Lahoris greet the winter

Waqas Habib Rana eats his way through the Coca-Cola Food and Music Festival Lahore 2017, without removing his critical lens

Lahoris greet the winter
Winters arrived in Lahore with a thick layer of smog making it difficult to even breathe properly. I knew that Coke’s Food and Music Festival is around the corner and I was looking forward to attending it – but I had my concerns that it might be hard to enjoy the event in the smog. But then, rain poured down and cleared the sky, finally allowing the sun to properly shine on Lahore. The weather was suddenly so nice that you felt like saying, “Lahore Lahore Ay” (No city is like Lahore). And if you add good food and music on top of that chilly weather, you are in for a treat. Evidently, that’s exactly what the organisers of Coca-Cola Food and Music Festival had in mind.

I decided to go to the event on its second day, which was Saturday, the 18th of November. I left home around 5 pm – which is the best time I would recommend for you to start your journey towards any such event. Otherwise, the traffic makes it impossible to reach the event without one or two hours of delay and that just ruins the mood. In fact, that’s precisely the kind of traffic that I got stuck in on the last day of the festival; the Sunday. I left home at around 6:30 pm – a big mistake – and reached the Royal Palm around 8:30 pm. The traffic police were instructed to divert traffic coming towards the Royal Palm because they couldn’t accommodate any more cars. So I had to park my car outside the premises and walk to the event.

Over 12,000 Foodies united for Day 02 of #CokeFest

I had mixed expectations because the last such event that I attended was The Lahore Eat 2017 (published in The Friday Times, titled “What Lahore doest best”) in March and it was pretty average. I was hoping for Coke Festival to be better than Lahore Eat. After a struggle to find parking space inside the Royal Palm for a good ten minutes, I finally succeeded and entered the venue.

My first impression was that it was crowded and well decorated in terms of the kind of sitting arrangements they had. The sitting area was covered from the top, which kept matters a bit cozy. Moreover, the sitting area was near the stage; so people were able to truly enjoy weather, food and music at the same time. I wanted to object to the 300-rupee entry ticket, but when I saw the arrangements, I thought it was worth it.

I can tell you that I was saving a lot of my appetite for this event, so I was eager to try some food as soon as I entered the venue. The key for me is to try as many eateries as is physically possible. So, the ideal situation is that you are served a small quantity of food at a reasonable price, otherwise you may end up trying something in a large quantity – and you might not even like it. Also, of course, it’s important that you don’t waste food by just throwing it away, which is something that happens far too often in such situations in Pakistan.
Here is a suggestion: request the management present at these stalls to customise your order. Have them serve you a platter

Working my way through the eateries, my first stop was Daily Deli Co. They had mini beef burgers for 150 rupees apiece. I tried their Tangy Jalapeno beef burger. It was exactly what I needed to get me started. I found the sizzling combination of beef and jalapenos delightful to my tastebuds. You can’t really eat a normal-sized burger at such an event – you’d be left with no appetite for a good couple of hours. So, thumbs up to Daily Deli for serving the mini burgers.

I thought that’s all the fast/junk food I was going to eat that night.

I believe the next eatery that I went to was a smart choice on my part; they served just what I needed at that point, something that hits the spot and begins to address your desire for good food in the presence of good weather and music. I wanted a bit of Thai or Chinese cuisine. And The Rice Bowl served me scrumptious crispy chicken with sweet-and-sour chilli sauce in that context. Now I didn’t much like their chow mein at all, but I absolutely loved their vegetable spring roll. The price for that was 400 rupees but the taste was worth every paisa of it.

Here is a suggestion: request the management present at these stalls to customise your order. Have them serve you a platter of sorts. It’ll work out best, I assure you.

At this stage I felt like I needed a hot beverage. Coffee Planet’s cappuccino kept my brain cells active and helped me to find the best desi cuisine eatery that I needed to go to next.

Performers - Ali Sethi, Asim Azhar, Bilal Maqsood from Strings and (bottom) Overload

My next stop was Desi Tarka. Recent graduates of LUMS attained the second position in a food competition organised by Sprite. Desi Tarka serves the ever-so-classic dish of Daal Chawal, with two options of Kaali (black) or Peeli (yellow) daal. I asked for Peeli Daal with Tarka (seasoning). I can assure you that it was one of the best Daal Chawal servings that I have ever eaten. The Daal was properly done: all its ingredients were held together to give a perfect taste. The thickness was right on point. They do not have a restaurant in Lahore as of now. I can only hope that they open one soon.

The Rice Bowl's offering of Crispy Chicken with Sweet & Sour Chilli Sauce, Chow Mein and vegetable spring rolls

It was time for me to have some Kashmiri Chai, because you’ve got to have some Chai on such a chilly night, or else you’re wasting your time spent out. So I headed to Chai Kada. It was the perfect conclusion to my food expedition for the night, as I sat down to enjoy the live performance by Overload.

As per the organisers, some 39,000 people attended the three-day event. It was a well-organised event. Kudos to Foodies ‘R Us, Activemedia and Lotus, as the organising partners and PR agency.

And I have good news for residents of the twin cities as the Coke Food Festival now goes to Islamabad on the 8th, 9th and 10th of December 2017.

Waqas Habib Rana can be reached on Twitter at @waqas464