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On menu: An eclectic blend of food and culture

If you thought Delhi’s cultural centres are all about performances, read on to know about the ones where food does all the talking.

art and culture Updated: Oct 09, 2016 11:58 IST
Henna Rakheja
Cultural Centres

Youngsters enjoy a hearty meal post language classes at Alliance Francaise’s Cafeteria. (Amal KS/HT Photo)

For a Dilliwala, the festive season brings with it plans for attending cultural centres too. One usually braces the traffic and struggles to reach the cultural centres and in the rush misses the gems hidden in these hubs spread across the Capital. Among their treasures are their cafés, which offer cuisines from their country along with some Indian delicacies.

Some centres are authentic in their approach when it comes to serving the native dishes of the country they represent, whereas others have adapted the cooking habits of Indians, to suite the local taste buds as well as appease the expats. Yet all of them add a spice to the existing flavours of Dilli.

Enter the Korean Cultural Centre (KCC) and one’s sure to be left surprised at the popularity of Korean dishes such as the dessert Bingsu among Indians. Roo Seungyeol, café incharge at KCC says, “I came to India in 2006 from South Korea. It has been six years. I never thought that I would run a café and serve Korean food in India. I even joined Delhi University and learnt Hindi.” Mind you he speaks Hindi more fluently than English.

At Ethiopian Cultural Centre, Chef Mulunesh Ayele prepares coffee in traditional Ethiopian coffee culture – which includes brewing and grounding of coffee right in front of the guests. “Smell it… Taste good?” says Ayele in her pedestal English. She is lovingly referred to as Mamma by foreigners and Indian alike.

Amidst these stories, there’re wafts of food which reached us. Read on to find more about some of them.

A sight of the Ethiopia Cultural Centre that depicts the culture and living of Ethiopians. The coffee shop and restaurant here serves authentic African dishes. (Amal KS/HT Photo)

1. From the heart of Africa

At the Ethiopian Cultural Centre, there’s a coffee shop and a restaurant. The coffee is served with popcorn and the vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes are served with Injera (East African sour dough-risen flatbread). “This is like Appam. The dishes prepared in Ethiopian culture don’t use tomato. Instead a lot of butter is used,” says Chef Suketu.

Chef Mulunesh Ayele at Ethiopia Cultural Center, serves food with love and ensures that the guests eat it all. (Amal KS/HT Photo)

The size of platter might vary, yet all are required to sit and eat together. One needs to fill up a form on the centre’s website to become an annual member, to try their appetizing dishes.
Where: 7/50 G, Niti Marg, Chanakyapuri
Nearest Metro Station: Race Course on Yellow Line

Indian and Korean enjoy the Korean delicacies at the Korean Cultural Centre’s Cafe. (Amal KS/HT Photo)

2. With love from the East

Be it the Bibimbap (the word means mixed rice) or Bingsu (ice dessert with sweet toppings), the authentic dishes at Korean Cultural Centre are a hit among Indians and Koreans alike. “Mai humasha dish banake pehle khud check karta hun (After I make the dish I check it myself first),” says Roo Seungyeol, café incharge, in pretty good Hindi. He runs the place along with his wife and youngsters often halt here for not just Korean food but at times also for their different varieties of teas and coffees.
Where: Korean Cultural Centre, Lajpat Nagar IV
Nearest Metro Station: Moolchand on Violet Line

The kitchen staff at Alliance Francaise’s Cafetaria is busy cooking almost throughout the day since youngsters throng the place for Indian as well as French delights which are available at pocket-friendly prices. (Amal KS/HT Photo)

3. Not just French
One of the most popular hangouts of youngsters who frequent the language and cultural centres in Lodhi Road is the Cafetaria at Alliance Francaise. The food here usually comprises Indian from North to South and even American sandwiches – all available at economical prices. But on special occasions, the place opens up to serve thin-crust pizzas and French desserts. Their pasta, cold coffee and milkshakes are to vouch for. The best part, even visitors of cultural performances are allowed.
Where: Alliance Francaise, Lodhi Estate
Nearest Metro Station: Jor Bagh on Yellow Line

Visitors at The Cafe at ICC enjoy indulging in Italian delights.

