Urban Nomads in Nehru Place has three factors to recommend it: a well thought-out menu, astonishingly large portions at modest prices, and the excellent system of half portions. The restaurant also doubles as a store for high-fashion garments, but that may be to stand up and be counted among the rash of theme restaurants in the city.
Most Indian restaurants in Delhi don’t move beyond the butter chicken, karahi chicken, murg musallam syndrome for fear of playing to empty galleries. Not Urban Nomads. Starters are all from the tandoor and include green gram kebabs and coarsely chopped vegetables roasted crisp in the tandoor. I passed the dahi kebab by and was later ticked off by a friend who goes there for just that. The seekh kabab gilafi was better than average, with tiny flecks of coriander and onion inside, and the barest hint of a crisp coating. Another option was khanabadoshi raan, an Afghani speciality (the nomadic connection), the only starter which doesn’t have a half portion.
Main courses for non-vegetarians are all available in half portions and include the Rajasthani lal maas, nalli korma, paya and keema matar. No cliches here. Offerings from Kashmir include rogan josh made from slow-simmered shank bones, which are larger than the serving dish: if you’re passionately fond of lamb, this one’s for you. The vindaloo (you can choose between chicken and mutton) is served in an incendiary gravy with a touch of coconut and a dash of vinegar.
Slightly disconcertingly, Urban Nomads presents its food as a westerner would cook ‘curry’. Each dish has a definitive colour: the vindaloo’s flaming red and the rogan josh is brown. There’s a quantity of thick gravy with none of the individual ingredients showing, and no absolutely no oil floating on top. Don’t expect awesome authenticity: each dish that we sampled was genuine enough to be recognisable, though you could hardly mistake it for the work of a regional master. There’s good reason for this: you can order any combination from the menu and it will taste good together. Another restaurant that tried regional food failed for the reason that Bengali fish tastes foul with Goan balchao and so forth, leaving the diner precious little choice for combinations.
The best part of Urban Nomads is that vegetarians aren’t consigned to a choice of six different preparations of paneer. There’s palak kofta, mirchi ka satan, karam ka saag and besan ke gatte. Unfortunately, karam ka saag, the other Kashmiri offering, was wide off the mark, but the gatte were outstanding. Quite simply, the best dish on the menu, (though my companion swears by the dahi kebabs) the gatte were dry and flaky on the inside, their texture enhanced with coarsely pounded spices. True to form, the gravy was thick and tomato based. This must rank as the only place of its standard in Delhi to serve tandoori and roomali rotis at Rs 10 each. It’s a practice I wish other restaurants would follow. By contrast to the rest of the menu, the desserts embraced every cliche in the trade: ice-cream and gulab jamun. By far the worst aspect of the restaurant is the service that is rude and boorish for want of proper training. But when two hungry souls can eat their fill for Rs 558 (that’s what we paid for four dishes and rolls, who’s complaining?
Ground Floor, 1&2 Chiranjiv Towers, 43 Nehru Place.
Dial: 6420982-3, Open on all days from 12 to 12
Parking: Impossible at lunch time easy in the evening
Credit cards: All except Amex
Alcohol : Not yet