Big Chill(ar) Party

A recent dash to Delhi was engineered purely out of a desire to appease my taste-buddies. No doubt, there were any number of legit reasons to be in the neighbourhood, but I’m going to have to go with food, my pet four-letter word for all seasons. Having got the day’s appointments out of the way, I couldn’t wait to slurp my way through a much anticipated amuse-bouche at the Big Chill Café in Kailash Colony. Of course it’s not really a tidbit, and of course it is not gratis, but anybody who has gulped down their divine chocolate malt shake will know exactly what I mean about its appetite-whetting properties.

I, for one, usually have plenty craving left over for an entire meal afterwards. Although, I often suspect, it could also be greed.

Another absolute-definite-at-the-table is their Algerian Chicken Platter (not listed on the Khan Market menus). The lime juice-marinated potatoes topped with sautéed onion rings make for the most scrumptious accompaniments to peppery chicken, Mediterranean vegetables and mozzarella, cucumber and tomato bites. This time, my brother-in-law, Rahul got first dibs at it while my sister Niku and I ended up with a choice of chicken Florentines. Mine was grilled to near perfection, oozing cheesy spinach; its garlic butter relish, when pored over the jacket potato whisked you to foodie heaven at first bite. Delectable in equal measure was the one with red pesto sauce that my sister was busy attacking.

I have often wondered about the reasons behind Big Chill’s immense popularity and what takes us back time and again. Other than the informal, unpretentious retro ambience, that is. Each time I have come up with just one: consistency. In service (excusably slow given the number of customers); in quality (well-sustained); in portions (moderate to large). Over a decade since they threw open their jade green doors for business; not once have they given me a good enough reason to walk past. I can honestly say that ours has been an equally consistent gourmet affair; affordable and dependable with nary a cause for reproach.

I have also often wondered why I cannot feel the same way about most of the similarly-themed cafés or restaurants in Chandigarh. They have the wherewithal to get what it takes but still fall far short in the training and quality control departments. Never the decor though. Is it that we are an easily pleased people? That we settle? Or just as easily taken in by the trappings? Because we sure as hell aren’t demanding more; evident from the way we pack them eateries on any given day of the week! Take Girl In The Café, for instance. I had such hopes from this new kid on the block but every visit has gradually left me wanting. Such a darned shame, really.


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