Capri Restaurant established in 1970| Photography by Syed Zubairuddin Shah
Capri Restaurant established in 1970| Photography by Syed Zubairuddin Shah

Just as you turn left from Liberty Chowk towards Liberty Market in Lahore, you have Capri Restaurant to your left, just across the road from the now defunct Capri Cinema in Gulberg III. But while the movie theatre of the same name has closed its doors and brought down the curtain for good on its screen, the restaurant continues to thrive, due to booming business during breakfast, lunch and dinner hours. 

So which came first, Capri Restaurant or Capri Cinema? Your guess is as good as mine. Both have weathered the ravages of time and have stamped indelible memories on the generations that have since come and gone, with the restaurant eventually faring better than the movie theatre, and passing the litmus test. 

I was first ushered to Capri Restaurant in the very early 2000s by a very dear friend who was passionate about the Lahore cityscape and its many vintage eateries. He has since passed away.

I could clearly see the sparkle in his eyes as he led me inside the decades-old restaurant and ordered the choicest of items from the menu, then continued to wait patiently for our order to arrive.

Capri Cinema located just across the road from Capri Restaurant
Capri Cinema located just across the road from Capri Restaurant

It was, of course, before the boom of social media. Had it happened recently, we would have had loads of digital media such as photos, videos and hashtags to share.

The old world charm of Capri Restaurant and the now defunct Capri Cinema in Gulberg evoke fond memories of an era long gone, but the restaurant still allows you cherish and relive nostalgia even today

Capri Restaurant was established over half a century ago, in 1970, by the same management whose next generation continues to run it at present. The menu boasts of the standard breakfast fare of bakray kay payee (curried mutton trotters), nihari, qeema, maghaz (stir-fried goat’s brain), halwa puri with both hot and cold beverages such as sweet and salty lassi (buttermilk), coffee, tea and cold drinks.

Bucketfuls of lassi
Bucketfuls of lassi

The lunch and dinner menu witnesses an addition of karrhai, biryani and various barbecue items, besides the dal (pulses) and sabzi (vegetable) dishes. 

Bakray kay payee (spicy mutton trotters gravy) with kulchay (milk flatbread)
Bakray kay payee (spicy mutton trotters gravy) with kulchay (milk flatbread)

Neatly uniformed and courteous waiters make any visit a pleasurable experience, and there is an air of familiarity as they greet and welcome back old patrons with their families in tow on Sundays, which has become somewhat of a family tradition.

The ideal Pakistani Sunday breakfast
The ideal Pakistani Sunday breakfast

A favourite go-to place for many Lahoris, the restaurant utilises the spacious car parking lot of Capri Cinema, giving it an appearance of a drive-in movie theatre, even during daylight hours.

The rows upon rows of neatly parked cars temporarily revives fond old memories, when the facade of the movie theatre would be buzzing with life and energy, while displaying the posters of the very latest Lollywood releases, attracting and inviting all and sundry to the aisle seats within to witness the magic of motion pictures.

Dare I mention that the Melody Queen Madam Noor Jehan resided a mere stone’s throw away, at her palatial bungalow on main Liberty Chowk, which has since been sold off and razed to accommodate a sprawling shopping mall?

But that was another time and another world, when things were much simpler and the world a much more innocent place.

The writer is a member of staff.
He tweets @faisal_quraishi

Published in Dawn, EOS, January 22nd, 2023

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