Lonely Planet Local Puneetinder Kaur Sidhu divides her time and affection between Delhi and her home in Chandigarh. During the winter months she spends as much time as she can in the Indian capital, seeking out doses of art, culture and cuisine and stopping by her favourite jazz bar.
When I have friends in town… I keep a list ready of popular new eateries that are spicing up the food scene in Delhi, for me India’s culinary capital. I try to ensure we explore at least a couple of them. But if we’re feeling unadventurous, there’s always the retro-look Big Chill to fall back on; a perennial favourite serving hearty Italian cuisine and fantastic desserts.
A typical weekend involves… In winter, a picnic lunch in the monument-stuffed, green grounds of the Lodi Gardens. More often than not, the basket holds take-away meals from one of many buzzing cafes at Khan Market, a short walk away. It could be Khan Chacha’s rolls one day, pizzas from Amici or Thai curries from Sidewok on another. Evenings are often devoted to catching a play or performance at either Kamani Auditorium, or Habitat World. I also keep an eye out for interesting events scheduled at the India International Centre or the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts.
When I’m up for a big night out… it’s the Piano Man Jazz Club for me. It’s a classic music lovers’ space with regular gigs by artists from around the world. There are performances daily, so there’s no need to wait for weekends-only entertainment. They have a well-stocked bar that puts everyone into a foot-tapping mood pretty quickly, and plenty of munchies to assuage our hunger pangs. And reserving ahead usually ensures comfy seats for the show.
Cheap eats… abound in every nook and cranny of Delhi’s amorphous sprawl. The top sellers, as you might expect, are located in the constricted alleys and lively marketplaces of Chandni Chowk in Shahjahanabad (Old Delhi), many within easy walking distance of Old Delhi’s most enduring landmark, the Jama Masjid. Darya Ganj is home to Moti Mahal, the restaurant claimed to be the birthplace of the iconic butter chicken, and where a sumptuous north Indian meal can be had without burning a hole in your pocket. A wholesome breakfast at Hotel Saravana Bhavan in Connaught Place (CP) is a steal and a great set-up for a browse around CP’s book-stores, art galleries, and the newly opened Heritage Charkha Museum.
I know I’m a Delhite because… I can negotiate my way around town with my eyes closed. Translated that means no cabbie or auto rickshaw driver can take me for a ride not of my own choosing! Besides I’m completely at ease with the general bedlam that characterizes Delhi. I may complain about the traffic, the pollution, the brashness, but I take it all in my stride as there is so much more to the city than these minor niggles.
When I want to get out of the city… I head out to Chambal Safari Lodge in Jarar near Agra, gateway to the gharial crocodile-filled National Chambal Sanctuary. The Yamuna Expressway has eased both the flow of traffic, and the newly minted Ring Road in Agra allows me to bypass the city congestion, so I’m usually at the Lodge in roughly three hours, especially if I have left Delhi before it wakes up. In warmer months, and time permitting, I’ll chug up to Kathgodam in Uttarakhand, and cab it to the Juniper B&B, a favourite homestay haunt at Janglia Gaon, beyond Bhimtal.
De-stressing means… spending time amidst excited woofs and wagging tails. Every so often, canine love finds me heading to Puppychino, the city’s first dog café. Located in Shahpur Jat village, a little beyond Siri Fort Auditorium, the cafe doubles as a co-working space, with a cordoned off section for excitable canines monitored by a trainer. Being around the animals boosts my inner happiness but I do succumb once in a while to the coffee and pizza, amongst other munchies, that they serve to humans.
One thing I hate about Delhi… is the unforgiving summer! I find the heat seems to multiply the capital’s maddening chaos, something I’m usually happy to overlook, and even enjoy when the weather is friendlier. Rising temperatures discourage any notions of backyard exploration and my inner foodie is forced to take a backseat too, as ducking out for a mid-morning or afternoon snack at a favoured corner kiosk is no longer an option in the heat.