Of wraps, rolls, curries 
and auto rickshaws

DUBAI — A rustic auto rickshaw may look out of place amid the opulent settings of the Marina Walk.

By Afshan Ahmed

Published: Sun 22 Aug 2010, 12:44 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 11:13 AM

But it does bring back memories of home — the haggle over the fares, the attempt to cram in as many family members into the vehicle ideally meant for not more than three people, the obnoxious music and the personalised artwork with celebrity cutouts. Well, they all manage to bring out a smile, though! And that is precisely the reason why Dubai residents and owners of the rickshaw, Asma and Asad wanted the three-wheeler here ... as a symbol of nostalgia.

It’s a journey into Pakistan. And the hosts, who run the Wrap and Roll Haandi restaurant may ask you to hop onto the intricately designed ‘desi’ (native) vehicle, which signals those with a stomach for a flaming concoction of flavours to ditch the hi-life of the city and revel in the sights, sounds and smells of the country.

“We want to remind people of the life in the subcontinent,” said Asad about the recently opened joint at the Marina Walk.

“Just like Madinat Jumeirah offers a glimpse of the Arab culture in the modern world, we have tried to recreate the Mughal culture here.”

Originally from Lahore, the Asads relocated to Dubai in 2007 and began selling wraps and rolls, a street delicacy, at their first outlet in Barsha. On popular demand they diversified their menu to include curries and biryani, a gastronomic delight for South Asians.

But the aim was not only to serve food inspired by traditional flavours and cooking techniques, but also to create a distinct experience. The duo could not leave the décor of their restaurant to the mercy of designers. Their vision dictated the design right from the fittings, fixtures and motifs common to Pakistani culture.

“We brought in antique door types for passages and wooden windows from Pakistan, as well,” says Asma. Contractors were given references from the era of the Mughals and Sindhi ‘havelis’ (palaces) to create a regal feeling, yet minimalistic.

“A lot of places are in your face and overdone, we didn’t want that either. So it’s simple, but at the same time we wanted elements like kites, handis (pots) and rickshaws that cause instant recognition and bring back forgotten days,” said Asad.

“Most Pakistani restaurants lack the ambience,” said Waqas Zafar, a banker in Dubai. “Here (Wrap and Roll Haandi) the dim lighting, the paintings, the family atmosphere are all very inviting.”

Aleena Azam, who works at MBC said she recommends it to her Non-Asian colleagues, too. “For me this restaurant comes closest to offering the Pakistani flavours and bringing the street magic that, as an expatriate, you sometimes yearn,” she said.


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