A culinary heritage

Jun 08 2014, 10:42 IST
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SummaryPandara Park in the capital has always been known for its uniquely-Delhi comfort food offerings. Restaurants here have not digressed from that point

The term restaurant ‘district’ is quite the buzzword in the capital right now. Over the years, neighbourhoods have distinguished themselves as food havens by hosting multiple restaurants. Foodie destinations like Cyber Hub in Gurgaon have expanded the range of culinary options for the diner in a given space. However, there is one area that continues on unobtrusively: the Pandara Road municipal market. Tucked in a government residential area, this little food corner has been in existence for over 50 years. Unlike other areas, though, there is not much diversity here. Since my school days, Pandara Park has always been known for its uniquely-Delhi comfort food offerings of butter chicken and naans. The restaurants here have not digressed from that focal point. The menus have expanded, but the signature dish remains. There is no fusion cuisine or modern twists—only the seating has become more comfortable. One would expect furious competition among the restaurants here, but, as a younger owner tells me, they get along just fine as they have been neighbours for decades and generations. Pandara Park was once our post-nightclub haunt when our collective funds couldn’t ensure a midnight brunch at a five-star hotel’s coffee shop. Yes, a lot of city hotels with nightclubs had started midnight brunches for revelers post a furious evening of dancing. Those brunches were mostly discontinued and, inevitably, the hangout of choice became Pandara Park: the family crowd would head home and the party crowd would emerge, the love for butter chicken uniting all. In this city of multiple superficialities, Pandara Park, for me, remains the one destination that has hosted all kinds of people—families, netas, babus, errant high-schoolers, high-heeled clubbers and tourists. It’s a triumph of sorts when neither price nor location weigh in on the love for food.

And, of course, everyone who has been visiting over the years has their own personal favourite restaurant. Mine is the unapologetically-titled ‘Havemore’. The reason it has scored for me over the others is good food and familiarity. In fact, familiarity is the most comforting aspect in these times of ‘high-concept’ restaurants. Havemore has also withstood my food precocity and schooling in the hospitality arts to remain a favourite. Sure, it has changed, but ever so slightly. The only thing ‘retro’ that continues is the old-style Coca-Cola bottles that have been spared the fuss of being poured into glasses and are instead served in the bottle itself

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