E-15, Inner Circle,
Connaught Place, New Delhi
Tel - 011-2341 6075 /2341 1697 / 98106 66044
Credit Cards - Yes
Average Price - 2500/- for 2 people
Alcohol - Yes
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Connaught Place used to be the ultimate shopping mecca, before the mall craze took over New Delhi and most of India. A weekend well spent meant going to Connaught Place and roaming around from one block to another, eating some good food and then making your way towards India Gate for a lazy late evening by the garden enjoying Limchoo (Lime Ice Lolly). Every visit to Connaught Place made me pass the United Coffee House, but I never made it pass its entry doors (I never even gave it a second glance). I was always looking for one fast food joint or another when I was a kid, and then in my college days and younger days at work, I always made it to the most happening watering hole or sports bar.
It was the same idea a couple of months back, as my good ol' college friend and I met up at Connaught Place. It was the mid-point for both of us, as he was coming from Dwarka and I from Noida. Post our customary Hi-Hellos, we set about to walk down to the nearest urban watering hole, it was then that we crossed the United Coffee House and decided to walk in. This Sunday, I did the same thing by taking my better half and kids to this Culinary Landmark in New Delhi.
As you make it through the doors, it feels as if you have just gone through a time warp and been transported many decades back. This 2 storeyed, 138 cover restaurant, high Ceilings with gilded work and Viennese Chandeliers preserve the old world charm and the Staff, in colonial club steward uniform complete the experience.
The Menu is a story in itself - a story of how this establishment, opened in 1942, as an outlet, selling tea and coffee in the evenings with some snacks has changed over the years (just as Delhi has). They offer an Indian section, an Oriental Section (with Chinese, some Thai and Japanese delicacies thrown in) and a European, Continental and Mediterranean section. They also have a section for Tea and Coffee snacks complete with a pakoda platter, chicken cutlets, Keema/Regular Samosa and South Indian tifiin items (Idli/Vada/Dosa) and a section devoted to Omelettes and one for sandwiches. All the sections have traditional favorites and it made me extremely happy to go through the continental section and find old 1950's & 1960's classics such as Mushroom Stroganoff(445/-), Chicken A'La Kiev(545/-), Poulet Alexander(545/-) and hold your breath Lobster Thermidor (1595/-).
Today we ordered the Cheese Balls (175/-)which is listed as their signature favorite and their claim to have sold over a million and counting and Baluchi Aloo (295/-) for starters. The Baluchi Aloo were one of the best stuffed tandoori aloo in the Capital stuffed with a host of different nuts, raisins and the occasional pomegranate seeds, which my son excitedly pointed out. The Cheese balls elicited exclamations of surprise from all of us, given the huge size of the balls, but they left us a little disappointed. We were all expecting them to be gooey and stringy from inside but these were dry doughy balls and strangely had an after taste of egg.
Next for the main course was Chicken A'La Kiev (545/-) and Hampstead Fish n' Chips (545/-). The chicken looked great when it arrived, on a bed of mashed potatoes with an assortment blanched fresh vegetables and french fries neatly arranged around it. We loved the cheesy buttery taste of the chicken and the vegetables tasted wonderful. But the real winner of the day was the fish n' chips. Served with Tartar Sauce, a bread basket and herb butter, the fish was firm and flavorful. It tasted so fresh that one would think that this restaurant was on the banks of a water body.
The portion sizes are huge and by the time we finished the fish n'chips, we had no place for a dessert, even though the apple pie with cinnamon ice cream on the next table looked extremely inviting. Our bill with taxes came to a little over 2400/- (colas and mineral water thrown in ...no alcohol ) of which 400/- were only taxes and we felt that it was worth the experience.
During my last visit, we enjoyed the chicken cutlets (which were more of an escalope) and Chicken Salt n'pepper (425/-). We could have done without the bbq chicken wings (345/-) which had a funny sauce coating and a generous sprinkling of sesame seeds. Interestingly during both my visits the place was crowded, and things moved in slow motion (service is a little slow)- just so you can savor each and every moment. Even the lighting, especially on the 1st floor, makes you feel as you if you are seeing things in Eastman Color. I will personally recommend sitting on the ground level - more spacious and good natural sunlight.
This was my second visit in as many months and I look forward to many more visits, just to go back in time and enjoy the classic culinary gems and an era gone by.
Note: This restaurant is a culinary landmark and I have restrained myself from rating the place.