Shola, which literally means ‘spark’ in Urdu, definitely brightens up the media unit in which it is housed. As I visited on what was already a warm spring day, the bright yellow front looked inviting from the offset.
Authentic home-cooked Pakistani food is the ethos behind Shola – all the complexity associated with its preparation – grinding spices, marinating, etc. is done beforehand. You can sit back, relax, and enjoy some home-made food.
Only open for lunch, Shola caters to the busy office workers in its vicinity who are undoubtedly desperate for an alternative to Pret.
Pakistani food is often overshadowed by its Indian cousin, and while several similarities exist, it deserves to exist in its own entity and earn its own reputation: Shola is striving to prove why.
A problem that plagues both Pakistani and Indian food alike is its misrepresentation. It’s often thought of as being greasy, oily, and fatty. Shola handily dispels all these myths and proves there are ways to cook good and healthy Pakistani food without ludicrous amounts of oil.
My friend R and I shared the marsala fries, Aaloo Chana Chaat, and the chicken pakora to start. The chaat – made up of chickpeas, potatoes, tomatoes, and crunchy onions was the stand out dish for us both. It is testament to the effectiveness of fresh, simple, and well-made dishes; the flavours of the spices and herbs went deliciously with the homemade tamarind sauce. Similarly, the house chutney complemented the chicken pakora well. The marsala fries were an interesting attempt to bridge two cultures as it were, and in this case I’m not quite sure it worked. This is indicative of a trend on the menu: marsala fries, bbq sabzi wrap, chicken tikka wrap – a mix of authentic dishes with marketing that western palates may recognise.
Shola is self-service which works well; service was swift, and we soon tucked into our mains. Presentation is stylish, in keeping with the décor of the café; pastel tones adorn its walls matching the crockery adding an upbeat tone to the whole dining experience.
Hints of a distant land are strewn around with tassled chandeliers, and eclectic artwork on the walls. Real flowers on the table are a nice addition to what feels like a home-made meal.
The palak paneer I ordered did not disappoint. The paneer (cheese) melted smoothly into the sautéed spinach; the lamb shoulder wrap was incredibly soft and tender, a tricky feat to achieve. R ordered the chicken malai bolti wrap which was equally flavourful and well-cooked. There was a delightful feeling of not feeling guilty after indulging in a hearty meal out. The food tasted fresh – though, both with the paneer and chicken wrap, there was perhaps a tad too much salad.
Obviously, with this newfound feeling of guilt-free health we decided to order dessert. The rays of sun on show had made me crave ice-cream, so I opted for the mango kulfi – a Pakistani style ice-cream on a stick – it was lovely and refreshing and a dish I definitely recommend if you do visit. The naan khatia – a crumbly cardamom and semolina cookie – which R was kind enough to let me try, was equally rich and delicious and paired perfectly with the end of meal cardamom chai which, warm and comforting, had a little kick that gave us the required energy to continue with our days.
Dessert was definitely the highlight for us both and on the whole the pricing was extremely reasonable for what are decent-sized portions.
If you are ever able to actually take your lunch hour, Shola offers quick, fresh, home-made Pakistani food for a very affordable price.
Shola Karachi Kitchen, Unit 6, Media Works, 191 Wood Lane, White City, London, W12 7FQ, England.
Tel: +44 (0)20 8735 2822
The restaurant is a five-minute walk from White City and Wood Lane Tube station. It is open Monday to Friday from 11:00am to 3:00pm. Closed on Saturday and Sunday.
Type of Restaurant: Pakistani Restaurant
Price Band: Low
Insider Tip: Do try the kulfi.
Reviewer’s Rating: 7/10
Maighna Nanu is a London based freelance journalist.
Photographs courtesy of Shola Karachi Kitchen and taken by Jade Nina Sarkhel