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Chor Bizarre, New Delhi

Chor Bizarre is one of those rare restaurants that provide a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach.

The first thing that comes across is its sense of humour; it is irreverently eclectic and unabashedly Indian. The menu boasts that Chor Bizarre has been described as “art, kitsch, imaginative and contrived” and it certainly is all these things. ‘Chor Bizarre’ is a play on chor bazaar, which roughly translates as thief’s market, where diverse and not-always-legal items are bartered for and sold. No item of furniture in Chor Bizarre is the same as any other: each table, chair, wall hanging and decoration is unique, whether antique, one-off, reproduction or bric-a-brac.

The most famous item is a 1927 Fiat car. A buffet is served from the seating area, but the engine is still in full working order. In the heart of the restaurant is a four-poster bed from Kolkata converted into a table for four to six lucky diners. Nearby, a Bengali wrought-iron spiral staircase climbs to nowhere; next to it hang an Italian double bass and wooden, British coat of arms. One table for two is a converted Singer sewing machine stand. A number of tables are actually horizontal glass display cases containing, amongst other things, coins, swords, artefacts from Kashmir and painful stone flip flops. Tucked in the corner of the wood-panelled room, opposite the library area, is a Wurlitzer juke box, shipped from Germany in 1946. Hanging from a wooden pillar is an intricately carved post box from Jaipur, now used as a place to drop comment cards.

Alluring as all this eye candy is, Chor Bizarre would not rate as an award-winning restaurant if it wasn’t for the food. Like the assorted furnishings, the food comes from all over India, representing the best of the country’s many different cuisines. Dishes from Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Benares, Mumbai, Lucknow, Mangalore and Rajasthan are all on offer, but Chor Bizarre is best known for its Kashmiri food.

Chor Bizarre recently won a Times of India award for the best Kashmiri food in Delhi. Based on that accolade, my dining partner and I had to go for a Kashmiri dish. The restaurant manager recommended the Kashmiri Tarami, a taster dish for the traditional Kashmiri wazwan. The wazwan was originally a magnificent feast of 72 courses. I first heard of it in Salman Rushdie’s Shalimar the Clown, parts of which provide vivid background information on the full wazwan’s ceremonial secrets, known only to a few Kasmiri families. The modern wazwan offers a ‘more convenient’ 36 courses and the full 72 courses are relatively rare.

Chor Bizarre’s Tarami is just a taste of the wazwan banquet, with nine mild dishes served on a bed of rice, including tabak maaz, roganjosh, murg roghini, haaq, rajma, mooli akhrot ki chutney and laal payaaz. Centre stage goes to goshtaba, the restaurant’s most popular dish. This tender, juicy ball of lamb meat takes 12 hours to prepare and is worth every second of the wait. Dessert, a bowl of delicious saffron-flavoured semolina with almond garnish, is included. Designed for one, we found there was plenty for two diners, and it provided an excellent introduction to Kashmiri cuisine. (A vegetarian alternative is available.)

Chor Bizarre’s Kashmiri Tarami cost Rs 495 (approximately £7, expensive by Indian standards but very reasonable to the Western wallet). Other dishes typically cost around Rs 225, with a mid-range bottle of wine priced at Rs 1400. Cocktails are about Rs 225. Prices quoted do not include tax (20% on alcoholic drinks, 12.5% on food).

Chor Bizarre
Hotel Broadway, Asaf Ali Road, New Delhi
Tel: +91 (0) 11436 63600

Thanks to Mr Ranjeev Paramesvaran and Indian Odyssey for arranging transport and a cookery demonstration at Hotel Broadway.

There are also branches of Chor Bizarre in Gurgaon, Noida and London, UK.

 


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