4. Just a slice of Italy
Inside the guarded Italian Embassy is situated the Italian Cultural Centre, which often screens some amazing movies and alongside serves equally good Italian food beyond wood-fire oven pizzas to fresh antipasti, soups, salads and paninis. “The Cafe at ICC opened in 2002,” says Ayesha Kapur, from the café, adding, “The menu has been curated to ensure the food is simple. The people who visit are mostly Italian diplomats, students and teachers. So it is something that they would get if they were back home in Italy.”
The place is run by a popular restaurant chain but the prices here are lesser than in their other outlets. A foodie, however, needs to become a member here to try the Italian delicacies or tag along with a friend who’s a member. The membership form is available at the venue.
Where: The Cafe at ICC, 50-E, Chandragupta Marg, Chanakyapuri
Nearest Metro Station: Race Course on Yellow Line

The dishes served at Triveni Terrace Café are a perfect conversation-starter.

5. Art hub
After its renovation last year, this watering hole of artists has sprung back to life. Serving hot poha, pakodas, bun tikki, shammi kebabs and palak patta chaat to the frequenters every evening pre-performances, since it closes by 7pm. There’s also fried chicken to savour in the open sitting area, at prices much lower than the eateries at nearby Bengali Market.
Where: Triveni Terrace Café, Tansen Marg
Nearest Metro Station: Mandi House on Blue Line

The Rustom’s Café & Bakery inside Khoj Studio is proof of how experimentation in art transcends to food. It serves Parsi cuisine which is gaining popularity among the visitors.

6. Window to culture
The experimentations in art transcend to food served here. From the Jam Maska (Pao with melted butter and jam) to Cardamom Chai Cake, there’s a twist in the food served here. Big portions of Kheema Pao and Chicken Vindaloo are quite full-filling during and post the unending discussions that artists and audiences engage in.

The tea, coffee and desserts here are the conversation-starters.

On the walls there’re colourful European plates and on the tables one can see young and old from different social circles joining in to get a taste of Parsi nibbles.
Where: Rustom’s Café & Bakery, Khoj Studio, S-17, Khirkee Extension
Nearest Metro Station: Malviya Nagar on Yellow Line

The desserts at Caara Café inside British Council are a must try. (SHIVAM SAXENA/HT)

7. Brit touch
A look at the Cinnamon and Raisin Bun and Hot Chocolate and the sweet-toothed Delhiites are sure to fall for this place. One of the newest entrants to the city’s list of cultural cafés, this place is a one stop halt for all those who love to indulge in gooey delights. There are smoothies which can be tried in breakfast and cold press juices which are perfect lunch companions. “The idea was to provide feel good food without adding too much to the calories,” says Ambika Seth, co-director of the café. The Pesto Tomato Mozzarella Panini and Super Food Salad are among the hot favourites. Seth adds, “Lot of vegetables we use in the café, we grow ourselves. Infact, we have also started a special Sunday Breakfast which is available in categories such as King, Queen and Jokers.”
Where: Caara Café, British Council, Kasturba Gandhi Marg
Nearest Metro Station: Barakhamba Road on Blue Line

The Mughlai dishes at the restaurant at India Islamic Cultural Centre are finger-licking good.

8. Mughlai Treat
The restaurant and coffee shop at India Islamic Cultural Centre are also popular among foodies. Especially the haleem and nihari served with Sheermal. “It has been four years since we are running this place because there’s no other goof mughlai food eatery in the area, so people prefer the hygienic and authentic food served here,” says Faisal Abbas, from the restaurant.
Where: India Islamic Cultural Centre, Lodhi Road
Nearest Metro Station: Jor Bagh on Yellow Line