Cafe Lota is one of the few museum restaurants you can actually get excited to try. Located next to Delhi’s National Crafts Museum, this outdoor cafe serves dishes from many of India’s 29 states and seven territories. You would have to spend some time in India to realize how regional most of their popular dishes are. In the west, “Indian Food” often refers to Punjabi cuisine. Many of the dishes you can try at Cafe Lota are difficult to find outside of their respective region(s).
Cafe Lota is part of The Melting Pot Food Company, which includes a total of four unique concept restaurants.
Roughly half of the Cafe Lota menu is vegetarian. Breakfast items and small plates start at 195 rupees, while larger plates are 395 (or roughly 5 USD). There are nine different bread options, all of which are 70 rupees (under 1 US dollar) or less. Before you order bread, ask your server which one goes best with the other dishes you plan to order. There are several different mocktails on offer, a couple of which change with the seasons. The more creative ones include ingredients like black salt, coriander leaves, and roasted cumin.
For a balance of salty, sweet, and sour, try the palak patta chaat from the vegetarian smaller plates section. From the non-vegetarian larger plates section, the prawn mappas is a Kerala dish from the south. It pairs well with appam, which is a fluffy rice pancake, also from Kerala. Chicken mokul is a Rajistani dish, which goes well with khoba roti, which is a whole wheat flatbread from the same region.
There are a few different single-estate artisinal coffees on the menu, which reflect the rising coffee culture in southern India as well as the major cities.
Monsoon by Cafe Lota
Cafe Lota has a sister restaurant conveniently located near Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi. Monsoon, as the name implies, was inspired by the rainy season. Using locally sourced ingredients, they serve a mishmash dishes from around India as well as drinks with some of the quirkiest ingredients your mind can conjure up.
If you have a longer layover at DEL and want to crash course in regional Indian food, head to Monsoon. In this one small location, you try comfort food from Hyderabad, seafood dishes from Kerala, heartier, and more simple dishes from Himachal, as well as local favorites. They have plenty of vegan options as well.
Aerocity is the nearest metro station. Monsoon is located in a quiet corner of the Worldmark 1 food court.
Response to COVID-19
On March 19, the government shut down all restaurants in Delhi. But that didn’t stop the Cafe Lota team from feeding hungry migrants, daily wage laborers, and others who are stuck in Delhi with no income. Cafe Lota repurposed their kitchen, and they currently feed 2,500 people per day. Check out their Instagram account for more detail.
With home-cooking on the rise, now is the perfect time to learn some new recipes. If you want to cook Indian food or try to replicate some of the dishes referenced in this post, you’ll need some of these popular Indian spices.
Practical tips for visiting Monsoon and Cafe Lota
Cafe Lota is open from 8 AM to 10 PM daily. While Monsoon is in an a conveniently located, air-conditioned mall, Cafe Lota is an outdoor cafe, subject to the elements. Their ceiling fans give the place a breezy feel, but if heat bothers you, it’s better to visit earlier in the morning or later in the evening. While Monsoon is located near the Aerocity metro station, Cafe Lota is located a couple of kilometres from the nearest station. Ubers and rickshaws and very affordable in Delhi and are your best option, especially between May and September when the heat is at its most intense.
Don’t be afraid to ask the staff for recommendations. Both places have a very casual atmosphere and are located in touristy areas. They are used to getting customers who may be visiting India, or at least Delhi, for the first time. Finally, each place offers a different experience, so try and visit both. While Cafe Lota, brings authentic, regional food, to the capital, Monsoon offers more of a mishmash. One dish can have flavors from multiple states or regions.
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