Disclaimer: The writer loves Mother India the country, the army, the national anthem, and cows. The comments below are directed only at the restaurant in question. BMKJ.
The secret to why Indian restaurants always seem so pleasant and cheerful isn’t ghee. It’s music: those ubiquitous bluesy, modernised covers of major-chord Bollywood classics from decades gone by. Mother India too has one CD (remember those?) playing on loop, charming in an absent-minded kind of way. But the three gentlemen sitting to our left — one at the fag end of middle age, the others two at the beginning, judging by their hairlines — are having their own little party, playing music loudly on an iPad over their office conversation.
This is one dimension of what we have long acknowledged as the CP Problem. Everyone knows that playing music from a personal smart-device isn’t acceptable social behaviour. In places where our class superiority might be questioned or we might be dismissed as uncivilised — like, say, a nice pan-Indian restaurant not called Mother India — we’re always impeccably behaved.
But those rules never seem to apply to Connaught Place, where we all first learned to be brats. Taken there by parents to watch the latest Salman Khan movie, treated to hot chocolate fudge after a good exam result, new shoes for birthdays, ice-cream on first dates - CP is the doting Punjabi mother laughing away our tantrums, a second home for a certain kind of Delhi kid. We can be our very worst selves there.
CP is the doting Punjabi mother laughing away our tantrums, a second home for a certain kind of Delhi kid. We can be our very worst selves there.
This malaise infiltrates the spirit of the district’s eating spaces, too: within a couple of months, every resto-bar slides from the good behaviour of a hard-working new immigrant and becomes the lazy, loutish insider that looks, costs, smells and feels exactly like its neighbours.
Which is where, belatedly, Mother India comes in. It’s so new, it even offers hope and promise, a large chunk of it thanks to its splendidly cosy visual aesthetic. Think of rich old collaborators from the British Raj (ironic given its name), who like paisley upholstery, a gramophone - of course – and war memorabilia.
The theme, established right at the entrance with a big old Mother India film poster, is one of representation. The kitchen serves food from all over the (barely) united states of India — Goa, Kashmir, Punjab, West Bengal, Kerala. Despite the jack-of-all-trades approach employed, they retain a level of consistency. Sure, Mathania lal maas, a traditional Rajasthani mutton preparation, lacks the zing of authenticity, but it still falls only in the slightly-underwhelming-but-enjoyable category. Chowk ki galouti and the no-frills dal makhan waali go some distance to make up for it. An excellent Malabar mushroom pepper fry comes generously soaked in a cluster of spices, finely cooked, with a long-lingering aftertaste of coconut. Everything washes down beautifully with a ‘Patel Chest Masala Banta Soda,’ guaranteed to put hairs on said chest, and much better than an ‘Aagre ka Jal Jeera,’ - who, even in heathen Delhi, serves this drink without boondi?
With all this, Mother India is solid, if not quite spectacular. It’s well-placed for visitors who want a sort of panorama shot of Indian cuisine, as opposed to specialised gluttons for whom CP has plenty of options already. We won’t take any bets on how this child grows up to behave - but catch it young, if you can.
Getting there: Ground Floor, H-11, Outer Circle, Connaught Place, New Delhi. A meal for two costs around Rs 3000.
Accessibility: No ramps, and bathroom is only accessible via staircase -- not very friendly.
bpb reviews anonymously and pays for its own meals.
This review was contributed by Akhil Sood, an arts and culture writer living in New Delhi.
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