The Mountains Come Calling
By Pallavi Rebbapragada | Published: 06th April 2014 06:00 AM |
They seek something, they cannot define it. It could be power, it might be privilege. They seek it in things, they seek it in ideas. And, if they don’t find it, they seek it in change. There is a component of restlessness deeply dissolved in big, busy urban whirlpools. It is a lesson in history that metropolitan identity needs to be built all the time; new buildings, more roads, exodus and revolution. In that sense, a city’s character is insecure in its own boundaries, always longing to evolve into something spectacular; a character conscious of and relative to that of other cities. Rising above the pace, leaving behind the race is the experience we define as the mountains. Their merit is sanctioned by nature, they don’t need mankind’s approval of their worth. In a space where stillness is a sound, all that the mind seeks is reflection. The city is beautiful, but the mountains, they are sublime. With the aim of muddling its little piece of sublimity into Delhi’s beautiful cocktail of chaos, in comes Sakley’s – the mountain café.
The story dates back to 1944, when Swiss chef Salechili lost the first one, somewhere in the wilderness of Nainital, in (now) Uttarakhand. It started as a tiny confectionery space, but even then, its signature rainy hill pastry managed to lure the appetite of everybody with half a sweet tooth. Then, all through the 60s, in mountainous languor, a coffee shop gradually branched out of it. Today, Sakley’s has four branches, the other two being in London and Gurgaon. This specific one, despite being only a few weeks old, is in symphony with its classics.
Two floors into the sky, the café has an antler peeping out of a bronzed wall at the door; a warm, glass-wood door. On entering, one feels a blanket of cool breeze, unromantically, but ingeniously, streaming from heady air-conditioning. Scruffily smothered with paint, the wooden flooring is embedded in places, with pine cones. The rough country charm spills over into the furniture – the tables are crafted out of tree stumps. There’s also a fire place burning in the flame of a scented candle and a cluster of grand-father couches guard it clumsily.
On the walls, in B&W frames, one spots Lana Del Ray and a lot of Beatles. Everything that lies on the cosier side of Sakley’s French windows enjoys a sense of quiet, a country music kind of quiet.
The food, to begin with, is fresh. Amit Sekhri, whose family has owned brand Sakley’s since its conception 60 years ago, tells us that freshness is what draws people to the mountains and that’s the first thing his café strives for. “The farm to plate distance is less in the hills. At Sakley’s, we home bake our sponges, concoct our chocolate and caramel sauces and steer clear of any preservatives, powders or premixes”, he hints at being close to nature, where it all started.
The pizza breads are fluffy; the earthy smell of the wood-fired oven they were ambered in is still on them. The burgers are as juicy as the salads, sizzling in tangy balsamics and herby cheeses. The cottage cheese sizzler is bubbling in hot tomato paste; it can be had right after a serving of their nutty pumpkin soup. The fuller flavours of the honey glazed pork chops are what their initial customers seem to be falling in love with. “We cut down the freeze time of meats. Most places import meats that are nearly six months old at the time of consumption. Ours is barely four to five days old”, adds Sekhri. The meal comes full circle with a smokey cuppa of Sakley’s Signature Old Style Cold Coffee and a chapter from one of the Ruskin Bond or Rudyard Kipling classics that are strewn about.
At Sakley’s, there’s joy, there’s fun, and waiting to be found, a whole season in the sun; and disputing Westlife’s melancholy; even the hills that one climbed don’t seem like seasons out of time.
Meal for Two: Rs 1,200 (plus tax, plus alcohol) Address: M 23, M Block Market, GK 1.