The British experience in the capital: Lutyens Cocktail House
By Aishaanyaa Tewari
Entering the chic interiors of Lutyens Cocktail House (LCH) at 22, Janpath, right opposite Le Meridian Hotel, brings a lot of promise of a luxurious dining experience. In a space set away from the bustling inner circles of Connaught Place where restaurants and cafes are fighting it out in a constant battle to win over palates, LCH is strategically positioned away from this competition telling its own story of British sophistication and elegance, serving the Delhi powerhouse comfort food and a fine dining experience.
Sitting with a bunch of other food reviewers on a sunny Sunday, one gets to hear stories from history that have found their narration in the designing of this dining house. Named after the British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens, the restaurant is the brainchild of Priyank Sukhija and has been created with impeccable artistic care. The big hall that the place flaunts has been studded with circular mirrors on one wall that highlights the modernity interspersed with framed plans of the architecture of the Rashtrapati Bhawan and bird’s eye view sketches of different buildings and areas designed by Lutyens. From the teak panelling to the chairs bearing a wooden radial for a back rest is a tribute to the architect’s work and speciality.
The open square bar station smack dab right in the middle of the hall highlights what LCH has the best to offer ‘infused cocktails’. Having tried two out of the seven to eight bold signature cocktails from the menu, I personally found the Perfume working for me more than the Citronus. The former was a fragrant refreshment with a peach ice sorbet fused into rose wine with a hint of cardamom; the sweet heaviness of the wine that needed light whirring brought a cooling sweetness to it as the sorbet melted into the drink. The latter, however, was a tangy beverage with a sharp prick of vodka overridden by an overpowering infusion of syrupy orange candy and mace, garnished with lemongrass.
Chic and minimal hanging glass fixtures and sunlight filtering through massive windows run the length of one wall overlooking one of the most posh areas in the heart of Delhi. They prepare this place not only for a sober brunch or formal luncheon during the light of the day but also add playfulness to the place in the evenings making it a fun bar and a venue for flamboyant cocktail parties. Visiting the place late in the morning, I opted to taste the special brunch menu. Eggs Benedict was my first order which is prepared by adding an egg in a cup to a pot of hot water and some vinegar. The poached egg is then put aloft a thick slice of crispy and sweet English muffin or bread, and topped with Hollandaise sauce that seeps right through the sponge, giving it a buttery and creamy texture throughout. The brilliance of the dish is in the simplicity of the taste, although Eggs Benedict is bound to leave you unsatisfied if you do not accompany it with a salad or a side dish. A bowl of Caesar salad that had been ordered by me earlier tempted me to be tried out along with it. The salad had less crunchy leaves of romaine and iceberg lettuce than I expected, with meagre shavings of Parmesan cheese underdressed by olive oil.
With an exotic music selection ranging from Spanish vocals being strummed to the guitar to Middle Eastern tunes lurking softly in the background, I waited rather long for my dishes to come and longed for the manager or the chef to accompany me on this visit and tell me more about the preparations, the unique techniques to make them if any, and why they tried certain textures and aromas together, one of them being mushroom risotto which hits you unguarded with an overwhelming, smoky, and strong flavour of mushrooms which may be unpleasant to some. Made with three kinds of mushrooms, namely button, porcini, and shitake, the stock prepared with the latter two seemed to be less flavoursome than the mushrooms themselves, and the rice undercooked. To try out another similar recipe I ordered beetroot risotto which was a cheerfully red and pink steaming preparation garnished with roasted beetroot pieces, asparagus, and a crispy beetroot cracker, which added a crunch to the well cooked Arborio rice. It was a great treat that left me craving for more.
The next dish that I tried was a sweet pancake with fresh cream and sliced bananas topped with icing, which was pretty leathery and dry while chewing and one would expect a more generous helping of cream with it. Following this, I tried chicken pancakes. The chunks of chicken were a bit hard to chew and were prepared simply with almost no spices, and hence lacked aroma while keeping its flavours light for brunch. The servings were enough for one to fill his or her stomach comfortably during that time of the day.
Right before the dessert course, my eyes caught the Lutyens pie in the menu which proved to be a wonderful last minute decision. The dish comprised of a marinated paprika chicken leg snuggled in a bowl with a layer of tastefully salted and roasted potato mash. The flavour of garlic and a lingering presence of cheese added to the pasty texture of the mash. It also magically aided me to savour the extremely well-cooked, soft and delicious meat. I would personally suggest a drink with the dish, not because of any dryness in the meat but rather to round up the experience this pie brings.
The desserts to my surprise were a winning bet, freshly prepared at their bakery in The Warehouse and not bought or ordered from other bakeries or makers. The banoffee cheesecake was a creamy and dense delight with a layer of walnuts accompanied with the rich flavour of coffee, caramelized bananas, and balanced by a finishing of toffee sauce and cherry. It is one of the best preparations in the menu as one can have to put a perfect end to the dining as it has this quality of making one feel of having indulged themselves. The tiramisu also proves itself to be one of the winners as it leaves your taste buds craving for more. The deliciously moist sponge adorned by a rich layer of cream was truly delectable, hiding away a tucked layer of coffee-flavoured cream.
Wrapping up the brunch, I took another look around the place which was adorned with coffee table books and travel guides; picturesque and pleasant to look at with its old clocks and miniature models of iconic cars. Remembering my LCH culinary journey on Robert Welsh cutlery, I set off wondering that although appetising, the food lacked recall value. With the brilliance and boldness that it shows in its desserts and cocktails respectively, LCH needs to adopt the same style in order to be able to improve its shortcomings in culinary preparations as well as the efficiency of its general services.