Food is meant to excite the taste buds, cooking is a form of art, and cuisine is a reflection of the people that make a city. The founders of The East End understand this well. They speak to Mahvish Ahmad about their promise to offer the familiar flavors of Karachi… with a twist.
As you turn towards the red wall that’s the hallmark of the East End Restaurant, you can’t help but notice a wall-sized poster of a cawing crow- you are reminded of its perpetual chattering up the air of Karachi. The restaurant nests peacefully in a quiet part of Clifton and its doors open to a dimly lit, cozy little place, perfumed with the smell of South Asian spices. It screams Karachi inside out- from the flooring to the rickshaw wallpapers; from the recipes to the die-hard Karachi walas that run this place. Adil Moosajee, Muffadal Halai, Fawad Arif, Gulnaaz and I chatted over some succulent mutton leg and flavorsome black pepper crabs. Here goes!
Why did you choose Pakistani Cuisine and where does your menu take inspiration from?
Adil: I will give you multiple reasons, the first one being that I was really bothered by the fact that people are willing to pay 3000 bucks for Japanese cuisine or an Argentinean steak but when you ask about Pakistani food they say “saath rupay ki nihari honi chahiyay”. We really under-sell our food… which is why I wanted to introduce the idea of fine dining with Pakistani cuisine. I was sure that we can create the same experience. Before my grandma passed away my household used to be thriving with hard core old bohri recipes. When she left us, I started missing those dishes. That’s when Gulnaaz, who used to be the cook at my place at the time, and I started developing some of the recipes I loved. I wanted all of Karachi to try out some of the dishes I grew up with. Also, I was upset that the kemari crabs were dying and I really wanted to keep that recipe alive. Hence, the Kemari crabs are also on our menu! Basically, what you find on our menu is a celebration of the food that contributes to the very fabric of this city. You will find Sindhi, Parsi, Bohri, Memni and Afghani items here. Our restaurant is dedicated to the people of Karachi.
Why ‘The East End’?
Adil: ‘East comes from this part of the world where we are at, ‘End’ come from the word ‘anth’ when we want to describe a killer experience the desi way- “Yaar! Ye end hai” You know? We found this name to be catchy as well!
Why is a ‘crow’ a part of your logo?
Mufaddal: Well, the crow is a Karachi bird. No where will you find so many crows.
Adil: Plus, it is a resilient bird, and Karachi is all about resilience!
Favorite items on the menu?
Adil: it’s got to be the crabs!
Mufaddal: Daal Chawal Paleeda.
Fawad: Currently, Peanut Chicken.
Is it difficult working with friends?
Adil: Our work is divided. Fawad is the systems guy- looks after the hiring, firing, audits, costing, training, policies etc. Mufi’s job is the food; he has to ensure the food tastes amazing. Gulnaz develops recipes. My job is the aesthetics part- food plating to be exact. So yeah, we are sorted that way.
Do you plan on expanding the menu or the premises?
Mufaddal: The place will stay nice and cozy.
Adil: We are starting a breakfast menu, most of which has been tested during Sehris this Ramzan. We are hoping to serve brunch Friday through Sunday soon. We are adding something called The Feast at dinner time- the concept is like a King’s table in Game of Thrones! We are also looking at a crab shack and a tapas bar. So there is a lot in the pipeline. Wish us good luck!
Proudest moment at work?
Fawad: we got to host the celebratory party for Raza Rabbani Khar, Chairman of Senate.
Mufi: When Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy came here after her first Oscar to celebrate.
Adil: Fawad and I were in Dubai and ran into some Karachites at a restaurant. When introducing ourselves we mentioned we run a restaurant called The East end and everyone there knew about us! That was a happy moment. When I meet karachities while travelling all over the world and they know about The East End and tell me how awesome their experience was when they visited, it makes me really proud.
Challenges of running a restaurant in Karachi?
Fawad: I see three main challenges- consistency of ingredients sourced, training and retention of skilled labour and managing the expectations of guests. To sum it all up, maintain the high standard against all odds every day.