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Food lovers' guide to Delhi.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
This restaurant profile is a part of the Table for One series.
Faded yet elegant, Embassy's aura is soaked in the pale-orange grandeur of yesteryears. The stewards must have been once young and the patrons more stylish. The mood must have been livelier and the Club Sandwich less greasy. But time is gathering rust here. Aging waiters, with smoke-weathered moustaches, carry a kind of pot-belly that is exclusive only to those employed in a permanent job.
Some regulars (old and balding), spotted around 6 pm daily, asks just for tea. Two television sets, fixed on the ceiling, beams unfashionable Hindi news channels on mute. The quiet music is usually Bach but old Bollywood tunes intrude frequently. The only way to pinch yourself out of the 'very 70s' is to resort to window views of Connaught Place's busy street outside where young people swagger past in hip clothes.
Don't mistake Embassy's old-world decadence for professional lousiness. Tables are neat and tidy. Silver is polished. The china is not chipped. Air conditioning is cool. Food is conventional and correct. At lunchtime, men in ties come from nearby banks while during nights bourgeoisie Indian families congregate for their Tandoori Chickens. Western backpackers search for nirvana in an extensive selection of European dishes.
Try the delicious Chicken Stroganoff (Rs 245), sautéed chicken pieces and perfectly browned mushrooms simmered in a rich stock and served with rice, potatoes and sour cream. There is also a well-stocked bar. You should feel comfortable ordering just the hearty mushroom soup (Rs 72.95) and two crisp-hot bread buns (Rs 24.75 each). The latter is accompanied with a block of salted butter. Be bold to ask for more.
Eat unhurriedly and don't ignore your book. (I was reading John Cheever's short stories the last time I was there) Stewards don't pressure you to leave early. Try avoiding the lunchtime from 12:30 to 4 when it can be extremely stuffy. The mezzanine floor is less crowded though. Some nosy guests may stare or ask to have a look at your book. Show them the cover and resume the reading. If the book is boring or demands impossible attention, you may like to eavesdrop on the surrounding conversations. For that you need to be familiar with Hindi, of course.
D-11, Inner Circle, Connaught Place
Open daily from 10 AM - 11:30 PM
Indian - Pindi Channa, Tandoori Chicken, Daal Gosht, Murg Mussalam, Chicken Masala
Continental - Chicken Stroganoff, Chicken Supreme, Tomato Fish
Black Coffee - Rs 48.75
Tea - Rs 43.75