Few things are as pleasant as sitting out under the sun on a Sunday afternoon in winter, sipping champagne and going through the one meal of the week that doesn’t have to be hurried. It’s what residents of other metros like best about Delhi – winter, and our determination to enjoy it to the fullest. Small wonder then, that most deluxe hotels in Delhi lay out a grand buffet spread that could do for both brunch and lunch. While the daily lunch buffet usually takes a guest half an hour to finish, the Sunday brunch takes at least twice as long, and even that’s rushing it.
The concept of a meal that includes both breakfast and lunch, especially on a Sunday or holiday, is traditionally Indian, except that the exact modalities differ from one state to another: in Kolkata, it’s kachoris and jelabis from the corner shop, in Kerala it’s appams and stew and in Delhi parathas and lassi is a Sunday legend.
However, it’s a fact of life that Delhiites don’t start their day till midday on Sundays, so most brunch deals are, in fact lunches. Even so, they’re a good deal more leisurely than on weekdays, and there’s often wine thrown in as well. Here are some of the most popular. Most timings are from 12 noon to 4 pm.
QBA in Connaught Place is the most innovative by far, because it combines a single dish – always live cooking like shawerma, hamburgers or kathi rolls with a tiny market that springs up every Sunday at 12 noon on their terrace. A marvelous treat when the weather is fine, you can have your portrait drawn by an artist, buy semi precious jewellery, funky tees or painted tin chests, and follow it by something to eat. On the day we visited, the chef was charcoal grilling hamburger patties . The stalls may change periodically, so may the menu, but the concept remains. E 42, Connaught Place Inner Circle, Tel: 51512888. Rs 350 per head which includes the dish of the day and a beer. Shopping or browsing is extra.
Le Café, the sunny rooftop café run by Ritu Dalmia atop Ravi Bajaj’s new showroom at N 4 Greater Kailash, Tel: 51731035 Rs 550 is one of the few genuine brunch buffets around. There’s a juice of the day, an extensive salad spread, eggs to order and quiches, pancakes and pastas that come in hot from the kitchen – just order whatever you want from the menu of the day. The menu changes every Sunday, but eggs benedict remains the same, because it’s too popular to take off. “Eggs, sausages, ham and bacon are things that people seem to want to eat, no matter what time of the day. It’s a misnomer that they’re only for breakfast.” Wind up with coffee and a dessert. Like QBA, Le Café has the S factor – sun: you can sit out on the tiny terrace.
Sakura at The Nikko doesn’t have the S factor, though sunlight does stream into the restaurant during the lunch hour. What is commendable is the seamless manner in which they’ve managed to cater successfully to two opposite ends of their clientele. From 12 noon to a little after 1 pm, it’s full of Japanese nationals enjoying the seaweed salad and miso soup. Come 2 pm and Indians troop in. The entrance hall has an interactive counter doing nothing else but vegetarian sushi. It’s all of a piece with the hotel’s respect for vegetarians, whose food is cooked in separate sections of the kitchen. Sushi is a treat that many miss out because they’re uncomfortable eating uncooked fish: this is the perfect place for them. Tel: 52500200, Rs 750 plus taxes; from 12 noon to 2.30 pm.
1911 has the S factor – plenty of it, only you’ll have to go there early to grab a table on the spacious lawns. The buffet is set up on the verandah outside the Verandah, which is itself off 1911. Salads and a sophisticated range of desserts are laid out in 1911, and the hot counters (western, Indian and oriental selections) make up the rest. The nice part about The Imperial’s buffet is that you can have as much or as little as you want, and pay accordingly. Thus, Rs 850 will get you the entire buffet spread, including something of your choice off the live grill. However, if it’s only salads, a soup and desserts you want, all you pay is Rs 550 (only desserts are for Rs 375). There’s a further choice: you can lunch off something from the grill only and pay Rs 550. If you want the full buffet plus three king prawns grilled with a seasoning of your choice, you pay Rs 1,050. The full buffet plus a lobster grilled just for you is Rs 1,200. All taxes are extra. From 12 noon to 3.30 pm. Tel: 23341234.
Olive Sunday buffets here are a destination in themselves, because of the zing the management has managed to infuse into the concept, as well as because of the sunlit courtyard and the sunny restaurant. In a novel twist, every person that reserves a table gets a picnic basket made up, with his or her name on it. Inside, you’ll find a bottle of wine (usually a Sauvignon or Chardonnay from South Africa, Spain, Italy or Australia), bread, relishes and spreads. You choose a table, spread it with the checkered cloth from the basket, and proceed to enjoy your Sunday picnic under the sky, albeit with a table and chairs. Salads and cold cuts are laid out on a buffet, and entrees of your choice (from the weekly menu) come in hot from the kitchen. There’s often live jazz, or at the very least a pianist, and a mini day spa (charges extra) to add to the carnival atmosphere. Olive’s Sunday picnics tend to go on till 4 pm and even later, so it’s mandatory to book in advance. Tel: 26642552, 1, Style Mile, Kalka Das Marg, Mehrauli.
Machan This is where the cognoscenti gather every Sunday afternoon, though there’s no sun, because the Sunday buffet is the most premium of all the hotels in the city. For one, there’s unlimited Sevruga caviar with a whole range of accompaniments around it, for another, a sparkling wine is served with your lunch. It’s obviously a lunch buffet, as opposed to a brunch, but the management knows how long each guest will linger at the table, and so it’s been christened the Lazy Lunch. Fresh seafood is flown in every week for the occasion all the way from Kochi, and foggy Sunday mornings are a nuisance that Executive Chef Amit Chowdhury has come to dread. “Until the last minute, I don’t know if the flight with our consignment is going to land in time or not.” It says something for the hotel’s insistence on freshness that they’d rather live with the weekly tension rather than have the oysters, scampi and lobsters delivered the previous day. Tel: 23026162, Rs 1195 plus taxes.
ITC Welcomgroup Maurya’s rooftop restaurant West View has an inspired cold spread, and a sunny terrace plus one of the best views over the Ridge. What more could you want? The antipasti spread has been put together by Chef Bill Marchetti and includes a whole wheel of Grana Padano cheese, black and green olives from a wide range of Mediterranean countries (you can actually taste the difference between one variety and another), salume – the assorted cold cuts of Italy and salads. As in Machan, pride of place goes to oysters on a bed of ice. You can eat yourself silly on the antipasti alone, but the price includes a first plate of pasta of your choice and a second plate of a grill, also of your choice from the live counter. End with a dessert. The cost is Rs 1,000 for all you can eat, and another Rs 650 for all you can drink from a range of sparkling and still wines, beers and other spirits.
Not as well known as its more famous country cousin at La Piazza, TK’s Champagne Brunch may not have the S factor, but that’s because all main courses are made up before your eyes on the teppanyaki grills inside the restaurant. It includes unlimited helpings of a sparkling wine, a choice of two soups, several South East Asian style salads, sushi and appetizers laid out on the buffet table, a choice of main courses that you can choose from off the displays or order from the menu, and a choice of dessert. In TK’s on Sunday, desserts to every last customer usually means the flambéed strawberries with ice-cream: it’s something of a signature, and not available on any other day of the week. The price is Rs1,050. Call 26791234 for reservations.