If you only have one night in Delhi… ♦
Delhi has a surprising amount of nightlife, but it can be difficult for a newcomer to dig beneath deserted city streets and Paharganj dens. Expats or upmarket tourists may never get beyond a stuffy hotel bar or an overpriced lounge, and even if you have guests in town, where do you take them? The answer is obvious — the centre of the city.
When we went our tourist-style. we had to prepare ourselves with appropriate attire. You’ll do just fine with the bling quotient on Janpath. We found some earrings in the Tibetan Market and pretty nice duds in the clothing market. Try bargaining, but ladies beware — in order to help you “adjust” the garment you are trying, the attendant may just “adjust” you too. If you think it’s worth a Rs 100 discount, we certainly won’t pass judgement. If you don’t, just repeat the salesman’s words right back at him: “Only look!”
If you’re staying at a hotel in the area, you could take a break there. We availed of the lovely wood-panelled Imperial Hotel facilities. The hotel also has two elegant bars, Patiala Peg and 1911.
Next, we headed to Blues in N Block to guzzle some happy hour beer and nachos. Despite the occasionally odd crowd, there’s no cause for concern. As one of the rather sweet waiters told us chivalrously, “It’s our duty to protect our beauties.” As the beer began to take effect, we began singing along to “Hotel California”. Newcomers should know: rock ‘n roll is alive in India, and bars like Blues are proof.
No one in Delhi worth their tequila salt eats until the very end of a night out. But we were actually pretty hungry after all that haggling and singing. Around 10.30pm, we ambled around to Nizam’s restaurant. We walked through Central Park and watched the pretty coloured lights illuminating the liquid landscaping. At Nizam’s we ordered single-mutton-single-egg-rolls. There are double-double versions too, for the terminally hungry.
We broke journey at DV8 — this used to be the Cellar, a raging disco when the Stones were young. Now it’s more of a club-like bar with wooden panelling and leather sofas. We segued from beer to liquor via their beer busters: a Kamikaze shot in a pint of beer.
There are other classic old restaurants like Volga’s that offer long happy hours and a weird ambience, but they close at midnight. Only five-star hotels are open longer. Next stop, then, is Agni. Nowadays this is probably CP’s only dance venue. It’s open late and plays a good selection of pop and Bollywood. The DJ’s not the most creative, but after happy hour and rolls, who cares? Visiting DJs stop by. The cocktail selection at Agni is a fine introduction to India’s yogic tradition: get a drink named after energy chakras. Agni’s décor reflects Delhi’s summer. Flames lick the walls. Girls have been known to dance on the bar; if you’re willing, hop on.
After a couple of hours of learning to dance bhangra and chatting up a few travellers we were finally ready to call it a night.
This story was originally published in Time Out Delhi’s “Night City” cover story.