We've all got a few regrets about the places we missed out on before lockdown. Y'know, those names on the bucket list we kept pushing further and further away for a rainy day. As India battles COVID-19 to flatten the infection curve, things could go in any direction. But a little faith never hurt, especially for the nomads who feel shackled. Sitting at home, we were all churning out new and personal bucket lists. Here's some staff picks of places we will hit up, for when the lockdown ends:
Caffe Palladio, Jaipur
It’s Alice in pastel-land, with ricotta ‘peach bombs’ on the menu that seem an unspoken tribute to Call Me By Your Name. A sister property of Jaipur’s Bar Palladio, this joint on JLN Marg oozes whimsy and brunchtime bliss. Palladio’s vaulted salon leads to painted pavilions—decked in blooms and birds—that open up to sunny, al fresco seating. Airy and done up with pistachio marble, the area is enclosed by thick greenery for privacy and some shade. Salads, tagine, and Italian-Mediterranean courses comprise a light, flavour-intensive menu. If you have time, take one of their luscious cakes home.
We’re not fans of dry, doughy pizza. But this casual joint on Elgin Road, with its juicy toppings and airy crust, exceeds expectations. Bare-brick walls, cosy wooden tables, checkered tiles and bright flowers mimic the rustic pizzerias of Campania, but avoid the upper level if you’re tall—it can feel a bit cramped. However, the flavour-packed courses and quick service make up for it. Diners can pick from a preset menu featuring piattini (soups, salads, appetisers) and 11-inch wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas, but we always go for the create-your-own option, where you tick off veggies, meats, sauce and your desired lagoon of cheese. On our next visit, it has to be an ‘everything’ pizza.
Al Jawahar, Delhi
You didn’t think we’d leave street legends behind, right? This Jama Masjid favourite is famous for its rich, heart-stopping Mughlai fare. After weeks of eating simple, rationed food, we wouldn’t have it any other way. Chicken, mutton, egg, offal and fish are stewed, fried, tandoori-d, and biryani-d into fatty submission, with the usual dhaba-style sides for company. Al Jawahar is currently offering takeway, but we’re waiting for things to head back to normal before lining up again.
The Tanjore Tiffin Room, Mumbai
Any menu longer than four pages gets us grumbling, but this upscale Southern Indian joint has many surprises beyond dosa, idli and rasam. Sample hand-picked Tamil recipes like Virudhunagar lamb chops and jackfruit cutlets, or scoop out prawns and soft-shell crab with flaky kottu parottas. If you’d rather spend your first week of freedom drinking, their mushroom pepper fry and crispy anchovies make for great bar nibbles.
In true old-school style, the original chef’s name is presented alongside several items, so you know they have exacting standards. Don’t know where to start? Ask the staff (they’re quite knowledgeable about food legacies) and pair with the Tiffin Room’s signature cocktails. Their sweet rum pongal with lemon cheesecake is one dish we’re eagerly waiting to try.
Ethiopian Coffee Shop, New Delhi
This gem inside the Ethopian Cultural Centre offers traditional, community-style fare from East Africa. Beyaynetu is an introductory sampling platter, where dishes come in small heaps on injera, an appam-style crepe. Mutton and chicken are also on offer, but try the veg plates first—it’s quite unlike anything that Indian palates might be used to. Post lunch, sip on Ethiopian coffee, prized for its deep, spicy and floral aromas, and take a tour of the arts and handicrafts strewn around for a quick cultural education. We’re not sure when it’s safe to fly again, so take this gastronomic journey to Ethiopia instead.
Ajam Emba, Ranchi
This lockdown has repeatedly reminded us of all the innovative rural ideas we’ve taken for granted. Once travel is possible again, we’re making a beeline towards this slow food eatery that champions sustainable eats. Showcasing tribal fare from Jharkhand, Ajam Emba works with local entrepreneurs, underserved women, and organic farmers to dole out nutritious, sustainable food. Instead of the usual dumplings, try their peetha stuffed with dal, jaggery and chicken; in place of kheer, slurp down gondli (wild rice) halwa. The cooking methods are the same as have been used for centuries—handis, wrappings made of sal leaves, and earthenware pans.
Kofuku, New Delhi
Japanese food emphasises on freshness, so we didn’t have high hopes from our first delivery order here. But the prawn okonomiyaki—a seafood-veggie pancake topped with fish flakes—turned out to be an umami dream.
This East Asian restaurant in Ansal Plaza serves up authentic Japanese and Korean plates featuring katsu, sashimi, teppanyaki, dimsums and bento boxes. The 30-piece sushi boat is perfect for friend groups, but if you’ve seen enough anime, the tabletop nabe mono (hot pots) will be your go-to. Kofuku has both al fresco and ryokan inn-styled seating, plus a branch in Mumbai.
You don't need fine dining for outstanding food—most of our picks are affordable for families, friend groups and couples. Are there any other extraordinary places you'd want to see on this list? Let us know!