Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Table for One – Embassy Restaurant, Connaught Place

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Embassy Restaurant

Food lovers' guide to Delhi.

[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]

This restaurant profile is a part of the Table for One series.

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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
Ph 4151-0560
Since 1948
Open daily from 10 AM - 11:30 PM
96 Covers
Popular Specialties:
Indian - Pindi Channa, Tandoori Chicken, Daal Gosht, Murg Mussalam, Chicken Masala
Continental - Chicken Stroganoff, Chicken Supreme, Tomato Fish
Essential Rates:
Black Coffee - Rs 48.75
Tea - Rs 43.75


Evening Hours

Embassy restaurant

3 comments:

Reeta Skeeter said...

"Faded yet elegant" very very true! I soooo soooo love Embassy...Have you tried the chai and pakodas there? The palak ones... Mind blowing! A post on the "new" Embassy at Civil Lines should be up sometime soon at DFZ :)

Anonymous said...

I had always avoided eating here, until I read this article. I must say it is true to the spirit of Delhi - disgusting, double-faced and dingy. There was nobody to usher us to a table, but something that looked like a lectern stood forlornly at the entrance. The waiters could've been ministry staff in fancy dress - the degree of apathy to hunger was surprising! The drinks had no alcohol in them - even in India, how difficult is it to get a Tom Collins wrong, I ask? The fried shrimp was served in a smattering of cold soggy chips, and the worst of it is that the chips were the only edible part of that. I wouldn't be shocked to learn they source their seafood from the Najafgarh drain. Switching to Indian fare, I ordered their greasy oily even-the-food-guide-woman-probably-wouldn't-do-it chicken curry, which was terrible. No surprises there. To douse the curry fire in me, I asked for raita, only to be given dal fry after eighteen minutes. The waiters stood three feet away, and would not stop talking to each other about the way the world is. I received no attention, of course, even when I wanted it. The other diners were the sort you see in CP who sit on the benches in the parking lots and drink out of strange bottles, before suddenly collapsing. Except the one English bloke who never stopped yelling all about his private university's distance learning programme to two people who did not look like they could understand English. The only words one of them got in sideways were that he teaches at ignou. Yet I know all about a certain Mr. James from Reading now. There was no music, neither Bach nor Bollywood. I would've been disappointed, but I have lived in Delhi too long. Would you please stop writing good things about bad places? Or are you on commission?

Nidhi said...

Just a small but important remark about this restaurant which has quite a history,is, if you get to go there, you have to try their channa bathuras!! They are mind blowing! I fly to Delhi two or three times a year and cannot wait to get in that old,charismatic and historical restuarant!