Montreal meets Mehar Chand Market
French restaurants have never been success stories in Delhi because of the perception that they are only about haute cuisine, a concept that dogs Delhi’s dining public. Chef Nini is French, but it’s about comfort food in warm surroundings, and it’s from Montreal anyway.
Modest Mehar Chand Market is going to be the next destination for alternative chic. The cozy eatery on the ground floor is dominated by an enormous ‘tree’ made from scrap iron while the no-fuss furniture is wood. Pottery tableware sets the tone for the comfort food that Chef Nini serves.
Do not miss the New Delhi French onion soup (Rs 290), the best, most original version ever to come to our city. The chicken stock is very intensely flavoured with browned onions and the artisanal rye bread layered with grated cheese is a metaphor for what Chez Nini is all about. On the face of it, it would seem like a rustic touch – a hunk of coarse bread, soaking in distinctively flavoured soup. However, scratch the surface and you’ll see that this quality of rye bread is not made anywhere in the city, not even in the five star hotels. Behind the scenes, the kitchen sweats the small stuff, but so effortlessly is it done and so artlessly is it presented, that the crowds that throng here every evening never get to see the labour. Nini’s poutine (Rs 325) is the quintessential comfort food of Montreal. A combination of crisp French fries in gravy, topped with cheese, it would have been a killer dish had the fries been more crisp: it is the ratio between the crispness of the fries and the sogginess of the gravy that is the all-important factor here. Spiced rubbed chicken Coq au Vin (Rs 550) was served in a stoneware bowl and had salad greens, whole baby potatoes, croutons, button mushrooms and a generous joint of roast chicken. Hearty chicken stew for the soul as it were.
Plus and minus: Nini is the owner and the chef. It is she who goes to each table as well. Without her, the little eatery would be headless: the staff are affably clueless.
Three recommendations: Confit of Duck Legs, Crab and Corn Croquettes, Vegetarian Chili and House-Made Cheese Curd
79&80 Meharchand Market, Lodhi Colony
Tel: 011-49050665, 9560211223
Open from 12 noon to 7 pm for tea, coffee, cakes and 7pm to 11.30 pm for dinner
Alcohol licence awaited
Meal for two: Rs 2,000