Hear, hear, wedding shoppers and buro-diplos. Malcha Marg’s Ogaan store has attached to itself not a Coast Café (what we guessed when we peeked at it under construction and spotted creamy walls and cane chairs) but Caara, a European cafe-restaurant run by the British chef who also presides over the café at the British Council on KG Marg.
If we were here by day, we would head straight to the terrace, where leafy canopies peep over high, latticed walls, but in the absence of outdoor heaters, we decide to keep warm inside. Our heart smoulders gently for the lust-worthy plates at each table before we even sit down: handmade stoneware that makes us think we are in an Anthropologie catalogue. Service is wonderful, and adds the right spot of warmth to a winter evening.
While we look at the menu, the server is quick to bring us basil pesto and crostini which shatters at the touch. The pesto is the besto: buttery, nutty and bursting with the loveliness of fresh basil. We have high hopes for Chilli Avocado Toast, which turns out to be less outstanding. Millennials, be prepared to fork out some serious avoca-dough for what can be best described as a slightly flat guacamole with grilled pao (you can’t fool a Bombay girl into calling it sourdough!). There’s hardly any chilli or lime here, all we can taste is the avocado, which, thankfully, is fresh and delicious. Chicken liver pâté is a surprise hit, thanks to a copious topping of brandy jelly and sweet apricots that make up for the stock flatness of chicken liver. Here, too, the promised toasted brioche tastes more like a sweet pao - but has a Bombay girl ever complained about that?
Pound of Fresh
The first of our mains, puttanesca orecchiette, is a hearty, likeable pasta. Capers and aged parmesan give the vegetarian sauce the umami kick that a traditional puttanesca derives from anchovies. Little ear-shaped pasta shells, orecchiette, are a welcome departure from the standard varieties found on Delhi menus.
New Zealand lamb chops, served in a red wine jus with sauteed kale and braised vegetables, divide opinions at the table, even though they arrive cooked medium as requested, a feat in itself. This is undoubtedly a well-prepared dish, but not a brilliant one; a little more sear and better layered flavours might have won us over. Our friend, however, is delighted by the tenderness of the lamb and is happy to polish off leftovers. We are united in our love for the accompanying potato dauphinoise. Think three magic words: carbs, cream, cheese. We end with an espresso slice, a compelling coffee fudge cake with chocolate ganache.
Caara shines at simple dishes where fresh ingredients are the stars. No surprise there, given that much of the produce comes from their own organic farm. The pesto and the terrace alone will bring us back before winter ends, but we’ll admit that we are more likely to return for brunch or coffee than for a full meal. Ciao, bella.
Getting there: Caara at Ogaan, 3-4 Malcha Marg Market, Chanakyapuri; next to HDFC bank. This meal for three cost Rs 3400 without alcohol.
Accessibility: The restaurant is on the first floor with no elevator access.