My friends from Pakistan had been harping about a new restaurant that recently opened its doors in Fordsburg. A well-known chain from Karachi called Lal Qila had decided to bring the delectable taste of Mughlai and traditional Pakistani food to South African shores! So without much ado or persuasion, I decided to find out if the food was as good as the restaurant’s reputation!
Located at the Palm Continental Hotel in Mayfair, Lal Qila is different from the usual Fordburg/Mayfair restaurants. Spread over a huge area, the restaurant is quite lavishly decorated, paying homage to its glorious past and the theme. A live grill and counter takes centre stage and it is here that their buffet spread is laid out. Oh yes, the restaurant is one of the few places in Joburg that offers an extensive spread, both at lunch and dinner. However, buffets are spread over different sessions and one needs to book a slot accordingly. I found this to be a little odd as when it comes to buffets, I do like spending almost my entire Sunday afternoon, leisurely munching away! No such luck here though. It seems that the popularity of the restaurant in Karachi (and now Joburg), has forced the owners to adopt this system in order to cater to all its customers!
We arrived at Lal Qila on a Sunday ‘morning’ – we were booked in for the 11am to 1230pm slot! Never having eaten such heavy curries so early in the morning, I was a little sceptical. But I needn’t have worried. The heavenly aromas from the kitchen instantly started a fire in my belly.
The selection of food was quite large and included both vegetarian and meat options. The live grill was busy serving beef, chicken and paneer (cottage cheese) kebabs while on the other side, the selection of breads included poories, naan, stuffed parathas and traditional ‘warqi’ (layered) paratha. In terms of the vegetarian curries, there was lentils, chickpeas and a mixed vegetable curry while for meat eaters, there was a traditional lamb curry, chicken and beef haleem. No meal can be complete without a biryani and we were not disappointed. Desserts included kulfi, halva, caramel custard, ice cream and fresh fruits.
I tried to taste everything because everything looked so delicious. Of course there were hits & misses, but the overall quality and taste of the food was really good. What I found to be really commendable is that the local cooks at the counter were speaking Urdu fluently and the waiters in the restaurant were very attentive and efficient, clearing away used plates and cutlery without you having to wave them down. Priced at just R150 per person, I found the meal extremely pocket friendly and a great experience overall. Five stars to Lal Qila from me!
Address: Palm Continental Hotel, 9 Church Street, Mayfair, Johannesburg
Breakfast: 7 AM to 10:30 AM
Dinner: 1st session 6:30 PM to 8:15 PM
2nd session 8:30 PM to 10:30 PM
Lunch: only weekends and holidays
11 AM to 3 PM