Paharganj is that slightly seedy, slightly mysterious, intriguingly exciting part of Delhi that the upper crust will turn up their dainty noses at. But tourists, bargain hunters, college students and people watchers throng here to take in the earthier side of the capital city. The hotels, cafés and bars here are frequented by people who eschew the ordinary – even if it means stepping out of their comfort zone. One such café is the Club India Café and Restaurant at Tooti Chowk. If Bollywood credentials matter, then Dev D – that iconic pop-culture film that portrayed Delhi’s underbelly – was shot here. But that’s not the café’s only claim to fame …
The Real Deal
Club India is located on the second floor of a building in a busy Paharganj street. Movie posters adorn the walls here – you’ll find Marilyn Monroe pouting across at Amitabh in Sholay. The cool air conditioning and the view of the bustling street below will distract you if the posters are not your thing. The best part about the café is the terrace though. Meant for breezy summer evenings or sunny winter afternoons, the open space is a delightful place to chill in. There’s even a makeshift gazebo here, brightly decorated with hanging planters and lanterns.
Once you’ve settled in at a table of your choice, make sure that you don’t dawdle too long over the menu. Place your order quickly and then settle in for a slightly longish wait for the food. Yes, the service is slow but the unhurried pace of the restaurant is a welcome antithesis to the chaos outside.
And while you’re waiting for your food, you can watch life in Paharganj. You’ll spot middle class fashionistas, venturing out of their territory just to seek promising bargains in the market below. There are shops for clothes, handicrafts, jewelry and whatever else anyone can think of – all at discounted prices and all stocked in a variety that you never could have imagined. There will be backpackers, walking into the area from the adjacent railway station, looking for an affordable hotel to stay at; Paharganj is known as the backpackers’ district and it is here that most foreign tourists traveling on a shoestring congregate to exchange stories and tips.
Then there will be the adventurous upper-middle class Delhiite, out of his or her comfort zone, checking in to a restaurant in Paharganj just to see what the hype is about and excitedly convinced that they’re flirting with danger with this visit. There will be leftovers from the hippie movement, since Paharganj was and maybe still is the center of the hippie trail in Delhi. There will be tourist guides and hustlers, pimps and peddlers, priests and children, families and solitary travelers – all a part of the melting pot that is Paharganj. And Club India is the perfect representation of that melting pot and one of the best places to witness it firsthand.
Club India Café is a multi-cuisine restaurant, serving Asian, Indian, Israeli, Italian and Japanese cuisines. Most of the items on the menu are cheap and taste just about average. But take our advice and stick to the Japanese and Chinese options in the menu. The owner of the restaurant proudly claims that a Japanese tourist guide has recommended Club India as one of the best places to get tasty yet affordable Japanese food in Delhi. We have our doubts about the veracity of this claim but their Japanese and Chinese food is definitely good for the price! They also have an entire list of breakfast options; people claim to love the pancakes and pizza here but we didn’t try those out. Oh well, guess we’ll be going back again!
Where: 4797, 2nd Floor, 6 Tooti Chowk, Paharganj, New Delhi
Timings: 08:00 hours to 23:00 hours
Approximate damage: Rs. 400 per person
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