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Professor Canteen at Karachi University

Karachi, June 7(The News): Eating out at hotels and other places is quite in vogue these days, but selecting a suitable diner with affordable prices and a sense of belonging is the key issue.

Professor Canteen, the name given by students and teachers of the University of Karachi (KU) and Nadir Edulji Dinshaw (NED) University, to a local food outlet situated behind Gulshan-e-Iqbal, Block-7, is an example worth mentioning here.

The actual name of this food outlet is Al-Madina Hotel but it is commonly called Professor Canteen, as many university teachers frequent it.

The food served here is reasonably cheap in comparison to other places and a group of four can easily eat to their hearts content within Rs100.

One reason cited for the low prices is that it also caters to the local populace of daily-wage earners of the area. It is also pertinent to mention here that waiters at this hotel work hard to maintain a special standard, and customers visiting are given prompt and quality service.

One of the oldest clients of the hotel, Khalid, said that he loved eating at the food joint, as the dishes served here are delicious and can be compared to home-cooked meals in terms of quality and taste. He further said that whenever he wishes to eat something other than a home-cooked meal he prefers to come to the Professor Hotel.

The hotel is run by Fazal Dad who is assisted by his two young sons; Adil and Waqas and they hail from Abbotabad. Some of the dishes they serve here Lobiyia (Beans), Chana and Mash tarka dal (fried Gram and Mash pulse seeds), mixed vegetables, Bhindi (ladyfinger), Aloo Gosht (meat and potatoes gravy), Bhuna Ghost (Fried Beef), Anda Ghutala (Egg with mixed spices), and Anda Tematar (Egg with Tomato paste and spices) along with Lal and Sufaid Tandoori Rooti (white baked bread) and Chapatti (plain bread).

"Our menu does not offer Biryani, as the cost of preparation of Biryani is high and because we are primarily concerned with serving our customers good quality food at reasonable prices to ensure customer satisfaction," Adil stated.

The hotel can cater to about 35 to 40 people at a time and according to them the most demanding dish is 'Anda Ghutala', which only costs Rs20 per plate. The most expensive dish at the hotel is 'Bhuna Gosht', which is available for only Rs35 per plate.

Waqas, the younger of the two brothers, who does the dirty dishes and cleans the tables after customers have left is a student and is presently taking his intermediate examinations. Both, Fazal and Adil have worked as cooks in the hotel. It is usually Fazal who serves at the tandoor (Clay Oven, used to bake breads) along with another person.

A former student of NED, who comes to dine at Professor Canteen along with his family, said that he savours the tasty food served here and has being doing so since the last five to six years. He loves to eat 'Anda Ghutala' and 'Dal Chana Fry', especially since they are so economical compared to other eateries in the area.

A group of students, who study in different departments at KU, stated that they come to this hotel for lunch, but as this place also gives them a sense of belonging they now assemble here frequently to have discussions and conversations with their colleagues.

Another group of students who have been frequenting Professor Canteen for the last three to four years, especially during their semester exams, said that they fancy the place because for them the various spices added by Fazal in the preparation of his dishes to enhance their aroma and taste, are simply irresistible. They also appreciate the fact that Professor Canteen has always served them freshly prepared meals.

The business was first started 13 to 14 years ago in a makeshift hotel but within a year they had to rent a permanent place to be able to cater to their growing clientele in an appropriate manner.

According to them, they had some trouble initially, as the staff of the Sales Tax Department used to harass them for bribes, in order to permit them to continue to operate in the area. They said that in the early days they could not even afford to pay tax for propping up a billboard as a result of which they had to pull it down from atop the hotel.

The hotel opens daily at 11.30 a.m. and usually winds up its business around 12.00 a.m. but permanent customers especially students visiting at closing time are somehow gracefully accommodated, added a very satisfied student.
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