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Manali in Paharganj!

Rahul Verma visits the laidback roads of the Capital and discovers the `Metropolis' of Continental food


You can sit there, relishing your food, wearing what you want to and reading your Grisham, or your Manto

Illustration Tony Smith

Long years ago, when Delhiites thought lasagne was some kind of garlic, there was Paharganj. When the fashionable eateries in South Delhi hadn't come up, nondescript restaurants in this crowded market area had the most authentic pasta and steaks you could have in the city. The foreign backpacker - living in India on shoestring budgets - had zeroed in on Paharganj for its cheap hotels. And Paharganj, in turn, had morphed into a huge continental bistro.

The food was truly continental, so much so that the few Indians who went there found it a bit too bland. And the waiters used to sneer if any hapless Indian diner asked for a bottle of ketchup or Tabasco sauce.

Eclectic menu

Now, Delhi is splitting at the seams with what they call `conti food', but Paharganj is still there. And I was glad to see last week that one of my old favourites - Metropolis - continues to do well.

Metropolis, said to be 78-years-old, is one of the many continental restaurants in Paharganj, which is truly eclectic when it comes to food. You can get all kinds of cuisine - from Israeli and Italian to Greek and French. And, in the evenings, when the traders leave the area for their homes, Paharganj starts to look like Manali, albeit without the mountains and pine trees.

Metropolis is easy to locate. If you get in from Panchkuin road, keeping Ramakrishna Mission on your right, you'll find a T-junction ahead of you. Metropolis is right there, on the left. It's quite a big restaurant, but bigger still is its menu. The prices are reasonable - it's essentially aimed at the middle class Middle European traveller.

I have had some great steaks there over the years. I usually had the minute steak there - fillets with mushrooms and veggies - for Rs.200. The fried fish with chips, for Rs.200, is another good dish. The Spanish paella - a delicious rice dish with all kinds of seafood - is for Rs.310. There are pizzas, pastas and what have you. And now that more and more foreign tourists are demanding Indian food, they have quite a comprehensive Indian kitchen - jhinga Goanese (Rs.250), makhni chicken (Rs.200) and so on.

Healthy breakfast

If you are there in the mornings, you can have a healthy breakfast of pancakes (Rs.75), fresh juices and eggs (fried, poached, scrambled, or as an omelette) served with your choice of fillings - ham, bacon, sausages, tomatoes, mushroom and cheese. All this, with French fries and coleslaw, comes for Rs.90. The best thing about Metropolis is that they let you be. You can sit there, relishing your food, wearing what you want to and reading your Grisham, or your Manto. No one will bother you, and you won't have the stuffy waiters that you see in South Delhi elbowing you out. This is laidback India, and proud of it, too.

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