A Friday evening saw Pawan and I heave a sigh of relief, after having laboured in the evening traffic, at the sight of the romantic, dimly lit pathway meandering towards a garden setting. We were at the Lodhi Garden Restaurant and the evening seemed to brim with promise.
Lodhi Garden restaurant is a study of paradox/contradiction leaving one at a loss for words. Not all for the right reasons though. This ambiguity starts to manifest with the very décor and ambience. While the open-air seating would give a run for the money to restaurants like Sevilla at Claridges, the interior dining space is soulless, drab even tacky. The interiors had faux glass ceiling laminated with reflective plastic, a veritable pain in the eye, which only succeeded in distorting the images that it reflected. We found patrons actually being seated facing the wall as if they were at detention!
Contrastingly, the lovely gravel laden garden with bamboo lamps hanging haphazardly from the trees, strategically placed seating including private tented cabanas, discreet lighting and live music, made the most of the bucolic setting in the heart of bustling New Delhi city. The balmy weather urged us to opt for a table inside notwithstanding the lovely, inviting garden.
Then it was the food’s turn to continue with the nebulousness, with some dishes blowing hot and some blowing cold, literally and figuratively. The cold Mango Yoghurt Mousse was an excellent way to start the meal, the perfectly blended sweet-sour concoction given a tangy twist by Indian chatpatta masala. I enjoyed it till the very last drop. Lodhi Chicken Liver Pate offset with caramelized cinnamon flavoured fruits was a hit with Pawan. Panco Fried Chicken was ordinary but served hot and crispy with a dilute honey mustard sauce. I would have preferred it heavier on mustard in place of honey, as it was too sweet and watery. Risotto Dumpling- fried risotto stuffed with cheese and pepperoncini while indifferent tasting, could have been better, served with more of the underlying tomato-based sauce. It was too dry.
No praise is sufficient for the Braised Moroccan Lamb, served with a substantial portion of Quinoa and stir-fried vegetables. It was par for the course. The meat was tender, the spices subtle with the meat done to perfection. I was ready to pat Chef Sagar Anand’s back for the superlative dish, or so I thought until I was served the real McCoy. The Grilled Manali Trout, for want of any other word, was outstanding. The fillets done just right could easily pass muster in any European restaurant, the flavours, subtle with a lemon-mustard marinade and finished with herbs. It was classy and exquisite.
The desserts were displayed old school, on a tray brought to the table and one had to pick one’s choice which was then brought forth from inside. The Banoffee (banana-toffee) tart and the Mango Cheesecake were both served with crumbled biscuit base which was déclassé, in comparison to the classy trout and lamb. It took away from the otherwise passable dessert selection. The Cold Fume– fresh ginger, basil and lemon rind muddled vodka drink is a simple but satisfying cocktail while the Cosmopolitan stayed true to its name.
At the end of it all, why does one get the feeling that something is missing? While individually the factors work well, as a package, Lodhi Garden Restaurant is disappointing. There is a lack of unifying theme amidst its ambience, service, and food. While the waiters were attentive, they were not paying attention. Drinks needed to be reminded of before being served. I was served tap water as requested by me but the refills were from bottled variety. The time lapse between servings of the dishes was inordinate. Red meat (Lamb) was served before the white (Trout) that too, only after we reminded that there was a fish in our order. The same stir-fried vegetables, organic and sourced from the restaurant’s own farm, accompanied both the Lamb and the Trout. Every dish, I repeat every dish, was accompanied by the same one-side only toasted garlic bread! Why? This lack of imagination in food pairing and presentation, takes away from the gastronomically good experience.
When we wanted to shift to the garden to escape from the drab and unimaginative ambience inside, we were not told that sitting in the garden that evening comes at a price as there were some musicians performing out there, commercially. So imagine our consternation when mid meal, a gentleman politely asked us to fork out Rs.650/- per person, if we wished to continue enjoying our meal outdoor!
The place was well patronized with quite a few families enjoying their dinner there, an indication of its popularity with the neighbourhood crowd. However, we left the place with no definite opinion. No opinion is better than bad opinion, I guess.
Disclosure: This review was done on the invitation of the restaurant.
Ratings (Out of 5):
Food: 3.5/5 | Ambience: 2.5/5 | Service: 2.5/5 | Overall: 3.0/5
Meal for two: Rs. 2500/+ w/out alcohol | Credit cards: Accepted | Valet parking: Available | Timings: 12.00 pm-12.30 am
Address: Lodhi Garden Restaurant, Gate no. 1, Lodhi Garden, Lodhi Road, New Delhi | Phone: 011-24655054