The alternative guide to eating and drinking in Delhi

Photo credit: 
Graphic by Hitesh Singhal
Vritti Bansal's picture
Vritti Bansal
November 15, 2017
To help you see the city with fresher eyes—and hopefully more affection for all that it has to offer.

Issue note: The Delhi food arena often alternates between dynamic and plateaued. A weekend in October could see the year’s most awaited restaurant openings, leaving the city wanting more in November. Often, there’s little modish stuff to do after festive caravans have died down. The lull needn’t mean boredom, nor imminent storm. When in doubt, go for timeless.

There was an Elevate, a Decibel and a Shiro before a Grappa, a Privee and a Kitty Su. Unlike the first three, “TC” managed to survive despite the Summerhouse and Raasta humdrum. The three existing clubs and bars fall under very different nightlife categories. However, all of these places have something crucial in common: they’re victims of herd mentality.

Speaking of watering holes/clubs, if you’ve been to Kitty Su on a Friday night, you know a man might deliberately brush against you. Or a tipsy girl in a glittery dress will dig her heels into your foot and not bother to apologise. The congregation at Summerhouse might be slightly more mellow in comparison, but a Saturday night there is likely to end in smudgy makeup and sweaty hair (no pun intended, although that might hold true as well). Don’t get us wrong: we’re all for letting our hair down and having a good time. But G&T’s turning more diluted by the week certainly don’t salvage anything. There’d also be at least two people breathing down your neck if you’re trying to find a spot on the dance floor (unless they’re consensually breathing down each others’, of course). Obnoxious behaviour, no standing space and half-hearted cocktails get old after a while.

If you thought that ending up at Aurobindo Market for a drink, The Habitat Centre for breakfast, and Khan Market for Chinese solidified your “Delhiite” identity, our alternative guide will give you the license to broaden your definition.

We pick the five most stereotypically Delhi things to eat and drink, and turn common favourites upside down.

Better English / American breakfast

Chocolate chip pancakes at The All American Diner are good. But service tends to drag its feet the way we do on a weekend morning, and our hangovers demand better. If an elaborate spread is what you’re after, bathe in morning light seated at 24/7 at The Lalit, slicing up everything from toast and hash brown to eggs and sausages. There’s also salad, cold cuts, juice, grilled fish, baked beans, porridge, waffles, pancakes and we haven’t even gotten to the Indian offerings. It’s our favourite breakfast buffet in town. We’ve also got a place that we think does the best desi breakfast in town, but that’s another story—in this issue.

Better gol guppas

Bengali Market gol guppas are overrated, and this is coming from some of us who’ve lived in the area for years. The puri is often soggy, the water never cold, and the vendors moody. The UPSC stalls, not too far away, hand out much better ones—and with a lot more cheerfulness. Vendors cheekily probe whether you’d like smaller puri or have the resilience to eat a huge one in one gulp. The cold, appropriately spiced water is more satisfying than what you’d find at most other places, and the stalls selling thick, rose-syrup adorned lassi and fresh fruit are indeed sweeteners.

Better waffles

Delhiites, please explain the glorification of Depot 48 waffles. The Big Chill is the one who does them like an expert should: well-done to look at, crisp to touch, soft to bite, served with a mound of lush ice cream, drizzled seductively with thick hot chocolate fudge sauce. If it sounds like lovemaking, it tastes even better. Depot 48 or elsewhere, we’re confident you can’t convince us that the best waffles in Delhi are to be found elsewhere. 

Better coffee

Blue Tokai makes good coffee. But what was once an alternative café is now a tiny space thronged with people irrespective of it being a weekday or the weekend. Part of drinking coffee is the experience that comes with it and although we still like Blue Tokai for its no-fuss tables, dependably good coffee and sturdy food menu, we find coffee at Café Lota more enjoyable. Café Lota, although popular too, never feels overcrowded. In addition, we love the well-picked selection of regional coffee from Karadykans and Chikmagalur. It's not elaborate but it's enough, and just right, served in the café's sleek French presses. 

Better cocktails

The drinks at Auro are echelons better than what Summerhouse and Raasta hurriedly stir up. But if your highest priority is a well-shaken margarita, give bumping-into-everyone-you-know a miss and spend the evening at Lutyen’s Cocktail House instead. The signature cocktails are especially perspicacious: think “Apple Cigar” (smoked whiskey, apple juice, clove bitter and smoked candy) and “Perfume” (rose wine, peach sorbet and cardamom). Sometimes clubbed a gentlemen’s club, the place is equally appropriate for a dignified drink with the ladies. Not that we’re propagating stereotypes.