by Vandana Verma
11 June 2013
Smoke House Deli, 12 Hauz Khas Village, Delhi. Metro: Green Park.
Ph: +91.11. 30146022 ext: 880
In tribute to the ancient reservoir it overlooks, this restaurant and bar keeps the waters of life flowing steadily.
I'm usually lured to the back lane of Hauz Khas Village with the promise of one of those beetroot-feta salads that the Smoke House Deli kitchens do so well, followed, perhaps, by one of cream cheese and lox bagels. But once in, I'll stay and gravitate toward the bar for their unswervingly delicious cocktails, punchy and pitch-perfect as summer continues to tighten its sweaty stranglehold.
This outpost of Smoke House Deli’s tucked away out back, in the building that once housed The Village Bistro. For the record, the menu’s the same as at its siblings in Vasant Kunj and Khan Market, starting at hearty breakfasts, bagels and burgers and ending with roast chicken, really big bowls of risotto and pan-seared trout. But the real draw, and reason enough to navigate this heaving neighbourhood, is the work of designer and typographer Kriti Monga, whose done-by-hand illustrations cover every wall, painstaking work that chronicles the history of Hauz Khas Village, from the 13th century right up to the cacophonic urban village it is today.
Depending on where you sit, you’ll be part of a timeline of stories: at one end you’ll see a depiction of the reservoir and surrounding gardens as they appeared to Firoz Shah Tughlaq in the 14th century, while at the other end (where the bar sits) the walls pay tribute to the independent design and culture practitioners who adopted this urban village for their studios and stores. We spotted longtime HKV residents the Midival Punditz and audio-video duo BLOT! sitting adjacent to each other on one wall, while other illustrations pointed to Bodice and Nappa Dori, who were amongst the first of the new wave in the neighbourhood’s revival.
Hauz Khas Village’s descent from hip scenester hangout to a collegiate hookah-town, complete with a glut of forgettable cafés, is well underway. But at this eatery, with the neighbourhood’s history painted out in front of you, and a hauz-facing view, it’s very easy to forget that you’re sitting smack dab in the middle of a bohemian theme park.