Café de Brando: Where Marlon Brando ordered a second beef burgerArchive
Of recent the people of Lahore have seen the re-emergence of the Faletti’s Hotel, an exquisite colonial era hotel built in 1880. This 135-year old hotel was once the pride of Lahore. It has again managed to, somewhat partially yet, regain its place.
On Saturday afternoon I dropped in for a quick lunch at ‘Café de Brando’, named after famous Hollywood icon Marlon Brando, who had stayed at this fashionable hotel. His room has been preserved and is worth visiting as is the room of film icon Ava Gardner. The main dining hall, where once was the famous dancing hall with its wooden floor, houses an exquisite Lebanese eatery named ‘L’Auberge’.
Here the two main chefs are from Lebanon, as are all the ingredients, except the meat which is fresh and local. Mind you good Pakistani beef and lamb is a world-class fare, and full of taste. I will leave that place for another occasion, and tackle Cafe Brandon in this piece.
In the company of a finicky friend, my opening order was a plate of ‘buffalo wings’, and they were great, with a sweet-sour coating this is the real thing. Then for the main course I went for their famous ‘Real Beef Burger’. My history tells me that this is exactly what Marlon Brando had once ordered, and as he was then in his prime, he ordered a second one.
The comment he left allegedly says: “The burgers were swell”. So I went for it as the chef assured me that the beef is fresh, healthy and without any fat. My finicky friend, who shall remain unnamed, pulled a face and ordered their amazing ‘fish and chips’. Now how very British.
My beef burger came in all its glory in this small but tasteful eatery in a colonial setting that oozes class. The fries with the burger were nice and thick as I had requested, with salads to add to the taste. My friend’s fish and chips also looked good, and given my experience with this dish I could make out that they serve really good quality food.
The bun was excellent and slightly toasted on the inside to give it body, instead of caving in as most eateries provide. It is a lack of understanding of the way bread behaves. On the inside the beef burger was juicy and wholesome and one could see that it had weight and sizzle.
One bite and one experienced a feeling that I was eating a genuine beef burger. It was a nice feeling and by the time I was through there was just no way I could manage a second helping like the great actor had allegedly managed. Gosh, he must have been very hungry.
My friend’s fish was flaky and he claimed it was among the best ones he had seen in Pakistan. We ended this meal with a single portion of vanilla ice cream followed by this hotel’s legendary ‘Sulemani tea’, a Middle East speciality which, allegedly, royalty prefer. Excellent experience.
Let me mark this ‘eating out’ experience on the Michelin Scale of one to nine. For food quality it gets a very high eight out of nine, for food taste a seven is about right, for service six, for the quality of the crockery and cutlery it’s a flat eight. Classy stuff. For prices a miserly five, for this is expensive, and why not.
Class costs, but it gets a low rating.
For ambience a well-deserved seven, for the menu range a six, for it sticks to the classics only. The ease of approach is a major factor for this is located near the city and within the green clean belt. There is ample clean parking, and this manages to win them seven points.
All this averages out to a score of 6.75 out of nine which is excellent. Without the price factor it climbs into the seven zone, which by even international standards is a five-star performance. Full marks for restoring an excellent eatery. Highly recommended if a quiet classy meal is desired.
On Saturday morning, I dropped in at my friend Sheroo’s house to present him with two books on Lahore. This is an old Kashmiri Sheikh family whose ‘hareesa’ is legendary in Lahore since our GC days.
My friend insisted that I have a second breakfast and his son Nausherwan laid out the delicacy. It was the legendary ‘hareesa’ made at home and served with delicacy and relish.
As the real ‘hareesa’ does not have salt or chillies, I asked for a little black pepper, and with one fresh ‘kulcha’ (not a ‘naan’) full of white ‘tils’ the experience was a unique. I stuck to just one ‘kulcha’ and refused a second helping. Excellent ‘kava’ followed. Unbeatable.
Published in Dawn, April 19th, 2015
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