By Uzair Siddiqui

The latest buzz in town is Delhi’s first stand-alone Parsi restaurant, Soda Bottle Openerwala, at Cyber Hub. Being an ardent devotee of Britannia & Co. in Bombay, I admit I had my reservations. One would naturally assume though, that the food {by Anahita Dhondy} and the service will be nice, considering the man behind the enterprise – AD Singh. As you enter the ground floor restaurant, complete with al fresco tables in the plaza, you are ushered across a quaint green-tiled floor to your table.

On our first visit, one cursory scan of the menu, and Raspberry Sodas were ordered for the table, because of the Duke ones I’ve had at Britannia. A detailed look at the menu revealed, to me, the agenda of the joint. Sure, there are Parsi offerings like Berry Pulao and Patra Ni Machchi, but there are also other local Bombay snacks like Kanda Bhajji, Keema Pav and Grilled Sandwich. The menu reads like a proper Irani cafe menu, along with Bombay favourites thrown in for good measure.

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On one visit, we ordered the Kanda Bhajji, Patra Ni Machchi, Mutton Berry Pulao and the Lagan Nu Custard. On another visit, we ordered the Marghi Na Farcha {fried chicken}, Tomatar, Papeta Par Eeda {eggs with tomato and potato} and the Chicken Berry Pulao. The clear winners here were the Kanda Bhajji and the Patra Ni Machchi. For a crunchy onion fritter {like the one at Soda Bottle Openerwala}, it is imperative to dust and crumb the shredded onion in flour and fry it without crowding the pan. The accompanying green chutney was also really good. The fish was cooked perfectly and the balance in flavour was commendable. However, the Keema Pav wasn’t as thug as I would’ve liked; too polished. It’s flavourful, but  lacks the punch.

Moving on to the Berry Pulao. Undoubtedly it is very, very good. But it doesn’t even come close to Britannia, because it is missing that certain flippancy that’s characteristic of such establishments, and this is something that can be fixed easily, in due course. The Pulao lacks Khurchan – that ever so important nubly crispness developed at the bottom of a pot. In Iran, the Khurchan bit of a Pulao is always reserved for the guest of honour.

On one occasion, our Chicken Berry Pulao turned out to be too sweet. That was a deal breaker. Those berries are meant to add a tangy, zingy character to the rice. Going further, the Marghi Ni Farcha was devoid of all character and the eggs {tomatar, Papeta par Eeda} were too polished for me to excuse, in spite of the gimmickry of the food being served in aluminium cake tins.

Don’t get me wrong. I do like the menu at Soda Bottle Openerwala, and I do urge you to at least go try the food there once. But somewhere, the depth required in its food is amiss. Till that is fixed, Soda Bottle Openerwala will remain theatrical to all those who love and miss the Irani cafés of South Bombay.

There is, without doubt, agenda on Soda Bottle Openerwala’s menu. AD Singh’s booming restaurant business is promoting new talent, and new concepts with incredible energy. Their investment in Soda Bottle Openerwala fills a gaping hole in Delhi’s food circle; it also pulls together and subsumes an oft-underplayed cuisine under the blanket promise of quality service and corporate management. However {and this is where my heart starts feeling heavy}, it ends up compromising on the experience, as somewhere, the authenticity turns gimmicky. I welcome the pun in the name {and it is rare that I do}, but I don’t understand the sheer effort Soda Bottle Openerwala puts into its act. From the deliberately cut and taped fruit print sofas made to look worn out, to the porcelain bedpan from which one is forced to retrieve tissues after washing one’s hands, it’s all a bit much for me. Why something is named Eggs Kejriwal is also beyond me!

There is a nonchalance that one rightfully deserves at a Parsi Irani cafe, which is completely missing at Soda Bottle Openerwala. Between all the TGIF-like wall artifact language substituted with antiques, and the aluminum cake tins in which food is served, the question I would like answered is this: why so curious? I would pardon the theatrics if the food was more honest; there are cracks in the makeup and you can’t unsee them once seen.

If South Bombay is the benchmark, then on a scale of 1-10 I would rate Parsi Anjuman an 8.5 and Soda Bottle Openerwala at 4.5. My sincere wish for Soda Bottle Openerwala is for them to deliver more consistently and eloquently- less tricks, more kick. For now, a big welcome to Parsi food in Delhi.

Notes in our Little Black Book |

Start off with the best Raspberry Soda in town at Soda Bottle Openerwala and dig straight into the Berry Pulao and Lagan Nu Custard. The Kanda Bhajji and Patra Ni Machchi are also worth every penny.

Where: Phase 3 Near Building no 8, DLF Tower 8th Rd, DLF Cyber City, DLF City II, Sector 24, Gurgaon, Haryana 122002

Contact:  012-46518801

Cost for two: INR 2000