Delhi Restaurants -Ambiance, Price & Food: getting the right mix?!?

Delhi now has a range of eating options – Fast Food, Casual Dining, Pub- Cafés, Fine Dining and the it’s many variations – Bakeries, Coffee houses, Dhabas, Buffets and thousands more. What differentiates them is primarily,  Food preparation style, Service (speed, quality and self/full), Ambiance and Pricing.

The top of the list is the Fine dining restaurant. They offer their diners the finest in food, service and atmosphere: hence the exorbitant prices.

My question is- Although, most average sized restaurants in Delhi call themselves Fine Dining, yet why can one never be sure of what one will finally experience?

In the last few months I have noticed that most restaurants in Delhi are a bit confused about their identity or they are just trying too hard to make a niche for themselves. Now, I agree, that it’s difficult to pinpoint what level of service and ambiance will justify the tag  of fine dining, BUT if the rating on 3 out of the 4 factors is not up to the mark then getting full marks on Pricing cannot be the ONLY factor to be a FINE DINING Restaurant.

What I basically want to say is, on an average, a meal for two excluding drinks and including taxes is about Rs. 1000, no matter what you eat – Thai, Chinese, Indian, Italian- whatever!

Actually, I don’t mind paying the thousand bucks also, as long as I am happy with what I have paid for. You can never be certain about – how good/authentic the meal will be? What quantity will be served to you? How  your overall experience will rate?

Try this simple test. Have a ‘Chicken Penne Arrabiata’ or a similar pasta at Big Chill (INR 375), Mrs Kaurs (INR 365) , Route 4(INR 325), The Kitchen (INR 300), Amici (INR 320), Café OZ (INR 350) and Urban Café (INR 350). Notice, they are all in Khan Market and within the same price range. Now compare the quantity, quality of the food and the overall experience in service, décor etc.

Or is it that the restaurants in Delhi have become so expensive that at 500 rs per head all you get is the bare minimum?

Another discussion I have had many a times is – The Food vs. Ambiance debate.

I have thought long and hard about this, for me, if the food is terrific, the place is good. Sounds oblivious enough!

But this is not true for everyone and they do have a good point. People go to restaurants – especially high end ones – for the whole experience. I have actually heard people say the place is so great but the food is ok!

To be blunt I could care less if a place is trendy. If the food isn’t good I don’t want to pay an arm and leg for it.

Take for instance the restaurant Gunpowder (22, Hauz Khas Village). It’s difficult to reach the restaurant on your own, especially the first time (including the four flight of stairs). The ambiance is average at best. The food however, is authentic and tasty.

But if you search for the review of the restaurant you shall find these as the top two reviews.  Anoothi Vishal at India food and Travel Guide starts her review by saying “It’s not a place that the average Dilliwallah”. And Chefatlarge gave it a rating of 2/5.

To each his own I guess!

All I really want is to find a restaurant with a perfect balance of Taste, Ambiance and Price and if it is close to where I live, that will be the cherry on top.


Khan ka Khaana : Eating out at Khan Market

So you are in Khan Market, on a bright sunny day or late in the evening and wondering – where do you go? 

This market has consistently ranked as one of the costliest high end streets. In fact in 2010, it was rated as the world’s 21st most expensive retail high street by real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield. It’s the newest hangout market, a place to be seen. With limitless options, Khan Market does not disappoint. Just be prepared to spend the moollah.

 A new restaurant opens and closes every month here and it surely is the survival of the fittest, so the old favorites like Chonas or Big Chill are forever favourites, but these days the choices have truly increased! Let me list out some options-

The Fine Dining Experience: Even casual dining restaurants tend to be fine dining in this market, if you know what I mean!!

Big Chill – Continental, Italian, Desserts, Avg Cost/dish INR 400. One of the oldest most famous ones, there are two outlets in Khan Market itself. I feel that the hype is a bit more than it deserves, don’t get me wrong it used to be awesome once upon a time.

Blanco– European, Japanese, Thai, Avg Cost/dish INR 400. Food is good; they also have a happy hour. They have Meats outlet as well, some really good stuff. Every thursday is women’s night with free mojitos… so enjoy ladies!

The Kitchen – Asian, European, Japanese, Thai. Avg Cost/dish INR 350. The food is really good, it’s a small place but worth the wait for the table. Definitely try their Khao Suey and notice the number go up on their Khao Suey meter!

Mamagoto –Asian, Avg Cost/dish INR 350. Best known for their wok & curries, it’s a must try. Go for their Meal in a bowl choices, its filling and tastes good!

Chonas -Chinese, European, North Indian, Avg Cost/dish INR 250. It has been around for 20+ years and is famous for their Happy Hours and only the Happy Hours. Some people have recommended the sizzlers.

