In a more civilized city, there would be plenty of places like Gunpowder. Small, advertised strictly through word of mouth and the redoubtable Facebook, bold enough to have an off-beat menu and stick to it and above all, chef-owner driven eatery that is focused on two things: food and customers. The good news is that at least we have Gunpowder; the grim news is that there are only a couple more.
It is at the very top of a building in Hauz Khas Village. On the plus side, the view is unrivalled. On the minus side, there’s no lift and the stairs are steep. There are only ten tables, including the five in the terrace, from where you get the best views. There’s one thing: the only way to negotiate the stairs, and that is sober. So perhaps it is well that Gunpowder does not have its licence yet.
The owner, Satish Warier is not a trained chef, but he has been cooking the food of his home state Kerala for years now and the best part is that his food is of the home-style variety, rather than the polished hotel/restaurant sort. Do try the toddy shop meen curry (Rs 300), the quintessential Kerala fish curry with grated coconut and a souring agent of fish tamarind, that every red-blooded Keralite will immediate identify with. In fact, this one dish symbolizes Gunpowder: unpretentious and spot on authentic. It is a little less spicy than a toddy shop in Kerala would have made it, but after all, toddy shops keep their cuisine a little spicier and oilier than need be to crank up the sales of their toddy.
Buff fry (Rs 250) is a love-it-or-hate-it dish. I myself couldn’t quite make up my mind about it. Every particle of moisture had been fried out of the meat, so that it did become tender, but it lacked texture and made it difficult to identify what meat it was. Spiked with curry leaves, shallots and coconut slices, it did add textural interest to the meal.
No card-carrying Malayali would consider eating lunch without avial. It’s there on the menu at Gunpowder (Rs 110). It has a mix of English vegetables cut into batons, with the trademark blend of grated coconut and yoghurt. Fortunately, you don’t have to bust big bucks on a meal here. In fact, the cheapest item on the menu is the most sensational: Guntur gunpowder costs all of Rs 50, with gingelly oil. Mix it into a paste and season your rice or appam with it and you can have a perfect home-style meal for a modest outlay of Rs 115.
Don’t miss the kootu paratha, the quintessential Kerala roadside snack/ meal, made from shredded parathas seasoned with egg (Rs 70), chicken (Rs 100) or mutton (Rs 120) and tomatoes, onions and green chillies. Gunpowder serves it with a delicious coconut gravy, just as it would be in a small town in Kerala. And that is the problem with the current menu at Gunpowder. Because of Satish in the kitchen, the Kerala food is far better than the rather watered down Andhra offerings. The Andhra prawn masala (Rs 350) had five miniscule shrimps in a runny masala of chopped onions and tomatoes. Missing were tamarind and chillies – two ingredients that no Andhra cook is ever without.
3rd floor, 22 Hauz Khas Village,
Open from 12 noon to 3 pm and 7 pm to 11.30 pm
Meal for two: Rs 800
No alcohol served; credit cards accepted