I’d first heard of Farzi Café when it opened in Gurgaon’s Cyber Hub and there were people writing rave reviews about all the interesting fusion stuff they were doing: duck samosas with plum chutney was something which kept popping up on one review after the other. We kept telling ourselves we should plan a trip to Gurgaon, but that somehow never happened.
Then, earlier this week, I and three of my friends—all of us ex-colleagues—decided it had been far too long since we’d met. Let’s do lunch, one of the women suggested, and since Connaught Place is nice and central for all of us (we live in pretty much three different and far-flung corners of Delhi), that was where we met. But where in CP should we eat, was the question. Some research, and I discovered that Farzi Café had opened in CP too—so that was where we went.
Keep your eyes peeled for this: the entrance to the restaurant lies inside a fashion store. Even though ‘Farzi Café’ is written big and bold outside the main door, two of my friends, busy chatting, went past without noticing. Eventually, we went in and took the lift to the second floor, which is where the café is (for some odd reason, the address listed shows Farzi Café as being on the first floor).
This is a large hall, one side with windows looking out onto the inner circle of CP, the others with a variety of booths and tables scattered about. Lots of place to sit, including bar stools at the bar counter in the middle. (The dado around the bar counter has a lovely backlit pattern of flowers and birds and foliage that I really liked).
When we arrived, before 12.30 PM, the restaurant was pretty much empty—there was only one other table occupied—so we chose a table tucked away near the wall where we could chat cozily.
The menu at Farzi Café consists in large part of tapas. That’s what it’s called on the menu, but these are by no means Spanish: just appetizers with a fancy name. Indian appetizers, too, and many of them blending typically Indian flavours with the odd foreign concept or ingredient. There are just a handful of mains (mostly burgers), and less than a dozen desserts. Not much, yes; but that’s how I like it—I get irritated when there are too many dishes to choose from.
After much discussion (which had to take into consideration the fact that one of us is vegetarian, and of the three non-vegetarians, I was the only one who eats anything other than mutton and chicken). We finally decided to order a selection of tapas, which we could split (as it turned out, a good way of sampling a somewhat larger range of dishes than we might have tasted than if we’d ordered individually): another point in favour of this decision, as it turned out, was that portion sizes here are pretty much meant for sharing.
So, without further ado, what we ordered and how it turned out.
1. Braised lamb boti tacos: Three tiny tacos that fit into your palm, filled with what seemed like pulled meat. This looked fiery, but turned out milder and far less spicy than I’d expected it to be. The taco shell, despite sitting around for a while before we began eating, was crisp and light, and there was a little garnish of what looked like thin sweet potato fries (couldn’t taste them really, since the flavour of the spiced meat was powerful enough to overwhelm these). Good, not exceptional.
2. Tandoori soy chops with cheese and nut fudge: Our veggie friend ordered this. I wasn’t especially looking forward to it, because what I’d expected was something perhaps reminiscent of those awfully artificial ‘soy nuggets’ once so popular in most North Indian homes. On being encouraged to try some—especially after hearing my friend’s praise for the dish—I took a piece and was pleasantly surprised. This was really, really nice: its flavour profile somewhere between the creamy-cheesiness of a murgh malai tikka and the more robust tomatoey spice of a chicken tikka. And to go with that lovely flavour was a very unusual texture, something like boneless chicken. A type of tofu? Some other form of processed soy? I don’t know, but whatever it was, it was nice. The smear of tart mayo on the side was just right, too.
3. Pyaaz ki kachori: The least impressive of the dishes we had. This was just what it said it was: little puffs of flaky dough encasing a filling of cooked spiced onions (among other things). Each kachori was topped off with a thick sweet-sour chutney and a sprinkling of very fine sev. More of that same chutney was slathered round the plate, and garnished with pomegranate seeds and some microgreens I couldn’t identify.
Not bad (and I appreciated the fact that it wasn’t terribly high on the chillies), but nothing out of the ordinary. If you want prettiness, eat the pyaaz kachori at Farzi Café. Otherwise, even Dilli Haat serves up the same stuff (and a tad better, too) for a fraction of the price.
