On the verandah, a female patron enjoying happy hour with her pet pooch extols the virtues of the food and staff. "They're lovely people here," she enthuses, obviously a regular. Between 5.30-7.30pm, the restaurant offers discounted house wine and beer to patrons.
Tonight the restaurant is decked out in rose petals and red balloons for Valentine's Day. For the occasion, a free glass of wine is offered to romancing patrons. It's evidence of the initiatives staff take to entice and please the patrons.
Inside, the décor with its stylish bar, animal print chairs, gold cutlery and white linen would be equally fitting in an upmarket hotel. It adds to the fresh, clean feel of the place. There's also a private room for groups where lanterns sparkle from a tree, and upstairs, an area for bigger groups and events.
Best of all – if like me – you have an aversion for public venues with disgusting toilet amenities (see my article on the Taj Mahal) – you're going to be well pleased with the clean, ambient Mens and Ladies here.
While waiting for your meal, study the newspaper print table coverings or the pictures on the walls. A homage to the city of Delhi, these feature information on famous locations in the great city – like Humayun's Tomb and the Red Fort.
Small private room for groups - and a splash of Bollywood.
Featuring dishes less seen in traditional Indian restaurants as well as the usual mainstays (like pappadams, samosas, butter chicken and so on), the offerings give you a chance to widen your repertoire of Indian food. On the menu are many Indian dishes I've never tried before: the Cheese and Shallot Naan bread, Paneer Tikka (with roasted onions and capsicum), Tandoori Mushrooms and Ram Ladoo (a popular dish from Delhi of lentil dumplings served with chutney and grated radish). Trust me, it's one of those excursions into the unknown you won't regret.
This menu is making me hungry," a guest on another table giggles to his sweetheart. I have to concur.
The Paneer Tikka - roasted paneer, onions, and capsicum in subtle spices.
Susheel Kumar (the gentle-mannered, youthful and very hands on owner) strolls by and I ask his opinion on which naan bread to try for something different. I'm feeling adventurous. He suggests the Kandhari - a sweet naan. "The sweetness gets rid of the hotness," Susheel explains.
The humble accompaniment proves the highlight of my main. Each bite of the flat bread is accompanied by a delicious yet subtle sweetness - I'm speculating honey, coconut, raisins, nuts and cinnamon. It contrasts nicely with the spicy heat of my tasty eggplant dish and the refreshing crispness of a garden salad of cucumber, tomato and spiced red onion. My valentine (the carnivorous half of our duo) enjoys his Chicken Tikka Masala. Served on beautiful, stone dishes, the food is fresh and nicely presented. Who could ask for more?
There's no doubt the Delhi Ki Sardi (a selection of traditional Indian Subcontinent Ice-creams) is the Taj Mahal of the experience. Stifling orgasmic moans of delight, I devour the honey pistachio ice cream with its smotherings of honey and subtle nutty spice flavours. The mango raisin flavour is also 'delish' and reminds me of a Mango Lassie, although I'd probably prefer it without the raisins. A saffron and almond offering presents another flavour choice which regretfully I didn't experience. The Ras Malai - a rich cheesecake soaked in saffron & milk syrup also sounds alluring, but hell, there's only so much one's gut can consume in a day.
Emerging temporarily from the kitchen, the chef, a small, intent man, wears the harried look of someone consumed with important matters. With twenty years experience, he's the pillar of the restaurant and maestro of the meals. It's tempting to ask him for the recipe for the pistachio nut ice-cream. In a flash he's bustled back into the kitchen. Darn.
Like a subtle spice in the mix there's just a hint of Bollywood glamour here amongst the casual vibe: Susheel Kumar's equally youthful and immaculate wife emerges in a bright gown that matches his smart attire and the general stylishness (roses and all) of the place.
The maestro of the kitchen. Pic courtesy of Mi Vyas.
Susheel asks me about the meal including anything that might warrant improvement. He says he wants to learn anything he can improve on. It's precisely this kind of humility – rare in business ventures – that make Delhi By the Way an experience of a slightly different kind.
Susheel, who runs the restaurant with his brother, emphasizes that selling "an experience, not just food' is important to him. The website proclaims: "We aim to give you an experience of dining at a place which exudes the spirit of Delhi – love, whole heartedness and humility."
You won't find any rude, indifferent or frosty waiters here. Thank God you say.
If the service here were a flavour it would be a sweet cinnamon, rose-petalled concoction - gentle and welcoming. It all adds to the flavour of the meal. And hints at happy staff - yet another thing to like about Delhi By the Way. If you drop in, do taste that exquisite pistachio and honey ice-cream and get the recipe from me.
- Delhi By the Way also delivers to surrounding suburbs and the CBD and is open Tuesdays to Sundays (closed Mondays).