There’s a potential WeHo like energy to Dear Donna – a new, sprawling restaurant bar at the Qutub Hotel. The vintage, curvy typeface on the signage is reminiscent of hipster-chic Marshall speakers, and the warm color palette suggests a party in tropical weather. But unfortunately, the hope of developing any reference to a full blown story stays latent, including the 1980s-1990s period that one server tells me the place is dedicated to; if it’s the voice of the legendary Ms Donna Summers that we’re supposed to hear, its turned down really low.
Siblings to Summerhouse and Auro – party haunts known more for their sweaty dancing scenes than anything else – Dear Donna was perhaps created to be the act that precedes or follows a heavy night out. Big sunglasses, branded sweatpants, and a day old blow dry that sit lightly over a cocktail called Penicillin are all anticipated bi-products of this scene.
But we won’t be surprised if this becomes a go-to fun spot for many millennial, at least for a season. Our only gripe is that Dear Donna seems so dedicated to fun that it sacrifices on the nitty gritty: for instance, the Art Deco story of the cool angular brass doors that greet you is hard follow once you get to the bar area, which is seductive only after too many drinks.
The bar's other stated theme of travel, which is supposed to tie all the other elements together, is also fragmented and abrupt: the rose-tinted menus for example, are made to resemble postcards, but nothing else in the décor, food, or vibe carries this thread. The seating is quite comfortable, however, and while you may not feel the makings of a Design Boom story, you will be able to spend a few hours deep in to a herringbone printed chair without realizing time going by.
Sadly, our inclination towards giving Dear Donna a real shot is curbed by the thoroughly average food. While the menu is promising, well-edited, and spans the globe without overdoing it – focusing on a Naga Chili Roll as much as a Sous Vide Chicken Breast - everything we order stays at the level of non-objectionable.
Not a single ooh or aah is released during the entirety of our meal, nor is a frown or a turn of lip: a good place for overly botoxed lunchers maybe, who might want to sample an Italian sausage pizza, detail-less in presentation and taste. Asian krao pao has not a single ingredient that verges on poignant, and the risotto is as generic as it gets. Even a conclusive coffee which we are hesitant to order – preferring to avoid another solidly average production – does not rise to the occasion.
While we’re fully aware that this is a place where people come just to line their stomachs, we still request care, detail and specificity, which today at least, are details that seem to be on holiday. Given the consistent inconsistency, maybe they’ll be back tomorrow and then that travel story will pack the punch it’s meant to.
Getting There: Dear Donna, The Qutub Hotel, Qutub, Rs. 3,000 for two.
bpb reviews anonymously and pays for its own meals.
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