Café Flo has long been regarded as one of the best dining experiences the city of lights has to offer. It is an institution that through the years has seen friend, family and foe alike sit down to enjoy a lovely meal whilst taking in a complete experience.

Founded in the early nineties in the sun room of the Alliance Francaise (the French cultural center in Karachi), Café Flo’s meticulous service and warm ambiance has always been matched by the consistent and exquisite taste of their cuisine. The combination has allowed for Café Flo to enjoy a growing popularity among Karachi’s ‘elite’ and hence an increasing number of customers coming back for any/every celebratory occasion. However; off-late the same combination of first in class service, ambience and quality that has led to Flo’s unique position in our market over the years is slowly beginning to crumble.

Let us begin with service. Café Flo has been through a few very classy and dedicated maître d’s over the years starting with the owner herself, followed by a few wonderful ladies that ensured that each and every guest was able to enjoy a complete “Flo” experience. Not seeing their smiling faces greet you seems to be the smallest thing that has begun to go wrong at this institution. Almost two decades of streamlined service and SOPs have ensured that their service (at least to regulars) seems to be of an acceptable standard. The waiters and hosts still enquire about your meal and are respectable and even apologetic over the smallest of concerns.

Moving on to the ambiance. The owners and management have made great efforts to try and replicate the aesthetics of the old café in its new location. However, with great popularity comes great responsibility and sadly, the ambiance too is no longer the same. The warm and friendly crowds that would help shape the ambiance seem to have changed. The intricately decorated patio and vast garden is no more. The upbeat yet melodious music that would shape ones dining experience seems to be almost non-existent instead replaced with the same songs heard everywhere. No longer does one feel the need to approach the maître d’ and enquire about what song is playing. The entire dining experience is slightly above average at best.

Unfortunately, leaving the worst for last; let’s talk about the food. Gone are the days when there were always delightful little additions to the menu and almost everything one ordered was delicious. Café Flo’s signature Beef Carpaccio, traditional French onion soup (though this is made without wine) and their juicy steak with wild morels are still consistently good. Their steaks are always cooked to order, a concept lost on most restaurants in Karachi. However, experimenting outside of these few dishes has become a far riskier endeavor than before. The quality of food has become very inconsistent and is par at best. The rice served with their scallops is hard and grainy, the wasabi in their wasabi prawns is nearly non-existent, their salad seems to be the opposite of fresh and why is prawn tempura on their menu?

This iconic restaurant seems to be going through somewhat of an identity crisis. It is unsuccessfully trying to recreate the past and isn’t embracing or reinventing for the future. Their menu must evolve yet stay true to French cuisine. I miss the old Café Flo. I wonder how many out there feel the same…