For Connaught Place regulars, it has long been a beacon of good time – a purple glow on the upper floor of the corner building where radial road No. 7 meets the Inner Circle. This is QBA, a massive multi-cuisine restaurant with a wide verandah that nowadays offers a hypnotic view of the humongous tricolour hoisted in the middle of the Central Park, Connaught Place.
My personal association with QBA hadn’t been that deep. The first and last memory was that of a frenzied office party during my newspaper days, lurching home and being very sick almost immediately. (Was it the nachos? The rum? Or an injudicious amount of dancing to Daler Mehndi after nachos and rum? Never figured it out.) As a result, for years I’ve cast a slightly jaundiced eye at QBA while passing it by on one of my many hundred chakkars of CP.
When the invite came for the celebration of its 10th anniversary, that recollection caused a moment’s hesitation. Should I? Or not? Well, I decided I should. Reason being, that which doesn’t kill you, etc. Besides, the place has staying power, and I shouldn’t remain ignorant of its charms; there must be some, if it has lasted 10 years.
So at QBA I was, sitting at the chef’s table. With no drunken colleagues to distract me, and with most of the other guests yet to arrive, there was time to take a good look around the place. QBA appeared huge, more the size of a major nightclub than a restaurant. It is, indeed, a popular place for hosting parties (don’t I just know it) and the two-level seating ensures privacy for the diners upstairs even if the party is on downstairs. The semi-darkness, the candles on the table make it a space definitely for unwinding; this is not a place that serves as an extension of your office cubicle. Come to QBA, but don’t bring work along.
The music was of the Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Kailash Kher genre, not Daler Mehndi this time. The acoustics, I noticed, were perfect. The music, though energetic, always remained in the background, never disturbing conversation. I picked a Havana Highway cocktail to get the evening started. QBA is building up its wine cellar, too, spurred by changing tastes.
Our meal was now being laid out. All the dishes making an appearance on the chef’s table have been top favourites among QBA patrons, and though some were replaced over time, the restaurant is bringing them back. So we were getting a taste of the best.
The first to arrive was the golden fried prawn, which was great, just crisp enough on the outside and nicely done inside. This was followed by a small triangle of pita bread topped by falafel and hummus and paneer tikka stuffed with plum, both perfect.
QBA, which does Indian, Italian and Asian, has started making its pizzas on an open wood-fired oven, and a slice of thin crust pizza margherita was put on our plate. This pizza can hold its own against some of the best in Delhi – even though the crust was a shade thicker than thin crust should ideally be, the pizza tasted good. In the main course, the QBA dal had the rich creamy texture you expect from a fine dining restaurant. I skipped the meat dishes – QBA rogan josh and braised lamb mashed potato – and went for the grilled fish lemon butter sauce instead. It was a winner, the fish fresh and the sauce just tart enough to add zing to the fish.
Finishing off with tiny portions of Death by Chocolate and crème caramel, we left the chef’s table happy. Our return gift for this ‘birthday’ dinner was an amazing toffee chocolate cake. Multi-cuisine restaurants don’t always get the desserts right, but QBA does.
The chef’s table has finally erased the memory of my nachos night. I’m now entirely open to the idea of grabbing a table on the verandah and hitting the Havana Highway yet again.