At The Pass

Shola Karachi Kitchen

Clockwise from left: Chicken Kahari, Lamb Shoulder, Raita, Parathi, Kurkuri Bhindi

Last week Miranda and I met up in White City to try out Shola, a new Pakistani restaurant. Shola means “spark” in Urdu and with all the regeneration that’s currently going on, this area is certainly selling itself as sparky right now.

A new theatre’s opening this summer, Imperial College has established its White City Campus, and the old BBC Television Centre is currently being turned into flats; White City and Wood Lane tube stations are to hand and the huge Westfield shopping mall is just down the road.

Shola is on the ground floor of the MediaWorks

Shola itself is one of several restaurants and shops on the ground floor of the MediaWorks, one of three new office buildings set amongst some pleasant green landscaping to create White City Place.

… and is open for lunch

It’s targeting the office trade, at least for now, opening on weekdays only – offering quick lunches and takeaways. It has counter service and café-style seating, and a menu organised into “bites,” “bowls,” “coals,” “sides” and “sweets.”

The glass-fronted space feels light and airy, attractive too with abstract dhurries on the wall, tulips on the tables, and elegant pale enamel tableware. Staff were welcoming and friendly, coping efficiently with an already-busy lunchtime trade.

Chicken Pakora and Mint Tea

Chef Aida Khan is passionate about food from Karachi

The restaurant is a family concern, set up by chef Aida Khan and her husband. Aida, who grew up in Pakistan and trained at Leith’s, explained to us that she has a particular passion for the food of Karachi, the country’s most cosmopolitan city.

She’s seeking now to introduce that to a wider audience, using family recipes, fresh spices and good ingredients to create authentic, delicious and healthy dishes for everyone to enjoy.

Certainly we both very much enjoyed our lunch. We started off trying two tasty dishes from the bites section – Chicken Pakora, which came in a well-seasoned batter with a chunky tamarind chutney, and Kurkuri Bhindi – crisp slithers of bread-crumbed okra, with another, smoother house chutney.

Then I tried an appetising bowl of Chicken Kahari (stir-fried and then simmered with ginger, garlic, fresh tomatoes and spices), which came with steamed rice and a fresh, chopped salad. Miranda had charcoal-grilled lamb shoulder, which she pronounced “smoky and delicious” with its hints of pepper, cinnamon and cardamom.

Naan Khatai and Kulfis

That came with a different chopped salad and two kinds of roti (hand-rolled flatbread, finished over a naked flame). We also tried a parathi – flatbread fried in ghee, probably not so healthy but nevertheless really rather addictive, and some char-grilled veg which for us was undercooked and needed a couple more minutes on the fire.

Aida insisted we try some Naan Khatai (semolina and cardamom cookies, tasting and crumbling like a spicy shortbread) as well as mango and pistachio kulfis, ie, cones of ice-cream on sticks.

These, like everything else, were made on the premises and were really excellent – nutty/ fruity and creamy and dense. We stuck to soft drinks (fresh mint tea and Cawston cloudy apple juice) but beer and wine are also available.

A great value meal

Overall, an excellent lunch: the food all tasted very fresh with subtle spicing. The dishes were well-balanced, feeling healthy rather than heavy. The portions were generous, but did not feel overwhelming. Good value for money too. Opening hours: Monday to Friday 11.00 -15.00.

We wish Aida and her team every success and would certainly visit again when in the area. Hopefully once the new Troubadour theatre opposite opens this summer Shola may open in the evenings, too?

Shola Karachi Kitchen,Unit 6, MediaWorks, 191 Wood Lane, W12 7FQ.

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