There’s something about eating out. I love cooking, but on days when you are left with no vegetables or meat in the refrigerator, or feel lazy (which happens personally about once a week), you either dress up or order in your night clothes with your hair in a bun. And on some days, a mud pack covering your face.
Now, going out to eat is an experience which everyone loves. I’m yet to come across a person who says, “Going to a restaurant sucks.” However, the one thing everyone complains about is the pocket pinch. I talk of the common people of course, not the ones carrying Louis Vuitton clutches, interchanging clothes from Prada and Gucci as frequently as drinking water!
Where I come from, eating out is still affordable. Back home in Calcutta, even the most posh restaurant street will find customers from all walks of life. As college goers crowd the smoky Oly pub, a family of four will wait in line patiently just to taste the Chelo kebabs at Peter Cat. And, I repeat, it’s affordable because a meal for two, including a drink and dessert, will come under Rs. 2000. That’s inclusive of taxes mind you.
In Delhi, I can’t even think of going to a posh restaurant regularly because just the entrees and a drink will push my bill to over two thousand! Forget posh ones; even a regular, decent eating joint will make you cringe at the end of the meal. Thus, you are left to order food from the little eating shacks which line up every neighbourhood in Delhi, selling everything from stuffed parathas to pan fried noodles. Don’t get me wrong, I love eating in the little places but it does get a bit repetitive.
For food lovers, trying out new places is a must. You learn new tastes, understand different flavours, know of different cuisines. It doesn’t always have to be something exotic or from a faraway country. If you’re from northern India, trying flavours from the southern part of the country will seem new and different. The same goes for western Indians when eating north eastern food. That’s the beauty of this country. Each region has a different approach to food. The spices are sometimes similar but their usage becomes varied.
If you’re in Delhi craving food and willing to try different cuisines but have a budget; the various state-run Bhavans (google translates it to mean large building) would be your best bet. You can choose to have spicy food at the Andhra Bhavan (near India Gate) or try the delicious Raja mirch-flavoured pork at the Nagaland House (diagonally opposite the Race Course metro station).
The Andhra Bhavan canteen is always crowded, believe me. Either go early before the lunch hour rush begins or after 2.30 pm when the crowds begin to disperse. With the set-course unlimited vegetarian thali (meal) you can choose to add mutton, chicken or prawn. Everyone is served rice, roti, various vegetables and lentils, yoghurt and sweet. But that doesn’t stop you from adding mutton or chicken fry and prawn curry. With an aerated drink each, a meal for two comes under Rs. 400! My personal favourite is having the rice with ghee (clarified butter) and gunpowder (a spicy lentil powder) with mutton fry. It’s just divine.
Can’t visit Kerala? Why not try authentic food at the Kerala House staff canteen? You can walk to Jantar Mantar Road from the Rajiv Chowk metro station and then tuck in to a hearty meal of brown rice with sambar and seasonal vegetables. The chilly beef and Mackerel are a must. And the pocket pinch? Under Rs. 400 for two.
Love pork? Visit Nagaland House for the ribs. The spices are just right and the meat is sinful. You can have the rice and lentils served with a helping of boiled vegetables along with the famous fish chutney (made with dried fish, tomatoes, chillies and secret spices) but it’s the pork which makes the meal unforgettable. For two, you spend less than Rs. 500 which makes it the deal clincher.
Missing the Goa beaches? I can’t promise you the beach view but Goa Niwas in Chanakyapuri serves authentic Vindaloo, Xacuti and Bebinca which takes your taste buds down memory lane. The pork vindaloo is just as it should be while the prawn peri peri calls out your name. And the traditional desert Bebinca hits the sweet spot. Price for two – Rs. 500.
When in Chanakyapuri, try out Assam Bhavan too. For a traditional taste of Assamese cuisine, the thalis are a must-have which serves rice, lentils an vegetables. For the a la carte-minded, do try the chicken in bamboo shoot gravy, the tangy fish curry or fish Tenga and the Bhut Jalokia chicken. You will not be disappointed! Again, it’s a reasonable fare, so allow Rs. 600 for two if you’re really hungry.
These are only a few examples. There are plenty of other state-run Bhavans to try from. For instance the Banga Bhavan (for the typical Bengali food lover), Jammu and Kashmir House, Maharashtra Sadan, Tamil Nadhu Bhavan, Orissa Bhavan (a must for crab lovers) and Sikkim House.
So go ahead. Eat without feeling the pinch. With great food at such reasonable rates, what’s stopping you?
Article written by: Sharmistha Chaudhuri
To read more of her posts, please visit her Blog.
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