The new restaurant in Chhatarpur wants to win you over with the food, not philosophy ♦
This story was originally published in Conde Nast Traveller India.
The Dhan Mill compound in Chhatarpur on a Sunday is a hive of cars (lots of Bimmers, Mercs and Audis), and people in a post-pandemic frenzy of consumerism. Gourmet ingredients rub shoulders with designer garments in this rarefied pocket beyond the ditches and potholes of 100 Foot Road, where Delhi’s most profligate and privileged residents come to dabble in the artisanal, artistic, bespoke and sustainable.
In a quiet corner, its entrance seemingly punched out of a wall, is People of Tomorrow, an earnest and pleasant new restaurant that sets out to educate patrons about the virtues and benefits of plant-based eating. This vegan classroom is a large, airy space: warehouse chic with upcycled accents such as compressed sawdust lamps, rough-hewn tabletops made of old railway sleepers, and a couple of shelves with potted plants and even shoes made of plastic refuse for sale.
A seating counter alongside the kitchen emphasises People of Tomorrow’s transparency around its sustainable claims. There is no single-use plastic in this kitchen—not even the cling film typically used to store food. Only three of the ingredients on the menu are imported—truffle oil (a popular ask during trials), artichokes, and balsamic vinegar. Everything else is largely locally sourced and processed in-house. The menu is divided into small plates, tacos, burgers, pizzas, pasta, risottos and desserts. There are also a couple of super-refreshing ice teas, lemonades and smoothies, and good coffee. There’s no alcohol on the menu.
We tried a large sampler of the menu at a hosted tasting. Every dish was prettily plated, drizzled with microgreens and house-made condiments, and delicious, with complex, international flavour notes. There’s a hint of the Levant in the aubergine rolls with a walnut “butter” reminiscent of muhammara; snappy green beans come with a makrut-spiked sambal; yam and zucchini kebabs taste startlingly like galouti, with a wonderful pop of jamun gel courtesy the Gourmet Jar’s preserve. A plate of crisp batter-fried broccoli slathered in buffalo wing sauce comes with a smear of soubise to sub out the usual cooling blue cheese accompaniment—the dish recalls chicken wings but isn’t trying to recreate them.
The dairy substitutions across the menu are similarly impressive, without calling attention to themselves. The “cheese” on a saucy pizza we tried is made primarily of almond meal (a by-product of the almond milk they make); the pasta from homegrown brand Casarecce are lush and velvety; and it’s hard to believe that the ruffles of cream and mousse on the gorgeously plated desserts (developed by Gurgaon’s Project Sweet Dish) are dairy-free.
Chef Sambhavi Joshi, who runs the kitchen and founded Casarecce, is familiar with the potential hang-ups customers may have with the food, having worked at places like The Table in Mumbai and Le Cirque in New Delhi. Developing a vegan menu was a steep learning curve for her too, but she tells me she’s adjusted her usual customer-is-God philosophy for a more “shameless” approach to making people try something new. She told one customer, who said he didn’t want to pay for vegan food, to sit down and eat for free—“Just give my food a chance.” By the end of the meal, he was adamant about paying the bill.
Both Joshi and restaurant founder Ritv Kapoor agreed that much of the food Indians eat at home is vegan anyway, but pointed out that people balk at the term when dining out. Kapoor, a passionate advocate of the plants-are-sexy school of veganism, is determined to make People of Tomorrow a cool and fun spot. The restaurant’s acronym (PoT) and menu’s references to “joints”, “tolas”, going green, etc are rather goofy, recalling Delhi places with names like The Rolling Joint, or Brown Sugar. But Kapoor owns his exuberance, telling me gleefully that the exposed brick walls cost him only Rs3,200 in paint-scraping charges.
In a city where, not long ago, restaurateurs routinely bragged about flying in fish twice weekly from Tokyo, or sourcing all their tomatoes from Italy, Kapoor’s attitude is timely and welcome. As we leave, feeling full but unexpectedly energised despite all the food we’ve eaten, we hope that PoT blossoms and flourishes.
The small push to make people think more deeply about how they eat and live is a stark contrast to the scene outside, where people are queuing for over 40 minutes at the valet for their cars. Nothing tops the smugness of a plant-based meal like taking the one-minute walk to the valet parking lot. Of course, one has to navigate the potholes and pass a crematorium to get there, but a little reality check is never a bad thing.