Pure vegetarian, old-school Indian ♦

The owners of one of Delhi’s oldest hotels (Alka in Connaught Place, established in 1968) decided not too long ago to try their luck at the cursed spot at Tavern on the Greens in Lado Sarai, which has thus far summarily rejected Climax, F Bar and Bar Sávanh. They opened a nightclub, Lure, and not too long ago added pure vegetarian restaurant Vega upstairs. The North Indian eatery is a branch of the Hotel Alka’s no-garlic, no-onion, desi ghee-only restaurant.

The lodge-like room is a throwback to old-fashioned family restaurants, with its heavy, off-kilter glass chandelier, beige tablecloths smudged gently with oil, and steel fingerbowls. The only thing missing was a live singing troupe (handily replaced by a muzak version of “Norwegian Wood”, followed by “Oh My Darling Clementine”),
and the presence of small, screaming children and their ayahs. In fact, there were – on the Monday night we visited – no fellow diners at all, except a large family group that left as we came in.

The forlorn atmosphere meant we had the full attention of the waitstaff , who quickly brought us an intensely pink and sweet fruit punch mocktail and an overly spicy jaljeera. The veggie kabab starters were the definite highlight of the meal: tandoori broccoli with a slightly charred aftertaste and a mess of cream and black pepper in its florets was an interesting variation, and the hara bhara kababs were nice and chatpata (the greenest thing about them were a few chopped French beans, though).

Despite our waiter’s assur­ances, the malai kofta and kashmiri aloo were rather similar concoctions of the usual tomato gravy-and-cottage cheese variety, though with generous stuffing of cashews and raisins, and strong flavour. A laccha parantha was a bit greasy and the butter naan standard and overpriced. Dessert was livelier, with a nice cool matka kulfi complementing a hot, gooey bowl of moong dal halwa.

Vega is decent enough as a vegetarian option, but the food doesn’t live up to its out-of-the-way location and shabby-chic trappings. Stick to the kababs if you find yourself here.

Originally published in Time Out Delhi, October 2012.