The most known thing about Roots – Cafe in the Park is its fabulous location in a standalone hut in the Leisure Valley Park compound.So, what I am not expecting is the fresh, healthy and delightful vegetarian (with some egg breakfast dishes) fare that comes my way.
With the mercury touching 42C, I get into an empty, rustic shack with a sparse yet tasteful décor, and huge air-coolers. I am greeted by Vinod Dami, part seasoned cook and part hiker who manages the restaurant. Once seated, I ask him what he recommends, and he replies, not very helpfully, that everything they serve is top notch. Then goes on to elaborate: “Everything, including the chopping of the vegetables, is done from scratch for every order in the true spirit of serving healthy food with natural ingredients that are locally sourced.” In Italy, Roots would be called a slow-food restaurant, and would be much in demand. However here, confesses Vinod, many customers do get impatient as they wait for the straight off the chulha dishes.
I start with mango panna (Rs 40) which captures the made-by-dadima taste. Rejuvenated, but with yeh–dil–mange-more intentions, I order the bel sharbat (Rs 40) too, which competes with the panna for the top spot.
I have heard rave reviews about the breakfast Roots serves to morning joggers in the park, and make that my first port of call. The poha (Rs 50) highlights how a simple dish can become a masterpiece when prepared with quality ingredients. Interestingly, it departs from tradition by omitting its haldi colour, but is light with no evidence of oil, flavourful, and crunchy with vegetables and sautéed peanuts. The upma (Rs 50) is a cousin of poha, with all the remarkable textures and flavours, but made from semolina. The moong dal chilla (Rs 50) is soft on the inside and crisp on the outside. The scrambled egg with toast (Rs 60) is a no-fuss preparation, with the slightly dense and rough texture of the homemade bread being the star.
But the best is yet to follow, and I order Roots’ Nepali platter (Rs 170). I am served an elaborate meal consisting of freshly steamed tingmo bread, a white milk-based vegetable curry, red alu sabzi made with Sichuan peppers (called timur peppers in Nepal), and a timur chutney. The combo is an epicurean adventure. The soft bread has a melt-in-mouth texture, the Sichuan peppers with potatoes make the palate tingle, and the white gravy soothes. Together they create a symphony of tastes in the mouth.
And the fitting finale is the solar panel cooked kheer (Rs 50) which is chilled and has the creamy consistency and mouth feel of phirni.
It is very difficult to find any fault with the food here. The breakfast, the lunch platters, the drinks and the dessert are all of sterling quality. More importantly, the food is all natural, straight-off-the stove and light. Add to it the location and what you have is an irresistible choice for a meal, especially during mornings after a jog or during the winters.
Ratings out of 5
Food: 4.5 | Ambiance: 3.0 | Service: 4.5 | Overall: 4.0
Meal for Two: Rs 400| Alcohol: No| Credit Card: No| Timing: 8 AM – 9PM
Address: Roots – Cafe in the Park, Rajiv Gandhi Renewable Energy Park, Leisure Valley, Sector 29, Gurgaon | Phone: +91-8800772611