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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.
Sunny and sexy, this is a casual eating joint in the middle of Paharganj's Main Bazaar. Many dishes are misspelled in the menu (curd is card, dessert is desert) and the Today's Special, hand-written on a white board, hasn't changed in months. The Assamese steward has no regular uniform and the diners, mostly western backpackers, are half-naked.
As Bob Marley or Tibetan chants play in the background, women with deep cleavages schmooze freely with hairy-chested men. Sunlight, sneaking in from the glass-wall, sews up dainty patterns on their shapely legs. The glass-wall, in turn, looks upon the Paharganj street life (Uzbeki prostitutes, Nigerian drug peddlers, Kashmiri touts etc.) with the worldly indifference of a Buddhist bhikshu. The walls are decked with wide-angle images of Nepal’s Annapurna Mountains. Next to the cashier's desk is a raised lounge with seating pillows where one can spread limbs, kiss discretely, or even doze off.
Those who care for food can depend on the Nepali cook who is not bad in cooking up stuff from Mexican to Middle-Eastern to Italian to Nepali. Have an Enchilada de Pollo(Rs 90), shredded chicken and beans in a spicy tomato sauce wrapped in a flavorful corn tortilla and topped with cheese.
If it's 8 am, follow the majority and ask for the popular Spanish Breakfast(Rs 50). Omelet is thick, cheesy and redolent with the aroma of fresh eggs, fleshy mushrooms and raw peppers; the grilled tomato has a crispy exterior secreting excess of juice. Avoid the greasy Hash Potatoes. The soft and fluffy bread rolls, baked in the nearby Everest café, are served with mixed-fruit Kissan jam and salty butter. Ask for honey if that is what you desire. Spanish Breakfast offers a choice of coffee or chai. Both disappoint. But the bakery counter covers it up with tempting croissants, chocolate mousse, and apple crumble arranged in chipped trays. Don't skip the freshly squeezed Papaya juice – fruity, thick and wholesome.
Turn to books once done with knives and forks. I usually prefer late mornings when the breakfast rush is slowing down, the cushion still carrying the warmth of the previous occupant, and the place quiet enough to let you focus on the book-of-the-day (I was reading Peter Matthiessen's The Snow Leopard the last time I was there). Don't waste time on the unpromising bookshelf stocked with Hebrew-language Lonely Planets and Spanish translations of Wilbur Smith novels. (What is Land Revenue Law in Rajasthan doing there?)
It must be said that the restaurant is a good place to fill up personal diaries. Once I spent six hours there, ordered only one cup of coffee, and no one gave a dirty look. However, there can be welcome distractions. Be prepared to hear ‘Goa’, ‘Dharamshala’, and ‘Benares’, again and again, in French, German, and in many other firang accents.
1575/80, Main Bazar, Paharganj
Open daily from 7am – 11pm
Spanish Breakfast, Muesli with fruits, Ratatouille, Sizzlers, Lasagna, Apple Crumble
Coffee – Rs 15
Tea - Rs 10
Spanish Breakfast - Flamenco Time
Coffee and Conversations
The Outside World