Nightlife! – Part I

My cool take on the hot-spots of the Delhi Nightlife, in no particular order…

1. Capitol (Hotel Ashok)

This is one of my favourite places to party. The club opens up at about 11 and the crowd picks up only at midnight. There is hardly any place to move by 2 AM. The dress code is formal, so most men are well-dressed. It is a good place to go dancing, when in a large group because then one can reserve a table. The music, experience tells me, depends upon the mood of the DJ. So, one can expect to hear quite a variety of genres on any given night. The only downside is the entry fee of Rs 2000, but the club has the concept of guest list (where someone who knows someone who knows someone at the club gets the names on to a list)!

Prices: Expensive

2. Cafe Morrison (South Extension)

The music is the best part about this lounge. There is brilliant hard rock, soft rock, a bit of trance, and some country. Most women here are totally dolled up, so if one decides to end up here on a whim, then women might feel self-conscious. The dance floor is small, sort of like an aisle between the bar counter and the wall. So, when it’s crowded it is irritating. Best to reserve a table. These guys open relatively early in the evening and it’s a brilliant place for an evening of great music.

Prices: Inexpensive

3. Flluid (Mosaic)

This one’s in Noida. At the moment, it is closed for renovation. There was a time a year ago when I would be found here at least twice a week! It is an all time favourite place. The food is great (order from the Latitude menu). The music is okay-ish, they play all the popular tracks of all time. The service is remarkable; all the staff is very courteous and friendly. This too, is a lounge, so open from 6 PM (I think) to 1 AM. By usual Noida standards, I think the most educated and polished hang out here.

Prices: Membership for me :), mid-range otherwise

We love to play with electricity!

4. F-Bar (Hotel Ashok)

Dress code is strictly formal, men in sports shoes aren’t allowed in. This place is right next to Capitol. It is the most most expensive place ever. Reputedly, the richest in Delhi go dancing here, which means neither the suave or the polished. The music is decent, not great, the sort of crowd that goes with weird music. I wouldn’t recommend it, it ain’t worth the money.

Prices: Super expensive!

5. Reverb (GIP)

Again a lounge, again in Noida. This place also shuts down by 1 AM. If one wants to tap feet to a good collection of Bollywood and Punjabi, this is the place. The crowd consists of mostly college people, the kind of dresses one sees are casual to semi-formal. The bouncers are surprisingly robust and this is a good party place with friends.

Prices: Inexpensive

Price ranges (per person, including entry if applicable):
Inexpensive: Rs 1000 – Rs 1500
Mid-range: Rs 2000 – Rs 3000
Expensive: Rs 4000 – Rs 6000
Super expensive: Rs 9000 – Rs 15000

Cheap Eats in South Delhi?

Last month when a friend visited me in Delhi, we had a rather delectable brunch at Elma’s in Hauz Khaz Village. Freshly baked bread in different hues, a German-style handmade sausage roll, and olive oil and sun-dried tomatoes for dipping purposes. All washed down with Darjeeling tea (served in china cups and saucers, naturally) and carrot and cheesecake cake. The bill was Rs.1200.

Tea & Cake at Elma's - yes that is cheesecake!

While permissible as an occasional indulgence, forking out at this level just isn’t possible on a student budget. Luckily for me, my daily expeditions to North Delhi for college take me into the realm of Rs.30 thalis and Rs.5 cups of chai. But what happens when you want to eat local? Six months after moving into Safdarjung Enclave, here is my round-up:

Tiffin in the Village

If you find yourself in Hauz Khaz Village on a sunny day, then you can have the most delicious aloo gobi without breaking the bank (in fact, even if you order it with curd and roti, you’ll still have change from a Rs.50 note). This tiffin-wallah extraordinaire(who also sometimes has rajma, rice & aloo matter) is located just behind the newsagents on the left hand side of the main drag, just before you reach the entrance to the small park/historic monuments. Taking your lunch into said park means that you can enjoy not just delicious food, but also a lakeside view. What more could you want.

Aloo gobi in the village

Bengal Sweet Corner

In the same complex as Kamal Cinema in Safdardung Enclave, and rightly famed for its delicious sweet dishes, The Bengal Sweet Corner also does a rather wonderful thali. Rs 100 for delicious dahl makhani, a paneer dish, raita, tandorri naan, rice & sabzjie, it never fails to sate me. And for just another twenty rupees they’ll deliver it beautifully packaged to your door, with the added bonus of a desert dish (often gulab jamum – yum).

Madras Café

Whenever I find myself in Green Park Market, I always nip into the Madras Café for my fix of South Indian food. Whether you want a cup of chai (served so that you have the added challenge of pouring it back and forth from the metal cup to the metal bowl without scalding yourself) a dosa or a full blown thali, it’s the place to go. The thalis are particularly noteworthy for coming with poori rather than roti, which always goes down well with me. You need to get your oil fix somehow, nah?

Madras Cafe chai, served the south Indian way

Baker’s Byte

Sometimes only pizza will do. On such occasions in the past, I have relented and called Dominoes or Pizza Hut Home Delivery, forked out a large sum of money, and invariably been disappointed by the fact that the pizza claiming to feed two actually barely satisfies one. That was until discovering Baker’s Byte! A small chain of bakeries (with my local being a stone’s throw away in Arjun Nagar), it does very passable large pizzas for between Rs.100 and 150, in a range of (vegetarian) flavours.  Their personal pizzas (the same size as dominoes medium) come in at Rs.55, and they also have a great selection of toasties, pasta, and of course cake. Fast-food fix sorted.

Happy (cheap!) eating.

