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The sun may be hard to find in our smog-quilted city, but, in the few hours when it is up and beaming at us, there is no fleeting pleasure greater than having a meal in its balmy warmth. Fortunately for sun-starved Delhiites, the city has its fair share of sun-dappled terraces and courtyards where a good meal and a helpful bottle of wine are all you need to nod off into a world of delectable dreams.
Here is our selection of restaurants and public spaces across Delhi where the sun and good food are never in short supply.
Q’BA, Connaught Place: No list of Delhi’s sunny restaurants can be complete without opening with the pioneer, Q’BA, whose terrace has seen the best and worst of Connaught Place. Q’BA capitalised on its terrace when Connaught Place was a shadow of its present, bustling self. Today, you can also experience a wave of nationalist sentiments as you get to see the massive Tricolour fluttering over Central Park.
Olive Qutub, Mehrauli: When the chic restaurant opened in the early 2000s, it attracted immediate notice because of its pebbled courtyard shaded by a banyan tree that is believed to be as old as the Qutub. The courtyard and the Dirty Martini terrace are equally sought after on summer evenings, with misty fans working overtime, and on winter nights, when electrical sigris are pressed into service.
Chandni Chowk: There is nothing more reinvigorating than a walk down Chandni Chowk’s central boulevard at this time of the year. When you go deep into the galis, you find the sun being ousted by the shadows of centuries-old houses. But at spots such as the Old Famous Jalebi Wala (Dariba), Natraj Dahi Bhalla Corner (next to Central Bank Building) and Chaina Ram Sindhi Confectioners (next to Fatehpuri Masjid), the sun is your constant companion.
En, Mehrauli: Located at the stylish Ambawatta One complex, this restaurant, located at the site of an old mental asylum, not only serves authentic Japanese meals but also commands a terrace that offers a majestic view of the Qutub and as much sunshine as you can ask for. Chef Sabyasachi Gorai’s Lavaash next door is also blessed with this comforting presence.
Café Lota, Crafts Museum: The open-air restaurant at the National Handloom and Handicrafts Museum, on the Bhairon Marg side of Pragati Maidan facing Purana Quila, has a loyal following that visits it for its inventive modernist menu and for the experience of being surrounded by the country’s finest collection of artefacts. On winter afternoons, however, it is the uninterrupted sun that beckons those who love vitamin D with their meals.
Gardens of Delhi’s Heritage Hotels: Whether it is The Garden Terrace at Maidens Hotel, Civil Lines (built in 1903), or the vast green expanse outside The Imperial’s 1911 restaurant (the hotel was inaugurated in 1936), which is open during winter for the lunch buffet in the shadow of its Art Deco structure (spurring you to exclaim, ‘Koi hai?’), and The Claridges on A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Marg (opened in 1956), whose garden for the past two winters has been hosting a Sunday brunch where the sun combines with a steady supply of sparkling wine to produce the most agreeable effect.
Triveni Terrace Café, Mandi House: Restored to life after a long closure, this old hangout of drama students and political activists gets the sun in good measure, and its pocket-friendly menu still has the old favourites: Tasty Toast (grilled cheese sandwich) and stuffed paranthas. Its famous shaami kababs now come ensconced in a bun.
Lodhi Gardens, Opp. Jor Bagh: One of the everlasting pleasures of living in Delhi is still being able to go on a picnic to a collection of mausoleums surrounded by 90 acres of landscaped greens. The city may have changed beyond recognition (and the tradition of picnics may be dying), but this is one landmark that has not lost its magnetic power ever since it opened on April 9, 1936.
Dilli Haat, Opp. INA Market: A vibrant destination that has not lost its magnetic charm in the 20-odd years it has been around, Dilli Haat, its surging crowds notwithstanding, is just the place for a meal in the sun – from the best of the country’s regional kitchens to Navdanya’s organic treats, it has so much to offer to the inquisitive palate.
The Hungry Monkey, Opp. Deer Park, Safdarjung Enclave: Here is one restaurant that does not have to work too hard to induce its guests to stay longer and order more (mainly alcohol). With the magnificent view of the Deer Park it offers, The Hungry Monkey terrace is just what the doctor ordered for all those who love the company of the sun.
Newer Terraces of New Delhi: If the terraces of the Hauz Khas Village restaurants have lost some of their sheen, it is mainly the price the destination has had to pay for its undiminished popularity, which brought swelling crowds and parking blues in its wake. The net gainers have been the new Aurobindo Marg restaurants in the neighbourhood. The ones with the best terraces that allow you the privilege of private conversation are Summer House Café (Aurobindo Place Market) and The Backyard (next to Hotel Sartaj).
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Sourish Bhattacharyya, co-founder of the Delhi Gourmet Club, is a freelance writer, editorial consultant, food columnist, restaurant critic and blogger. He has contributed regularly to the Mumbai Mirror, Times Life, BBC Good Food, Travel & many more publications. Nothing is dearer to him than the joy of writing, which he blends with his passion for food.