If you are looking to try authentic regional cuisine in Delhi, my suggestion is to make the state bhavans a starting point. These places serve authentic regional cuisine at affordable prices, and the best part is- they make no effort to cosmopolitanize either the food or the ambiance.
I went to Andhra Bhavan yesterday for lunch knowing fully well that this is arguably the most popular state Bhavan in Delhi, so far as food goes. Lunch hours were from 12 pm to 3 pm. I reached the place at about 1:30 pm and was prepared for a long wait time. But I was not prepared for what I saw when I reached there. It was a vast sea of customers, who filled not only the waiting area in the spacious dining hall, but also the corridors leading up to the dining area. They pushed and shoved to get food coupons in advance. Items on the menu were limited, so the coupon system worked smoothly. The crowd was kept well under control, though, and no one complained. Frankly, if you did not know you were there to eat, you would think that all this jostling was for a glimpse of the divine Balaji himself (a god worshipped in southern India whose devotees stand in queue for hours for Darshan).
There is a separate row of two-seater tables for couples and small families. Since we were carrying our ten-month old, they were kind enough to let us jump the queue.
Address: 1, Ashoka Road, Connaught Place, New Delhi
Phone: 011- 23382031
When you call, keep your questions to a minimum. These guys really do not have the time to answer your questions about what food they serve (you will find the menu online) or how you can get there (use the GPS on your phone).
7:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., 12 noon to 3 p.m., 7:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
This is a place where you will literally earn your bread. After all the plowing and pushing to get your coupon, and then the patient wait for your coupon number to be called out, you sure will have worked up an appetite for the unlimited 'Thaali' meal.
An extremely dedicated, professional and expert network of chefs, managers, hosts, servers and bussers work at Andhra Bhavan. On one hand, they are busy taking care of the crowd and logistics, while on the other they keep a keen eye on the guests' plates, rushing to refill even before you can make a signal. And at the end of the meal, when you are walking away, they ask you whether you were well fed, with such geniality that you cannot help but beam.
This place is definitely one of the cheaper state bhavans to visit for a filling lunch. Two can easily eat within Rs 450.
The food is typical Andhra cuisine and the menu is limited.
For breakfast, you can order idli, vada and dosa with the ubiquitous coffee so famous in South India.
For lunch and dinner you can have an unlimited veg thali. On Sundays, if you reach well in time you can order the Hyderabadi Dum Biryani for lunch.
We placed our order for lunch after one thirty, and could not get the Biryani. So, we made do with a veg Thali, a side of mutton fry and a couple of sodas.
The veg Thali is beautiful. The Thali came with a spoonful of fried rice (maybe it is a ritual), a poppadom (papad), two vegetable curries and a variety of dals and rasams (lentil soups). Frankly, all the lentil soups looked the same and I could not tell one from another. All I know is that they were freshly prepared with no unnecessary spiciness, and quickly reached my tummy. Waiters kept ladling our plates with crisp pooris, hot rice and lentil soups.
The mutton fry was well cooked in a lot of oil and spice, and went very well with the vegetable curry. This place offers spoons only on request. So, you can have a great time experimenting- mixing your dal, your vegetables and your mutton side for the spiciness that is just perfect for you. As you keep eating, you will realize that in the end, it has all become one big single appetizing dish.
All my senses were now alert and active from the spicy mutton curry that hit my system and from the act of eating itself. It was now time to reward myself with some soothing unsweetened curd and some sweet semolina cooked in clarified butter. Just like the quantity of the mutton fry, the portions of dessert were just enough, and the rich sweetness just right.
Cold drinking water served in clean steel tumblers was enough for us, and there was really no need for the sodas we had bought to go with the meal.
There were carefully arranged betel leaves for outgoing guests. But we felt so elated at having braved the crowd and were now so eager to get back to our beds for a nice afternoon nap, that we had totally forgotten about it.
We plan to return to Andhra Bhavan for the Biryani that this place is so famous for.Published On: Tuesday, September 16th, 2014