November 9, 2011
Following on from her recent article on the best ways to experience Goa beyond the beaches, we’ve invited back travel journalist and India expert Caroline Eden to help us navigate our way through the latest developments in Delhi’s dining scene – a city and subject she knows intimately…
Foodies who travel to Delhi in search of authentic Indian gastronomy rarely go away disappointed. For hundreds of years, Delhi has absorbed diverse food cultures, from Mughal influences to British colonial tastes, as well as regional fare and more recently, international cuisines from as far afield as France and Japan. These decades of influence, and different cooking styles, are represented in the creativity of the thousands of different kitchens in restaurants, bars and cafes that dot the ever-expanding metropolis.
It is no wonder then, that Delhi is home to much of India’s “˜new wave’ dining. Whether it’s introducing entirely new concepts or showcasing remarkable interior design – many of the restaurants that make the headlines are located here. There are two localities in the city that are particularly well known to Delhi-ites for presenting new dining concepts – Hauz Khas and Khan Market. The first, in south Delhi, is only really now appearing on the tourist radar, while the second has been familiar for longer. Here, we pick three “˜must-eat’ highlights in each neighbourhood.
Hauz Khas has a distinctly low-key, village atmosphere, and scattered along its old, winding lanes are independent bookshops, art galleries, fashionable boutiques, design studios and cutting-edge cafes. Mix in a casual vibe, a scattering of 13th century monuments, a lake, an urban forest and rambling gardens and you have a fantastic enclave for people to swap ideas, meet up and hold events. Hauz Khas highlights the newest of New Delhi trends and is the antithesis of flashy Bollywood.
Since opening in 2009, Gunpowder has been the talk of the town. Authentic, home-cooked Southern Indian food is the order of the day here as is an impressive view over Hauz Khas reservoir. The fact that owner-chef Satish Warier himself often cooks in the kitchen, and uses organic herbs and ingredients where possible, makes this a contemporary classic worthy of perfect scores. Dishes include delights such as toddyshop meen curry and Malabar paratha. Sweet and petite, it can be hard to get a seat here, so it’s best to book ahead.
Spread over a couple of floors, The Living Room, or simply “˜TLR’ as regulars refer to it, is a popular hang-out for the city’s students, models and urban artists. Somewhat styled on a New York loft, there are comfy sofas to lounge on, a relaxed atmosphere, live music and an outside terrace that is just the thing in the hot months. Open during the day and through to the evening, this is the perfect pit-stop to satisfy cravings for hummus or some garlic chicken, as well as good place to come for decent coffee. When the sun goes down, order a Bloody Indian – a mix of tomato juice with Old Monk rum, lime and pepper which should get you into the swing of things. Lastly, if you’d like a token keep-sake from your visit here, you can purchase one of the signed celebrity Polaroid photos on the wall.
In the thick of Hauz Khas, new and informal The Grey Garden is all the rage with Delhi’s foodies. The décor, suitably distressed and eccentric, gives diners a clue that a DJ and two fashion designers are behind it, but there are no pretensions here, just enthusiastic service, honest, well cooked dishes and an ever-changing, creative menu.
Diners here order flatbread pizzas, summer soups and good Italian coffee and sample a varied range of vegetarian options. The Fried Chicken Karaage with honey mustard sauce is likely to become a signature dish as the whole city seems to be raving about it. Another exciting addition is that supperclubs are likely to become a regular fixture here, making The Grey Garden the first real speakeasy in Delhi. In a word? Special.
Located in the heart of Delhi, close to India Gate, Khan Market is best known to Indians and international shoppers for its black-belt retail lanes. More recently though, it is increasingly attracting food lovers who pack into the ever-expanding number of inventive restaurants here. From cafes to up-market diners, Khan Market is becoming hard to beat for its diverse choice.
With an eye-popping, cartoon décor of Geisha girls and blonde wood furniture, popular bistro Mamagoto fuses Chinese, Thai and Japanese flavours to create some unusual dishes. “˜Mamagoto’, means “˜play with food’ in Japanese and this is reflected in the laid-back, easy atmosphere. Order Chiang Mai Train Station Noodles or the Mamagoto Chicken Wrap from the friendly staff or try a plate of delicious coconut ice cream and a mocktail or two. Affordable, fun and a good choice for families or groups.
Delhi’s first ever chocolate boutique and boulangerie, Choko La has a menu the size of a small paperback, and is busy tempting chocolate lovers city-wide. The café is petite, but the seating is arranged artfully and the décor, which is fittingly rich and cocoa, is warm and convivial. With European trained bakers and chocolatiers creating endless sweet treats, come here for a whole range of chocolates and rich desserts, as well as just-right espressos, indulgent pastries, all-day breakfasts and high-tea. If you miss the chance to pop along here, sooth your chocolate craving at Delhi’s fancy new airport at the Choko La outlet in Terminal three.
Smart, buzzy Latitude Café sits atop the chic Good Earth lifestyle store, one of Khan Market’s most popular and attractive shops. Arrive early to try and secure your spot on the welcoming outside terrace and expect lots of filling but light Italian dishes on the menu, as well as a good range of sandwiches. Try one of the daily desserts too, which are always fresh and are one of Delhi’s ultimate remedies for a shopping-induced snack attack. Popular with ‘ladies who lunch’ and well-heeled tourists who appreciate the prime location, Latitude Café is usually, and deservedly, busy at all hours.