Shola is on a quest to change your perception of fast Pakistani dining. Nestled in the heart of White City’s thriving food and drinks development, the casual Karachi kitchen from Chef Aida Khan is a welcoming, relaxed place to grab a bite to eat, and a sanctuary of delicious, fresh street food for lunchtime nourishment.
Standing out from the blur of chain cafes and big businesses, Shola is proudly independent with bright yellow benches outside, and interiors of fresh peach, yellow and mint green prints that make it instantly eye-catching. Upon entry, we are greeted by hospitable waiting staff and Aida herself, who simply encourages us to try it all, a much-appreciated personal challenge.
Swiftly, she emerges from the kitchen, placing down a bowl of kukuri bhindi (£3.80) hot out of the fryer. The skinny okra fries were coated in a light bread crumb batter, with a delicate crunch and soft inside, accentuated by a subtly spiced house chutney. Alongside, an aaloo chana (£3.80) of chickpeas, tomatoes, crunchy onions with a sweet and sour tamarind sauce, adding an extra lightness to the feast we were about to dive into.
Covering our table with a selection of dishes from the menu, Aida had time to quickly explain each dish to us before heading back into the kitchen pre-empting the busy lunchtime crowd that were about to fill the restaurant. Standout dishes include a creamy yellow khatti daal (£4.50), with an exquisitely light tang that perfectly contrasted the earthy roasted cumin and fried onions. To accompany, a wholesome BBQ sabzi (£6); softly-charred seasonal vegetables marinated in Shola masala and served with one of the most delicious dipping sauces we had ever encountered. When Aida re-emerges to bid us farewell, we discuss the possibility of bottling it, before she tells us one customer comes in every day purposefully to buy pots of it for their dinner.
The DesignMyNight Digest
Our experience of Shola was one of restorative eating, meticulous hosting and vibrant, light flavours. We left full, but not uncomfortable, and excited to return for more some day. While the restaurant may only be open for lunchtime crowds at the moment, it’s regular supper clubs promise to bring to life the bustle and vivacity of Karachi, a sentiment that was perfectly brought to life during our experience.