Espresso Grill

Rich flavours on pretty plates ♦

Delhi’s largest multilevel parking lot on Baba Kharak Singh Marg, which opened to much fanfare last year, is a desolate, glittering island between the hustle of Hanuman Mandir and the panoply of state emporia across the street. A digital display outside lists the impressive number of available spots, 1,408, less than a quarter of which are ever occupied. The fact that the lot is currently free should attract some traffic, as should Espresso Grill, a surprisingly swank little spot on one corner.

From the earthenware to the wooden furniture, straight black is the theme at this stylish open-kitchen restaurant, which, despite its unpromising name, has a fairly imaginative continental menu with appetising descriptions. The complete liquor and wine list wasn’t available when we visited, but if the mocktails were anything to go by, Espresso should make a strong showing in the drinks department as well. Prohibition was a peachy mixed-juice drink in a hurricane glass, while Baby Bellini was a snifter-full of slushy lemon and mint sorbet topped with ginger ale that inspired rude slurping sounds as it neared empty.

Mint is also a garnish on fresh tzatziki that comes with Greek flatbread with a crunchy topping of seeds and spices and hummus on the side. Another of the chef’s favoured ingredients is cracked black pepper, which pleasantly spiked a few of the dishes we tried. A creamy, olive oil-speckled tomato soup with a terrine of mozzarella, tomato slices and pesto daubs was weather-appropriate, though not extraordinary, and twice-cooked chicken wings with pomegranate molasses were sweet but not saccharine.

The ricotta and spinach tortellini with brown butter and slivered almonds was a bit dry, but stuffed with green and topped with crisped spinach. A slightly over-salted potato roesti came beautifully presented, topped with a tangle of zucchini “spaghettine”, a tapenade of olive and tomato and a pool of cream. The non-vegetarian mains cover the gamut from soy-glazed salmon to steak au poivre; slow-braised lamb shanks were a classy rendition of the standard, with red wine, rosemary and chilli glaze and leeks on the side.

The espresso itself wasn’t all that special, but a hot chocolate pudding with a scoop of intensely-concentrated coffee ice cream was one of the best fondants we’ve tried (and when every other menu has one, that’s something). A dense, chalky pavlova melted in the mouth, and went well with its topping of tiramisu cream and brandy-soaked prunes and figs, but was too big a portion for such a limited palette of flavours. Aside from a few flavour tweaks, Espresso Grill is an appreciated addition to the CP dining scene, and a good spot for lunch between emporia shopping too.

Originally published in Time Out Delhi, January 2013.