If Garden House Café in Shahpur Jat would actually embrace the trope of trespassing that it gestures to, it’d be wonderful. When we walk in at what is legitimately lunch hour, no one takes notice for a good bit. Feeling slightly like potential squatters, we make ourselves comfortable in this boat-like home, where there are touches of human care. Yet, before our first sighting of another person, these almost seem alien, as if created by the free hand of the invisible market.
It’s entirely possible that in some neighbourhoods in Delhi, cafés are creating themselves without anyone really behind them. Located on Gora Designer lane – another point to check on the theme of humorous abstraction – Garden House Café is evidently the embodiment of someone’s aspiration, the manifestation of someone’s dream. It just doesn’t feel like it, with the (again) not-touched collection of books, the close-your-eyes-and you still know it menu, must-have wood tables, and abstractions of a coastal-chilled-café. The references are almost automatic, clickable, still on screen.
The staff in consists of a solo dedicated server, a friendly gentleman who treats us like we’ve walked in to his home before the time on the invite. It feels like he’s happily accommodating us, but also doing a lot of other important stuff in between. With some thought, we decide to lay low on the watch-dogness, and do what seems to be the thing to do at Garden House: lie back and enjoy a work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction.
There’s a selection of food that spans breakfast, lunch, snacks, and juices. With nothing overtly imaginative, and no big promises, we settle in a little more deeply in to haphazard comfort, and this proves valuable.
Everything tastes just like you’d expect: on the pulse of “yes, there’s that small Delhi café whose name I can’t remember now” world. For example, hummus, falafel and pita seems like it was made by people who were handed the recipes but never asked to taste their own work; and the cold pressed juice, while good, could easily have been lifted from any of the neighbourhood cafés (except the exceptional GREENR, maybe). Scrambled eggs and toast do similarly.
The café’s inability to accept our multiple cards also work to define this experience as a numb, non-memorable, non-offensive sort. We leave with no specific complaints at all. If there is some sort of assembly line behind this, we do hope a good accident will happen; maybe we’ll be jarred in to a fresh opinion.
Getting there: 251 Gora Designer Lane 2, Shahpur Jat. A meal for two costs around Rs 2,000.
Accessibility: No wheelchair access; clean, spacious bathroom.
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