The New, New, Hauz Khas Village

Once an art hub
Delhi's most known fashion and art address is now a much talked about eating hub

A Nepali restaurant. Exciting pan-Asian cuisine. An English tearoom sitting cheek by jowl with a South Indian eatery. An eat-and-pay-what-you-like photographer's cafe.

A string of new, eating-out concepts, all edgy, some rather experimental and nothing like the uptight fine-dine places of Khan Market and Vasant Vihar, now feed into Delhi's latest fad: eating out. Far from the glitzy malls, Hauz Khas Village, once Delhi's most known fashion and art address, has seen a sudden surge of new restaurants over the past six months Yeti, Lah, Golconda Bowl, Elma's Tea Room and the most recent addition, Thadi. So when 24-year-old Anisha Maker decided to set up her first-ever restaurant Lah, she chose the Village. "This is a place where you could do something new and different and it doesn't have to be sophisticated or high-priced in the predictable Delhi way. We can be quirky because the crowd that comes here is different," she explains.

One of the newly launched, interestingly themed restaurants, Lah offers a diverse pan-Asian menu at surprisingly affordable rates. Here, a plate of Somtam will cost you just Rs 150. Similarly, Elma's Cake, Bakery and Tea Room, restaurateur and chef Shelley Sahay's latest venture (she also runs The Living Room cafe), has a Victorian theme. She found the "old-fashioned and serene" streets of Hauz Khas Village a perfect match for her old-fashioned decor.

Take a walk around the Village and you will stumble upon small, quaint places serving culinary delights. Thadi, a cafe, is the latest entrant, just about 10 days old. Ajay Jain, photographer and owner of Kumzum Cafe in Hauz Khas Village, sees a new pattern that is absent in other urban villages. "Places like Shahpur Jat and Mehrauli haven't developed like this because they are too spread out geographically and fragmented. Hauz Khas Village, on the other hand, is compact. It lends itself better as a market," he says.

While places like The Living Room cafe (an Italian restaurant) and Gunpowder (South Indian cuisine) have been popular for a long time, it is this year that maximum number of new restaurants have sprung up, despite the rent of properties shooting up. It has propelled Hauz Khas Village into popular reckoning and the number of entrepreneurs wanting to enter here is on a constant high. It is the serenity of the Village that captivates the imagination of entrepreneurs who do not want to join the herd in malls and around multiplexes. "Over the last few months, Hauz Khas Village has gained more popularity for its eating joints since different people, who come with new ideas, are attracted by the ambience of the Village. The surroundings of the market are fascinating, for its monuments and the deer park," says Ashish Anand, owner of Delhi Art Gallery.

Eating out may be the current rage but it is always an uphill task in Delhi, with parking issues and traffic snarls. The Village doesn't have these problems and it is one of the reasons for its revival. Most entrepreneurs are first-timers, like Maker, with untried, home-grown and individualistic brands to promote. They are also fishing for new customers. "We don't just want regular customers. We have events and discussions here and look out for dynamic participation," says Jain. The Village remains a symbiotic unit but its customer profile as well as that of the residents has clearly changed. "We have a lot of young expats moving in here," adds Jain.

However, many claim that fashion and food will always remain co-dependent at a certain level. "Hauz Khas Village is a fashion hub in the morning and a food hub at night," says Maker. Sahay hits the nail in the head. "In the larger picture, Hauz Khas Village remains a creative hub. It's about food creativity this time," he says.

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