Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Diggin into Spring

-Shivani Mohan    

  The year's at the spring
    And day's at the morn;
    Morning's at seven;
    The hillside's dew-pearled;
    The lark's on the wing;
    The snail's on the thorn:
    God's in His heaven—
    All's right with the world!

I know that's an oft quoted piece of poetry but what's there not to like about this celebration of spring from Robert Browning's 'Pippa Passes'? What's there not to like about spring, in fact? Everything is glowing and blooming and buzzing. It is fun being outdoors. Radiant flowers greet you everywhere and it is really difficult to stay morose or low with so much beauty all around.

Well I have discovered a neat little restaurant tucked away in South Delhi's Anand Lok that almost embodies spring in all it's glory. Diggin, which is right opposite Gargi college is a delightful, little restaurant with refreshing interiors and an enchanting quality about it. The first time I walked into the corner restaurant in the small market, I couldn't believe I was in Delhi. I felt I was inside an Enid Blyton novel, something straight out of 'The Magic Faraway Tree' in the enchanted wood.


The facade of the two storey restaurant is in ruddy exposed brick work and the interiors are very British. There are swings covered with lush green creepers, there are pretty white bird cages and bird baths hanging from a huge tree, there is a white, wrought iron staircase with ornate filigree work and window sills full of flowers.
The ground floor is more of a coffee shop with a stunning assortment of fresh baked breads, cookies, breakfast rolls and gelatos. One wall is almost  done up like a pretty nursery with multi coloured, mix and matched cushions and grandfather clocks. There is so much sunshine and colour to soak in. You just feel instantly happy stepping into this zone.

As you climb the beautiful staircase to the first floor, there is an open area with neat little tables over looking a balcony overflowing with potted plants hanging from top. Even the napkin holders have pretty sparrows and birds that seem to magically add to the chirpy atmosphere.

The dining area inside too is pleasant and pretty with a huge tree painted on one of the walls. It is airy, with an abundance of natural light in the daytime with an open kitchen. Established last month by an enterpreneur called Digvijay Singh in consultation with Dii Consentes Hospitality spearheaded by Chef and Restaurant Planner Tarun Kumar Lal, the restaurant is a little oasis of  a lemon souffle-like lightness and cheerfulness in a sea of some OTT and jarring eating places of Delhi. Chef Amitabh Kumar, who also looks after the management of the restaurant is polite and interacts a lot with the guests. 

I landed up for lunch on a rather busy Sunday afternoon. The whole place was bustling with college couples, expats and brightly but elegantly dressed families (you know the kind with 14 people at a table, with a grandpa in a fedora hat and a granny in chiffons and pearls-picture perfect)!

All Pork Sandwich
Citrus Chicken Burger
Basil and Lime Mojito
The menu is not very large but is refreshing and easy to select your order from. There are a lot of pizza and pasta and interesting sandwiches probably to cater to college students. But if you want to turn your meal into a fine dining experience, they have enough choices for that too. Diggin is still awaiting the liquor license (which should be coming shortly) so currently you can have lovely mocktails. I try the Basil Mojito and believe me, it's so refreshing, I think with just a sip I have forgotten all the tiredness of a fortnight of being a single parent with a kid off from school for spring break!

For starters we try the Citrus Chicken Salad and Bacon Stuffed Chicken Legs. The chicken legs are simply out of the world, topped with pine nuts and a delicious Agrodolce
Bacon stuffed Chicken Legs
 sauce. It is a hearty dish that can be had as a main-course too if you want to keep things light. 

Citrus Chicken Salad

The salad is again literally seducing my palate with bursts of meaty smoked chicken and citrus and greens and springy crunchiness.

Pan Seared Fish

For the main course, we tried Pan Seared Fresh Fish and Lamb Shank with Seasonal Vegetables.The fish is nice and has everything that I expect from a good fish dish. It is perfectly cooked with green beans, salad, citrus touch and a mash with flavours of fennel. So much is the attention to detail that each little sliver of roasted almond on the salad is just perfectly roasted and goes crunch crunch crunch in your mouth. I was very impressed with that. You know how bad soggy nuts can be!

Lamb Shank with Seasonal Vegetables- the winner undoubtedly
As far as the Lamb Shank is concerned, I can vouch for the fact that this is one of the best lamb dishes I have ever tasted in Delhi in the entire history of my foodie life! And that's saying a lot. Soft and oozing with flavours, the meat almost falls off the bone, melting into your mouth which I am told by the chef has something to do with a very slow cooking technique. The rich red wine sauce is well seasoned and robust. Lovers of red meat, I beg of you, go have this lamb at Diggin. Period.

Belgian Chocolate Gelato
For dessert there is a choice of Tiramisu and very British tarts, cakes and pies. But we settle for a light and ethereal Belgian Chocolate Gelato to end the lunch on a beautiful note.


“It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.” 
― Rainer Maria Rilke

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