Delhi. To write about Delhi is indeed a nostalgic trip for me as I am reminded of my pre-independence life in that city. Jokes apart, it is not as emotional as City of Joy or as meticulous as Mumbai, but Delhi has its own brand of aachari culture which sometimes makes you cry out in exasperation and sometimes makes you burst out into laughter with the way things are. Delhi is city of change and it evolves everyday yet retaining some of its historical flavor. And a city where anything is possible with its very own phrase ‘ Koi dikkat nahi Saab, ho jayega’.
My visit to Delhi has become more frequent in recent years as my work takes me to the city, time and time again. So on one of my visits, I decided to call up my friend and mentor in the matters pertaining to Himalayas,food and world travel Amitava Chakraborty, to guide me to some unique eateries of Delhi. However, I began my ‘food find’ with a lavish Sunday breakfast with my school buddies at India Habitat Centre.
India Habitat Centre: My project in Delhi started with a breakfast meet with friends at IHC. Sunday breakfast is something to die for, but with a fair warning to my readers that the spread is not a budget spread. The open air canopied ensemble of a voracious breakfast offer is a dream Sunday waking up. They have a lovely interior arrangement too, but mornings and open air is the best combination for such an experience. The food, looked a colorful and freshly prepared, simply ‘gorge’ous. And to top it all the smell of strong brewed coffee, Ah, well . Heavenly!
As far as food is concerned Delhi is where world cuisines conglomerate. Being the capital city, it has its pockets of delicacies from Afganistan, Pakistan, Iran, Lebanon and of course our very own Punjabi, Kashmiri, Vegetarian UP and some throw in of Tibetan, Chinese, Bengali and oh! Yes, South Indian made in Punjabi Ishtyle.
Food is available in all localities, but there is a distinct division between Haute Couture Mall outlets, where, on one hand one can find a distinct bonding between USA(usual fast food and then Texas- ishtyle ones), Italy, India (designer chai bars for ‘chai pe charcha’), Mexico, Post colonising Britain (flavors retained and some not so much retained one) , French, Korean, Japanese, all the Middle Eastern countries combined with Punjabi Tadka (with added ‘tikha’ to make it Funjabi) and delectable world desserts inclusive of designer yogurts (who would have thought that our friendly anti-child ‘dahi’ could be transformed into this child-friendly, environment loving dessert for the betterment of mankind :)) , and on the other hand the wonderful restaurants with all goodies spread all over the city with, again, world cuisine of very delectable delicious calling, in all kinds of negotiable budgets. Then there is street food- and you know what I mean! So with such a spread of choice in front of us, here is what we did:
Our first stop was for dinner at Maazar, Lajpat Nagar:
This was an unique experience as you can see the ambiance has been created to make you feel at home at an Afghan residence. The menu selected by Amitava was as follows:
- Borani Bengan (fried slices of eggplant topped with curd cream sauce with garlic flaovours)
- Mutton Tikka kabab marinated with onion water, garlic, Afghani spices prepared with charcoal steam.
- Qubuli Uzbegi Pulao (Long grained rice with assorted nuts, Afghani spices and raisins, delectable meat pieces)
- Firni (Finest blend of rice paste and cream milk with sugar)
- Naan- or buttered baked breads
The food was ‘lajawab’ (delicious beyond words) and after the wonderful platter the sweet in the firni satisfied my Bengali tongue with its right kind of sweetness, which in other places is a bit compromised and thus robs the firni of its dessert like taste.So my friend had scored a 9/10 with this.
The next stop next evening was Karim’s near Jama Masjid:
I shall write about that expedition to this human kingdom later. But for that day’s dinner it was Karim’s . Again I was struck by the ambiance and the ‘Naan’ balancing servers. Each of them was catering to at least six to seven tables simultaneously and that too dishes from vast range of platters that Karim’s menu offered.
Well, we decided to keep it a bit simple as we had already tasted some juicy jalebis and didn’t want to tax our stomach with too much ‘ghee’ which goes into the preparation of the delicacies. So Mughlai cuisine, here we were to opt a shortcut and yet retain the same satisfaction.
Now as I had tasted some of their curries with gravy before and was rather impressed , so this time we ordered Mutton Seekh Kabab and Sheermal (a sweetbread) and salad with a special chutney mix in the side. The combination was simply mouthwatering and melt in the mouth experience.
Next stop was China Fare at Khan Market:
This is a unique outlet for Indo-Chinese cuisine where the food is served with an interesting array of authentic sauces for every taste bud. The presentation was very interesting and so was the serving style. The accompaniment of the Jasmine Tea was flavored just right to satiate all our refined taste buds. Our order was :Prawns in black bean sauce with Hakka noodles and those wonderful sauces in test tubes! You don’t believe it? Yes it was in test tubes. Just a dash and not a splash to be added.
Don’t forget to order the Jasmine Tea.
Next on our list: Amour Bistro in Malcha Marg Diplomatic Enclave.
A Bistro : Bistro eating is a style of cooking that involves using fresh, local ingredients to produce delicious, and nutritionally healthy recipes. Bistro eating has become much more popular due to the fact that people are more obsessed about their eating health, and also because a number of celebrity chefs such as Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay use this style of cooking (Wiki says).
Amour Bistro is a quiet eatery with old British ambiance with good platter of continental dishes in offering. Well lighted and very well furnished in classic style of old British homes,the outlet has a spread of wonderful platters and of course not at all ‘modestly’ priced. But for the quality of food served and uninterrupted time for a meeting to be successfully concluded, it proves to be worth its price.
Our choice was – Biscuit of crumble followed by roast Chicken with marjoram sauce . This was a platter with a piece of succulent roasted chicken served with layers of yellow and green bell pepper slices with Bocconcini cheese glazed with marjoram sauce. Whew! The low sugar taste of the crumble and then the salty tangy taste of the roasted chicken was a fine blend to say the least.
Here is a crazy bit of clicking, but the washbasin in the restroom just made me click it in the most unlikely place. Pardon me for this, but it was a 18th century pedal washbasin where you need to step on the pedal to push up the water through the faucet. It had to be photographed.
My friend scored a 9/10 with his selection.
The last stop: Rose Café at Saket Dilli Haat Road.
This discovery was because of my friend Madhulika, where we decided to have a meeting at The Rose Café in Saket. We needed a place for meeting, a place where they would not drive us out after we have ordered our food and took hours to finish it coupled with good ambiance and Madhulika said,“Come to Rose Café”. Good choice and very much a within budget place and the surprise was the quality of food that we had on the platter. We had ordered: Cheesy penne with bacon and grilled chicken, Shepherd’s pie, Grilled fish with capers, sundried tomato and olives in fiery tomato sauce. The food was lipsmackalicious to say the least. The meeting was very successful to say the most.
This is just a touch and go of all the surprise outlets that is available in Delhi. The food choice is vast and if you are in for a short visit and wondering where to meet your friends, these are just a few places where you can meet and have a good feed too.
Disclaimer: This was a personal attempt to list a few eateries, and not sponsored by any brand.
Write up and pics: Mohua Roy & Google pics.
Information and guidance: Amitava Chakraborty