SAMEER ANWAR SHARES HIS VERDICT ABOUT MOUTHFUL IN LAHORE
There is one magical ingredient that almost always accurate predicts the success of new restaurants. Surprisingly, it is neither the quality of food nor the media coverage that the restaurant receives. The holy grail is the attention and love that the owner gives his/her restaurant. Mouthful is one of the rare Lahori additions where the founders’ love is visible in every aspect of the restaurant’s experience.
Mouthful used to be a small local joint run by a few friends in DHA, but has now expanded into a high street brand on the more upscale M.M.Alam.
As you walk into Mouthful from the main entrance, you first encounter a large comfortable waiting lounge where a greeter welcomes you. She walks you along the wooden pathway to the restaurant’s seating area. This unorthodox reception already makes you feel special. She then introduces you by name to one of the professionally trained waiters, or in most cases the restaurant manager. The manager herself comes by to take your order, and begins by asking you how you are doing. She converses as a friend rather than a restaurant host.
It is the smaller instances that add up to shape the overall customer experience. At Sehri, I asked the waiter to replace my sweetened lassi with an unsweetened one, and without any discussion he was quick to replace it – even though the salted lassi wasn’t available on the menu. During iftari, a friend of ours had let the waiters know that she would not partake in the buffet. He invited her to the buffet table and insisted she try out a few dishes on the house!
The Food- Mouthful’s sehri menu is limited and gives you the impression that it is still a work in progress. There are only two platter options on the menu which do not offer anything for those with non-desi cravings. The Nihari is as good as it gets with the right balance between spicy and tangy. The Mango Lassi was so perfectly blended (in the fresh homemade yogurt), that we ordered another separate round of it. We mistook the fluffy omelets as quiches – savory and delicious. The naans on the other hand didn’t have the fresh warm taste that would have complimented these platters. The prices are a bit higher than average (will cost close to 1200PKR per person).
The iftari menu can best be described as a mouthful. Iftari begins with fruit chat, dahi ballay, fried prawns, pakoray and dates, complemented by a very special rose water drink. The fruit chat is selective on the choice of fruit. The buffet offers an exciting global menu covering a range from local patakha chicken to Spanish paella. Iftari is also on the pricier side (PKR 2000) but with the wide range of dishes and cuisines, this is justified. The desserts were underwhelming and no item stood out.
The Drinks- Mouthful is committed to bringing innovation and creativity to food. Whether it be the welcome mint margherita or zeera shots at sehri, or the rose water iftari there is something experimental about these drinks. The winner is the the happiness shot, which lives up to its name. Without deconstructing the secret ingredients, I’ll leave the happiness shots for your taste buds to review.
The Verdict: 8/10: The ultimate review question is always how likely you are to refer this restaurant to a friend. Between sehri and iftari, I have been to Mouthful with 8 friends who are all strong promoters.
In fact, it would be a pity if you miss Mouthful’s Ramzan experience. Mouthful is on the right trajectory to redefining customer delight. Few brands in the country understand the critical link between customer retention and profits – studies show that it is infact six to seven times more expensive to attract a new customer than to retain an existing one! Sadly most brands in Pakistan are up for quickies rather than longer term customer relationships.
Mouthful is going the extra mile on innovation with their kitchen-labs. A specially designated corner of the restaurant will begin operations post Ramzan, allowing customers to bring their own heirloom recipes to their kitchen. Winning dishes will be added to the menu with a special mention to the chefs!
The Unsolicited Advice: Mouthful is pulling all the right customer experience levers. However, making customers feel special is possible with smaller crowds. As Mouthful’s M.M.Alam location becomes more popular, it will be increasingly important to recruit the right staff and to train them well to maintain Mouthful’s edge on personalization.
(Sameer Anwar lives in Lahore. He is a management consultant by day, and a culture critic by night)