PSA: there’s an unmistakable Chandigarh-ization of Gk II’s M block market underway. After WD House opened its doors last month, Nik Baker has also jumped on the Bringing-Small-Town-To-Big-City bandwagon. While this is a known plot, it’s interesting that both businesses pride themselves on the inherent globalization of their hometown. While WD House is more about the preservation of regional cuisines and the re-interpretation of global food in an Indian context, for Nik Baker’s, it’s the Australian connection that really counts. Nikhil’s (internationally known as Nik) hands-on baking is sold as special because it comes from Down Under, and uh, deep inside.
We amble into Nik Baker’s on a sleepy Sunday afternoon and are violently shaken from slumber. Here is a place where you cannot let your guard down even for a second: overrun by a storm of kids who know what they want and well-endowed mamas who are proud of their Ferrero Rocher Shake addiction, don’t think you can come in here and ask stupid questions. Nik Baker’s may have once been a Chandigarh-contained phenomenon, but its clear that loyalty has seeped through the border. A little stumped by the craze – but trying our best to fit in – we act like we know, until a man who looks an awful lot like Nik (from the Facbeook page) is quick to catch on to our virginal statuses. He offers us a rushed greeting, welcoming us to the sugar-coated mayhem.
What contributes to Nik Baker’s madness even more than the rush, is their self-service policy and the cluttered seating layout, which invites BRT style traffic. If you must go, go in a group, so that one can man the table, the other can protect the man manning the table (especially from women who just want to ‘place’ their large LV bags somewhere), while the rest can make some intuitive guesses about what to order.
What contributes to Nik Baker’s madness even more than the rush, is their self-service policy and the cluttered seating layout, which invites BRT style traffic.
It’s a special kind of war, one that comes with a menu from the early 1990s. You’ll find it all: white sauce pasta, lemon tarts, cakes divided into eight neat slices that all say ‘tiramisu’ in curly cursive, just to reaffirm their Italian visas. These offerings are not perturbed by the hefty jars of protein powder that sit on top of them in the display counter, presumably for your bhaiyya who is just here for a shake, pre-gym.
Broken Tarts Club
Still, there’s something about Nik Baker’s that is weirdly charming. The appeal is hard to explain: its not a Hot Breads, because it’s still very much about making dessert special, and its consumption a kind of euphoric event. It’s more like a birthday party from old birthday party days, where the cold coffee was actually a cold coffee, and not some pour-over inspired four hundred rupee frap. It’s from the days when cakes looked like escorts, and icing meant overdone swirls of white sugar, dotted with silver balls. The Contemporary is still an underdog here, and that gives us a weird kind of pleasure.
Besides nostalgia though, the quality of everything we order - garlic bread with cheese, a lemon tart, two cold coffees, and a veggie sandwich – is far from bad. Though the bread is Wonderbread white, it is soft, chewy and hits some kind of buried emotion. The lemon tart is club-eggy, but really quite delicious and perfectly festooned with a piped sunshine yellow swirl that manages to be exuberant while staying neatly in its allocated space. The sandwich is not memorable, but on some rainy day, could be a viable option. The cold coffee is our favorite thing: no-fuss, freezing, sugary and Indian strong.
Nothing at Nik’ s — including the man himself - seem like they are trying too hard to be anything but themselves. Despite the insane traffic and air-conditioning on overdrive, this is why we give the establishment a shaky high five.
Getting there: M-25, M-Block Greater Kailash - 2 (GK2) New Delhi, Rs. 800 for two at coffee time, who need something little to eat and little to munch.
Accessibility: Not conducive to wheelchairs.
bpb reviews anonymously and pairs for its own meals.
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