Janice Pariat’s lovely story ‘Boats On Land’ isn’t about coastal cuisine sweeping landlocked Delhi, but it’s a useful title to apply to the restaurant scene this year. (Please let this mean a change of course from “modern Indian,” hopefully forever.) A hop away from the rumble of Adchini, three floors up a nondescript office building in Sarvodaya Enclave, is a beautiful new café serving food from many coasts of Asia. It comes awash in sunlight and good cheer, which you can navigate with the help of colourful paddles lining the ceiling. A sight for s-oar eyes!
Nariyal Café has no time for subtlety. All its food – Kerala, Andhra, Goan, Thai and Indonesian cuisine – is heavily dependent on its eponymous fruit, so of course the menu is shaped like a coconut. We half-expect our food to come in in boats and coconut shells and are relieved to be wrong.
Sing, Coirs Of Angels
Generous portions: that’s what the starters do come in. Chicken Gongura, Andhra-style chicken fry cooked with red sorrel leaves, is an immediate favourite. The meat isn’t very succulent but is rescued by the spices, which pack quite the Andhra Bhavan punch. Mutton sukka malabar egg roll is too spicy for us, but our dining companion loves the juicy curried mutton inside; neither of us, however, can be fooled into calling an egg paratha a malabar parotta. ‘Lungieee’ nachos are a bit of a missed opportunity too: the toppings in the form of “Kerala-tempered veggies” are delicious, as is the accompanying dip, but the chips themselves taste like straight-up Doritos.
All its food – Kerala, Andhra, Goan, Thai and Indonesian cuisine – is heavily dependent on its eponymous fruit, so of course the menu is shaped like a coconut.
We order mild appam-ishtu hoping to be transported to the beaches of Kerala; what we get is a facepalm. The appam is too browned, the stew tastes flat – coconut and nothing else – and even the chicken looks a little pink. A side of idiyappam fares much better, and makes the bland stew palatable.
Flavoured nariyal pani, peach and mango, saves the day: the added flavours don’t overwhelm the natural sweetness of coconut water. Alas, the establishment gets one half of its name more right than the other; the espresso that ends our meal is too bitter to like.
There’s plenty that’s sweet to take away at the end of the meal. The service and the space itself are quite lovely in a casual way. Their bar area, called “Bar Arambol,” is already set up on the floor above but awaits the blessings of the Delhi government. We’re about to wind up on the thought that some un-holy water will be needed to bring us back here, but when the bill arrives, we realise we might crumble even sooner than Mr Kejriwal. Wiser from this visit, we’ll stay away from any dishes that need a delicate touch: no stew, for shore.
Getting there: Nariyal Cafe, A4, Third floor, Sarvodaya Enclave. A meal for two will cost approximately 1200. The restaurant is offering an additional 25% off on dine-in orders through the end of February.
Accessibility: Elevator access to the third floor, but the elevator itself is a few steps up from ground level.
bpb reviews anonymously and pays for its own meals.
This review was conducted by Amrita Mahale, a former rocket scientist who’s working on her first novel.
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