The Karachi Eat Food Festival kicked the Sindh Festival out of the park!
The Karachi Eat Food Festival (KEFF) was probably the event of the decade, at least for Karachi. In spite of so much chaos, paranoia and terror around, the brave Karachiites queued up for two spectacular days of culinary delights at this festival of its own kind.
The opening day kicked off in a rather sluggish style with delays on part of the participating vendors which was a bit disappointing for the visitors. However, as things started to settle, the event saw civilised and cultured people, men and women, young and old, visiting the two-day food fest and spending some quality time with their loved ones; all this with the towering, majestic Frere Hall in the background.
There was quite literally something for everyone. From high-end eateries to dhaba style vendors; from poori, kachori and samosas to Chinese cuisines; from barbequed rolls, shawarma, gola ganda and kulfi to Hyderabadi bun kebabs, chicken baskets and Lahori fried fish.
There was even pizza being baked live and refreshing Boba drinks to quench the thirst. The line outside a certain chapli kebab house was humongous but well worth the delicious, spicy chapli kebabs. I could see that the frozen yogurt and desserts were placed at a separate enclosure.
Espresso was selling its signature hot cappuccino while Del Frio enthralled visitors with its mouth-watering desserts.
Not to be outdone, Red Mango was also there with its famous frozen yogurt while Sno Tubz made the beautiful, toasty winter day a little chilly with their snow cones. Necos was also present with their herbs, organic products and fresh salads. Food enthusiasts queued up to get a glass of refreshing sugarcane juice from the Juicilicious stall as well.
In competition, Jehangir Meerath Kebab offered kebab rolls and lunch boxes while Suzi Wong did justice to its high-end quality and taste even at the outdoor venue. The Cakery, Eeman’s Cakes and Pane and Amore had their signature cupcakes and for tea-holics, masala chai was being served alongside samosas, rolls and other fried delights. A separate enclosure hosted the famous SWOT’s guide to Karachi dhaabas and restaurants page on Facebook where cakes and desserts were being prepared to be judged by a panel of judges.
Everywhere I looked, there was music, fun, food and laughter. An artist tried to capture the grandeur of Frere Hall while children thronged at the enclosure with fun activities set our just for kids. The live music gave the event just the right amount of zing making it all an exceedingly enjoyable family affair.
The entry pass was priced at the affordable price of Rs200 per person and the food available in the stalls was also reasonably priced. The vendors were asked to standardise their price tags and sell their products within the range of Rs100 and Rs250 to make it easier on the pocket of the visitors and to attract as many people as possible.
It was heartening to see that the management of KEFF seemed to be in complete control. From traffic management to selling tickets at the venue, they did a remarkable job of providing safe and secure open-air entertainment to the visitors on both days. This festival was a refreshing change for the otherwise fearful citizens of this beautiful port city.
In terms of affordability and quality of the food being offered, the festival aimed to cater to people belonging to both the middle income and elite strata of the society. I was pleasantly surprised to see the active participation of so many top-notch eateries in an open-air festival meant for the general public.
I couldn’t help but compare the KEFF to the recently concluded Sindh Cultural Festival. The Sindh Festival which was well-funded by the Government of Sindh failed to make its mark on the general public because of its programming flaws, vulgar fashion shows and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s unnecessary political promotion and his use of the Superman logo. On the other hand, the Karachi Eat Food Festival was authentically Karachi-centric and genuinely represented the taste that Karachiites love and boast of, in spite of being a small-scale private venture.
Our country needs more of such festivals which allow people to get out, breathe freely and spend a day in the sun with their families and friends. In a country plagued with uncertainty, despair and desolation, such events which give everyone – the young, the old, the rich and the poor – something to enjoy at a reasonable cost, are much more welcome than the showy, unaffordable Sindh Cultural Festivals.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.