And, of course, everyone who has been visiting over the years has their own personal favourite restaurant. Mine is the unapologetically-titled Havemore. The reason it has scored for me over the others is good food and familiarity. In fact, familiarity is the most comforting aspect in these times of high-concept restaurants. Havemore has also withstood my food precocity and schooling in the hospitality arts to remain a favourite. Sure, it has changed, but ever so slightly. The only thing retro that continues is the old-style Coca-Cola bottles that have been spared the fuss of being poured into glasses and are instead served in the bottle itself with a straw. The music has now moved on from cheesy instrumental from the Kenny G school to a cooler lounge style. The young owner tells me its a compilation.
The menu has kept the starter courses compact. The choice of soup, for example, is limitedtomato or sweet corn. The service is no-fuss. The tomato soup, with the croutons rendered soggy for being dunked too long in the broth, has lost its crunch, but contains memories of a more innocent time in our culinary heritage when all things Europe and beyond were simply continental.
Even when one is not in a hurry, the food comes fast. Those impressed with the concept of quick-service restaurants have presumably never visited the Pandara Park restaurants, which have been following the concept for years, if not decades. The butter chicken brings with it a timeless taste and the bread basket has been expanded to include different kinds of naans, kulchas, paranthas and the humble tandoori roti. However, the embellished accompaniments do not take away from the butter chicken. The prices remain competitive and have never swayed with opportunity.
What further makes the experience at Pandara Park most interesting is that the meal experience continues outside the restaurants. The meal is finished off by the famed kulfi and/or the paanwalla, who has been pushed back from his spot on the road to share a counter with a gelato man, a most incongruous combination. But it works, with both attracting their share of customers.
The night I returned to Pandara Park was the first day of the new Parliament. Wandering and newly-relocated netas are a common sight every five years, but this time, with over 50% of them being first-timers, this famed food destination hosted parliamentarians from across the country with their families. There was a spirit of cheer and optimism and I left once again thinking that this was possibly the happiest place to be in Delhi that night.
Advaita Kala is a writer, most recently of the film Kahaani. She is also a former hotelier having worked in restaurants in India and abroad