At Gunpowder, you'll be so charmed by the location and the affections of the place that you won't quite mind that the food falls a tad short of great.
It overlooks a 'dam' that most people don't know exists in Delhi, you have to pant your way up three flights of stairs to get there, the menu is a slightly illegible scrawl in a notebook of the sort primary school kids would have in their backpacks and the service is charmingly offhand.
It's no wonder then that Gunpowder has become the most whispered about restaurant in Delhi - clasped to the bosom of the Delhi e-literate who have been raving about this little South Indian restaurant on the social networks. It is hip and interesting and attracts the likes of Arundhati Roy and Nandita Das.
The Hauz Khas hotspot is the kind of anti-restaurant, which cocks a snoot at decorator-enhanced spaces and consultant approved menus, that is so beloved of artists and writers. Which is why journalists count as Gunpowder fans. But this may also have something to do with the owner, Satish Warrier's own background as a journalist.
Finding Gunpowder is a bit of a schlep. It's in the really pretty Haus Khas Village but you have to make your way into a middle lane on the right of the market (on the same side as the Deer Park). Walk all the way towards the back follow the Gunpowder signage and then make the big trek up the steps - all the way to the top, up three flights, steep flights.
The expanse of reservoir which the restaurant overlooks is a lovely surprise. So pretty you want to sit out on the balcony all afternoon drinking gin and tonic, smoking unfiltered cigarettes and talking Dostoyevsky.
Don't expect anyone to come to your table and 'walk' you through the menu. If you don't know what it is ask or take your chances. The menu changes frequently and features only what is freshly on offer.
This will not be a starters, main course, dessert meal. We opted for a spread of dishes, intending to do a little taste of this and a little taste of that. The dishes are South Indian classics - no attempt to fancy them up, reconstruct them or make them contemporary and they span large parts of the Peninsula.
While it is the meat dishes that will bring diners back, the vegetarian options are interesting and tasty. A sweet and sour pumpkin (Rs 80) cooked in tamarind and jaggery, flavoured with mustard seeds and chillies is wonderful and a nice accompaniment to a dry pork curry cooked Coorgi style (Rs 260).
There are the South Indian staples - porotta, appam, sambar and dosai but it is the curries that make this little place stand apart from all the other restaurants that offer this cuisine. These include a nicely flavoured Toddy shop fish curry (Rs 300), a fresh and tasty Keralan dish, and an Andhra mutton curry (Rs 260) that could have been tastier. A Dhan Sakh and Chicken Korma are also on offer but we thought to save that for another visit.
The dal at Gunpowder was tasty enough but an otherwise dried out affair - thick and mushy, and we were not sure whether this should have been served this way or whether it had been sitting in the pot too long. We ended our meal with a delicious Payasam (Rs 130), and it was the perfect note on which to leave.
The thing is that you will be so charmed by the location, by the affections of the place - no credit cards, handwritten schoolbook menu etc. that you don't quite mind that the food falls just a smidge short of great.