by Vandana Verma
3 June 2013
134 Meherchand Market, next to The Kirana Shop and En Inde.
Ph: +91.11. 4905.1888.
Don’t let the casual name fool you; Meherchand Market's newest eatery is pretty swish.
Like a chic members-only club, complete with tinkly bossa nova pouring out the speakers, well-stocked bookshelves and gracious, flourish-free service, this restaurant in Meherchand market manages to feel both elegant and chill, which is no mean feat.
It also comes with a sparkling résumé – it is the work of the same team that brought us Yeti, still a favourite from amongst the Hauz Khas Village fray. However this light, bright, airy café, spread across two floors, bears zero resemblance to Yeti’s mountainous log cabin interiors. Instead it is a suntrap, with a soaring ceiling, white painted walls, button-back armchairs and large windows that let in loads of light, but filter out the searing heat of the street outside.
At Yeti the proprietors are known to us as serious scholars of mountainous cooking, turning out ginormous bowls of steaming thukpa, some of the fattest mutton momos in the capital and super-fatty pork datchi to be eaten with pinwheeled tingmo bread. But at Café 88 they’ve gone international, turning their attention to farther flung fare that runs the gamut from steamed sea bass done Malay-style to British fish pie, Jamaican jerk prawns, Indonesian nasi goreng and bánh mì, those Franco-Vietnamese baguette sandwiches. If you’re rolling your eyes at the idea of an ill-advised “multicuisine” menu, don’t. This is a well-considered and varied menu that’s worth making your way through.
The liquor situation is still-evolving, but the iced coffees are excellent, and make a good interim order. On a steamy summer afternoon, the ultimate vanilla version seriously hit the spot, not too milky and replete with vanilla and a hefty head of foam, all presented in a tall, substantial glass. If I have any complaints it is only that my straw wasn’t tall enough.
Excellent beer battered fish and chips, perfectly golden and crispy, arrived atop a mini-mountain of frites, spiced peas and a wee ramekin of tartare sauce, while a bowl of mushroom cappuccino was lightly creamy and topped with umami-laden froth. Yeti’s most popular dish, the cheesy Bhutanese pork datchi, also makes a guest appearance on the menu, although in this weather our eyes swiveled instead to the glass noodle salad and the triple decker club sandwich.
It is, we’ll admit, a little spendy, with mains sitting anywhere between Rs 500-700, and a meal for two rounding up around the Rs 3,500 mark. But stop in for coffee and cheesecake and you will be, naturally, spending considerably less. Late on a Sunday afternoon the lower level (which is better suited to drinks and nibbles) was deserted, while the upper level, with dining-style seating, was heaving with lunching couples, clusters of shoppers downing iced Vietnamese coffees and white chocolate shakes and one long table occupied by a family in the middle of what must have been the longest lunch in history.