Delhi’s onion-layered history is mirrored deliciously in its diverse and dynamic cuisine. Cosmopolitan Delhi-ites crave fine food like plants crave sunshine, and the city’s food scene trots the globe. From tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurants to fine dining and quirky cafes, this really is a city with something to please everyone. Here are some eateries in the Indian capital that reflect its eclectic personality.
Cafe culture with a twist at Cafe Lota
The leafy cul-de-sac beside the Crafts Museum at Pragati Maidan has been reinvented as an indoor-outdoor eatery, and a calm retreat from the city crush. A huge hit with Delhi’s arty set, Cafe Lota (Crafts Museum, Gate No 2, Bhairon Marg) charms with an innovative menu of regional Indian flavours and surprise twists on traditional favourites. Reserving ahead will allow faster access to some of the capital’s tastiest food. Otherwise, you may have a long wait for your crunchy palak patta chaat (spicy spinach salad), apple cinnamon jalebi, or filtered coffee.
Continental creations at Le Bistro Du Parc
When Delhi-ites crave European flavours, they head to Le Bistro Du Parc (lebistroduparc.com) in Defence Colony. Capturing just the right Parisian mood, this little piece of La Belle France serves fine French fare, with a live jazz soundtrack on Wednesdays and Fridays. Tucked into a tree-lined corner of Moolchand Flyover Market, it’s a great, pocket-friendly alternative to the pricey European restaurants in Delhi's five-star hotels. Oh, and did we mention the food is outstanding?
Old city wonders at Lakhori
In earshot of the muezzin’s call from the iconic Jama Masjid, Lakhori (havelidharampura.com/lakhori), is cosily housed inside Haveli Dharampura, a handsomely restored 200-year-old traditional mansion that doubles as an upscale hotel. Hidden away in an atmospheric alley, you’ll find all the street-food that you wistfully passed by as you walked the streets of Old Delhi, served up as high-tea most afternoons. Weekends are reserved for a spot of Mughal-mania, with a heady mix of kebabs, curries, and classical Kathak dances.
Fruit flavours at Jain Coffee House
A blink-and-you’ll-miss-it neighbourhood haunt for over half a century, the Jain Coffee House is an Old Delhi institution. Inside, an archaic coffee machine coughs, hisses, and streams coffee into Styrofoam cups for a quick pick-me-up, but most are here for the seasonal fruit sandwiches. Imagine soft white bread slathered with fresh butter, jam or marmalade, and topped with cottage cheese and fresh fruit – mango, pineapple, sapodilla, apple, grapes, pomegranate – serving up a burst of flavours and textures.
Live the Naga life at Dzukou Tribal Kitchen
For a slice of India’s rugged northeast, walk up three floors in Hauz Khas Market. At Dzukou Tribal Kitchen (dzukoutribalkitchen.com) copious amounts of traditional rice beer wash down tangy curries, sticky rice and spicy relish from India’s least explored quarter. For adventurous palates, they serve raja mirchi chutney, rated high on the Scoville chilli scale, but the Nagaland style ribs are arguably the showstopper. The interior is kitted out in unpretentious wood, bamboo and brick, and upbeat live bands add evening ambience.
Comfort food at Rustom’s Parsi Bhonu Cafe
Antique furniture, grandfather clocks, sepia photos and foot-tapping music from the 70s: Rustom’s (rustoms.com) feels like stepping into a dignified Parsi home, and the menu draws on generations of Parsi family recipes. Delhi’s tiny Zoroastrian community has a gargantuan appetite for rich mutton stews – come for dhansak (hot and sour curry with lentils) and salli boti (lamb stew with apricots), spiced scrambled eggs and vegetable pulao rice. After sipping on a raspberry soda and tapping your foot to Miles Davis, you can pop down the road to the nearby Qutb Minar, Delhi’s most impressive archaeological heirloom.
Lebanese bites at Zizo
It’s all about nostalgia at this cheery restaurant in bustling Connaught Place, named for a tiny green beetle that the owner kept as a childhood pet. The kitchen at Zizo (zizo.in) is helmed by a Lebanese chef, ensuring that the batata harra (spice potatoes), man’oushe (spiced flatbread), lamb kibbeh (meatballs) and kanufa (sweet pastries) are as authentic as they come. The owner’s playful attitude extends to the décor: Arabic but modern, with half a mule emerging from the wall in the bar upstairs.
Canine cuisine at Puppychino
Delhi’s first dog cafe lures in the punters with cute resident pooches. Families gather at Puppychino (facebook.com/puppychino) for a lively menu of pizzas, pastas, burgers, sandwiches and shakes, but it’s the play area full of frolicking pups that is the main attraction. A tasty bite and a bit of puppy love can feel surprisingly restorative after a day on Delhi’s crowded streets. Dog-owners can even order from a special food menu for dogs, including pooch-friendly pancakes.