Golconda Bowl Express (Delhi, January 2014)

mirchi-ka-saalanIn my review of Oh Calcutta last week I noted that when I lived in Delhi in the late 1980s and early 1990s there weren’t any Bengali restaurants around. Well, there was no Hyderabadi or Andhra food to be had either—not outside of the canteen (or cafetaria for you Amreekans) of the Andhra Bhavan (the Andhra Pradesh state government’s center of operations in Delhi). The Andhra Bhavan canteen is still in operation and still very popular–I ate there on my last trip to Delhi (and it’s still very cheap and good). But now there are plenty of other options. Of these on my last trip I also ate at a place named Poppadum (in the Ambawatta complex in Mehrauli) with comical service but pretty good food. But Mehrauli is a long way from my parents’ place in Noida, and in any case I remember Poppadum being all but impossible to find (in fact, it may no longer be in business—perhaps because no one could find it). And so when an old, close friend of mine drove over to pick us up for lunch we decided to stay local and head to the Noida outpost of Golconda Bowl (the main one is in the nightmare that is Hauz Khas village—more on this nightmare in a later post).

As it happens, Golconda Bowl Express in Sector 18, Noida was not very much easier to find in the murky light of a Delhi January day than Poppadum had been in the choking haze of a Delhi December evening back in 2010. And here I must test your patience with a complaint about Google Maps and its refusal to adhere to local cultural norms.

As neither my friend nor we had ever been to Golconda Bowl Express before we decided to use Google Maps to get there. Sure enough, Google Maps found the restaurant and gave us directions. Unfortunately, it gave us directions using street names. And no one in Noida has any idea what the actual name of any street is; I didn’t even know that streets in Noida had names, and I’m pretty sure that whichever fucker it was that named them doesn’t know their names either. As in most parts of India when you give directions in Noida you say things like, “take the first turn and then go till you come to the illegal Hanuman Mandir and then do a half u-turn and lean to the right and when you get to the second skin and v.d clinic turn right and you’ll see a market between the five star hotel and the slum–in the market just ask someone where the restaurant is”. Google Maps, on the other hand, told us to take Vijyant Thapar road or something like that. It turns out Vijyant Thapar is a recent war hero but I am sorry to say we cursed him thoroughly as we somehow made our way to the part of Sector 18 market where Google Maps told us the restaurant was. Only to discover once we got there that its directions terminated in front of a massive warren of shops and restaurants. Of course, we just asked someone and that was that. My point is that Google Maps should have just said “Go to Sector 18 market and ask someone” and not bothered with the rest. Fucking cultural imperialists!

Golconda Bowl Express

Anyway, where were we? Yes, at the Golconda Bowl Express. Not a particularly prepossessing space, and only accessible via stairs so steep as to repel all but the very hungry; luckily, we were very hungry. This is what we ate (click on an image to launch a larger slideshow with detailed captions):

As by this point in the proceedings both boys had become utter bastards (a recurring theme in our lunch outings until it finally occurred to us that an iPad works as a child pacification device in restaurants and airplanes) we uncharacteristically skipped dessert and headed home. If I still lived in India I would not have been overly excited about this meal but when you live in Babylon you have a slightly different perspective.

If the thought of going to Hauz Khas Village were not so off-putting I’d say that on our next visit we should eat at the mothership, but I think I’ll just content myself with the Express version—especially now that I know where it is.

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