Delhi doesn't enjoy the same reputation for its dining scene as Mumbai, but it's becoming increasingly lively as Delhi's smart, design-conscious elite steps out to see and be seen. That said, an irritating trend (at least for voyeurs) among the moneyed crowd is to eat at "members only" restaurants.
The most popular of these very hip joints is Oriental Octopus (Habitat World, India Habitat Centre, Lodhi Rd.; tel. 011/2468-2222 or 5122-0000, ext. 2512), where you dine at curved, meandering tables shared by gorgeous designer-clad Delhiites -- a million miles from the streets of Shahjahanabad. See if your concierge can arrange a reservation, or find a member and tag along. The food isn't bad either -- start with Singaporean steamed spring rolls, and move on to Malaysian black-pepper prawns tossed in garlic and crushed pepper. It also has an interesting buffet spread for Rs 225 ($5.10).
The smart set tend to hang out in the top hotel restaurants as well. Make every effort to dine at The Imperial's Spice Route; or book a table at TK's Oriental Grill (in the Hyatt) for great teppanyaki grills and the best salmon sashimi in town. If you're too nervous to dive headlong into the region's heavily spiced cuisine, the Hyatt is also where you'll find the best pizzas in town, at La Piazza(Bhikaji Cama Place, Ring Rd.; tel. 011/2679-1234). Chef Mitele Sbardellini from Milan dishes out authentic Italian cuisine; plus an extensive wine list includes superb vintages from around the world, though the prices may have you gagging into your glass.
Sagar is one of Delhi's favorite restaurant chains, serving reliable vegetarian South Indian food at reasonable prices till 11 p.m.. Have one of the South Indian thali platters (Rs 72/$1.60), and eat with your hands. End your meal with Madrasi filter coffee, or you can start your day the same way -- the restaurant opens at 8 a.m., which is the best time for traditional idli (South India's favorite breakfast dumplings) and chutney. You'll find a good outlet at 18 Defence Colony Market (tel. 011/2433-3110 or 5565-0961); Defence Colony is about 10 minutes from India Gate. A popular lunchtime venue is Basil and Thyme (Santushti Shopping Complex, New Wellington Camp; tel. 011/2467-3322), where you can taste playful experiments with healthy Continental fare from the kitchen of 82-year-old Bhickoo Maneckshaw. The day's special and other healthy selections rarely fail to please, and the fabulous homemade cheesecakes and ice creams should be declared illegal. Reserve ahead.
Inexpensive Delhi cafes
With the explosion of Starbucks-style cafes all over the capital, few stand out for their distinctiveness. Café Turtle, perched above Full Circle Books and Music Store in Khan Market, is one lovely exception (tel. 011/2465-5641). Sit on the roof terrace surrounded by the tops of beautiful trees and sip fresh coffee or fragrant teas. Little disturbs your calm, as soft jazz plays in the background -- unless, that is, you want a culinary adventure; if so, come here on a Saturday afternoon to sample something new, different, and off-the-menu.
United Coffee House began 5 decades ago as a coffeehouse; now it's also a multi-cuisine restaurant. Fresh brews are brought to your table in a French press. Interesting Art Deco interiors, good Indian food, and happy hours that extend from late afternoon to 8 p.m. make this a favorite with locals and travelers alike. You'll need to make a reservation for dinner (E-15, Inner Circle, Connaught Place; tel. 011/2341 or -6075). If on a meander through Hauz Khas you crave an inexpensive North Indian meal, stop at Baujee ka dhaba (18 Hauz Khas Village; tel. 011/2652-5511). Brightly painted Madhubani murals cover the walls of this restaurant, which has been outfitted to resemble a dhaba (a highway food stop). Even though the place has a thatched ceiling, hand-painted pots, and bamboo lampshades, it's far from a real dhaba, however. It might have captured the essence as far as the setting goes, but the food is distinctively Mughlai and Punjabi fare, rich and heavy, but unquestionably well-made and delicious. Get the ever-popular shammi kebab or dum pukht chicken. Or just nibble on assorted kebabs while you enjoy a reasonably priced chilled beer.
For a complete listing of Frommer's-reviewed restaurants, visit our online dining index.
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