In the heart of Lahore lies a private sanctuary and once inside, one forgets the goings-on of the outside world. A perfect spread of fusion food awaits anyone who visits the Polo Lounge to experience the best in fine dining and ambience. The rustic, equestrian look of the place adds to the charm of dining there and it’s no wonder that the Polo Lounge’s elite, niche clientele is very loyal to the place. One would say that a trip to Lahore is incomplete without visiting the Polo Lounge.
The sophisticated eatery is a private haven for clients who like to spend hours discussing the highs and lows of their businesses over coffee and cigars.
The lunch hours during winters become an ideal backdrop when most people visit the club for polo matches and the diners willingly look out to observe the horses galloping away while basking in the warmth of sunlight streaming in through the windows.
The Polo Lounge exudes an old world charm with pictures hanging from unfinished brick walls, a bar at the rear end and comfortable seating. While the restaurant has always been a crowd-puller, the recently introduced summer menu has made it irresistable.
No surprises for guessing but the notable chef Aneela R. K. is the sister of Polo Lounge owner, Hina Rabbani Khar and is the one who has uplifted the menu by introducing fifteen Asian Continental classics with a modern spin. Aneela prefers keeping a low profile but gets animated when it comes to discussing food.
“It’s a norm in the West that a changing season is welcomed with an addition in the menu, so keeping up with the same trend, we decided to introduce a mostly Thai and Vietnamese fusion of entrées, made with ingredients readily available in Lahore,” said Aneela.
This is the reason that the menu does not overwhelm with cheese-infused dishes; the lack of quality cheeses found in Pakistan does not permit it. Moreover, the popularity of the food is being assessed before it is given a final approval to be included in the menu.main2
As we were seated in their leather upholstered chairs and were served with the chef’s special five-course list, an initial glance confirmed that the courses looked rather appetizing on paper.
We started off with an aromatic fish and prawn soup with Vietnamese herbs that sat down well with all of us. Having a zesty taste and fresh scent of herbs that were not overwhelmingly strong in flavour, the soup was a great way to start this sumptuous meal.
It was served with superbly done garlic cheese bread that will surely go on to hold a permanent place in the menu. The palate cleansers – chilled mint and lemon, guava and strawberry sorbets – were refreshing and did the trick of clearing out all ginger and garlic after taste.main3
The Thai beef salad was a dish packed with flavour and was served on top of a marble slab that made for impressive presentation. Each bite offered a melt-in-your-mouth braised beef, topped with sautéed vegetables and a combination of contrasting sauces. Buddha Chicken arrived piping hot and succulent. It was so tender that we tidied off the platter with not a morsel left. The chicken pieces were marinated in coconut milk before being infused with Thai herbs like lemon grass and grilling them later on did not make it dry or spongy- it was absolutely outstanding.
“One should give chicken a milk bath before it is cooked so that it does not lose its moisture and the juices stay sealed inside,” Aneela eagerly shared a tip.
We were also told that the management takes pride in serving authentic desi or free-range chicken to its customers and endorses the concept of the Khaalis Market that is trying to promote the consumption of organic and natural ingredients.
“After all, food is all about the ingredients,” said Aneela. Most restaurants in Lahore are using frozen sea-food items, which can become unhealthy, if not cooked properly. The Polo Lounge, however, acquires sea-food on ice from Karachi for added freshness and taste. The stir-fried prawns were cooked with soya sauce with a tinge of peanuts but I found them to be slightly overcooked for my liking but the intensely flavoured vegetables more or less salvaged some pride of the dish.
Even though our appetites were beyond sated, nobody wanted to go home before trying their puddle cake, which they say is like no other. So we delved into the dessert menu, ordering White Chocolate Blondie, Sticky Toffee Banana Pudding and Baked Cheese Cake.main4
An ultra-dense New York Cheese Cake also held our interest and was served chilled but the verdict was soon announced that a classic combination of white chocolate and fudge – that is, the White Chocolate Blondie – scored all the marks, with one scoop of vanilla ice cream soaked in steaming hot white chocolate that made the sizzling dish make all sorts of noises and stood out for being a perfect dessert to end a great meal. The service was top-notch; everyone, from the gracious hostesses who greeted us to the staff, was well-prepared, professional and very welcoming. Whether it is a
get-together, business meeting or special occasions like a quiet anniversary dinner for two, the Polo Lounge promises the perfect atmosphere, and the summer menu is definitely not to be missed.main5