If you are wondering where to eat this week I’ve got a great suggestion for you. Nestled in the lanes of Lajpat Nagar 2 is Delhi’s amazing and relatively undiscovered Afghani quarter. Serving up succulent meat dishes to Delhi’s resident Afghan community, this special part of South Delhi has to be one of my best finds yet.
Last week I had the chance to head down to Delhi’s Afghan quarter and give my taste buds a treat.
With my car’s insurance up for its annual renewal, a trip to my broker in Lajpat Nagar Central market was on the cards. My broker is happy to meet me at my home, but I always insist on a face to face meeting at his office around 2pm.
Wondering why? Well, I get the chance to combine my annual insurance visit with a late lunch at one of my favourite food haunts.
The Afghan Durbar Restaurant, located in a lane just off Lajpat Nagar Central Market, is more than an eatery that excels in fine tasting food. It’s a place that buzzes with life. It’s patrons are really chatty and its waiters are super helpful.
All in all it makes hanging out at the Durbar is a heart warming experience. I rarely sit at a table alone. Comfy chairs and well spaced out dining tables soon become communal spaces where the conversation flows.
I’ve had the some great chats with Delhi’s resident and visiting Afghani community about this, that and the other. And inevitably, as you would expect, the conversation always turns to food.
Afghan cuisine has a style of all of its own. A fusion of Indian, Persian and Mongolian flavours and cooking techniques combine to create dishes that are not too spicy and not too hot. The use of dried fruits and nuts in Afghani rice dishes, ingredients in main dishes that I’m not usually a fan of, add a freshness that works wonderfully for me.
But it’s the Afghan Durbar’s kebabs that I come for. Mutton Chopan Kebab, skewers of tender lamb charbroiled with a touch of ground sumac, served with a light salad and a nan-I-Afghani is absolutely spot on. It’s probably my favourite dish on the menu, but it’s closely followed by the Durbar’s Chicken Tikka Kebab. This is charbroiled too, giving it a light charcoally smokiness that makes is so special for me.
There’s plenty of other dishes to choose from too. Four or five other kebabs sit proudly on a menu that also boasts a selection of curries, from Koftas and Qormas, through to Kadhai. And then there’s the famous aromatic Afgani rice dishes to think about.
It’s not an easy choice. The Durbar is a meat eaters paradise, but Veg diners are far from forgotten. The Bolani Gandana, turnovers filled with leek, spring onion and herbs, tastes as good as it sounds. Ashak, steamed leek and spring onion dumpling, served with yoghurt and daal sauce, is a dish I’ll be going back to try sometime soon. There’s also a solid Bhindi (Okra) dish and a Banjan (aubergine) culinary creation that’s worth a closer look.
And then there’s the bread. Nan-I-Afghani, that national bread is something special. Denser, doughier and richer in flavour than its Indian cousin, it’s a visual and gastronomic delight. I always wonder down the lanes of E block after eating at the Durbar and grab fresh Nan-I-Afghani from the tandoor to take home
So, is it worth a visit? I’ll let the three wise men who joined at my table last week have the final say.
These businessman, visiting Delhi from Kabul for a fortnight’s training course, were quick to tell me what they thought about the food when I asked.
“It’s just like what I get in Kabul,” said the first man.
“It’s as good as the food my mum makes”, said the second.
The third man smiled. “We’ve eaten here for the past 12 nights. I’ll be back again tomorrow, before I head for home. It’s the best place for Afghani in Delhi”
Enough said. With reviews like that, what you waiting for? Get yourself down to the Afghan Durbar Restaurant. Believe me, you won’t regret it.
Cost : 600 – 700 INR two people
Where is it: E-96, Lajpat Nagar 2, New Delhi. Shown on this google map to help guide you in.
When: Everyday. Noon to 11pm.