Delhi (Gourmet Chick in India)

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I have diced with death in Delhi and lived to tell the tale.  After playing it safe at the start of my trip in India and steering clear of street food to let my stomach adjust I couldn’t help myself once I got to Delhi.  Walking around India’s capital and seeing the sizzling hot plates, the steaming cauldrons of sweet, milky chai and the bubbling vats of oil deep frying, I had to dive in to Delhi’s street food (hand sanitiser at the ready).  Since I was risking a bout of Delhi belly I decided I may as well go all the way and hire a rickshaw to make my way around the best street food stops at continued peril to life and limb on Delhi’s chaotic roads.  This is what I found:

Street side chai wallahs
Jain Coffee House
Hidden in a labryinth part of old Delhi, Jain Coffee House serves up a mean fruit sandwich (Rs60/£0.73/$1.12).  Yes, you heard me right, it’s a white bread sandwich with the crusts cut off and filled with slices of apple, pomegranate and paneer which is all doused in fruit syrup, dusted with fruit sugar and slathered in butter.  It is a combination that shouldn’t work at all but is remarkably delicious.   Jain Coffee House also makes a brilliant sweet and spiced chai.  
Details: Jain Coffee House in Raghu Ganj, Chawri Bazar, Old Delhi, India.  
It shouldn’t work but it does – the fruit sandwich at Jain Coffee House

Ashok and Ashok
Only open between 1pm and 3pm Ashok and Ashok serves up one dish only by the side of the road.  Diners stand at tables to eat the aromatic and moist chicken and lamb korma (Rs 315 for a serving for two) which is dripping with flavour.  The price includes as much charcoal charred chappati as you can eat and heaped plates of thinly sliced red onion dusted with spices.
Details: 42 Subhas Chowk, Basti Harphool Singh, Sadar Thana Road, Sadar Bazaar, Old Delhi, India

Amazingly tender and fiery chicken and lamb korma at Ashok and Ashok

Shri Duli Chand Naresh Gupta
Serving up the best kulfi in town Shri Duli was opened by the brother of the legendary Kuremal Kulfi offers a range of over 50 flavours from pomegranate to mango.  We went for the sweet but tart apple kulfi which is frozen inside an actual apple before being broken into pieces to be eaten.
Details: Kucha Pati Ram, off Sitaram Bazaar, near Chawri Bazaar metro, Old Delhi, India

The best kulfi in Delhi

Bukhara
To see if Delhi’s restaurants measured up to what was cooking by the road sides I headed to what is often referred to as Delhi’s best restaurant, Bukhara.  As a measure of the regard it is held in, the Obamas ate here when they were in town.  I can only hope they had a better experience than we did.  Despite the high prices and five star hotel setting, Bukhara is a fairly casual affair with bare wooden tables, uncomfortable low stool seating and perfunctory service.  Its specialty is food roasted in the tandoor so MTV boyfriend and I ordered the “king of kebabs”, the murgh tandoori (Rs 1,550) which was a whole roasted chicken.  The spicing and flavour was intense but the chicken had been overcooked and was dry and sawdusty.  Bukhara’s other signature dish, the dahl Bukhara (Rs725) had a deep, rich taste from slow cooking over charcoal for 14 hours but even slathering the chicken with the dahl was not enough to rescue it.

Dry and disappointing murgh tandoori at Bukhara

The wine list was very limited with no champagne or sparkling wine available by the glass and the cheapest wine by the glass, the ubiquitious Sula sauvignon blanc cost an extortionate Rs 800.  It was also disconcerting to be handed a customer service form at the end of the meal alongside a supermarket style packet mix for Bukhara dahl as a takeaway gift.  If Bukhara was trying to emphasise the quality of its food and talent of its chefs this seemed a strange way to go about it.  My only thought was that I should have saved my money and stuck with the supermarket version.

Essentials
Details: Bukhara, ITC Maurya, Diplomatic Enclave, Sardar Patel Marg, New Delhi 110 021, India (Ph +91 (11) 26112233
Damage: Budget Breaking.  Our bill for two came to Rs 7,610 with a couple of drinks each.
4/10

Inside the Red Fort in Delhi

Chor Bizarre
More reasonably priced than Bukhara, Chor Bizarre is an antidote to minimalist restaurant design with its interior filled with bric a brac.  The ad hoc effect is cosy and welcoming.  A mutton stew called Murgh Maska (Rs 425) was dense and earthy, filled with ribbons of slow cooked meat.  However vegetable pokaras (Rs 120) were entombed in heavy batter and had clearly been sitting around for a while rather than being fresh out of the deep frier.   Chor Bizarre redeemed itself with a dessert of sensational gulab jamun (Rs 75) creamy spheres with a crisp, deep fried coating and dripping in sticky, sweet sugar syrup.

