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17.09.2015

We have to admit, Bollywood actor Dharmendra’s new restaurant shines like a chunky diamond on Connaught Place’s outer ring. However, as is the case with anything that glimmers a little too much, Garam Dharam invites mixed opinions on every aspect, except maybe its interiors.

Right from the start, the decor wins our hearts by making dated Indian kitsch aesthetically fresh: the truck installations, hyper-filmi graffiti and teapot-lights are funky, theatrical and instantly uplifting. We even enjoy the blaring sangeet-style playlist, sorely missing our gotta patti blouses and supari in our back pockets. Also worth mentioning is the life-sized graffiti portrait of a young and strapping Dharmendra that invokes wistful nostalgia – they just don’t make ‘em like that anymore - although the skeptic in us can’t help but meditate on the weirdness of using a successful acting career as the basis for selling food. Not that this is the Deol family’s first foray into the hospitality business: remember Bobby’s snoozy Mumbai nightclub in the early 2000s? That’s alright, neither do we. 

Gabbar & Hunt

But we leave the skeptic aside because the other way GD wins us over is by being clear about what they are selling: hardcore, dhaba-style fare. The menu is cohesive, offering everything that makes a north Indian desi meat-eater salivate: kebabs, curries, butter chicken and vegetarian options “for when it’s Shravan,” our dinner companion gleefully speculates. These are paired with a decent list of cocktails and beers including Biras, India’s yummiest craft beer. 

We even enjoy the blaring sangeet-style playlist, sorely missing our gotta patti blouses and supari in our back pockets.

Unfortunately, while the menu is cute enough to inspire Sholay talk and music is loud enough for the staff to buy time, the service is unjustifiably slow. Not only does it take a good seven or eight minutes to place an order, but it seems like our waiters go off to fight bandits between serving us naans and rotis.

Houseful or Blouseful? 

Amongst our appetizers, soya kebabs come out stringy but flavorful and dahi kebabs glisten with ghee but are still incomplete. The presentation for both is unimaginative, and this remains the case for all subsequent dishes. Then again, in a scenario where getting an extra nimbu requires much pleading, expecting pretty plates is a bit unrealistic.

But we are optimistic when our waiter brings out a large spread of balti meat, butter chicken, Amritsari tawa fish and mutton seekh kebabs. As we make our way through these averagely-sized portions, nothing bad is said but very few good noises are made. Balti meat is the hero here, infused with flavors of cumin, ginger, bay leaves and chilli. Butter chicken is indistinguishable from any other decent butter chicken, with even the swirl of cream taking an unoriginal form. Tawa-style fish catches our attention with a light blast of chilli, but again, along with mutton seekh kebabs, induces only fleeting levels of satisfaction. Moreover, everything on the table is some shade of orange, and with Aaja Nachale on full blast now, the whole Punjabi movie buff’s version of 1980s utopia starts to feel old.

With a filmi dose large enough to last a decade, we skip dessert, a selection of Indian classics including phirni and end the show how we should have begun it: with a strong, mouth-staining paan.

Getting there: Garam Dharam, M16, Outer Circle, Connaught Place, Rs 3,000 for three including a round of beers.

bpb reviews anonymously and pays for its own meals.

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