The year was 1942. India as a colony of the Empire was very much fighting the Second World War. And Delhi was a hub for the British soldiers’ rest and recreation. That is how Connaught Place got the impetus to become a bustling market and that is when the United Coffee House (UCH) was born. It soon became famous for its cona coffee and many dishes that survive even today. In the days of the Raj, there was an orchestra and a dance floor, as well as a balcony for gracious dining. Post independence, this place retained its popularity with the bureaucrats and businessmen alike, with the afternoons and the evenings being popular hours Over time, like many other places of the same vintage, UCH too rusted and looked like a pale shadow of the glittering jewel on Connaught Place’s crown that it once was.
I too have childhood memories of UCH. I would eagerly look forward to my foreign uncle to visit us and take us there for dinner. I remember the look of amazement when the giant keema samosa would come on the table. And the excitement at seeing the mixed grill sizzler appear on the table. And the eager anticipation for the fantastic tomato fish. So when I enter UCH at their tasting invitation, I am excited to say the least.
I enter to discover that the restaurant is still the same. A revamp six months ago has taken care of the jaded look and now it is back to being its bright colonial self, with large chandeliers and pinkish walls. I seat myself and waste no time in ordering the famous and huge Keema Samosa (Rs 245). Somehow (and it happens a lot with me while revisiting childhood food memories) I don’t like the samosa as much now. Even though I have grown, the samosa still stays as big, and is a bit unwieldy to eat.
Another childhood favourite, Nargis ke kofte (Rs 645) is served next. Maybe the dish has changes, or maybe my palate has, but I find the kofte pasty to eat, while the gravy is great as ever. Tomato Fish (Rs 745) on the other hand is as delicious as ever. The sole fish is cooked crisp on the outside and soft inside. The sauce accompanying it has the perfect balance that can only be created by a very skilled hand. I enjoy this dish immensely, and all the wonderful childhood memories are back. This is the dish to have when visiting UCH.
I decide to try a couple of dishes from the newer, recently added menu. Vietnamese Prawn Pho (Rs 375) is a decent soup, but it is nowhere close to the Vietnamese classic. Little bits of rice vermicelli replace the noodles that go into it, and the broth lacks the depth of flavours and the freshness of the herbs. Lamb Rendang Kari (Rs 575) served over rice is competently made but misses the punch of the Indonesian curry. At best, it is a pleasant Asian curry.
I end the meal with another signature dish – Baked Alaska (Rs 295) which has a chilled tutti frutti sponge cake inside, covered with cream foam that has been baked. The dish looks pretty and is addictively good.
UCH is a restaurant from the past and it wants to keep it that way, going by the recent revamp that the management has done. The food is good, but apart from a few signature dishes, does not totally do justice to the stature of UCH. Now whether nostalgia and old habits will be enough to sustain this restaurant, only time can tell. Visit here for a slice of the past, and of course, the Tomato Fish.
Ratings (Out of 5)
Food: 3.5| Ambience: 3.5 | Service: 3.5 | Overall: 3.5
Meal for two: Rs.2100 | Alcohol: Yes | Credit Card: Yes | Wheel chair friendly: Yes | Address: E15, Connaught Place, New Delhi | Tel: 011 23411697, 011 23416075