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A fair mix of the good, the bad and the ugly

Given the scorching dry heat, this may not be the best time to visit Islamabad, especially after a mountain retreat. But perhaps, Islamabad is one of those necessary evils on the way to calm (or back from it). That said, I am a fan of the city! It has a vibrant café culture and the food isn’t necessarily awful.

So, how does one spend a day out in Islamabad? Here’s what we did – with various degrees of success.

The Nirvana Day Spa at the Marriott

Perhaps one of the best spa experiences in the city, it has a mix of foreign and local staff, who all seem to be superbly trained and courteous. The true test of a salon is in a mani-pedi and that is exactly what we got. They have those massage chairs in which you can settle in for a no-strings attached neck and back rub while the girls get to work on your hands and feet. The girls do no engage in unnecessary banter and the chai is fantastic. The manicure and pedicure, however, could move beyond strictly the hand and foot area. And the complete absence of a massage was a bit of a let down, given the top dollar we paid. There also isn’t much clarity about the different services on the menu. For example, the staff got confused between my scalp massage and a hot oil massage and I ended up with a bit of a surprise in my bill. Make sure you clarify services and prices before you start. Only their Lahore branch has a social media presence, not the Islamabad one.

Tiger Temple

Tucked away in Beverly Center, this Asian restaurant was exactly what we needed to settle in after our spa day. The menu consists of popular Asian dishes, ranging from Chinese to Thai to Malay. We ordered the prawn toast and chicken & mushroom dumplings as starters. The toast was crisped to perfection and dumplings were just silk! The accompanying sauces really elevated the dishes. For the main we ordered Thai Green Curry in Chicken. It was a tiny bit disappointing to see regular ‘baingan’ in the curry instead of the distinctive Thai eggplant or any other vegetables for that matter. The chicken serving was generous and the curry itself was a solid 8. The single serving served the three of us post starters, so order accordingly.

Chai O’Clock – F11

With a strong recommendation from an Islooite, we headed to the popular outdoor chai café for a complete disaster of an evening. We sat around waiting for our order to be taken for a good twenty minutes before the power went out. Given that load-shedding works rather effectively in the city and the hours are pre-decided, this particular establishment was not prepared. and the hours are pre-decided, this particular establishment was not prepared. The power outage meant that they could not prepare orders, issue receipts or have any kind of fans in the sweltering mosquito-ridden heat. But surely they must have a generator? But no fuel to actually power it. Blame it on the energy crisis!

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