Following from my introduction to Delhi eating, I will just mention here some of the places you will find in every guide book. I am often a little wary of restaurants that are reviewed in ink, as you often have no idea of the reviewers tastes, which when looking for a restaurant can skew expectations. And so often I have been to places featured in a guide book, to find that they have become complacent and are riding on the back of a positive review some time ago.
The benefit of the internet is being able to share up to date information, so it must be said that all my reviews for India are based on trips from the summer of 2009. These places do feature in the guide books, so do cater to many tourists, however I have included them here if I thought they were worth visiting.
Karim’s – Food cooked by the family from the blood line of chefs who catered to the Mughal emporers with elaborate, rich Persian influenced food, this place is not for the feint hearted. I went to the Nizammudin branch with some Indian friends on my first weekend, after a late night visit to the incredible sufi shrine. The area is home to the city’s muslim community and has a completely different feel compared to most of Delhi. Accordingly, the food at Karim’s featured a lot of lamb and chicken, but don’t expect succulent chunks of meat... its all on the bone for flavour. We had a great time and sampled the famous byriani, one of my favourite dishes, alongside different dals and paneer tikka. For bread eaters out there, make sure you try romali roti – which translates as hankerchief bread, as thin as filow pastry and perfect for mopping the plate (I am informed!).
Chor Bizzare – Found in many guide books this hotel restaurant is a feast for the eyes as well as the taste buds. A random collection of antiquities make up tables, chairs and furniture representing the thief’s bazaar after which it is named. The food is an interesting mix of dishes from across India but make sure you try their specialities from Kashmir and finish your meal with the saffron infused Kashmiri tea, which is rather lovely.
Spice Route – Representing the ancient spice route that traders took from the coast of Kerala across to Thailand and Vietnam, this is a refreshingly different restaurant in the landmark Imperial Hotel (which is worth a visit in itself and openly welcomes non guests to the many bars). To celebrate Jacks birthday, and our last weekend in Delhi, we sampled the light, fragrant food from South India, cooked to perfection, pushing the boat out with our favourite bottle of Californian wine. Apaams, a ground rice pancake thing, were a wonderful gluten free discovery, which came with an incredible south Indian lamb curry to dunk into. We never wanted any of the dishes to end... Maybe that’s why its considered one of the best restaurants in Asia.
Bukhara - Also considered to be one of Asia’s best restaurants I will tell you now that you can get exactly the same experience at the Sheraton hotel in Agra for a reduced price (book a table so that you can get into the hotel and avoid the awful tourist restaurants that the guides take you to. You’ll thank me for it!). The food is incredible, but simple north Indian food including makhani dal for which they are famous (although I considered the dal at dumphukt to be far superior). A wonderful setting, but it is quite expensive considering the food you get. However saying that on a girly day out to Agra my friend Pip and I were glad of the quiet, clean and air conditioned environment and thoroughly enjoyed our meal.
DumPhukt – Don’t ask me how to pronounce it, but make sure you go to this opulent, classy restaurant also at the Sheraton in Delhi, to sample a whole cuisine which is dum. A very traditional cooking style done over a tandoor in sealed pots, the dishes retain their fragrance and flavour. The dal (actually from the Bukhara menu) cooked dum was possibly my favourite in our whole six months. Another place suitable for a special occasion, we treated my mum to some really good food – forgive me I only recall the dal... what a dal...?!