As the bleary winter sun struggled to descend through the clouds and trees on a Sunday afternoon, we walked into the meticulously Mediterranean Olive Bar & Kitchen at Mehrauli in Delhi for a long-planned and much anticipated ‘lazy Sunday brunch’. (No matter that most only turn up around lunch time, and then spiritedly chat over copious wine – it must always be called brunch. And lazy.)
The six of us – the wife and I, another couple, and our one 4 year old daughter each – walked past the whitewashed walls through the tree studded white gravel courtyard, initially thankful that we did not get reservations at any of the courtyard tables on this cold, weakly lit afternoon. But as we walked through to our table indoors, past the gas fires and coals smouldering in the ‘karhais’, we realised that outdoors would have been cosy enough. Unfortunately, a ‘private party booking’ in the courtyard put paid to those thoughts.
Once inside, the wine was quickly served (the kids had juice, in case you were wondering). The Chilean red on offer was quite crisp, with a fresh, cool bouquet (cannot yet tell the raspberry / plum notes, or the pine / oak finish!) – although cold as the weather was, a wine with a little more body may not have gone amiss. The Chilean white seemed quite nice as well, as far as the blurry photo below can tell!
On to the food then. The smorgasbord of cold cuts, terrines, salads, sauces and relishes was inviting enough and we sampled a fair selection. It wasn’t too bad but I’m not sure if that sort of food carries enough flavour for this weather. Oh well, my under-developed palate to blame I suppose. Who can however resist a freshly grilled plate or three of tiger prawns, tenderloin steak, lamb and basa fish. We couldn’t, so we duly got three steaming plates of lightly spiced, gently flavoured meats.
The service was prompt and efficient, the wine barely got to the bottom of the glass before it was refilled, and the mandatory broken glass (toppled by yours truly) was quickly mopped clean. Could it however have been a little more smiling and friendly? Especially since they weren’t busy serving a la carte? Yes, perhaps. We had to make do with cool and surly (broken wine glass to blame?).
The pizza was very warm and friendly by comparison. Rarely do desire and fulfilment follow as closely as they did when the pepperoni (with olives, sun-dried tomatoes and onions) pizza made it to our table in under 10 minutes, gushing with flavour and laden with just the right amount of cheese. Six slices were almost too few! A second pizza, of chicken and sundries, followed soon after.
Another interesting sight in the courtyard was of the beer-bummed chicken. I can think of no other name for the whole chickens grilling on the coals, hoisted on cans of beer, looking somewhat like headless chickens laying a particularly bizarre kind of egg. The chef explained that this was to infuse the grilling chicken with the flavours of beer (I can think of other ways of doing that, but that’s another post). This was a must-order, but it disappointed. The chicken was tender but flavour of beer or any other kind was hard to find.
Another wine, and it was time for the main course (you might be wondering what I think we’ve been having all this while). I suppose they expect people to stay lazy and boozy, eat up way too much salad and terrine, get conned by the beer-bummed chicken (guys certainly!) or seduced by the pizza. Because between all that and dessert, there was all of a live pasta station, one vegetarian risotto, looking like a green ‘khichdi’ turned out in rage, and a shrimp risotto, that had clearly been sitting on the buffet fire since Saturday morning. I actually hadn’t noticed the vegetarian option until I pointed out the caked shrimp risotto to the manager who agreed it had gone dry, looked at his watch and said they were near closing time, and then pointed out the green sludge for me to try if I wanted my risotto ‘wet’. The last station was then the one where your pasta would be cooked ‘live’. Thankfully, as live pasta stations go this one turned out better than expected, although the wife’s pasta was below par.
Dessert was wide-ranging and varied – I didn’t have any, not being particularly keen on dessert (and I had not planned to write this review!). The rest of the table evidently enjoyed, since what was brought to the table was quickly wiped out. Twice.
Terrific setting and ambience then. The wine’s not bad. And food is pretty good overall – the grills and pizza would be the pick of the lot. And I suppose if one doesn’t take up the offer of ‘lazy’ brunch too literally and lands up well before closing, the risotto may be great. I wouldn’t know though, my loss entirely. And just a live station for pasta is a little underwhelming, I guess laying out a few special / specific options would make the live station more fun.
The service is definitely hit and miss – one doesn’t expect feudal fawning, but some more ‘happy to see you’ would be welcome. And did anyone say good bye?