Salty vegetable pakora at Chor Bizarre

Essentials
Details: Chor Bizarre, Hotel Broadway, Asaf Ali Road, New Delhi, India (Ph 011 43663600)
Damage: Pricey.  Our bill for two came to Rs 2,000.
7/10

Chicken burra at Karim’s

Karim’s
A tip from the team at London’s Dishoom restaurant led me to the legendary Karim’s right in the heart of Old Delhi.  It’s a no frills place with laminate tables where you sit next to strangers but with food so good that there are queues out the door.  The chicken burra (Rs 165) was robustly spiced and finger licking good while mutton stew (Rs100) swam in oil but delivered a flavour kick of aromatic and moist meat.  Plates of thinly sliced red onions drizzled with fresh lime cut through the heaviness of the meat.  It would also be rude not to mention the heavenly naan bread (Rs 45), fluffy as marshmallows, bubbled on top and with a great smoky char to it.  It was the best naan I have tasted in India by a long shot.  Karim’s is a winner all the way with its refreshingly forthright food.

The team at Karim’s whipping up India’s best naans

Essentials
Details:  Karim’s, Jama Masjid, Old Delhi, India (Ph 011 23264981).  You will find Karim’s down an an alleyway directly opposite the south gate to the Jama Masjid mosque.
Damage: Reasonable.  Our bill for two came to Rs 545.
9/10

Delhi old town by rickshaw

Gourmet Travel Tips

  • Kingfisher flies from London to Delhi return from £600.  
  • The main sights to see are the Red Fort and Jama Masjid mosque both of which are in Old Delhi.  
  • Pamela Timm’s blog Eat and Dust is invaluable for researching where to eat in Delhi.  She recommended her rickshaw driver, Rahul Pal (Ph +919 871 533849), for Rs200 an hour to take us around.  He speaks excellent English and knows all the best street food places.   
  • For a clean and central budget option Cottage Yes Please is a good option.  Rooms have TVs and air conditioning and the rooms facing the back are relatively quiet for Delhi.  Details: Chunamandi, Paharganj.  1843-44, Laxmi Narayan Street, Rajguru road, New Delhi, Delhi 110055, India (Ph 09650219219), Damage: Such a bargain my mother would approve.  (Rs900/£11/$17) with wifi an additional Rs100 per day.  

13 comments

  1. I always want to eat the street food but it makes me ill every bloody time, I have the polar opposite of a cast iron stomach, really…

    You’d think my genetics would confer some slight advantage but it’s like they conspire against me instead!

    Great post!

  2. To be fair about the lack of wine selection that is the case through out India pretty much and the prices aren’t helped by the sky high import duties on imported wine. So you do end up paying a lot for prettybavg wine. We’ve just stuck to beer and spirits.

    Heading to Delhi in feb so will try and check some these places out. Looks great

  3. Great post, will definitely be referring to this one again for when I finally make it out there. The food at Ashok and Ashok looks incredible!

    I would have appreciated an exchange rate at the start of the post if you don’t mind me saying, apologies if you included one and I missed it.

    rgds, Toby

  4. What is it with US presidents and Bukhara? When I went about 10+ years ago, they were serving Clinton platters – Bill’s (meat based) and Chelsea’s (vege option). I don’t remember the food being as bad as your experience. I think I had a selection of kebabs, and they were good but like you, I thought the dahl was better. I wonder if, like many a famous restaurant, Bukhara is trading on its reputation from times gone by?

    In contrast, simple places like Karim’s look so much better. I want that chicken burra!

  5. Those fruit sandwiches look indecent. Love it. And you’ve not got me craving tandori.

  6. The food at Karim’s and that wierd-but-wonderful fruit sarnie look far more on the money than the expensive stuff. Hope your tum is staying strong!

  7. Kavey – Oh that is so annoying for you – how frustrating!

    Dex – I agree that the wine selection is never great but the prices at Bukhara meant I expected more. In Mumbai I had an expensive meal at Masala Kraft and they had a great wine list.

    Mr Noodles – Yes they still had the Clinton menu! Poor US presidents they need a restaurant consultant when travelling.

    Toby – Sorry about that – adding it in now.

    Jonathan – I am tempted to make them at home…

    Katy – Exactly my thoughts. Always the way really isn’t it?

  8. The food looks amazing – I tried gulab jamun recently – really sweet but we loved them. Hope you’re well! 🙂

  9. You make my mouth water! The taste of Indian food in India is heavenly!

  10. I would love to go to India one day…. and I think I can convince the husband if I show him that apple kulfi! The sandwich! The korma! Amazing.

  11. Jo Romero – I became totally addicted to galub jamun. So delicious.

    Anji – I agree

    Su-Lin – You would love it, it is a foodie paradise.

  12. there are so many better eats in chandni chowk than the ones you reciewed. you should have tried natraj dahi bhalle, ghantewala sweets, giani, al jawahar to name a few

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