My husband and I tend to steer clear of Delhi restaurants that have huge menus, especially when those menus scream ‘multicuisine’! Most of these (note: I’m not saying all, because there are some exceptions, like the delightful Latitude 28° in Khan Market). More often than not, the food turns out to exemplify that old adage about being a jack of all trades and a master of none.
This last weekend, in DLF Place Mall at a late hour for lunch—and without the time or energy to go anywhere else for a meal (and wanting to try some place we’d never eaten at before), we went to Café Delhi Heights. Situated on the first floor, past Smokehouse Deli (where I’d preferred to have eaten, since I have had previous experience of the place and can vouch for its general dependability), Café Delhi Heights has two seating areas: one enclosed space, and one outside area. The enclosed space was full, so we settled for the outside space, which in any case looked more my type: open, airy, and without the din and noise of dozens of other diners. This space only has some six or seven wooden tables, along with chairs and polished wooden benches, with a dessert display counter, coffee machine, etc on one side. No frills, no fuss.
We sat down and had a look at the menu. And, as I flipped through it, my heart sank. Café Delhi Heights seems to have something for every palate: there are salads here, burgers, pasta, pizza, sandwiches, tandoori items and kababs, noodles, Oriental dishes—you pretty much name it, and they have it. Which, as I mentioned before, tends to scare me. Since we were hungry, though, we quickly chose a dish each and placed our order: a two-cheese and asparagus risotto for my husband, along with a lemonade; and a pan-seared red snapper for me. This fish dish came with various options: you could choose which Oriental sauce you wanted (I picked chilli hoisin), and you could choose whether you wanted rice or stirfried noodles (I chose noodles).
Having taken our order (and repeated it back to us, to confirm), our waiter went and got us some bread to keep us occupied. In a cone-shaped metal ‘basket’ lined with paper were three regular breadsticks, three breadsticks made of what seemed like puff pastry kneaded with chilli powder (quite nice, actually); and two small soft rolls. With that was a little terracotta pan-like bowl of herb butter—I couldn’t tell what herb, since there was so little of it). My husband’s lemonade arrived soon after, but it was another 20 minutes before our food arrived. And then, I saw that the fish I’d ordered had come with rice, not the noodles I’d asked for. So I sent it back, and waited for it to be replaced.
Meanwhile, we began on the risotto, which (I must admit, to my surprise) turned out to be good. Lovely and cheesy, and with a nice textural contrast provided by the fresh green asparagus scattered through it. On the side came two thick wedges of garlic-buttered, very lightly toasted bread. “If only it had been properly toasted,” said my husband. “and if only they’d been a bit more generous with the garlic butter.” The risotto proved so rich, and such a large portion, that my husband ended up having to ask the waiter to get part of it packed to take away.
After ten minutes of waiting, my fish was brought back to me. The rice had been replaced with noodles (and the plate wiped up really badly, with smears of sauce and grease still on the rim). One taste, and I decided that if I ever happened to eat at Café Delhi Heights again, I would not order fish—this dish had that overwhelmingly fishy taste that comes of fish that’s none too fresh. That, and the chilli (which overpowered whatever hoisin sauce there might have been in the dish), completely swamped the dish. I could taste nothing else: not the noodles, not the odd bit of spring onion or shredded cabbage amidst the noodles, nothing but that strong fish and chilli. I literally shoveled it in simply because I was too hungry to bother.
That out of the way, I decided I had to have something to get rid of all that fish and chilli. Dessert and coffee were called for. Café Delhi Heights has a fair (if predictable) selection of both, and I finally settled for a café miel (a coffee with steamed milk, cinnamon powder, and honey) and a banoffee pie. My husband, too full from his risotto to have a dessert, just ordered a café miel too. These were served up within a few minutes, the coffee served with a little jar of cookies on the house (I never had any, but my husband said, “All right. Not fantastic, but not bad, either.”)
This last course turned out to be a combination of good and bad. The coffee, for one, was a disappointment: there wasn’t enough coffee powder, so it was really more milk and cinnamon than anything else. And though it was named café miel (and the waiter, while offering me sugar, did remind me: “There’s already honey, ma’am,”), there was precious little honey in the coffee. Not enough to impart even a little sweetness to it. And I am not a fan of over-sugared drinks or desserts.
But, the banoffee pie. Banoffee pie combines two things that I am particularly fond of: bananas and toffee. Café Delhi Heights’s version had a very liquid toffee, the sort that would never stay on top of a pastry base (unless the crust extended into sides). Since this didn’t have sides—just the base—they’d compensated by ‘building’ the pie inside an individual, somewhat tacky clear plastic dish. Short crust base at the bottom, topped with lots of liquidy toffee, plenty of bananas, and whipped cream. What I loved about this was that the flavour balance was just right: the toffee tasted of caramel and wasn’t overly sweet; the whipped cream was light and airy (and again, not too sweet); and they’d been generous with the bananas—always a winner for me. On the flip side, the toffee, since it was so liquid, had soaked into the pastry, making it both soggy as well as chewy. And it was very messy. I’ve eaten a lot of banoffee pies, but none as messy as this one.
We paid Rs 2,234 for our meal, inclusive of all taxes and service charge. Not good value for money, considering that absolutely foul main course I had, and the far from decent coffee. If I go back here, it’ll be for the banoffee pie—and I’ll make sure I take along lots of wipes.
Café Delhi Heights
1st Floor, 221
DLF Place Mall
Tel: 011-41654033, 011-41354033