MonkeyBar opened around the same time as The Hungry Monkey, and we’d had this on our list of places to eat at ever since. Then, what with the sudden flurry of other restaurants that opened, Monkey Bar got pushed to the back of our minds. This last Sunday, however, since we were in the vicinity around lunchtime, we decided we’d go check it out.
Monkey Bar sits next to the much older Nanking. This one’s probably one of the more interesting restaurant buildings in Delhi: it’s housed in a large glass pyramid, reminiscent of the pyramids at the Louvre. The pyramid sits in a lawn, with a paved path leading to a couple of short flights of stairs to the restaurant.
Inside, the restaurant seating spreads out across various levels. The floors are wooden in places, rough black stone in others. There are colourful vintage-style posters (but not actually vintage, since the illustrations look vintage while the captions are about Facebook and Twitter and so on). The music is pop from the 80s and 90s, the air is one of easy friendliness. And above it all, and around, are the glass panes looking out onto the world outside.
The menu at Monkey Bar is very eclectic. There are loads of different types of dishes here, from salads to soups, ‘small plates’, main courses and desserts. These range from interesting Indian regional cuisines (including some quirky-sounding Parsi dishes) to Oriental, to nachos, burgers, and more. Many of them sounded very tempting indeed, but we finally settled on two mains, both with pork belly as the core ingredient: my husband ordered the pork belly sliders, and I ordered the mobar bork (‘mobar’ is an acronym you’ll see frequently on this menu; it’s a contracted form, as you might have guessed, of ‘Monkey Bar’). The mobar bork, according to its description on the menu, consists of crisp fried pork belly, served on a bed of noodles and Asian vegetables, with a black bean sauce.
Monkey Bar, of course, is a bar, and they have a fairly decent alcohol menu. Since we don’t usually drink alcohol, we skipped ahead to the soft drinks section, only to be rather disappointed. There are some smoothies and shakes here, plus the ubiquitous aerated drinks, but nothing exciting with fruit juices et al – which was what I’d been hoping for. My husband and I both settled for a fresh lime soda each.
Our drinks were served up in about five minutes’ time; the food took another few minutes. The pork sliders – three of them, topped with sesame seeds and stuffed with juicy, flavoursome strips of fat-laden pork belly, lightly coated with sauce and topped with chopped green scallions – were delectable.
Initially, my husband thought the portion would be too small, and that he’d have to order something else too. However, the combination of bun and meat proved quite filling. Also, on the side, was a paper cone of French fries and a small bowl of mayonnaise to dip them into. My husband pepped up the mayo a bit by adding a dollop of a bottled chipotle sauce – Monkey Bar are generous with their condiments, providing an array of hot sauces besides the usual ketchup and mustard on the table.
The mobar bork that I’d ordered was a large portion, a big heap of yellow egg noodles sitting in a red bowl, heaped with Asian vegetables (from what I could see, mainly bok choy and green scallions), and topped off with slices of pork belly. The pork belly, while not crisp (as promised by the menu), was delicious nevertheless. I liked the sauce too, a black bean one that was just adequate to coat the noodles, veggies and meat, without being overpowering.
Main course over, we were both very keen on dessert. The desserts page on the menu obviously caters to the average Delhiite’s fondness for chocolate: there’s a preponderance of chocolate desserts here. My husband and I too eventually chose chocolate desserts: a chocolate pot de creme with salted caramel for me, and the Old Monk(ey) chocolate cake for my husband.
I wouldn’t expect desserts to take an inordinately long time to be served (and if they are going to take time, as in the case of a chocolate fondant, then the wait staff should inform diners when the dish is ordered). Our desserts, however, once ordered, didn’t turn up for well over ten minutes. My husband reminded a waiter, and also asked for our bill (since we were in a hurry to leave), but the desserts arrived only after yet another person had been asked to please check on our desserts.
Sadly, our desserts didn’t really prove worth the wait. They were good, but not spectacular. My husband’s chocolate cake was both chocolatey and rummy (that Old Monk shining through!), and came with a garnish of crushed praline and two little rosettes of whipped cream. Nice, though rather rich, especially as the cake oozed loads of chocolate too. The caramel sauce drizzled around was described on the menu as ‘salted’, but my husband said he couldn’t taste any salt.
Equally rich was my chocolate pot de creme. This came on a wooden tray, the chocolate custard rich and gooey, set in a glass jar and topped with lots of caramel popcorn. On the side, lying on the paper-lined tray, were two thin slices of lemon poppy seed cake. These were pleasant, gently lemony but nothing to write home about. The caramel popcorn was what got my goat: it was chewy and got stuck in my teeth, plus the whole idea of salted caramel as a foil to the chocolate fell rather flat: I couldn’t taste any salt in the caramel, and all the popcorn contributed was a texture I could have done without.
The good bit about Monkey Bar is that the atmosphere is fun, and that the menu is so varied, it’s a good idea to come here if you’re part of a group with wildly differing tastes. The food – or what we ate, barring the desserts – was mostly good. The delay in serving the desserts was irritating, and the desserts themselves were not brilliant.
We spent Rs 1,809 here, inclusive of taxes and service charges. Considering we had no alcohol, that isn’t exactly cheap. But will we be back? Yes, probably, because what we ate of the main courses was good, and we’d like to try out some of the other things on their menu. The next time, however, we just might skip dessert here.
Note: After 6 PM, Monkey Bar does not admit anyone below 25 years of age.
Plot No 11, Sector C -6 & 7
New Delhi -110070