Side Wok – Asian, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Avg Cost/dish INR 350. Great Thai food! The prawn red-curry was excellent, and to top it all they have an online reservation system. How cool is that?

China Fare– Chinese, Avg Cost/dish INR 300. It’s been the only Chinese restaurant in Khan for some time, and the food is good. But now that they have competition, we’ll just have to wait and watch. I always notice the cat sitting outside the door, see if you can spot her.

Watermelon – Health food, Avg Cost/dish INR 350. It has a relaxed lounge-like atmosphere, segmented into multiple rooms that provide some privacy, I guess?! With a limited menu and average dishes, avoid it if you are particular about your food.

Amici – Continental, Italian, Others, Avg Cost/dish INR 350.Best known for their oven fresh pizzas, they have some good days and bad days. I went on a bad day!! But have heard really great stuff about the place too.

Mrs Kaurs Crepes and More -American, Fast Food, Desserts, Others, Avg Cost/dish INR 300. Best known for their breakfast menu, they have light meals to enjoy all day too. The portions could be a little larger but that’s gives you an excuse to order some sweet-something.

Ginger Moon– Chinese, Avg Cost/dish INR 400. On my ‘To-Try’ list.

Khan Chacha Kabab Corner– Rolls & North Indian, Avg Cost/dish INR 200. Yes, the famous Khan Chacha is now a restaurant on the first floor, but the real fun of the place was the ‘street-food’ so to say atmosphere that is now lost. For the loyalist this remains the only place for kathi rolls.

The QSR (Quick Service Restaurants): by which I mean stand and eat type of places, they are certainly quick and seem to have a lot of fan following too. So don’t get discouraged by the crowds.

Hotdog Factory– American, Fast Food, Avg Cost/dish INR 100.

Chicago Pizza – American, Fast Food, Pizza, Avg Cost/dish INR 200. Their pepperoni slice is nice.

Al Bake– Fast Food, Lebanese, Avg Cost/dish INR 75. an offshoot of the NFC outlets, this one is better than the original.

Salim Kababs – Kababs & Rolls , Avg Cost/dish INR 150. Haven’t tried it yet.

Aap Ki Khatir– Rolls & Mughlai, Avg Cost/dish INR 150. This one is definitely recommended and the rolls are better than some of its counterparts in the same market.

Mrs Kaurs Premium Cookies – Bakery, Avg Cost/dish INR 75.

The Kathis – Rolls & North Indian, Avg Cost/dish INR 150.

Cocoberry- Desserts, Avg Cost/dish INR 150.

The Cafés and Pubs: for some informal, laze around type of an environment step into one of the many café’s at Khan. Some of these turn into a party zone with loud music and beer as the sun sets.

Latitude – American, Continental, Italian, Avg Cost/dish INR 450. The latest eatery to set up shop in Khan Market is Latitude 28, a café by The Good Earth, which has its kitchen supervised by chef Ritu Dalmia.

Cafe Turtle – Cafe, Continental, Italian, Others, Avg Cost/dish INR 150. An old haunt for most, it’s great to have some ice-tea and slice of freshly backed cake while you are immersed in the book you are reading.

Sugar N Spice – Bakery, Avg Cost/dish INR 75. Like any other of their outlets, breads and pastries are good.

Market Café – Bakery, Avg Cost/dish INR 200. One of the many specialties of this place is the wi-fi facility. It also has a Sheesha place on its second floor. The one thing you will find about this cafe’ at any given time is that you can actually ‘have a conversation’ without screaming your lungs out like in regular places. Quiet, comfortable and open, its a nice place if you want to really “catch up” with friends.

Route 04– American, Avg Cost/dish INR 300. You’ll find a lot of young kids, music is all American and by the end of the evening everyone is singing. Route 04 run by the owners of Turquoise Cottage and enjoys the same loyalty. Try their burgers, and head there during happy hours, they even have pitchers of LIIT as 1+1, a challenge to finish!

Cafe Oz & Bar – Continental, Avg Cost/dish INR 350. Nice beer & burgers. My fav is the lime & mint spritzer. I love the balance of café and pub that that Cafe Oz has.

Urban Café – Chinese, Continental, North Indian, Italian, Avg Cost/dish INR 600. Drinks are bit on the expensive side and so is food, when you look at the quantity. It has a nice ambience for some club/pub atmosphere with more well traveled diners. (And not just screaming teenagers, that you see in most pubs)

For the lets-stick-to-the-basics diners, there is a McDonalds, Subway, CCD Lounge, Barista Lavazza and the others thrown in for good measure. Hope you enjoy your trip to the mighty Khan and find your calling in one of the three lanes – outer, inner & middle.

Bon appétit!!