The cookies are all aesthetically pleasing; large, with visible chunks of chocolate. — White Star
The cookies are all aesthetically pleasing; large, with visible chunks of chocolate. — White Star

ISLAMABAD: The first thing you notice walking into Karamel is the aroma of freshly baked cookies.

Across from the entrance is a display case filled with an assortment of cookies, from the classic milk chocolate chunks in vanilla batter to fancier varieties, stuffed with Nutella or with three different types of chocolate.

The cafe itself is small. A large window overlooking the Beverly Centre rear parking lot promises ‘LIVE BAKING, ICE CREAM, COFFEE’ in red neon. Inside, a slim bar takes up one wall, and across from it are three tables along a low, red sofa. Another red neon sign, this one promising ‘COOKIES’, is mounted above.

The ambiance, overall, is underwhelming. Although there are moments of style in the red neon signs and a vintage-style mounted poster advertising “highly addictive” freshly baked goods, the rest of the outlet isn’t particularly stylish.

However, despite the limited space, the outlet doesn’t feel too crowded even when all the seating is taken up. That said, the music can be loud, which makes it difficult to carry a conversation.

One of the best things about the outlet is its location. Beverly Centre is one of few commercial centres where it’s easy to loiter, either outside on the stairs when the weather allows, or even inside, with a take-away cookie and a coffee in hand. One of the other positives is that there are two charging points on either side of the bar.

According to Karamel’s menu, there are 12 types of cookies on offer, along with four kinds of cookie cakes and two kinds of brownies. The cookies and brownies are also served with vanilla ice cream, and the outlet also sells a few types of coffee, cardamom tea and soft drinks.

If you’re dining in, the cookies are served warmed in a microwave, which is an easy way to recreate the dining experience at home.

The cookies are all aesthetically pleasing; large, with visible chunks of chocolate. The most interesting is the Chunky Blend, half milk chocolate in vanilla batter and half a triple chocolate cookie.

Despite how chocolaty it looks, the cookie isn’t too sweet, but it is a touch too soft in the centre. Served warm, the chocolate is almost a little melted, but the edges remain crunchy.

The white chocolate in vanilla base showcases the white chocolate even if the cookie comes out a little too sweet overall, but the triple chocolate is surprisingly mild when it comes to that generic sweetness and instead highlights the flavour of the chocolate batter.

Texturally, and in terms of flavour, the oatmeal dark chocolate is a stand-out. The oatmeal base adds a nice earthy flavour to the cookie, which complements and highlights the dark chocolate.

The cookie is also chewier and crunchy at the edges, baked perfectly so that it’s soft in the centre.

Cookies with vanilla ice-cream make a good combination on a warm day. However, the disappointing thing about the combo was that the flavour of both gets lost in the overpowering, indefinable sweetness of the dessert.

The cookie on its own is good, and texturally, the crunchy edges and soft centre works perfectly with the ice cream, but together the dish is just a touch too sweet.

Karamel, which also has outlets in Lahore and Karachi, opened its doors in Islamabad at the end of April. According to shift in-charge Uzair, the most popular varieties are the New York chunky and double chocolate cookies, the triple chocolate and the Nutella-filled.

The ice cream is not made in-house but brought in from another company, and the outlet plans to launch Karamel’s cookie cups next month, he told Dawn.

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2018

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