Market Cafe has been one of my favourite places to eat lunch and hang out in South Delhi, especially Lodhi area for many years. You were bound to run into someone you know or your lunch dates would suggest it on their own. I liked it so much that I used to purchase pots of hummous and olive tapenade and breads to take back to Chennai with me in 2006/7. So imagine my surprise when I move back to Delhi and take two friends to an empty and lacklustre Market Cafe for dinner on a Tuesday this past week.
The service was naturally just fine since we were one of the only three tables occupied at 9:30pm. But the mood was dampened right from the get-go and it never recovered.
Knowing that their summer coolers/mocktails are overpriced, I advised my friends against ordering drinks. One of them couldn't make up his mind what to get on his "veggie Tuesday". So we got a plate of Nachos for the table to tide us over while we took our time perusing the new menu.
As anyone who has lived in the US or eaten Nachos at TGIF can tell you, a large crowded plate of Nachos with jalapenos, refried beans, tomato salsa, sour cream and avocado guacamole is an instant pick me up and a terrific way to start a group dinner. Unfortunately, that is not what we were served. We received a small plate of greasy nacho chips with a middle layer of refried beans and a top layer of sprinkled salsa, sour cream and guacamole. Instant downer at Rs.195. The second friend refused to order, regretted the 20 min wait at The Kitchen that propelled us to Market Cafe for dinner in the first place, and resolved to eat his dinner at Chicago Pizza stall later. (He ate a quarter of our food and cribbed about Value For Money all night and then wolfed down a Rs.85 slice of pizza. But that's another story.)
Buoyed by the first friend's admiration for my knowledgable opinions of food joints in Khan Market, I decided to take matters in my own hands. The server brought us additional chips, salsa, guacamole and sour cream and earned his tip by gamely hearing me out as I continued to complain through the courses.
We decided to go light on a hot summer night and opted for two sandwiches, each priced at Rs.195. My friend got a very dry falafel sandwich and the additional sauce we requested didn't seem to do it for him. My grilled bagel with sun dried tomato and olive tapenade and cream cheese was not bad for me, given that I already knew I love Market Cafe's tapenade. The star of the mediocre evening was the side order of the perfectly sized and cooked french fries. The fries probably came from a frozen pack but they were delicious nonetheless and I generously gave up mine to appease my friends.
I wanted to order a dessert to try to redeem the dinner but the only non-chocolate options were lemon cake, honey cake and apple cinammon pie. We would've gone for something lighter and fruitier.
My discussion with the manager on all these points was pleasant. Time will tell if it was also productive.
We wound up rounding out the evening in true dilli-style with kulfi ice cream and a stroll at India Gate.
So would I still recommend Market Cafe? Thanks to it's history, yes. But here are some caveats:
Don't order drinks. Don't order nachos. Don't order the falafel sandwich. Do order the tapenade to take home in cute little jars. Don't come here for dinner on a hot summer night and expect light airy dessert options.