On Friday evening as my mind ran over the various eateries experienced, my mobile phone rang and the voice at the other end invited me to Scafa, a unique ‘culinary school’ eatery that has an amazing ‘tasting menu’.
So at 8pm after essential preparations at home, I was at Scafa, or the ‘School of Culinary and Fine Arts’, in the EFU Building on Jail Road. My hosts were the delightful Mr. and Mrs. Javed Malik and LGS’s Mrs. Shah. What better company can one wish for? This place has two sessions a night for a maximum of 12 persons only a session, starting at 8pm with the second at 10pm. The two expert chefs are from England and Chile. They formerly worked in Dubai, with Beirut being their next ‘planned’ stop. The menu is pre-planned.
We were served a seven-course meal starting with ‘Heirloom Tomato Salad’, which was a slice each of 13 varieties of fresh tomatoes served with Cottage Cheese and topped with parsley oil. A light excellent start. The entire cold meal experience was constructed by these two expert chefs on a table before the ten guests. Then came a ‘Sweet and Sour Seafood Medley’, which constituted tiger prawns, squid and red snappers set on a bed of white rice vermicelli. This was followed by the main presentation of ‘Spiced Chicken Breast’, baked to utter perfection with avocado and set on a mysterious bed of ‘quinoa’, which is a South American edible seed that has been a delicacy for over 7,000 years. The UN’s FOA declared 2013 as the ‘International Year of the Quinoa’. One always learns in the culinary world. It is a sort of land-grown ‘caviar’, or so the description goes.
Then came a beautifully decorated plate with Norwegian salmon, followed by a ‘Roast Leg of Lamb’. This meat actually melted in the mouth for it had been slow-cooked for 36 hours. Imagine! It was served with baked Dauphin Potatoes. So after five excellent cold dishes it was time for two sweet ones. The dark chocolate mousse with a crème Anglaise was followed by a yummy ‘Sticky Toffee Pudding’, the sort one devours with creamy vanilla ice cream. We were all so full after seven courses stretched over 90 minutes of sheer excellence that leaving the eatery needed an effort … or was it stiff legs?
Let me judge this experience on the Michelin Scale of one to nine. For food quality it gets eight out of nine, for food taste seven out of nine, for quality of crockery and cutlery it gets a huge seven, for service a seven is justice, for ambience it gets seven for this is a unique setting of ‘high and fine’ dining. For prices (I was not paying, but checked on their web site), it gets six (no economy prices, just first class). For cleanliness it gets a massive eight and finally for variety, well this place has a pre-set menu so we can be generous with a seven.
This averages out to 7.1 out of nine, which is among the highest given to any eatery since this column started. Definitely recommended, but book only when the menu agrees with your taste. A very different sort of ‘Eating Out’ experience.
Just one other point needs to be laboured. This is a culinary school and in the day time trains not only chefs, but also diners on how to use knives and forks correctly, how to set tables and serve properly. It would be interesting if school children are taught about fine dining in all its aspects. An interesting addition to Lahore’s culinary scene.
Published in Dawn, May 8th, 2016