Tea, coffee, travel culture, and a bowl of coconut soup

While we’ve mentioned once or twice that Hauz Khas Village might be becoming a tad too ‘bohemian’ (read: pretentious) for its own good, there are a few places in the tangle of leafy, winding lanes that are well worth checking out.

The other day, after a long and questionably useful Hindi class at DU (Did you know that the poet Kabir was abandoned at the side of a pond by his mother when he was a baby? Well, you do now.), Maegan and I headed to South Delhi’s artsy urban village for an evening of socialising at Kunzum Travel Cafe.

Started back in 2007, Kunzum – named after the ultra altitudinous mountain pass in Himachal Pradesh – is a space for swapping travel tales with newly made friends; for reading travelogues and guidebooks stacked on library shelves; for daydreaming about exotic and distant lands (owner Ajay Jain’s photography all over the walls helps with this!); for penning/blogging your own holiday memoirs… Oh, and even for just sipping tea or coffee, which, believe it or not, you can pay whatever you like for!

And the best part – my lovely friend Brandi now works there. Lucky b*tch.

Look how smug she is!

We shuffled out of the bone-chilling January fog and into the cosy cafe. I swear it was the first time I’d felt warm in days; I even had to take off my shawl. Brandi and some other friends were lounging on floor cushions, discussing film nights, book launches, workshops and several million other exciting things which would be happening at Kunzum soon. We had masala tea in Fabindia cups and rectangular peanut cookies. We chatted about a new collaborative e-zine called Outside In. We toyed with the idea of turning chai drinking into a sport, envisaging headlines like ‘Team Chai completes race across Delhi, discovers chaiwallah with best recipe’.

Creative ideas in a creative space: Kunzum is just like that.

And then it was closing time. And we decided to go in search of soup. The quest took us along the Village’s narrow gullies, round dark corners and up crumbling staircases – via detours at Flipside and Elma’s – until we reached Lah! – an almost brand-new Southeast Asian eatery with bright pink walls and a slightly out-of-place Christmas tree. Studying the menu that promised tasty-but-perhaps-not-100%-authentic dishes from the likes of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, Maegan and I ordered a gigantic bowl of ‘Laksa Lemak’ to share. A spicy coconut soup full of noodles, veg and beansprouts, it was the perfect meal for a cold winter night. We were very happy indeed.

So while I didn’t move to India to sit drinking coffee and using free wifi, or to eat Thai soup beside an elegant vase of bamboo, there is definitely room in my life for the odd night in Hauz Khas Village. And with Brandi filling me in on the events at Kunzum (she does excellent Facebook updates), I expect my visits will soon become more than occasional.

Omelettes in the Village

Do you know about ‘The Village’? No, we haven’t relocated to New York – Delhi has its very own suburban village in the form of Hauz Khaz, and in its own knowing sort of way it’s equally trendy. You won’t find a Coffee Day or Baristas on the main drag – instead it’s a series of designer boutiques and independent eateries. All very well and good, but definitely a little out of our price range on a regular basis.

You might ask how two impoverished students such as Susanna and myself found ourselves in such a salubrious area on a Friday evening after college? You’ll never believe it but were viewing property. Yes property!  I’ll explain. We’re members of a Delhi-expat yahoo group. Most emails that we receive as a result of said membership read something along the lines of:

One bedroom available in spacious, luxury flat in Defence Colony. Private bathroom, fully air-conditioned with own balcony. Rent Rs.30, 000/month – electricity, maid, cook, gardener and Wi-Fi charges additional.

This, we (and I think that I can safely speak for Susanna here too) find faintly depressing. But occasionally there’s a gem.

Such a gem – advertising a private room in Hauz Khaz for the bargain price of Rs.8000/month appeared in my inbox on Thursday:

There is a room available to rent near Hauz Khaz Village with a private terrace, kitchenette and bathroom. It comes semi furnished with a fridge, bed, closet and water heater (bathroom) with a private entry. It is overlooking the park and the deer park. The rent is 8000 with 8000 deposit.

Naturally we hot-footed it over there pronto, and viewed what can only be described a quirky apartment. Situated on the top floor of a housing block with a bedroom, kitchen and small bathroom in separate corners of an open terrace it was charming if a little unconventional (and in need of a good clean). Immediately we were picturing rooftop gatherings, fairy lights and al fresco dining. Sadly our hopes were dashed a little when we realized how many other people were interested in the place – and that the boho filmmaker NRI type who was showing us around was being decidedly cagey about how the landlady would choose who ultimately got it.

Slightly deflated we made the short walk over to the village to check out the trendy south-Delhi lifestyle that we could potentially be living. Should we go to the rooftop Keralan restaurant we’d heard so much about? A bar? Or to the famous Living Room for a cocktail and a quick snack? Having heard so much about it from friends and acquaintances we plumped for the latter, and were soon weaving our way up through dimly lit rooms, carefully squeezing past beautifully turned out young women in heels brandishing designer handbags, and feeling a tad out of place in our full salwar kameez sets (we’d come prepared to impress potential Aunty-type landladies, henna).

Perhaps not surprisingly on a balmy Friday night there were no tables, and we were soon making the same journey in reverse, climbing down from the top-floor open-air terrace back to the exit on the ground floor.

‘I saw a guy on the street outside making masala omelettes,’ Susanna ventured ‘Fancy one?’

Twenty minutes later we were trekking back to Green Park metro station – full of eggy goodness and only twenty rupees poorer. Perhaps it’s best that I don’t get the trendy rooftop apartment; I suspect that I’m not cool enough to live in Hauz Khaz after all …