Khel Gaon gets a new tapas bar. ♦
Long before “the Village”, there was the Village Restaurant Complex, a clutch of family eateries in Khel Gaon. Established as part of infrastructure for the 1982 Asian Games, the restaurants were run by Connaught Place stalwart Kwality, the Games’ official caterer. As Delhi expanded southward, Chopsticks and Angeethi became mainstays of the area’s upper-class residents. At the Tonic bar, one found thirsty film buffs discussing Kiarostami after a foreign flick at Siri Fort, while big families tucked into kebabs at Colours ‘N’ Spice, children contributing their own vocalizing to the live ghazals.
Time was not kind to these old-fashioned eateries, many of which started to shut and be replaced over the last few years. Recently, however, the complex has been going through a bit of an update: in the last year, Tabula Beach opened (and briefly revamped itself); Arriba launched here last May. Now the whole place is thumping with dance music and lousy with bouncers of Himalayan proportions. We follow the glam gowns and muscle tees to the latest entrant on the scene: tapas joint Bohca.
Livin’ La Vida Bohca
All of the restaurant’s youngish stakeholders, their friends, and friends’ friends are probably here on the second night of operations, milling about the tall tables and lounge areas of the large, leafy courtyard, and the long, moody bar space inside. We’re seated at a corner table outside, near where an army of waiters, busboys, managers and bouncers stand—well, not quite at attention.
We follow the glam gowns and muscle tees to the latest entrant on the scene: tapas joint Bohca.
First, the good. The bar inside is beautifully designed, on two sides of the wedge-shaped space with a DJ console in between. A lot of effort has gone into the stylish décor and perfectly-sized menu. But the cocktail menu, though enthusiastic, is confusing, offering abstract, exclamatory descriptions for drinks rather than their ingredients in many cases. Our waiter, after consulting with a few others, suggests one or two drinks with trepidation, apologising for others not being available yet. Conceding to Bohca’s theme, we give him a break and order sangria: one white, one red. Both consist of plonk, diluted and greatly overpowered by apple juice, with a few apple slices and ice cubes thrown in.
Fortune Favours the Bravas?
Perhaps merely overwhelmed by the second day of their gig in this admittedly huge space, the waiters wander about in a daze, walking into each other, overlapping service, and at times yelling across tables for advice from the one guy who seems to know what is going on. Our initial order of tapas goes without too much of a hitch: caramel chilly glazed pork belly bits; patatas bravas, prettied up into photogenic cylinders, juicy little “cerveza carne de vaca” tarts, and meaty lamb sliders in slightly doughy buns. The food is tasty, if safely so, with more than a whiff of Primo Foods, the company behind Lion Fresh delivery and La Carne Cuts. (And maybe just a touch of Veeba in the dressings?)
We’re left in peace for about 15 minutes, glasses and plates empty, before we hail a waiter off hookah duty to ask for paella and lamb merguez pide. The paella isn’t available, and we don’t much feel like the other, less Spanish “large plates” (New Zealand lamb chops, grilled tenderloin, risotto and so on). An appetizer of lamb merguez appears, is sent back, and the merguez pide—a respectable flatbread, with a bit too much cheese, and dhania replacing the menu’s promised rocket leaves—arrives.
We eat, desultorily, watching our shiny happier neighbours, knocking back tall drinks and sucking down hookah (“smooth AF, bro”). When the bill arrives with two items missing, we don’t bother to try and explain the discrepancy, just pay and leave to seek tapasya for this tapas.
Getting there: Bohca, 3 Asiad Village Restaurant Complex, Khel Gaon. A meal for two with a round of drinks costs approximately Rs 2,800.
This story was originally published on Brown Paper Bag.