The first time, I visited Connaught Place was during the late 80's. Back then as an overexcited junior school student, out to celebrate exam results, with a treat of the legendary Hot Chocolate fudge at the then famed Nirula's, I couldn't quell the thrill of seeing the ring-like alabaster façade.
As years went by, and several other market places and malls sprung up in the city, my visits became less frequent but the nostalgia of the chalky white structure, spoilt at places by paan-stains, remained.
Cut to late 2000s and a tread to the market of my dreams became a bewildering experience, not just for me but also for every one who had the misfortune of crossing past the mounds of dust, exposed cable wires, make-shift planks and dug up roads, thanks to the never-ending renovation project that stalked CP for years.
But, all that seems to be changing once again, as Connaught Place is fast regaining its lost allure. After the markets' facelift, a host of new chic eateries, bars and bistros are setting shop and are changing the whole dynamics of the place. Vikas Singh, who manages a restaurant in CP says, "It's no secret that CP bore the look of a ghost town after dark, but with youngsters thronging in droves at these noisy new clubs, CP is finally experiencing a night life."
But on what is it that is attracting the crowds back to this once a famous commercial and entertainment destination, Chetan Rampal, partner at Monkey Bar - a hip new, New York style eatery says, "CP is the perfect bridge between our post colonial heritage and globalised young India. Besides, it is one of the few locations in the city that offers excellent metro connectivity, ample parking and brilliant architecture."
Varun Puri, who is launching famous vegetarian eatery Shiv Sagar in Delhi says, "For us it was obvious that we choose CP. Post restoration, it has become one of the most streamlined markets in the city. The parking lots now have LED vacancy display boards (installed by The Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit System) so there is no clash and chaos over parking space. The national flag in the centre is a unique attraction that instills patriotism and then there are activities like Raahgiri, all this is bringing the focus back to CP."
Rampal sums up by saying, "Connaught Place, belongs to everyone, from the tourist to the college professional to the office goers and to the older generation who are nostalgic about the place."
CHAOS AND BEYOND
Connaught Place began losing out to the mall culture that began in early 2000s. Next, the Metro construction work caused disturbances in traffic conditions and the last straw came in the form of NDMC led renovation project that began in 2008, and was to be completed before the 2012, Commonwealth Games. The project saw inordinate delays
FREE WiFi ZONE
Launched earlier this month, Connaught Place now becomes one of the two marketplaces in the capital to have a free WiFi (the other being Khan Market).
The largest ever in India, the service can be availed by 5,000 people. The service is free for first 20 minutes. After that user can get, recharge cards (Rs 10 for 30 minutes, Rs 20 for 60 minutes)
PATRIOTISM AT ITS BEST
The tricolour hoisted on the top of a 207 feet high mast in CP has become one of the most popular landmarks of the place. The largest national flag of India it was hoisted in March this year, by Flag Foundation of India and New Delhi Municipal Corporation. It is illuminated in the night with eight 2,000 watt lights.
From power breakfast as early as 7.00 in the morning to lounges where you can linger around post midnight, options abound in CP...
1 Bambaiya bun and bhaji
The famous Mumbai all veg eatery opens its doors to guests today onwards. The highlight remains their paav bhaji with fresh paavs flown in every morning from Mumbai. They also have a selection of Bombay street food ranging from sev puri to Bombay masala Frankie apart from Chettinad dosas and north Indian curries
Where: Shiv Sagar, 52, Janpath
Meal for two:
2 Touch of Tuscany
Serving up a king's breakfast complete with frittatas, waffles and pancakes, 8.30 am onwards is this Tuscan style café which opened its branch in CP about a month ago. Once here, you can down cups of gourmet coffees watching the town come alive.
Where: Caffe Tonino, PVR Plaza building
3 Old school decor
The place claims to have the largest bar in the city and is set in a massive… sq feet of space right in the heart of Delhi. It's USP - the interiors hark back to the colonial era giving that touch of nostalgia to Connaught Place that once was.
Where: Townhouse Café, F block, CP
4 Gastropub, NY style
Offering an edgy, pulsating vibe of New York city, right here in CP, is the conveniently located Monkey Bar, with its terrace overlooking the national flag and giving a ring side view of central Delhi. The dishes such as postcolonial chicken a la kiev and mobar gymkhana sandwich are carefully chosen to evoke the memories of Delhi's clubs of the early 70's.
Where: Monkey Bar, P block, Connaught Circus
5 Peri-peri perfect
The famous flame-grilled chicken eatery opened its third Delhi outlet, in CP last week. With its Afro-Portuguese style dishes and South African art works, the place is another addition to international casual eateries coming to the country.
Where: Nando's, F Block, Malhotra bldg., Inner circle,
5 East India memories
Bringing back the memories of Connaught Place during the times of Raj, is the new Vault café, opened this month. Visualised as the storehouse of British East India Company, the place spread across 7,000 sq feet reflects the times of spice trade. It's also the only place in CP to have a wood fired set up at the terrace for those chilly evenings.
Where: Café Vault, Radial road, F Block,
6 Dessert treats
The famous artisan ice creams from Mumbai opens its second outlet in the city, at Connaught Place. The USP - they use on stabilizers or preservatives, just the goodness of fruits. You can gorge on some unusual flavours such as sitaphal, coconut and watermelon.
Free makeovers: Have a post work party and haven't had the time to dress up? Walk into the Avon academy in CP for a free makeover session by their makeup experts. You can also get a free skin analysis done or review the products.
Midnight shopping: If you are hard pressed for time and want to indulge in some retail therapy late in the night, then here's some news. The Benetton outlet in CP will be open till 12.00 am in the night till the end of the year.
Artisanal fare: Kamala store, an initiative of the Crafts Council of India, stocks revivalist arts and crafts by Indian artisans. You can buy home décor items made of sanjhi paper cut work, tilu grass, kathwa patchwork and zardozi
Where: Kamala Gallery, Rajiv Gandhi handicrafts bhavan, Baba Kharak Singh Marg.
Book love: Oxford bookstore that shifted to new premise earlier this year is the hub for discussions, dialogues, book launches besides a vast collection of books. The café, Cha Bar holds cooking tutorials from time to time.
Where: Oxford bookstore, N block,
Also to come…
Zamozza: A luxe lounge, said to be the largest in the area that will
Kinbuck 2: Coming up in early December it is said to be city's first roman bistro
Hybrid: A place spread over 8000 sq feet it will be a lounge with corporate elements. To come up early next year