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Not just coffee at café

Cafés are becoming spaces for live acts in Delhi. With stand-up comics, puppet shows, and music gigs, the USP of such places is interaction, liquor licences or not, Nivriti Butalia reports.

delhi Updated: Jun 14, 2009 00:01 IST
Nivriti Butalia

Socialising in Delhi is tricky.

If you don't pay a cover charge of Rs 1,000 to get into a nightclub or a lounge bar, you have little choice but to order a cappuccino for Rs 60 at one of the many pink-and-purple themed franchisee Coffee Days — or their rivals, the chain with orange interiors.

What if you want to do neither — not dance, not nurse coffee, but still head out and be assured of a good time?

Abhimanyu Singh Rana is the 27-year old owner of Route 04, an American Café restaurant in Khan Market.

An IIT-graduate, Rana has a thing for cars.

So much so that the theme at his café is American automobiles. The place has pictures, scaled models, and huge prints of American automotive icons.

The novelty factor? Sundays is the day car aficionados get together, eat, unwind, nurse their beverages — the liquor licence is new — and discuss their wheels. Not that the menu is all that cheap, but the food is a definite alternative to the only other American diner in town.

What is Route 04 doing differently? They’re encouraging live performances.

Attitudes in the city are changing. And Rana, for one, is open to amateur acts that go beyond music gigs and four member boy bands dishing out Summer of 69.

“We’re becoming like Bombay,” says Deepali Gupta.

As a patron of ‘cool places’ and more officially, brand manager of Impresario Entertainment & Hospitality, she has under her places like Smoke House Grill, Café Mocha, recently also Mocha Bar (in Nehru Place).

“We don’t have dress codes,” she says. Casual works. And they are keen on amateur nights, and willing to give a platform to bands, and the eclectic theatre lot.

As far as contagious novelty goes, Café Mocha will shortly organise a book club and book readings.

Not unlike the cultural goings-on in The Attic in Connaught Place, a gallery that is also a ‘space for the living arts’.

As far as innovation goes, The Living Room Café in Hauz Khas village is doing its bit to promote puppeteers, skits, stand-up comics and even the odd jazz band.

With a steadily increasing fan base, the café has a laid-back environment — refer name of the place — that is conducive to variety shows that are different from cabaret shows in five-star hotels.

Gautum Aurora, with that surname indeed, is the London-bred owner of The Living Room.

Having chucked up a career in risk analysis and writing reports for corporate entities, Aurora is not a believer of organised religion or even rigid schedules.

Still Thursday nights are reserved for Reggae, Sunday is a pop quiz and most other days, he says he’s “open to curveballs”.

This Friday, for one was a jazz teaser with a city swing trio, The Variety Hour, performing for a small but dedicated audience.

The audience-cum customers lap up the avant garde stuff and the question is out there: Why aren’t more places doing this routine?

It is clear that Delhi is ready for café’s that stretch themselves and do a little more than serve hot coffee.