British Council in Delhi brings the crumpets

The café menu at the British Council has nothing from the UK, except for a habit of stealing from others.

Published: 14th December 2019 09:53 AM  |   Last Updated: 14th December 2019 10:00 AM   |  A+A-

Scenes from the CAARA cafe at the British Council, Grandma’s Carrot Cake (from left)

Scenes from the CAARA cafe at the British Council, Grandma’s Carrot Cake (from left)

Express News Service

Some places require more of an effort to get to than others. Refer here to Stanley’s famous quip, “Dr Livingstone, I presume?” after limping through 1100 km of jungle and quagmire, having his favourite horse die under him, and losing most of his native porters, on the former’s search for the latter in present-day Tanzania.  You don’t have to dodge tse tse flies when you enter the British Council (In Delhi, it’s the female Anopheles variety you have to look out for), but you do have to sign in via mobile OTP, which is nigh irksome. 

The cloistered building holds a treasure trove of Encyclopedia Britannica copies dating back to when the British Empire was a tangible thing, apart from reams of the written word, fictional as well as not,  as well as classrooms and other resources.

It also has a café, the most British thing of which is that - much like the British Museum - nothing displayed belongs to it. CAARA café offers an easily digestible collective of culinary offerings, from quiches to faux pizza made from Focaccia to Thai curry, which strangely is from the one Southeast nation that the Brits didn’t try to subsume. Perhaps they’re making  up for lost time.

The biggest thing that the menu has going for it is its pricing. Speaking of big, the café sprawls over a huge space that could comfortably house far more tables than it does; yet it doesn’t. Go figure.We dutifully order a Minced Lamb and Green Pea Grilled Kulcha from the all-day snacks menu, Baked Vegetable Samosa from the ‘Students Super Saver Bites’ section (that costs 60 bucks), and Grandma’s Carrot Cake of unknown grandmotherly provenance. 

The “grilled” kulcha, which comes folded, has keema mattar filling that is fairly textbook in taste and texture, but kulcha that is crisp on top and soggy at the base, and so as Chinua Achebe would say, things fall apart.The less said about a 60 rupee samosa is still too much, but here goes. ‘Tis a mixed veg-stuffed samosa that has been made/bought in the morning, shoved into an oven at 6pm, amd retailed at 12 times its cost price. 

The carrot cake is actually decent, and really quite a steal. So, at least that is keeping with the British ethos. A truncated square of dense moist cake, slabbed over with thick, buttery icing gave us our just desserts. The carrots, caramelized to crumbly consistency counter the doughiness of the actual cake, the chaos smoothed over by the mascarpone.Basically, if you’re hungry at the British Council, just remind yourself that Connaught place is literally around the corner, and there are paan shops selling MRP packaged foods right outside.


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