The first impression of 'Sakley's The Mountain Cafe' is one of delicately balanced contrast - panels of wood and glass juxtaposing rustic warmth against the chilly lure of winter. Closely packed logs line the ceiling, gnarled tree stumps double as tables and- in a solemn nod to the whimsical charm and earthy beauty of hill stations-Sakley's recreates an atmosphere of comforting familiarity for mountain lovers.
A wooden staircase lined with sombre posters ends abruptly at huge glass doors that open into a room filled with disparate furniture and a quirky decor that contribute to an eccentric aunt's-living-room effect. Here, parlour chairs, fur-lined wooden stools, tables with peeling paint (a deliberate style) and armchairs with quaint flowered and striped upholstery are thrown together in adorable disarray.The carefully rendered architectural elements are most evident in the half-buried pine cones littered across an uneven white floor made to resemble snow and a fireplace, adding an edge to the rustic contemporary feel of the place.
Designed as a replica of the original Sakley's in Nainital that has been warming the souls of blazer-clad, rosy-cheeked students since 1944, the GK outlet comes a close second. On a sunny Saturday, the sounds of a barely contained burble of good cheer threads its way to the open-air terrace littered with deck chairs.On frosty evenings, when winding roads glisten after an unexpected downpour, Sakley's is perfect for a dose of hearty warmth and whiling away hours on card games and sharing secrets. The cafe has nailed this sentiment to the T, so much so that we are tempted to pull out our chooks and toques in the middle of summer! The informal seating encourages you to put your feet up and curl up in one of the plush, high-backed arm chairs as you flip through a dog-eared book.
The Blushing Girl (watermelon caprioska) and Secret Garden (kiwi caprioska) brimming with lush undertones of fruit were an apt opening to the meal to follow. My companion opted for a sizzler - wild tulip pork and mountain sage - served with garlic parsley toast, crisp fries, sautéed vegetables and steamed rice.
The pork was succulent and had a lovely herb-based seasoning. The undertones of sage were perfectly complemented by the brown pepper mushroom sauce. Drizzle it over the glazed pork and mop up the excess with the fragrant garlic parsley toast. I opted for a Sakley's classic - the half pounder lamb burger - which came highly recommended. A former burger lover, I was reminded of why the king of junk food appeals to my baser instincts. This, however, is no slapdash affair.The mammoth lamb patty is tender yet firm, oozing oodles of flavour with each bite. The iceberg lettuce adds crunch and the gherkins lend a touch of sweetness to its wholesome meatiness. The best thing about it? The meat to bun proportion is perfect. I tried it with Love is Strange - a cocktail of baileys and vodka topped with chocolate sauce and served with a piece of cheesecake - and found the combination quite interesting.
Though filled to the brim with generous portions, we tackled the decadent chocolate truffle with gusto. A tad more bitter than its ubiquitous avatar - a staple across restaurants and cafes - this chocolate truffle has an undertone of coffee, and pairs beautifully with a cup of earl grey.The real surprise, however, was the homemade chocolate brownie - robust and chewy with walnuts densely packed in a deliciously doughy chocolate base topped with a strawberry. I had set my heart on the true-blue hot chocolate that hillside cafes whip up with ease, but the bout of gorging had rendered me incapable of downing the sinful libation. However, all's not lost. A few months later, when the summer heat gives way to the cold wind whistling through Delhi's tree tops, I shall return for the warmth and good food.
Address: M 23, M Block Market, GK 1, New Delhi
Meal for two: Rs 1,500