Sight gag: at The Future Is Female - a month-old all-female-staff restaurant in Rajouri Garden – and a pair of males are the only patrons in this 100-seater.
As a result, on a quiet weekday evening, we have all the attention of quite a few staff members: one to take our order, another to check the availability of matka peach-ice-tea, a third to tell us about the restaurant’s concept of “women empowerment” (a slight nudge will bring the briefing). They’re warm and smiles are abundant.
At TFIF, the space is vast, the menu is extensive – with a mix of no-brainers off every other Delhi-restro menu, and some aspirational items such as jwala macchi (“pan seared spicy fish wrapped in banana leaf spiced with Naga chilli paste”). The prices, however, compare with a DU-north-campus cafe.
While we wait for Asian mushroom cups - 15 minutes for preparation - we take in the sights. The interiors are done to maximise space, with lots of artificial greens adorning the ceiling, bright indoor lighting, and a glass-front for natural light. An endless number of tungsten-lit hanging glass-cases contain miniature fake plants. It’s the sort of place that signals its men’s and women’s loos with a mooch sticker and a red pout respectively.
When we return, the peach ice-tea is waiting in an actual matka, of the puja ki thali sort. Go figure how to sip the concoction while your hands find the sweet spot on the pot. The coaster might help to cheer – “I am a woman, what’s your superpower?”. Its real nostalgic power, though, is that the drink itself tastes like Rasna.
Have faith: #Shecan, as little cards say on the bar counter. (The cooks are men, though, #NotAllMen, but all save one, as a chatty staff member alerts us.) The mushroom cups are generously portioned, but they taste more west than east, and west as in west Delhi: we’re reminded of gobi manchurian, and not in a good way.
Dessert, mango cheesecake in a wine glass, is no saviour, salty and faintly bitter by the second half. Actually, every woman gets a complimentary dessert here (chocolate mousse in a shot-glass) but the bevy of servers perhaps creates confusion, so that this sweet bonus arrives halfway through the one we already ordered.
This can’t quite be feminist paradise, we think: the food is forgettable and, since no other diners walk in, there’s not much to stay in for. We’d still take a shot at drinking here, but, will the cocktail of the universe ever get its act together?
Maybe not. A hundred metres away from TFIF, we run into a 20-something in front of another bar, bent over and raining blows on his woman partner, whom he’s pinned to the ground. “She had had too much to drink and was misbehaving,” he barks. He walks away when yelled at, and she gets up to sob endlessly, face pressed to their locked car. It doesn’t feel like TFIF quite yet.
Getting there: A-6, 4th floor, Vishal Enclave, Rajouri Garden (opposite metro pillar number 410), Rs 1000 for a meal for two.
Accessibility: ramp and elevator.
bpb reviews anonymously and pays for its own meals.
This review was contributed by Akshita Nagpal, a multimedia journalist in New Delhi.
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