|Karachi’s cafes offer more than just great coffee|
In Karachi, the distinction between a café and a restaurant becomes a little blurred. In general, a café has a more relaxed atmosphere and a simpler menu than a restaurant. Restaurants are generally somewhat more formal and tend to focus on full meals. The casual environment of a café is suitable for meetings and for hanging out. Cafes generally offer light snacks and desserts along with hot & cold drinks. That said, it’s seems that Karachi-ites like to have fairly substantial items on cafe menus so the distinction ends up being more about ambience, size and atmosphere.
Karachi has some great cafés. They invariably serve breakfast too because we Karachi-ites love our café breakfasts. Cafés in Karachi tend to introduce extensive breakfast menus or disappear without a trace. These are Karachista’s top five cafes.
|Xander’s – next to the Kuwaiti Embassy and Ensemble – is arguably Karachi’s best cafe|
Located next to Ensemble, Xander’s opened barely two years ago but quickly became one of Karachi’s favourite cafes. The tiny minimalist café is generally packed. The outdoor seating is pleasant in the evenings or in winter but tends to be uncomfortably warm for most of the year despite shady umbrellas and fans. Free Wifi is a bonus. Xanders’ all-day breakfast is extensive while their pizzas and open-faced sandwiches are must try items. The gourmet style menu is full of fresh, appealing dishes like homemade crab ravioli and crispy calamari. Perfect any time of the day.
|Crispy Calamari at Xander’s Cafe|
|Waffles at Expresso|
Espresso was the one of the first cafes to bring the Starbucks-style of modern gourmet coffee to Pakistan. From a tiny outlet in Zamzama, Karachi’s best-loved coffee house has expanded to four locations in Karachi and has even opened a location in Lahore. Espresso serves some of the best coffee in Karachi. There are plenty of cold coffees, slushes and juices for those who prefer a cold hit. The huge menu includes everything from burgers and pizzas to soups and sandwiches. The breakfast is one of the best town and Espresso is a favourite haunt of committee morning mums. It is as popular with packs of students while free wifi tempts loners with laptops. Be sure to try the Mediterranean omelette and the blackened chicken sandwich.
3. Koel Café
|Koel Cafe’s courtyard is romantic and atmospheric|
|Sesame Chicken Bites at Koel Cafe|
This desi-chic café has a unique ambience and bill of fare. The tree-filled courtyard is atmospheric and romantic though the shabby-chic interior is just a little cramped. The sophisticated menu gives traditional Pakistani snacks a modern twist. Their Kulcha sandwiches which use Kulcha, a type of naan bread, are delicious while ethnic favourites like Dhokla and Dahin Barray are unusual and scrumptious. The menu also includes continental items like fish with tarragon sauce and pesto pasta. The sesame chicken bites salad is particularly popular as is the ethnic mint lemonade known as Shikanjabeen. Do save room for the walnut and chocolate chip pudding. Worth going to just for kulcha and chai if you’re not in the mood for anything substantial. Check out the art gallery attached to the cafe while you’re there – it’s one of the best in Karachi and hosts some brilliant exhibitions.
|Butler’s Chocolate Cafe, Karachi|
After a somewhat rocky start, Butler’s quickly improved both their service and consistency. The café offers everything from pancakes to omelettes for breakfast. The soups, salads, burgers, pies and other café meals are well executed. Their breakfast bagel is delicious. Butlers has some of the best desserts and sundaes of any café in town. Their coffees and cold coffees are excellent and the choice of one of Butler’s signature chocolates with any coffee is a yummy bonus. Don’t miss their chocolate croissant, possibly the most authentic available in Karachi.
The top four on this list were easy to choose, standing head and shoulders above the rest. Number five was not so easy. None of the options seemed to fit. Places like Gloria Jeans Coffee, Belle Vita, The Pantry and Lals Patisserie do some items well but are plagued by inconsistency when it comes to some aspects of their menus. In the end it came down to N’ecos and Café Chatterbox. Neither is quite as good as the top four but they both present strong cases for grabbing the 5th spot on the list.
|N’ecos Cafe – the rustic charm is accented by the tree growing in the centre of the cafe|
5. N’ecos vs Chatterbox
|This book fillled corner at Cafe Chatterbox is one of the cosiest spots for coffee in Karachi|
|Tres Leche Cake at Cafe Chatterbox|
Both N’ecos and Café Chatterbox score points for atmosphere. N’ecos has a tree growing in the centre of the café. Neco’s is attached to an organic natural store and the menu includes organic and whole wheat items. It is owned by the Hobnob Bakery group and offers much-loved items such as Caked Alaska from the now defunct Copper Kettle. N’ecos is notable for offering gluten free and vegan options. Café Chatterbox meanwhile is an off-shoot of popular bakery Pie in the Sky. The café has a cosy book-filled corner and it’s wooden tables exude a lovely rustic charm. Their quesadillas and desserts are particularly good.
|N’eco’s offers organic egg omelettes for breakfast|
As ever, this is a highly personal list – just like Karachista’s 5 best restaurants in Karachi. So which are your favourite cafes and which don’t deserve a spot in the top 5? Coming soon to Karachista, the five best desi restaurants in Karachi.