Monday, October 26, 2009

Le Cafe

3rd floor, N-1, Ravi Bajaj, N Block Market, Greater Kailash 1, New Delhi
011 4173 1035/1036
11.30am - 9.30pm daily

If I have an afternoon to myself, GK1’s N Block Market is one of my favourite stops. First it’s straight to Full Circle to check out the new releases, then next door to Urban Shore to inhale deeply and pretend, for just a few minutes, that I’m at Space NK in London. Then it’s to Ravi Bajaj  - not for the menswear, but rather up to the third floor to Le Cafe.

Le Cafe cemented its place at the top of my Delhi cafe list on my very first visit there; each subsequent meal has not changed that.

Firstly, there’s the ambience. Up high, full of light and surrounded by greenery, it’s an oasis away from the dust and noise and rickshaws - but is still connected to all that, thanks to big  windows looking down over the market. There’s no self-conscious Indo-trendy decor, rather, it’s clean, relatively bare, neutral and calm. Banquettes line two walls, while there are intimate tables scattered throughout. 

The menu is simple and clearly aimed towards women, with its offerings of mostly salads, sandwiches, pastas and light meat dishes. It is mainly authentically Italian but with a lighter, cleaner touch. 

After you order they bring you a basket of these delightful baby bread rolls and a carafe of olive oil. If you are lucky enough to be on your own, you get the whole basket to yourself. There’s no roll counting here.

Usually I order a salad, such as the Asian sesame chicken salad, the wholesome veggie salad or the prawn salad, however on my latest visit I opted for the Saigon Chicken, one of the few dishes that strays from Le Cafe’s Mediterranean roots. 

It consists of slices of chicken panfried in a mixture of pounded lemongrass, ginger and a heap of chili, then slid straight out of the pan and onto the plate. Or that’s how I imagine it, at least. To the side there’s a little pile of spinach and some batons of carrots, sprinkled in sesame seeds. It looks a bit murky, the colour of algaed seawater - or perhaps closer to the colour of the water at the Haus Khaz tank -  but each bite is juicy and exploding with flavour. It is a fantastic dish and the very one that spearheaded my Le Cafe love.

Desserts, displayed in a glass case at the front, include blueberry cheesecake, tiramisu and chocolate brownies, but my tip is to head straight for the New York cheesecake. I don’t know how faithful the recipe is to New York, but this Dilliwala version is priceless. For starters, it actually appears made in a kitchen as opposed to some laboratory (most cakes are so even, so uniform and covered in some chemically-induced foam masquerading as cream, that I am convinced they are made by zombies). It actually gets gooier the closer you get to the middle of the cake - or the tip of the slice. It also has a wonderfully creamy mouth feel - and the crumb bottom is deliciously buttery and soft and uneven. You can almost taste the knuckle prints.

While Le Cafe’s food is thanks to the minds behind GK2’s Diva restaurant, the cafe is owned by Ravi Bajaj, which will in coming days unveil its latest venture, a tapas and wine bar called Gusto, just one floor down from Le Cafe. Food and wine will be faithfully Italian, and it will be open from midday through till 12.30am.


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