Mumbaikars and Delhi-ites don't usually mix-- each city thinks of the other as stuck up in its own way, Bombay appears to be too chaotic and Bollywood-ised and Delhi is seen as dull and old-fashioned. In the wake of that horrid incident with a young college girl in Delhi, the city has gotten a bad rap, and understandably so.
But it's in fact a huge hub for fashion, design, food and art, andI have the most fantastic memories of the city, especially since I've been there every year to visit my grandparents.
However my tastes have matured, and although I am still in love with the old fried snacks, 'paneer tikkas' and punjabi meals, I have recently discovered all the city has to offer as it becomes more and more cosmopolitan and I become more adventurous.
In my previous post, I mentioned some of the restaurants I went to in Delhi, and this post is meant to give you more of an idea of what's beneath Delhi's sandy surface:
The Café Turtle
This cafe is just gorgeous, what with its mellow yet colourful interior, its huge range of food, the breezy balcony and to top it off, a bookstore downstairs.
The Café Turtle provides a myriad beautiful baked goods-- we had a lemon cheesecake and some carrot-walnut cake-- as well as salads, soups, sandwiches, smoothies, plenty of coffee and more. It's rarely empty, but never loud; the ambience seems to inspire a sense of hush and relaxation to appreciate the good food, the decor and the moment.
Their bookstore, Full Circle, isn't huge but it's well-stocked with loads of cookery books, design, music, art, history, fiction, old, new, children's, bestsellers, you name it. A cute touch is the little handwritten notes they tag on bookshelves with a recommendation- usually a less-known book. But go there with some time-- it's easy to spend hours there...
Click here for more information.
South Extension Chaat Shop
I don't really know what this place is called, but it's famous; just ask anyone in South Extension and they'll point you in the right direction (why not do some shopping while you're navigating the area?). They're always packed, but they have a huge turnover, so it won't take you long to get a table. For Mumbaikars, this place is kind of like Swati, except that in addition, they make insane 'mithai' (Indian sweets). I had a delicious chaat with 'dahi vada' in the poori and potato dish, which was something new and intriguing. I already wrote about the waiter who decided to adopt my sister and appoint himself the role of enlightening her on the wonders of chaat, and all the staff are super efficient and nice. If you want an even quicker stop, there's an outdoor counter with paani poori, kheer, sweets and more snacks. I'm sure you can spare half an hour... it's totally worth it.
The Bagels Café
This relatively new cafe has been all the news in Delhi, in Vogue and in Holland too-- a Dutch lady started this cafe, and broke even in just 6 months. Now there are more branches all over the city and it's insanely popular. She initially wanted to keep it authentic and refused to add any Indianised bagels, but she soon succumbed and now alongside the burger bagels, dutch 'stroopwafels' (delightful syrupy, waffly cookies), coffee and cookies there are cottage cheese and masala bagels. The cafe also serves things like pasta, salads with bagel chips, some baked goods and dutch pancakes.
It's cute, but it doesn't have the same ambience as the Café Turtle-- it's more fast-foody. We sat and had some coffee (and I treated myself to a Christmas cake pop :) ) and packed some bagel sandwiches along for a picnic in the stunning, sprawling and ancient Lodi Gardens.
The Bagels Cafe website
Hauz Khas Village
This area is a recent discovery for me, as I hadn't been there since I was really little... but I just loved it. It's chock-full of boutiques, cafes, restaurants and antique stores. We saw beautiful leather trunks at Nappa Dori, a shop selling ancient decor and furniture that I wanted to buy there and then and store away to put in my cafe, a shop that made amazing upcycled things, and so, so much more. We paused at a tiny place- not more than a large cupboard with a counter and some chairs and tables outside- for a bite to eat. A young east-asian girl ran it, and had to make quite a maneuver to turn round, reach into the display case and access the microwave. She sold very tempting baked treats like cookies and cake (I had a cherry, chocolate and walnut cake), crackers, dips, bread and things like Kerstollen (a Dutch Christmas cake-- although my dad calls it a bread when he wants to feel better about himself having it). On the way out, I was drawn into the siren-call of a small Italian gelato trolley, which said that the gelato is made by Italians fresh each morning. I tried an almond gelato and a swiss chocolate one, and contrary to my usual tastes, I went with the almond one; it was creamy, subtle and much to my nostalgic delight, tasted just like the almond cookies we had in France. The whole place just had me dying to finally start my own cafe, or design and make stunning things. It was perfect weather, full of culture and a lovely way to spend your day.
The Delhi Gymkhana
Last but not least, a childhood favourite of myself and my sister, our mum, and our granddad, who first swam there when he was 14. India's gymkhanas are huge, gorgeous colonial clubs with vast fields, old courts and pools and yummy food. The Delhi Gymkhana is much more uppity than the Bombay one, and children aren't allowed in most places (although I manage to sneak through ;). But I can forgive them for that, because they have brought years of happiness of fresh lime soda, paneer tikka, ice cream, freshly baked bread, pasta and more. This time we didn't actually get the chance to go and hang out there, but we had massive party for the 50th wedding anniversary of my grandparents. All the family and friends were there- some known to me, most not- and there was a long array of food to try: fish tikkas, mustard leaf cream, minestrone, clay-baked parathas and rotis, kulfi and cake (lots and lots of it... my cousin and my sister and I had fun secretly eating the chocolate on top). I'm not going to try and explain all these dishes to those of you who are not familiar with Indian food- I won't do them justice. If you're intrigued, which I hope you are, please do google them, contact me or go straight to an Indian restaurant or friend's house and dig in :)