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New Delhi, India
November 2, 2009
The next morning, Joey and Rukmini arrive at my hotel, and we take a cab to Gaylord (which is when I realise that it’s very close to the hotel—only about 10 minutes’ leisurely saunter. No need for a cab).
Gaylord is an old and much-respected restaurant, for which I later hear much praise: according to a number of people, it serves excellent Indian food. But the three of us aren’t interested in Indian food, at least not for brunch; we’re headed for the covered verandah outside the restaurant, where other goodies are available. This verandah, dim and cool, has a trellis all around and lots of plants and creepers. In effect, not al fresco dining, but somewhere in between dining inside the restaurant and eating out on the pavement (the latter may be wonderful in Europe, but can be unpleasant in most Indian cities, what with the dust, heat and pollution).
We sit down at one of the small round tables, and a somewhat taciturn waiter, who looks as if he’s grown old working at Gaylord, comes by to hand over a tatty-looking menu. It doesn’t look appealing, and the items listed on it—mainly sandwiches and Indian snacks like the ubiquitous fritters known as pakoras—are boring. Joey orders a ham and cheese sandwich and a pot of tea. Rukmini says she’d much rather go and have a look at the bakery. "They have some good stuff," she says. "Much better than what’s on this menu."
On her recommendation, therefore, I head into the bakery too. This is a small room, glass on three sides, next to the verandah. It’s not actually a bakery—just a display area for a vast range of pies, pastries, cakes, tarts, breads and whatnot. The glass cases all around us have shelves with sliding doors beyond which are trays loaded with goodies. There are breads, lovely wholegrain ones bursting with goodness and more sinful ones with cheese and spices and herbs; there are rolls and croissants, both plain and filled with everything from cooked chicken to mushrooms to onions and herbs. There are custard-filled tarts, fruit pies, sticky Danish pastries, doughnuts of different types, and God knows what else. I’m dazzled, and confused—everything looks and smells delicious.
Rukmini and I each pick up empty plastic trays from a stack, and go about filling them with what we want—which turns out to be pretty much the same. A chicken hot dog with mayonnaise, a mushroom pastry, and a cinnamon and apple pie. On one side of the room is the cash counter, where an efficient sales clerk quickly computes the value of our trays and hands over a bill (which Rukmini doesn’t even allow me to see). Food paid for, we go back to our table in the verandah. Joey’s ham and cheese sandwich, a large portion with plenty of ham, arrives soon after.
The chicken hot dog is unusual, but good: it’s a large, very soft and very fresh slab of bread, sliced in half and with a chicken frankfurter inserted in the middle. The roll is topped off with a huge dollop of mayo mixed with plenty of chopped onions and green peppers. Nice! The mushroom pastry, a savoury tart filled with finely chopped and cooked mushrooms, is all right; it has a little too much pepper for my taste.
Our tea has arrived as well, milk and sugar separate. It’s not Earl Grey or Darjeeling, but it’s hot and delicious, especially with the apple and cinnamon pie. The pie crust is one of the lightest I’ve ever tasted, but I wish the filling was of chopped apples, not grated. Still, it has loads of flavour.
By the time we finish, I’m feeling satiated and happy and ready to take on the next city on my tour, Chennai. Brunch at Gaylord has been satisfying. Though I haven’t been allowed even a peek at the bill, from the prices listed on the menu, I’d say this wouldn’t cost more than a couple of hundred rupees per person. It’s a cosy, comfortable little place and nobody stands on your head to hurry up and vacate your table, so it’s great for if you want to sit for ages and chat with friends or read a book while having a leisurely brunch. Do remember, however, that you have to pay separately for items you buy at the bakery counter and for items you order from the menu: for the latter, the waiter will bring you a bill at your table.
From journal India on the Fly: On Book Tour
by janet attwood
May 24, 2004
From journal Miraculous Mumbai