North Indian winters are always welcome from the scorching heat of the summers. As winter approaches, woolens, warm blankets, room heaters and soups become part and parcel of our daily lives as the cold grips the city and we shiver in content. Now imagine a scenario where you are sitting on a terrace, wrapped in comfortable layers and drinking an insanely delicious shorba or hot soup to make you smile from ear to ear. That’s exactly the feeling I had as I put spoonful after spoonful in my mouth at Gurugram’s latest offering—Unplugged Courtyard.
The taste of the light broth and lamb, peppery and yet flavourful pack just enough punch to make the trip from Delhi to Gurugram worth it. I visited when Udyog Vihar’s new restaurant was still getting a makeover with just the terrace functioning to its capacity. They have officially opened now and are said to have about 350 covers across the different sections Unplugged Courtyard is offering, including a pretty, sparkly area called 'Secret Garden'.
Delhi’s ever-busy Connaught Place does have the first Unplugged Courtyard but don’t expect to be served the same menu at Gurugram. Shivering comfortably despite the heat from the heaters, the shorba with naan to nibble on hit the rumbling stomach at the sweet spot. Chef Akshay Bhardwaj moved from table to table, making sure everyone was taken care off and kept sending his dishes one after the other. Having gained experience in some of the world's most famous kitchens, including Noma, he was earlier at the helm of Whiskey Samba.
After the shorba came a delectable white meat dish called chicken Dalcha. The combination of meat and dal (lentils) isn’t new with various communities having their own versions but the one I had at Unplugged Courtyard, was a winner. Unlike a soupy, curry version, this one was marinated with lentils and was soft and succulent as my fork cut into a piece. The steam evaporated in front of my eyes. Next up, Chef Bhardwaj sent prawns with appams. The prawns were marinated in Andhra spices, slightly spicy but cooked to perfection, while the accompanying appams were like little pancakes, to mop up the residual flavours from the plate. I would definitely recommend both these starters, provided of course, you are a non vegetarian.
Since Unplugged Courtyard serves a variety of dishes taken from different cuisines and all given a twist to give the eater a surprise, from India we travelled more east, towards gyozas and dimsums next. I personally love gyozas, especially the ones which have the accompanying crispness and these ones didn't disappoint. The prawn stuffing was seasoned well and a dip into the sauce, and quick bites thereafter ensured a quick journey to the stomach. The mushroom dimsums, on the other hand, were extremely moist and soft. One bite and I knew it was a winner for vegetarian customers.
By then the belly was full and the winter night played its pranks despite the warm heater next to the table. Even my sweater, thick otherwise, fell prey to the cold. The mains left me with a divided opinion. The seafood risotto had all the ingredients but just didn't live up to the standard of all the previous dishes I tasted. It was creamy with morsels of seafood and plenty of seasoning but just fell short of 'would you eat it again?', a sentence I always live by. However, the duck kulcha, was delicious. You could eat it just hot from the tandoor without any curry. "It is a dish on it's own," said chef after I polished off the steaming kulchas, revelling in the combination.
I barely had space in my belly for dessert but after the chef coaxed, I attempted to take a bite. The churros were light and dipped in chocolate, making for all those Spanish memories from five years ago come to mind. The wind brought me back to reality, away from the tiny churro cart in Valencia, outside of Mercado Central. The banana french toast, on the other hand, didn't hit the sweet spot. Maybe because bananas aren't a favourite and I tend to avoid them in any form of sweet.
But no matter the hits and misses, it can't be denied that a winter evening on Unplugged Courtyard's terrace makes for a wonderful time.
Where: Udyog Vihar, Gurugram
Pocket pinch: Approx. Rs 2,000 for two (excluding taxes)