Caffeine Love

Ever had a perfect moment of coffee? No horrendous music blasting from invisible speakers. No sharp boys in their strange pretend-gora-accents. While the stuff at pretty much any run of the mill coffee place (except Coffee Day - they're evil), is decent; the pretend-cool of commercial coffee has always put the poor Hipposaur off. And in fact, we're talking about simpler things here, actually. We're talking of freshly mopped sunmica tabletops. The smell of cigarette stubs in damp ashtrays, chipped china, groaning expresso machines past their prime, and no one to rush you once you're done. In his search for the perfect moment of coffee, the Hipposaur found himself in the beating, greasy heart of Lutyen's walled City, and dived in.

The Hipposaur likes his cappuccino, and black filter kaffe, necessarily in that order. Strong, sugary, and basic. Chancing upon the Delhiwalla's musings recently, the Hipposaur found himself on the footpath at Baba Kharak Singh Marg, right where the road meets Connaught Place. The Sunday afternoon sun was a calm yellow, enveloping the traffic haze of Lutyens' Delhi. Across the street stood two iconic caffeine holes of the city.

First up - the Udipi cafe-styled Coffee Home shows up on the side of the road, right after a cluster of government-run textile emporia. Step in through the glass doors and you'll be reminded of the familiar comforts of a government-run canteen. Plastic chairs accompany white tabletops. You snatch bits of conversation drifting from the back yard. Pay up to the uncle at the counter, and settle down with your cuppa brimming with filter caffeine.

Watch people running home from work, families out to grab a bite, and the inscrutable swarms of retired uncles busy in animated chatter. Right at the nerve centre of the capital city, Coffee Home has an inexplicable aura of homecoming to it.

What's good here: Try the Dosas, and the Vadas. The Black Coffee, while served in a paper cup, is commendable.
Location: At the junction where BKS Marg meets CP, left of the government textile shops.
Damage report: 25~50 Rupees per head, or thereabouts

Meanwhile, tucked away on the top floor of the municipality-operated concrete shopping complex, the ever-crumbling Indian Coffee House chugs along in its barely-there pace. You'll still see liveried, albeit a little aloof, waiters in white uniforms, turbans et al. Take your seat on one of the ancient brown couches, and wait. Get a paperback, or a bunch of friends along. This is home, and it will take some time.

With enough luck, you will see one of the waiters taking notice, and gently floating towards you in a surreal duck-like swagger. An oil-stained, laminated menu card in hand. Order your grub and dose of caffeine, and wait some more. Dip into that book, if you haven't already.

Life at the ICH moves at an unhurried pace. Soon, from your vantage point on one of those battered, rexine-patched seats, you'll probably soak in the essence of the Coffee House in Delhi. Caught in the whirling vortex of manic New Dilli, the ICH is a delightfully rare moment of calm, paused in a nameless, ageless past. Here, you can take your time, sit on a worn cushion and read a book, or actually have a long, long conversation. Call out for the Cold Coffee, the espresso, or the regular Coffee, and sit back. IHC is smoke friendly, and the grub, while passable, is dirt cheap.

What's good here: Mutton cutlets without perceptible meat content, Cheese toast with thick slices of cheese, Espresso, Cold Coffee, Special Coffee
Location: Mohan Singh Place, at the point where BKS Marg meets CP.
Damage report: 20~60 Rupees per head, or thereabouts.

The third part of the caffeine pilgrimage took the Hipposaur to north of town, all the way to Majnu Ka Tilla. Hidden in a basement at the Tibetan Settlement Village is Coffee House, a tiny, pretty place run by two Tibetan sisters. Eclectic posters (including a Toulouse Lautrec print) line the walls of the bright yellow room, as the Dalai Lama looks on from the framed photo on the wall.

Sink into one of the wicker chairs and call out for their fantastic cappuccino - served in a big mug for 40 bucks, as you flip through the pile of well-thumbed-Huxleys and Steinbecks on the rack. They also run a small baking operation, and can rustle up homely marble cakes, brownies and biscuits. The atmosphere is relaxed, and you can take your time with the order. And while your'e at it, give the Baristas and Café Coffee Days a miss, for good.

What's good here: Capuccino, Marble Cake, Chocolate-topped Brownie
Location: Basement floor, Tibetan Shopping Centre, Majnu Ka Tilla. Five minute-rick/15 minutes' walk away from Vidhan Sabha Metro, on the Yellow Line.
Damage report: 80~120 Rupees per head.

Next up, Kunzum Travellers' Café, Café Turtle, and more. Watch this blog.

1 comment:

asmita said...

Oh so you follow "Delhi Walla" as well! :)