My family and I have been fans of the original Pantry Café in al-Safa since it first opened. So we were quite excited to be going to their (not so) new branch in Bay Square. The al-Safa original was always going to a hard act to follow and it was clear from the hodgepodge interior of this branch that their designers had thrown everything they could at it to capture some of the spirit of the original. The truth is that it wasn’t too bad at all. If anything, I think they maybe tried a bit too much. It doesn’t look or feel as relaxed and casual, something I loved about the original. The day we visited they seemed to be having a bad vent day; the place was a little hazy with smoke and there was a distinct smell of food cooking…hmm.
No one met us at the entrance, which was a bit of a bummer considering how excited we all were. We had to make our way to the middle of the restaurant and mull around a bit before someone came to our rescue. Thankfully, once we caught a waiter’s eye, we were quickly seated. Service throughout our meal was friendly but painfully slow.
I ordered Fish and Chips.
My wife surprised us all by not only ordering a salad, and went for the Mediterranean Cod Skillet.
Our daughter had a burger.
The general consensus was that, whilst the food was good, it wasn’t at all as special as we remember it from the al-Safa branch. My Fish and Chips, however big in portion, was greasy and devoid of any taste (other than oil – ugh!). I liked my wife’s meal more than she did, the tomato sauce with olives and bell peppers which the fish came resting in was superb and complimented the somewhat bland fillet of cod quite well. I was happy to swap dishes with her. So it was left the our daughter’s Wagyu burger to save the day for Pantry. Close, but no cigar. Which means her burger wasn’t all that amazing either.
We left more than a little disappointed. But that’s not to say the Pantry is bad in anyway. It’s not. It’s actually quite good. The problem is that, from our point of view, it just wasn’t as good as the original. Half the problem was the slow service, the other half the food. But I’m sure people who haven’t been to the original will actually like the food a lot. Anyway, we didn’t stick around for dessert, choosing instead to go our daughter’s favourite restaurant in Bay Square, Book Munch.