You know the kind-of-cute guy who arrives unobtrusively at a party and has other guests instinctively gravitate towards him because he exudes a rare, laidback charm? Depot 29 is the restaurant equivalent of that phenomenon. It's gloriously nonchalant, informal and decidedly classy - all at the same time.Occupying a coveted corner of Safdarjang Enclave's Commercial Complex, Depot 29 is an acoustically designed restaurant that blends gastronomy, live entertainment and design. Thanks to owner Girjashanker Vohra's vast experience in the industry of sound, this novel eatery taps into the oft-encountered problem of blaring music in restaurants.
Its chic interiors promise sonic perfection that doesn't go overboard on bass. Their music selection is diverse, dipping into soft, crooning numbers from peppy pop and you are tempted to believe that the groovy numbers are sourced from the massive cassette shelf on display.
The minimalistic decor of hand caned chairs, a classroom-esque seating arrangement and spare narrow tables are softened by the sectioned lighting. Slate grey, chestnut brown, glass and sudden geometric sections of green predominate.
The lack of clutter and odd angles add a dimension of streamlined simplicity, which is only accentuated by the huge glass windows. Every Friday a small podium is graced by artistes across genres who sing, recite, strum and engage with diners on a performance-driven, creative plane. The selection of artistes is not random, says co-owner Vikas Narula, but they do have a soft spot for new, relatively unknown performers.
The truly eclectic inspiration aside, Depot 29 boasts of a menu crafted by Ritu Dalmia. So, it's not your run-of-the-mill diner fare; this is seriously impressive stuff. It's largely American and Mexican, churning out palate-perfect tacos and burgers. We started with a trio of guacamole dips paired with crisps. The pine nuts and pomegranate variant scored over the cilantro and mango versions. This was paired by a spoken poetry session of poignant proportions. It definitely adds more than a little something to a Friday night.The watermelon salad with spiced feta, greens and marinated ginger packs a punch. The pungency of ginger is offset by the mellow feta and the freshness of watermelon. The empanadas with a garlic and rosemary roasted minced meat filling were my personal favourite. From the crimped edges to the contrast of textures, each bite is perfection.
From the taco bar, we tried the pulled pork and refried beans tacos. It's a curious mix of flavours that's outlandish, yet succeeds in being utterly delicious. We washed this down with the Bompom, a gin-based cocktail topped with fresh pomegranate, lime and sprite.The burgers are mammoth affairs with a twist on the seasoning. The lamb burger is convincingly good with a tangy potato salad, but doesn't break any flavour boundaries. The mushroom and quinoa burger with melted Gorgonzola and caramelised shallots, on the other hand, is lush, layered magnificence with oodles of flavour and a muted hint of heat. It's a must-try.
For the mains, I tried the coffee marinated mutton chops in a balsamic reduction. The tender chops come drenched in a delicious sauce and a wholesome side of spinach with sesame seeds. Design elements seem to make an appearance in every facet. The narrow plates come with a glazed swipe of carrot or beet puree that adds a touch of brilliance to the exquisitely plated dish. The pan-fried tenderloin piccatas retain just the right hint of fleshiness and flavour.
The desserts are refreshingly unpretentious and offer an array of waffles. The wild berry compote and mascarpone version is lovely and light. For a dose of decadence, try the chocolate gianduja waffles with caramelised nuts. The accompanying salted caramel ice cream is just as gelato should be.
For Friday nights that you don't want to dance away or sit around in your pyjamas, Depot 29 is the perfect option.
Address: Commercial Complex, Safdarjung Enclave
Price for two: Rs 2,000 (approximately)