quick and efficient — in fact, at times we felt it was too efficient, for the waiters were in a hurry to remove our plates, whereas we wanted to savour the dessert at our own pace.
While the natural food outlet is a welcome addition to Karachi’s ever-expanding food chain, there are some grey areas to be looked into to guarantee total satisfaction. Improving the beverage section and increasing the variety on the menu would certainly help, as would speeding up the bill paying process, which takes far too much time.
The next time you want to indulge yourself and not deal with the usual pangs of guilt, just head over to N ‘eco’s for their guilt-free, tasty — and might I add — organic goodies.
This article originally appeared in the print version of Newsline as “Back to Basics.”
The writer is a freelance journalist based in Karachi. She also works at Hum television.