We walked in five minutes after Shiv Sagar, Janpath, had opened for dinner – it’s not yet an all-day dining restaurant – and found almost every table taken. It was a bit of an astounding sight, as Shiv Sagar had opened just a couple of weeks before that, and we had no idea that the lure of its vada pav and sev puri was so strong.
What brings people flocking to this place, we wondered. There’s the name, of course – this is the famous Shiv Sagar of Bombay (say Mumbai, if you must) and everyone has at least some familiarity with what it brings to the table. What it brings to the table is an assortment of western India’s most popular snacks: pav bhaji, vada pav, Chinese bhel (yes!), sev puri, and so on. And juices, loads of them, pepped up with a special Shiva Sagar masala – we downed seven tall glasses between the two of us, so it’s a wonder that there was room for anything else.
The menu has a full complement of north Indian food as well, from snacks like chole bhature and raj kachori under Dilli Street Food to dal makhani and paneer tikka. Curiously enough, a fair number of Chinese – or perhaps Chinjabi – dishes are also on the Shiv Sagar menu. Because, as we know, niche doesn’t get such a great reception in India – it is important to have “something for everyone”, as going for dinner here means bringing the whole family, from little Pappu to the elderly naani.
This something-for-everyone menu has obviously gone down well with the people flocking to Shiv Sagar so far. A little chit-chat with a senior manager at the restaurant revealed that while the first wave of customers came for the name, many of them have since returned several times for the food. We tried a few of the famed street foods of Bombay and found that barring the bhel puri, which I personally found dry for my taste, all were great value for money and yummy to boot. The sev puri, the Chinese bhel and the chilli idli deserve a special mention. The chilli idli arrived looking like paneer cubes doused in chilli sauce, but revealed itself to be a much lighter and tastier item. Even the bhel puri gets the benefit of doubt, seeing that my sole experience of bhel puri comes from an upbringing in Calcutta (say Kolkata, if you must), where bhel puri means a mix of muri (puffed rice) shaken and stirred with a big dose of mysterious chutneys and sauces, turned into a slightly soggy, though wonderfully spicy, mass. The bada pav, the staple on-the-go snack in Bombay, was fresh and crunchy at Shiv Sagar and you have the option of sprinkling a powder mix that will make it quite salty, though we advise trying out a little bit first.
We must tell you about the Shiv Sagar special dosa, which is yet to gain a fan base in Delhi but surely should have one. This was ordered as an afterthought, as we were keener to try the small eats and juices. Who wants south Indian, we thought. But on a nearly full stomach, we managed to polish off the entire dosa. It is made soft, like a homemade dosa, and has a filling of masala spread evenly and chopped cashew nuts. This description might sound odd, but you would love it, we were told. True enough, we did. Other than the standard crisp plain dosa, my personal favourite, and a certain cheese dosa at a certain diner in Calcutta, this Shiv Sagar special dosa was the best we have had. A fantastic rose kulfi, available on request, wrapped up the dinner.
Shiv Sagar is about to become a two-in-one kind of a place, with the opening of an upscale lounge Zamozza right behind it. Part enclosed, part open air, this lounge promises to offer the first ground floor al fresco experience in the Connaught Place area. Keep your eyes peeled for an opening announcement at the end of January.
For winter, Shiv Sagar is running a strawberry promotion. A Christmas-New Year menu is also in place, with charming names like Colaba Special bhurje pav and Churchgate Famous maska pav. After our dinner, we left a hint that we’d like to see the legendary bun maska-cutting chai Bombay combo at this Janpath Shiv Sagar.
Address: 52 Janpath, New Delhi (opposite Janpath market)
Timings: Noon till 4.30pm, 6.30pm till 11.30pm
Cost for two: Rs 500 plus taxes