Defence Colony Market Back Lane Now Home to a Kebab Takeaway Treat
What: Koyla Kebab
Where: Shop No. 3, Defence Colony Market (go to Amici, walk a little ahead and turn left into the back lane)
When: 12 Noon to 11:30 P.M.
Dial: (011) 41627744 & 99100-95444 for deliveries
AVG MEAL FOR TWO (MINUS ALCOHOL): Rs 700 plus VAT and Service Tax (no alcohol served; you can ask for water, soft drinks and D. Paul’s coffees)
THE Defence Colony Market has been home to a number of old and new restaurants (Sagar followed by Swagath and Moets, for starters) and institutions such as the Defence Bakery, but it also has a busy Chinese takeaway operating from a van (one of the few that survive in the city) and now, across the back lane from this van, it has Koyla Kebab, a pokey little place, which can seat not more than 15, brightened up with quirky coasters and retouched classical photographs of the khansamas and rakabdars of yore. You know it’s a labour of love the moment you step into it.
Koyla Kebab’s first outlet (a takeaway) opened at the PVR Saket Market five years ago, but three British School mates behind the restaurant — Girish Godhwani, who quit his Yes Bank job to get into the restaurant business, and brothers Anuj and Amit Tyagi, who also own The Kathi’s — chose to stay below the radar. (It is Amit Tyagi’s artist wife Devangana, and former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar‘s daughter, who’s responsible for the restaurant’s catchy decor.)
I guess they did not want to become too visible before launching their warm and welcoming little eatery. They then opened at the GK-II M-Block Market, picked up the winter catering contracts at Delhi Gymkhana Club (where they do a mean chicken chapli kebab when the main lawn is opened up for the winter buffet) and Delhi Golf Club. They have also became visible at the many food shows that have sprouted around the city. It will be interesting to see how the Defence Colony Market outlet, which serves D. Paul’s coffees as well, fares in its dark and lonesome corner of one of Delhi-NCR’s busiest food and retail destinations.
I have two reasons for being confident that it will do well. One is purely commercial. Delhi badly needs takeaways to whet our growing appetite for ‘eating in’. Why bother to dress up and go to a restaurant when you can have good food at home with drinks of your choice that don’t cost you an arm and a leg? Of course, there’s also the booming business of car-o-bar, but I cannot publicly advocate it, being a champion of not drinking and driving.
And there’s another growing market. That of small catering assignments for groups of not more than 15-25 people. Believe me, established caterers in the city (and even restaurants) have neither the time, nor the inclination for small parties for less than 50 people. What, then, do you do if you have called more friends over to your place than your kitchen can handle? Call your friendly neighbourhood takeaway, naturally. Koyla Kebab serves this pressing need.
The other reason for my confidence is Koyla Kebab’s food. The place has got its basics right. I knew it the instant I tasted the galawat kebab with khamiri roti (a mellifluous duet of crisp and soft). What struck me was the fact that the kebab and the roti didn’t have ghee dripping from them. And the kebab didn’t have the bitter aftertaste that is associated with an over-use of the raw papaya that goes into the marinade.
Once Koyla Kebab cleared my galawat test (the kakori, too, was right), it didn’t have to prove much, but I chose to be greedy and had a little more, and wasn’t I impressed by the juiciness of the mutton seekh kebabs! The tandoori chicken tikkas, with just the right degree of smokiness and that oh-so desirable charcoal flavour, kept my enthusiasm alive, but the malai chicken tikkas left me underwhelmed. I needed some perking up and it happened when I dug into the keema naan. I had asked for it as an after-thought and I thanked myself for it. If the keema kulcha is anything to go by, go for Koyla Kebab’s stuffed kulchas. Your guests will thank you for the gesture.
This review first appeared in Mail Today on Sunday, July 3, 2016. Copyright: Mail Today Newspapers Pvt. Ltd.