Tucked into a corner on the ground floor of Lahore’s most luxurious hotel is a two-tiered restaurant that serves everything from quinoa salad to Pakistani cuisine. The Milk Sheikhs, on two separate occasions, had the opportunity to test the waters at The Cube.
The restaurant is mapped rather interestingly. With about ten tables on the ground floor and a wide window lined with potted plants, it gives the appearance of a street side cafe. There’s a massive cube-shaped frame hanging over patrons’ heads, giving an allusion to contemporary design. We found it clean, well lit and quaint, perhaps too quaint- but we’ll get to that. A staircase leads to their Pizzeria, where more seating is available; unfortunately on the day that we decided to check it out, it was closed for ‘scheduled maintenance.’
We have no doubt in our minds we would have had a more comfortable dining experience at The Cube if the first floor was functional. Since staff and customers were both resigned to the ground floor, it almost felt like the servers were breathing down our necks at times. Having said that, there was not much to complain about in terms of the quality of service: it was respectful, prompt and quite proper. Let’s talk food.
One thing that stood out to us was that the most frequented ingredients on the menu were butter, mushrooms and crumbs. We’re not saying it’s a bad thing, yet it does get repetitive for someone trying to sample most of the menu.
We were served fresh bread and herbed butter, Aylanto style. While my fellow diners enjoyed it thoroughly, it was a bit too salty for my taste- bread is supposed to be a subtle, comforting start to the meal, not an overpowering flavor that stays with you throughout it.
We started with the ‘Goats cheese salad with caramelized walnuts, sweet corn, mixed greens and pomegranate molasses’, the ‘Spinach and three cheese stuffed mushrooms with parmesan crumbs’, the ‘Quinoa salad with oven dried tomatoes, herbs, nuts and cranberries’ and the ‘Coconut butter prawns’. Super selection of appetizers here, everyone take note.
The goat’s cheese salad was cool, a relaxing contrast to the blazing heat outside. The goat’s cheese tasted just the right kind of gamey, and juxtaposed the pomegranate molasses and caramelized walnuts superbly. It was fresh, wet and cool- everything you can ask a salad to be; the mixed greens held well under the weight of the walnuts and provided a solid body, nestling the sweet corn. We collectively agreed that the only obvious flaw was how large the goats cheese pieces were- almost resembling gnocchi. Perhaps the caramelized walnuts should have been smaller too, but that’s a personal preference.
The quinoa salad was good- nothing to write home about yet worth keeping on the table. The dish was conceptualized well and the cranberries went well with it. The amount of dressing on the dish was also on point, but bluntly put, it was like any other quinoa salad you can find. Boring; we wouldn’t order it again.
We had mixed feelings about the stuffed mushrooms. Having tried an excellent take on the same dish by Pompei, we were disappointed with the grainy, sandy overtones and less-than-superior quality of the mushrooms. The filling, however, somewhat redeemed this starter. The parmesan crumbs cut the warm and moist spinach well. It wasn’t half-bad but if I were you I wouldn’t rush to order it.
The coconut prawns were exactly as described to us by our server, midway between crispy and moist, with a cereal, butter and coconut crumbing. There was a nutty texture to the appropriately sized prawns, and they were moistened with a chili garlic chutney of sorts. The garlic was predominant and complementary to the poached prawns, which we devoured in no time. It’s a great, no-brainer of an appetizer order and we had no regrets.
For our entrees, we went ham. We ordered the ‘Spaghetti with prawns, crispy garlic, herbs and chilies’, the ‘Linguini with mushroom ragu, smoked mozzarella and citrus butter crumbs’, the ‘Cube burger’, the ‘Grilled cheese sandwich with braised beef short ribs, green chili mayo and cheddar’, a simple pizza with ‘Cherry tomatoes, garlic, basil and fresh mozzarella’ and the lionized ‘Mushroom and truffle pizza with rocket.’
The grilled cheese sandwich deserved a standing ovation. The slow cooked beef ribs were savory, smoky and juxtaposed the tarty chili jam well. Accompanied by a combination of cheddar and cream cheese on a well buttered toast, it was comfort food at it’s finest. Succulent and the right amount of crispy, we’ll be ordering this every time.
The margharetia pizza was good, stellar in fact. It had a very ‘Italian’ appearance; the crust was authentic, the sort you can only get from a brick oven, and the cheese proportions were just right. Within moments of the first bite, we were reminded of Rome, street side cafes, handmade bases and fresh basil- the whole shindig. Pizza perfection. We highly recommend what we think is easily the most authentic pizza in Lahore.
Now for the truffles. Small mushrooms were scattered sparsely across the canvas, pairing nicely with the cheese. When we bit into the mushrooms, they exuded flavor and made our eyes pop, but when we did not, it seeemed just a bit better than cheese on toast. We realized that the truffle shavings we were expecting on the pizza were not a thing- this was it. We concluded that the chef had used truffle oil instead of truffle shavings; suddenly our appreciation went down the drain. For a price that could easily feed two people elsewhere, the pizza failed to wow us. There was no oomph factor, at least not for the price it was listed and we were left wanting something different (something more?). Perhaps we should have tried the pepperoni and pesto variant.
Undeterred by the disappointment of no truffle shavings, we moved onto the spaghetti. It was spicy, light and garlicky, just the way we like it. We found the simple and clear sauce to be phenomenal- it stung the tongue and had a real kick that any spice lover would appreciate. The prawns were expertly grilled and folded into the pasta and the herbs really added depth to the rest of the dish and did not seem out of place. Definitely a must try and easily our favorite entree at The Cube.
The linguine with mushroom ragu was al dente, like all pastas should be. It wasn’t laden with heavy cream, unlike other restaurants in Lahore. The sauce was carefully measured, there wasn’t much there honestly; just enough to lightly coat the pasta and that’s all that was needed in any case. The smoked mozzarella made the dish, and we couldn’t stop talking about it for a day or two after. It was a great addition to their menu, check it out and you wont be disappointed.
With the ‘Cube burger’, we expected a bite, an air of sophistication and high quality ingredients- we got none of that. The only sophistication that we saw was in the presentation. Presented on a wood board with fries in a Max Brenner-esque manner, we thought this would be the burger to beat in Lahore. Sadly, it was far from it; the first bite took it from Max Brenner-esque to Salt ‘N Pepper-esque. It was a desi burger, simply put. The beef soft like mashed potatoes, it lacked any semblance of constitution, and was spiced with all wrong to begin with. It tasted as meh as it looked grand. If it’s a Salt ‘N Pepper style burger you’re looking for, just go to Salt ‘N Pepper and save yourselves a wad of cash.
We filled up on the savoury bits of the menu too fast, and sadly realized we wouldn’t be able to order any desserts. On our next visit, we’ll be trying the ‘Salted Caramel molten cake’ and the ‘Sticky Toffee Pudding’, so we’ll be updating this review with our thoughts then. We’re also very interested in their ‘Grilled cheese sandwich with braised short ribs, green chilli mayo and cheddar’ along with their reputed ‘Khow Suey’.
The Cube is crafty dining experience, complete with curveballs and straight shot winners. When one item in the menu disappointed, the other redeemed, and we can honestly say we recommend it to anyone looking for a twist on their routine restaurant rounds.