It feels so European, leaving the scramble of the Metro to head via gliding escalators into this fancy air-conditioned food court for a meal. Possibly even a beer. Beer in a Delhi Metro station! Can you imagine? Well actually, not yet, though Fio, one of the restaurants here, promises a liquor license very soon. But the food is very much in place at Epicuria Mall, home to a dozen-odd dining options, with more to follow.
Epicuria is essentially a swanky food court, with a large number of seats in neon green. In order to eat here, a card must be acquired at one of their two special counters. The card can be topped up with amounts upwards of R100, and can be returned for reimbursement or used later, as it is valid for up to a year.
So, armed with our card, we arrived at the large number of stalls. Despite being only a few weeks old, the food court was buzzing. Office workers from neighbouring buildings and weary commuters bumped shoulders with large family groups and even the odd kitty party table sharing pizzas and bhaturas. Luckily, there is space here for everyone.
The range of food available is extensive. There are standard fast food options such as Chicago Pizza and Subway and a number of one-offs, including model and cooking show host Joey Matthews’ Kerala Express, which was our first destination.
The menu here appears to be in flux, and the number of permanent dishes isn’t long, though there are daily specials that are handwritten on a blackboard. The proprietress was present when we visited, doling out small helpings of delicious chutneys and chatting with gaggles of young fans. We chose from the regular menu, opting cautiously for a basic Malabar parotta (R50) and mutton chilli fry (`250). We had struck gold on the first try; the fragrant meat was moist, sweet, but with a powerful kick of chilli, and a strong smacking of cumin. It was coupled with the
pillowy parotta that cushioned some of the heat and made for a lip-smacking meal with easy, bold flavours.
Our next experiment was less successful – Sona Sweets, purveyor of pan-Indian snacks (it was, however, one of the most popular options, and crowds swarmed towards it, returning with giant plates of bhaturas). Opting for Mumbai staple pav bhaji (R80), we were glad to find the bread hot, fresh and soft, but were less impressed by the bhaji, which was topped with unnecessary paneer and peas for glam effect. Though enjoyably spicy, the dish lacked a certain authenticity; it felt too processed, too synthetic. It was the same with the ras malai (R35). The milky dessert tasted watered down, and though the flavours were there, they appeared muted. You could get a hint of – rather than fully appreciate – the cardamom, and the usually heavy almond and pistachio garnish was barely present.
Fidahh, a Lebanese (read generically Middle Eastern) outlet, proved to be a more satisfactory bet. Lured by the smells emanating from the rotating spit, we ventured towards it, settling on
a chicken harissa (R250). The North African dish was smoky and well marinated in fiery sauce. Loaded with red and yellow chilli peppers, the chicken made for a perfect snack, which was best enjoyed plain rather than with the accompanying pita bread and hummus, which were nonetheless fresh and good on their own.
There’s much to sample at Epicuria, including the hot dogs at Uncle Sam, coffees at Starbucks, breakfast snacks at Dunkin’ Donuts. There was also a pretty popular Karim’s outlet, though we’re loath to see the Old Delhi favourite in a mall. However, we’re sure it would have been a more enjoyable meal than Canton Kitchen, which we decided to visit in the spirit of adventure. The sad-looking pre-prepared buffet at the counter seemed rather unappetising, and so we opted for a plate of chicken spring rolls (R134). Unfortunately, they were thick and doughy, with a bland filling, and totally avoidable. If you’re looking for Oriental food, we’d suggest you wait a while for the opening of Wok Star, the restaurant of delivery-only Asian Haus, or the launch
of Rocky Aoki’s American Japanese sushi and steakhouse chain, Benihana.
While we’re looking forward to these new openings, one of our favourite Delhi restaurants has already opened its new outpost here. Fio, from the Garden of Five Senses, has launched a full restaurant adjacent to the food court (but still inside the Metro station). A massive, sprawling space, the beautiful fine-dining establishment is airy and well decorated, with a large bar, comfy sofas and tables in all sizes. Though the menu here differs from the original restaurant, it does feature a similar style of light European cooking.
Escaping the heat, we opted for lightness, and chose a Cookhouse salad (R395). The gigantic portion (this is big enough for a meal by itself) came with lettuce, sun dried and cherry tomatoes, goat’s cheese, corn, pine nuts, snow peas, apples and figs. The sweet and savoury elements were perfectly combined, and it was a playful dish; joyously fresh, with each mouthful revealing a blend of flavours. In the absence of an alchol menu, the salad was paired the salad with a fruity mocktail – a Hot Wired (R325) with blackberry, blueberry, rock salt and soda. We sipped and nibbled, ensconced in a comfy corner, feeling far away from the Metro hustle. We’ll be back here once the liquor license kicks in, and for delicious and reasonably priced Mallu food next door – a perfect cure for the epicure’s budget.
Fio Cookhouse and Bar, Epicuria Mall, Lower Ground Floor (+91 11 2628 1026) . m Nehru Place. Daily 11am-midnight. Meal for two R4,000.
Epicuria Mall, Lower Ground Floor, Nehru Place Metro Station. m Nehru Place. Daily 10am-midnight. Meal for two R1,000.
By Vilasini Roy on July 19 2013 10.10am
Photos by Ritika Jain