Chez Nini

 Cozy up for a friend-date ♦

Chez Nini’s decor suggests a nest, with twinkling lights, glossy tree trunk tables, branches and quite a few finely feathered patrons, likely out for what they might consider a “casual” dinner. This French café has a few fancy twists in its salads, soups, baked goods, main courses and desserts, but on the whole it succeeds at being the kind of unintimidating place where you’d consider going for an easy, slightly pricey, but satisfying dinner.

Our beetroot salad was a tangle of tastes and textures – slightly bitter, not in a bad way – with generous dollops of goat cheese. The French onion soup was a perfectly decent rendition of the classic, not mind-blowing, but à la mode in terms of presentation, with a slab of cheesy toast atop it. The combination of minced lamb and grainy, pan-seared polenta in the generous country-style meatloaf dowsed in allspice gravy was warm and hearty. A vegetarian chilli, made primarily of (well-disguised) soya with slices of zucchini and other veggies, was no less filling and comforting, with a smear of toasted bread  cream  and a couple of melba toasts. Since alcohol is not yet served, we had a pomegranate ice tea, surprisingly fizzy, but otherwise unremarkable.

The coffee was nice and strong though; good accompaniment to pistachio churros with three kinds of ganache for dipping. The ice cream sandwiches sounded inventive (banana and macaron, white chocolate and rosewater, shortbread and lemon) but were a bit of a miss – we’ll  try some of the tarts and cupcakes next time we visit. We’ll probably also return to rate two classics we didn’t try (service is fine, but we missed the personal menu tour from owner Nira Singh, as a prominent food critic had walked in just after us): the coq au vin and Nini’s poutine, which is, apparently, completely vegetarian.

Originally published in Time Out Delhi, May 2012.