4. Tandoori wild mushrooms: This one won hands down as far as I was concerned: a mixture of mushrooms (including what seemed like morels) in a creamy, beautifully flavoured sauce with bits of chopped bell pepper and little bursts of flavour—crushed pepper being one of the most prominent—and with a generous garnish of toasted walnuts. Lovely flavours, brilliant textures.
5. Nolan gud baklava with tender coconut granita: Nolen gur, for those not in the know, is a very prized, very fragrant form of Bengali jaggery that is typically produced only during the winter. Although the menu at Farzi Café doesn’t specify how nolen gud is used in its baklava, but I’m guessing it takes the place of the honey used traditionally to sweeten the filling for the pastry.
The baklava was in the shape of tiny filo pastry tartlets, each light little tart case enclosing a teaspoonful of honeyed (jaggery-ed?) nuts (mostly pistachios, from what I could tell). Arcing across one half of the plate was a smear of what looked and tasted like more of the nolen gur, with a sprinkling of dried rose petals and chopped pistachios. Looked pretty, and tasted lovely too! On the side was one spherical scoop of the tender coconut granita, which (I must admit) I’d never have realized was made of tender coconut if I hadn’t read it on the menu—the flavour was too subtle, too mild to compete with the far more powerful flavours of the baklava. But it was a nice and gentle contrast to the baklava, so it worked.
And, we each of us had two drinks. Only one of us wanted anything alcoholic, so she had a pina colada; the rest of us ordered an Italian smooch each—with lots of lime, crushed ice, brown sugar and mint leaves, this is a quintessential favourite of mine, and was liked by the others as well. Our pina colada-drinking friend opted for a Farzi Café mocktail, a litchi panna desire, for her second drink, while the rest of us ordered a Farzi OK each: orange juice, orange chunks, and kaffir lime leaves. Also ice cubes, which the bartender forgot to add in my drink, reducing my enjoyment of it considerably.
By this time, when it was well past 2 PM, Farzi Café was pretty much packed. There were people occupying all the bar stools—many of them, from the impatient looks directed at those of us who were sitting at tables—obviously waiting to sit down to a meal. The wait staff too were in a flurry, as a result of which our second round of drinks—which we’d ordered along with our second round of tapas (the pyaaz ki kachori and the tandoori wild mushrooms)—came after we’d finished the food. This was why, even though my Farzi OK didn’t taste great without ice, I didn’t return it—I feared it would vanish into the melee.
Anyway, we asked for the bill; and before it arrived (in a somewhat gimmicky fashion, designed to look as if it had been printed out on a small vintage typewriter, which was placed on our table), there was a complimentary mouth freshner. In a pretty wire-inlaid wooden box came four crescent-shaped puffs of white. Our waiter explained what this was: candy floss, encasing fermented betel leaves.
I was a wee bit wary, and took a tentative bite of mine, only to have it melt beautifully into my mouth. This was paan made sexy: all the flavour, all the freshness and zip, but without the hard bits, the astringency, the messiness and the long chewing. Just a small packet of sweet paan-ness, wrapped in that web of sugar which simply vanished when I put it into my mouth.
Our bill came to Rs 4757, inclusive of all taxes and service charges. Considering we hadn’t had a lot of stuff—we’d shared four appetizers (three of which were vegetarian) and one dessert, and we’d had eight drinks (of which only one was alcoholic), this was steep. Yes, the food was, by and large, pretty good (in a couple of instances, excellent), but (barring that very interesting paan-like goodie at the end) it wasn’t the brilliantly quirky fusion cuisine I’d expected. If I were to go back here, it would be only if someone else were paying—and probably not if that someone else was dear to me and I wanted them to save their money for something that was better value for money.
E-38, 39 (1st Floor)
Inner Circle, E Block
Connaught Place, New Delhi – 110001
Tel: 91-9599889700, 91-11-43551028/29