This last week, I stumbled upon a unassuming new restaurant that had opened its doors only a couple of days earlier. Specialising in traditional Pakistani cuisine with their own signature reflecting in each dish, this outdoor restaurant claims to be serving popular delicacies from each of the gates of old Lahore. Hence, its name, Baranh – signifying 12 gates of the Walled City.
Located at Gaddafi Stadium sandwiched between the mighty Fazl-i-Haq Dera and Nadeem BBQ, Baranh presents a surreal ambiance in the evening with small lamp posts and bubble lamps hanging from trees. A limited indoor sitting space will be ready by the end of this month. There’s an open kitchen outside with a separate lassi counter on one side, and the menu doesn’t only include select old Lahore specialties – pathooray, haleem, tawa chicken to name a few, but a lot more of what desi cuisine is all about: from an assortment of parathas and lassis to mutton and chicken karahis. I was told the specialties section will be expanded gradually to represent all the gates of the old city. Also, the food is prepared cautiously, keeping in mind the spice tolerance levels of customers; extra spices are either added to be served on the side for those looking for that extra hit.
As soon as you’re seated, you’re served with complimentary gol gappa shots – gol gappay filled with veggies resting on shot glasses of that tangy tamarind water. I personally like the water with my gol gappay much tangier than this mild serving.
Over my two visits to the restaurant, I tried quite a few of their specialties, starting with the Walled City favourite, tawa chicken. This has to be one of the best tawa chickens I’ve had in town: juicy, succulent piece of chicken leg or breast that instantly melts in your mouth is cooked in loads of spices and lemon juice and topped with fried green chillies for some extra spice and crunch. For those that like their tawa chicken hotter, there are extra chillies and lemon on the side as well as a mint raita to slightly balance off the spices.
Thankfully, with Baranh around, one may not have to travel all the way to Taxali for a spicy piece of tawa chicken.
The tawa qeema is another specialty. This minced beef cooked in desi ghee and lightly drizzled with malai defines rich, indulgent comfort food. Cooked with a concoction of delicious spices, this turned out to be a delightful plate of food. I also tried one of my favourite traditional fares, pathooray and channay. What I loved about the pathooray at Baranh was that they tried to play with them yet retained the flavour. These pathooray are smaller than the usual ones, brown, crispy, oil-free and, most significantly, stuffed – with a choice of chicken or qeema to choose from. On the side, of course, are chick-pea gravy, mixed pickle for some added tinge and a sweet chutney for some balance. This one’s not to be missed!
Besides some of these ‘gate specials’, the restaurant also offers the usual traditional favourites, of course with their own touch to them. The mutton karahi, served in a wok, comprises tender, diced lamb cooked to perfection, sprinkled with coriander and drizzled with some cream and lemon juice to add to the flavour profile of this popular dish. While the cooking of the mutton was perfect, I personally felt the cream/malai somewhat overpowered the other flavours, though the dish looked extremely appetising.
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