After spending more than 4 years in Delhi, NCR/Gurgaon to be politically precise, I hadn't had the opportunity to visit the famed Chandni Chowk or Delhi 6 (pincode 110006) area. Unless you're absolutely unacquainted with the Indian capital you will know that Chandni Chowk is the typical bustling, crowded, 'original' heart of the city. Located not far from the posh & centrally located Connaught Place, Chandni Chowk is brings you to a completely different city within the City. It's a bit like Alibaba's magic words which opened the cave, you are suddenly welcomed by lanes narrower than the width of your bedroom and lined on both sides with cars, trucks, rickshaws and other assorted modes of transportation. It's lined with shops selling everything under the scorching sun, and of course every scrap of road not occupied by the the aforementioned vehicles, doubles up as a cricket pitch or generally sitting around space.
Veni & I reached here on a Saturday afternoon, and being not very conversant with the place we landed at Chawri Bazaar metro station. If you've already formed an image of Chandni Chowk in your head, just multiply the crowds by 2 and divide the width of the roads by half. Yes, and now put us in our Santro in the middle of this picture. Yes, that's about just perfect! However, contrary to the image, the warmth and friendliness of the people forced us to loosen our guards. Seeing us, sunglass wearing, bewildered "city dwellers" in a bit of a spot, the shopkeepers and rickshaw drivers actually gave us specific directions to the exact place we wanted to go to, and halted the traffic for us to reverse the car and get going. Yes, this is the India we hear so often about that sometimes we forget it's reality. Nobody honked, swore of glared at us bumbling our way through the market streets. On the contrary, they were happy to hand over the World Cup of cricket to us, for a princely sum of 200 INR (~$4.5)
After that it was the remarkable GPS on our Nexus Ones to our rescue and we reached the clothes section of the bazaar where my in-laws were waiting for us. After going through half a dozen shops and many a dozen sarees, the ladies picked up one. Yes, O N E. I silently saluted the patience of the shopkeepers and took leadership of the situation. Lunch situation that is.
If you had any doubts about the secular nature of India they can be safely put to rest here. There's a large Gurudwara, temple and the famous Jama Masjid. However in terms of food I have to admit I am very biased and bigoted, and completely overlooked the jalebi, samosa, parathe wale galis and herded the entire group straight to the mecca of Mughlai food in Delhi - Karim's.
Established almost a 100 years back, this institution has grown in stature with every passing year and has found mention in Asia's 'Best Places to Eat' directories many a times. Located right next to the Jama Masjid in a narrow gully, you'll initially be a little underwhelmed with the place after having heard to death about it. However, the long queue outside the satisfied look on the faces of the customers (a lot of foreigners included) leaving the restaurant will leave you assured.
The brand has grown so much that it is now run by many different family members in different parts of the city, with 3 separate restaurants running out of the same premises. After 5 minutes of waiting, we managed to get a table for five. That included my mother-in-law and brother-in-law's fiance, the former a vegetarian as staunch as they come, the latter off meat during that time of the year.
Just so that you understand, this place smells of meat, differently cooked, various kinds, but meat. Skewered, grilled, chargrilled, stewed, curried, marinated meat! This is where Veni, Rahul (Veni's brother) and I showed the selfish side of human nature and disassociated ourselves from the remaining two and dived into the not-so-elaborate menu card. There's meat and meat items everywhere and I will vouch for the following: Chicken/Mutton Biriyani, Mutton Qorma and the Mutton Burra Kebabs. Suffice to say that the meat was tender, succulent, juicy and perfect! The Biriyani, different from the Hyderabadi, Lucknawi, Bengali or Malabari ones have a charm of their own and have the gumption to take on the rest if push comes to shove. The food is oily, no two ways about it. So if you're particularly conscious of your calorie intake you may be left disappointed. Also, a word of caution for the vegetarians, the food sucks. Yes, it's as simple as that. But then you can't complain much about the milk shake they serve you in pubs, can you?
The Mutton Burra Kebab
The Phirni that you must try
After a most satisfying and damaging meal we got on the rickshaws (had to park the car far, far away) and weaned our way through the meandering streets and back to 'the City'.
If you're in Delhi and have the stomach for a slice of the real Delhi and lip smacking food, you must pay Delhi 6 a visit.
P.S: If you've seen Rakeysh Om Prakash Mehra's Delhi-6, you will relate to this 'Kala Bandar' we found there:)