If you’ve been living in Delhi for even a little time, you would, most likely, be aware of the place called Indian Coffee House. What you might not be aware of, would be the interesting history that this restaurant chain holds in itself. While the chain was started by the Coffee Cess Committee in the 1930s, because of some policy changes in the 50s, it was slated to be shut down. After much incitement by communist leaders, a movement by the coffee workers emerged. Following this, the Indian Coffee Worker's Co-operative took shape, and these outlets were handed over to this co-op.
The Indian Coffee House in Delhi opened up back in 1957, and there are about 400 such outlets across the country. Yes, the Mohan Singh Place Indian Coffee House is not the only one! But there's something about this place which makes it just so unique.
It's located on the terrace, and has an indoor seating option as well as an outdoor one. On those days that Delhi has good weather, the whole terrace is occupied by students, office-goers and loners, who sit here on the plastic chairs and tables, staring out at the open sky, with PVR Rivoli in the background. Like coffeehouses usually do, the menu comprises of an array of breakfast-y things like sandwiches, eggs, milkshakes, types of coffees and teas as well as heavy items like biryani and chowmein. Interestingly, all the prices quoted are in rupees as well as paisa, like 15 rupees and 38 paisa, which is super cool!
All the waiters here are dressed in white uniforms and turbans, giving you the sense that this is in fact, the Indian Coffee House. However, the ambience which usually prevails here is true to the movement out of which this restaurant was born. Lots of college students chill here, that too for long hours, as the prices are affordable and it's located at a central point in Delhi. The feeling you get in this place is indeed like that of a college canteen. The reason for its popularity, although, will forever remain a mystery to us!
The food quality here is nothing out-of-the-world, to say the least. We ordered the Cheese Sandwich and Tea first, which came after at least an hour of waiting, but that was expected as it’s a slow paced place. Not a quick come and go eatery, but a sit-and-chill-here-because-life-can-wait sort of a place! However, the food didn’t really redeem the slow service.
The Tea was simmering hot, and tasted fine, as far as teas go. It was an average-sized cup, and sugar was provided in a bowl separately. To our horror of horrors, we found several ants in the bowl of sugar (eww!), and hence preferred to have our tea sugar-free. If the sandwich is termed the Cheese Sandwich, that's all it will have, mind you. Pieces of breads with their crusts cut off, mashed together with a slice of cheese is not really what we call a cheese sandwich, but whatever works here. It was basically dry, but edible enough to be had along with other things.
Then we got the Vegetarian Chowmein, which was quite tasty! It had a good amount of veggies, and appropriate additions of vinegar and other sauces used in making chowmein. The serving was good, one large plate, and again, quite like the one you get in college canteens. We also got one of their Rooh Afza Shakes, which were bright pink in colour, and hence quite attractive, present almost at every other table.
The shake was refreshing and got the whole milky, the Rooh Afza taste right on, reminding us of our childhood's hot, summer nights, when Rooh Afza was the thing to look forward to, after dinner and before going out for a walk.
All in all, the place doesn’t score big on ambience, food, or hygiene. Then why is it that year after year, its popularity simply grows? All you need to do is mention Indian Coffee House and you'll get an excited expression, with a I-love-that-place exclamation. Just like so many other things in Delhi, we can’t say why, but we still love it. It’s probably just something in the air!
Meal For Two | Rs 200
Location |2nd Floor, Mohan Singh Place, CP