Settling down at your table in the terrace of 1911, in one of those comfy seats they have in the sprawling courtyard brought up on the winter sunshine of eighty years and five, one does feel like Jordan Belfort from the yacht scene. Or like a gang-lord on-the-run sitting down for one last breakfast at his hacienda. Yes—this luxury with this pretense of modesty is criminal. Only, without the consequences. And it’s brunch, not breakfast.
Cutting to the chase, we are at 1911, as I earlier said, for the Sunday Brunch the iconic diner at The Imperial Delhi is back to serving. We are expecting good things to happen to us during the course of the next hour and a half. And the Mulligatawny, which is just as delicious as it looks, doesn’t disappoint the consigliere.
This is exactly what you need on a balmy afternoon that is evidently not aging well. This is a great selection for the menu and the aromatic, overpowering lemon kick and the creamy, hearty consistency joust for supremacy in a durbar of flavours that dates back to the days of the British Raj. The chicken, poached to winning tenderness, plays peacemaker here.
The pizza—a prosciutto di parma—brings the much-needed crunch to the soothing-pleasing winter wobbliness we gain after the soup. The lamb seekh and the chicken tikka on the kebab platter are to die for, and attest well to the marriage of food cultures from the Raj era. My newly spoiled self wants to raise my finger and ask for the vegetarian platter as well; paneer tikka and dahi kebab are alright—it’s the sprout tikki I’m curious about. Next time, or I’m coming back for it—as all travel and food writers will write at the end of their piece.
My editor (who’d be the Don at this brunch) is under a spell of Kashmiri food these days. Over talk of haaq and harissa and their availability in Delhi, we are served Shepherd’s Pie, and it is a steamy affair for sure that hushes the ongoing conversation for a bit. The gossamer crust (but is it even crust anymore?) crumbles readily, revealing some overpowering flavour and grainy creaminess in the fine mince that is bound together nicely, and stands it in good stead as one of the colonial-era heirlooms we have come to embrace. You’ve been warned: it is filling and it’s easy to have too much of this good thing. Not going against his better judgment, Tom Hagen gives up after a fourth of the serving.
The picks on the seafood platter are a friendly thwack back into reality, and even though crispy beer batter fish has never been my thing, the subtle-flavored pan-seared sea bass, said to be the least fishy of the piscine brotherhood, along with juicy wine-tossed prawns together provide a stimulating contrast. Mr Vijay Wanchoo makes a brief appearance and makes us an offer of some soft drinks, an offer we don't refuse.
Before dessert, which I'm awaiting with bated breath thanks to my incorrigible sweet tooth, there's melanzane—or melanzane parmagiana, if you will. The classic recipe throws in a bit of a Sicilian twist to the event alongside reminding my palate that it's a beautiful day in this neighbourhood that I've never known thus. To my left are the hotel's famous blue pillars before the terrace and to my right, palm trees cordoning off the sprawling lawn.
Dessert is served. It's a neat little platter with assortments so light to look at and eat, that they will float on top of water. There's red velvet pastry, mildly chocolatey; fruit custard, again, for that eating-childhood-food-at-your-estate feel; tiramisu, fluffy, stabbed with chocolate curls and redolent of coffee, not heavy at all.
Where: 1911, The Imperial New Delhi, Janpath
Price: Rs 3,500 (PP, exclusive of taxes)