The Guide: India Now

  • Dream Cochin’s rooftop pool.

    Dream Cochin’s rooftop pool.

  • Designer furnishings characterize the Pod’s reception area.

    Designer furnishings characterize the Pod’s reception area.

  • Mumbai’s Blue Frog club occupies a renovated warehouse in the Mills district.

    Mumbai’s Blue Frog club occupies a renovated warehouse in the Mills district.

  • Alfresco dining at ItAlia in Delhi.

    Alfresco dining at ItAlia in Delhi.

  • The light-filled Kala Ghoda Café, a converted barn in Mumbai.

    The light-filled Kala Ghoda Café, a converted barn in Mumbai.

  • Hand-dyed homewares on show at Bungalow 8 in South Mumbai.

    Hand-dyed homewares on show at Bungalow 8 in South Mumbai.

  • Eggplant parmigiana at Delhi’s Cibo restaurant.

    Eggplant parmigiana at Delhi’s Cibo restaurant.

  • Shop interior at Julie Kagti.

    Shop interior at Julie Kagti.

  • Madras Terrace House.

    Madras Terrace House.

  • Designer surrounds in Chennai’s new Kimaya Avenue boutique.

    Designer surrounds in Chennai’s new Kimaya Avenue boutique.

  • Mumbai Museum.

    Mumbai Museum.

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DELHI
Amici Café (47 Middle Lane, Khan Market; 91-11/4358-7191) is the latest venture by Italian-Sikh restaurateur Andrea Aftab Pauro, owner of the much-loved Baci in Sunder Nagar. With a prime position in Khan Market, this casual, high-energy affair serves trattoria-style fare with an emphasis on wood-oven pizzas, fresh salads, and panini sandwiches.

Delhiites’ ongoing infatuation with Italian cuisine is also on display at ItAlia (309/310 DLF Promenade Mall, Vasant Kunj; 91-11/4311-1777), whose owner, Priya Paul, is the driving force behind India’s The Park Hotels chain. Celeb chef Antonio Carluccio consulted on the menu—standouts include trofie pasta pesto and braised lamb shank with saffron risotto—which can be sampled in the bronze-and-black dining room or, weather permitting, on a chic outdoor terrace. Or head to Cibo (Hotel Janpath, Connaught Place; 91-11/4302-9291), a flamboyant Renaissance fantasy crafted by fashion designer Rohit Bal. Here, a large antique Italian door opens onto a courtyard of open dining terraces lined with gold-leaf statues and cascading water features. The kitchen embraces a more subtle approach to its side of the operation, turning out Umbrian-accented dishes like eggplant parmigiana and sage-and-ricotta tortelli.

Two outstanding nouvelle Indian restaurants have opened in luxury hotels. At the Taj Mahal Hotel, Varq (1 Mansingh Rd.; 91-11/6651-3151) infuses traditional recipes with such unexpected ingredients as goose liver and pumpkin. The aromatic pâté plate is a favorite of the restaurant’s fashionable clientele, as is the mille-feuille of peppered crab and tandoori prawns. Meanwhile, The Manor hotel’s Indian Accent (77 Friends Colony West; 91-11/2692-5151) spotlights chef Manish Mehrotra’s sophisticated reinterpretations of Indian classics like Goan balchao, served here with a single scallop and sago papadum. The tasting menus with matching wines are highly recommended.

MUMBAI
Tucked next to the stables of the Amateur Riders Club at Mumbai’s Mahalaxmi Race Course, Olive Bar and Kitchen (Mahalaxmi; 91-22/4085-9595) is a southern offshoot of A. D. Singh’s decade-old original. It has retained the whitewashed walls and languid Mediterranean feel that made its forerunner a hit among Mumbai’s smart set, while the kitchen is helmed by one of India’s best—and youngest—chefs, Manu Chandra, whose braised lamb shoulder with apple purée and mustard rémoulade is a thing of genius.

After a stint in Stockholm and Paris, photographer Farhad Bomanjee returned to Mumbai to open the kind of local hangout he felt his hometown was missing. The result is Kala Ghoda Café (10 Ropewalk Ln., Kala Ghoda, Fort; 91-22/2263-3866), a converted brick barn in the city’s historic art precinct. Equal parts café and gallery, it serves a well-edited menu of sandwiches, salads, and organic coffees and teas.

CHENNAI
At the new Pod hotel, Absolute (23/ 13 Khader Nawaz Khan Rd.; 91-44/4295-5555) is a striking stage for Australian chef Michael O’Neil’s creative blend of California, Thai, and Indian cuisine. The varied offerings range from vegetarian sushi and “Chinese-style” duck confit to Thai risotto and grilled Wagyu steak. At the time of writing, the slick restaurant was still waiting for a liquor license and serving creative non-alcoholic “cocktails.”

Opened early this year on the edge of town, Kipling (14 L. Jey Ave., Akkarai, East Coast Rd.; 91-44/2453-0040) is set in a sprawling garden, with dining taking place in cabanas or at outdoor tables. Frenchman Jerome Helliet’s cooking is strong on Mediterranean flavors (prawns with polenta; eggplant-and-zucchini casserole), and utilizes market-fresh ingredients and the daily catch brought
by local fishermen.

BANGALORE
The Masala Klub (Taj West End Hotel, Race Course Rd.; 91-80/6660-5660) offers contemporary Indian dishes in a gorgeous alfresco setting, with tables nestled under a 120-year-old tamarind tree. Olive oil and subtle masala pastes make this some of the healthiest food in town; highlights include tandoori salmon steaks, singhada mutter (a curry of water chestnut and green peas), and a delicious tamarind sorbet.

Located on the terrace of an old house in central Bangalore, the Secret Garden Café (7/1 Edward Rd.; 91-80/4113-1365) also gets shade from an ancient tree—in this case, a towering avocado. The owners may have been playing bridge when they hatched the idea to open a cozy eatery serving wholesome home-style cooking, but their food trumps that at many of the city’s better-heeled restaurants. The globetrotting menu, chalked up on a blackboard, ranges from Indian dishes like Coorg pandi curry to tagine and paella.


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