You never forget your first time.
It was 1994 and I remember driving out to Boat Basin with my uncle for a revolutionary new delicacy; he just couldn’t stop talking about it. As he parked the car at Pizza Hut (read ‘pee-zaa hut’), I couldn’t help but admire the trendy joint. We didn’t go in though and he ordered some to go. As we sat in the car, he opened the mysterious flat box and let me inhale the intoxicating aroma emanating from it. Even though my sense of smell was enticed, my sight wasn’t all that impressed. I couldn’t be impolite to my uncle, and as an avid cheese and vegetable hater back in those days, I had to fight an inner battle before picking up a slice. It was pretty difficult prying a slice apart from the rest of the pie namely because of the strands of cheese unwilling to let go of the neighboring slices. I finally did manage to break the slice free and reluctantly took a bite. When you hate something, you tend to notice every little detail. What I tasted was a load of chicken, seemingly infinite amount of cheese, pineapples, mushrooms, and a few things I couldn’t quite put my finger on (paprika, oregano, etc.).
I hated it!
I hated everything about it. I hated the crunch of the vegetables, the sweetness of the pineapples, the chewy texture of the mushrooms, and cheese that stuck to my teeth. Yuck!
In retrospect, that was, and to this day, is the best pizza I’ve ever had. The old Pizza Hut (or ‘PH’) located at Boat Basin was as iconic as the Eiffel Tower, if not more. I cannot enumerate the number of good times I’ve had there. Whether it was hanging out with friends after the end of exams or chilling with the office (read ‘IT’) crowd for a colleague’s birthday party (mufta), waiting to break the Ramadan fast at the all-you-can-eat with the family or just standing in front of the take-away counter to satisfy a midnight craving, PH was the place to be. Weeks, if not months, of prep was required for a coveted visit at PH as I had to save up for it. The pizza was as lavish as they showed in the “Good times with great pizza” advertisement back in the days.
My last trip to Pizza Hut was probably about 8 months back and the memories weren’t all that good, mainly because of the quality of the food (in general) and the diminished quantity of toppings. For obvious reasons, I was a bit reluctant to go when I received an invite for a bloggers’ meet-up at the new Boat Basin outlet but I thought about giving them another chance; maybe this time around, things would be different.
As I drove to the new location opposite Boat Basin, I couldn’t help feeling nostalgic. Even though the old place was comparatively smaller than the new location, it had something that was clearly missing in the new restaurant; maybe it was the relatively difficult access or the slightly off-the-main-boat-basin-food-street location or all the memories associated with the old place, I can’t really say. The new PH is impressive nonetheless and spans over three floors. One great thing about this place is the dedicated parking space for customers, a rarity these days. Once I stepped inside, everything from the wooden tables to the red leather upholstery to the colorful wall art screamed PH. My fellow bloggers and I were whisked away to the exclusive 2nd floor, probably reserved for birthday parties and such, with Pizza Pooch and his gang watching over us while we took our seats.
Since this meetup was to get an honest feedback on the newly launched ‘Weekday Special’ deal, we were asked to choose from one of their personal pan pizzas, a sideline and a drink; this, according to them, is a three-course meal, but last I checked, a drink wasn’t a ‘course’. Nomenclatures aside, this deal sounded pretty good as it came at a very affordable PKR 199+tax pricing. Add another PKR 100 or so and you’d get dessert too. Upon inquiring what my choices were, I was told that I could order from the following:
- Pizza: Chicken Fajita, Chicken Tikka, or Veggie Lovers
- Starters: Soup, Potato Wedges, or Garlic Bread
- Desserts: (unfortunately, we weren’t offered any)
As I flipped through the pages of the menu, I couldn’t help admiring the immaculately photographed cuisine. From the pizzas to the Chicken Spin Rolls, everything looked too-good-to-be-true. I was particularly impressed by the potato wedges shown on the menu so I decided to go for a 6″ Chicken Fajita pizza with a side of wedges.
The wedges came first. I was shocked as I watched the waiter place the platter in front of me. There were six wedges (you read that right, SIX) that looked nothing like those shown on the menu. I decided to try some; they were neither crisp nor seasoned and had a bitter after-taste owing to the slight char on the sides. After my fourth wedge, I remembered I had to photograph the platter as well, so I took a photo of the two remaining wedges. In retrospect, I should have ordered the garlic bread as it is one of those things PH delivers with consistency (the second one being the salad).
Then came the pizza, accompanied by a glass of the ‘third course’ (sarcastic much?). After what I had seen on the menu, I was a little disappointed with the amount of topping. The cheese content was relatively low and I counted between five and six 1 cm3 chicken cubes on my pizza. The taste was really OK, nothing fireworks-in-the-sky spectacular. I’d probably rate this a 6.5 out of 10.
As a special treat, the folks at PH decided to serve Garlic Bread Platters. With three different cheesy toppings, these delectable slices of bread offered fimiliarity and comfort. Those were probably the best things I tasted all evening.
With a humble beginning in the early 90′s, Pizza Hut has grown to be one of the largest international food chains in Pakistan. My personal feelings for PH aside, this deal, on the whole, is pretty neat for the price it’s being offered at and is ideal for a lunch on a weekday. I’d suggest you avoid the wedges and go for the garlic bread instead, which is much more satisfying.
As with every blog, I do have my two bits to say to the PH management. I am well-aware that managing the quality and consistency of your product across so many outlets can pose serious challenges, but that’s what people pay you for. If you charge an-arm-and-a-leg for a pie that is not as good as ‘advertised’, people will go to the many alternates that have sprung-up across Karachi over the recent years.
Oh, how I’d give anything to travel back to 1994 for a second slice of my first-ever pizza. Those really were good times and that really was great pizza. Try as I might, I cannot forget my first time.