Originally published in Brown Paper Bag Delhi, January 5, 2017.
Whether the weather, the political climate, or the deep freeze of your finances, two start-ups from the greater Lajpat Area promise to improve matters by bringing the party to your doorstep this winter. (We were just motivated by desperation in the run-up to New Year’s festivity.)
Chakhnaawala: Flyover Country’s Chakh Norris
It all started one night when a software engineer-turned-banker, who’s asked us not to name him, made a party snack for friends. One remarked that he should hit the kitchen full-time. The idea “was like love at first sight,” the banker said, “and the next day I started dating with it.” As for his fiancée—a human being, not a snack, who is now his wife and one of three partners—she had to sample about 50 varieties of chicken popcorn before they were satisfied.
Wanting to build on his “eight to nine years of experience of partying,” the banker and his team have decided what Delhi really needs is their delivery service, that offers not only serve-ready snacks and bigger bites, but also essentials such as mixers, ice, cups and plates.
Chakhnaawala launched a couple of months ago from a modish looking glass-fronted store in an unlikely spot under the Defence Colony Flyover. “Petrol pumps, wine shops—they don’t know class,” the banker told us. “Neither does partying. Our food options start at Rs 20 snacks and go up to Rs 550.”
For some local sheen, know that their chef has been poached from the neighbours, Def Col takeaway favourite Hong Kong Express. (The banker tells us he originally wanted to hire a chef from one of Khan Market’s swankiest bars, but had to replace him with someone who could keep up with the speed of a fast-food operation.)
We’re happy with the efficiency with which our essentials, plus some snacks, are delivered on New Year’s eve—in fact, we ought to have kept a bit more faith, since we scheduled our delivery too early, which meant soggy chakhna by the time the guests arrived. The chicken popcorn was consumed in its entirety by a hungry co-host before the party began, which should tell you everything you need to know about its value as comfort food. Portions are large, and the kind of food they’ll send you ranges from chana jor garam (which we tried) to fancier offerings with prawn in them.
Our anonymous party worker promises that he can deliver last-minute party essentials, as well as custom cocktail mixes, drinking games, and accessories — just what we want on speed dial when it’s 10 pm and all the wine openers in the house have disappeared. (He also told us, no doubt on seeing the size of our order, that he’s working on hangover cures.)
Talab: Dhuaan And Only
Talab Hookah is the brainchild of another young banker, Prachi Pabreja, who loves smoking hookah with friends, but finds stepping out of the house a bit too much to ask. “We used to go to CP, Amar Colony, Lajpat,” she said, “But personally I find it really tiresome to get up, get ready, go have hookah, and come back.” Who doesn’t?
So Prachi now ships sheesha for two-hour rental blocks. It took a year of developing unique flavours — including biryani and kachhi kehri — with a Faridabad-based food technologist before she felt ready to light up her business, in November. “No more dressing up for expensive hookah lounge with poor crowd,” promised an ad that floated across our Instagram feed. Accordingly dressed down, and with all our finest friends, we booked a hookah for New Year’s Eve – luckily in advance, as it turned out all the hookahs were out adding to the PM count in Faridabad on this particular evening.
Still, Talab pulled through with a coffee-flavoured hubble-bubble. On a busy party day, the staff left us with a demonstration of how to light it in lieu of their promised hands-on services (since the hands were also going to Faridabad). The highly perfumed herbal flavor is too harsh for our tastes (possibly smoother, tobacco-based fillings are available on request), but should be just fine for lovers of Delhi’s regular hookah bars, where the same, or harsher quality can cost upwards of Rs 1,000.
Talab also delivers 24/7, aiming to please college students, all-nighter MNC types, and anyone else who just wants to “sit on your blanket and smoke,” as Prachi puts it. Plot something evil with a tube between your teeth, and you too can be Razai Murad.
Getting there: Chakhnaawala, shop no 145, Flyover Market, Defence Colony, call 9205947841, visit www.chakhnaawala.com. Open from 1 pm to 11 pm. Accepts Paytm, delivery across.
Talab Hookah, call 9999899138 for details and to figure if they’ll deliver to you. See the Facebook page here. Open 24/7. From Rs 300 for two hours. Accepts Paytm.