When the newly married couple Yosha Mehta and Mayank Kamboj decided to have their first baby, they knew exactly where it would be—Satya Niketan. Thus was born Bombay Brunch, an eatery serving Mumbai street food. The restaurant is the most recent entrant to an area that has emerged as foodie Delhi's latest hub.
Squeezed into a tight corner on the outer side of the inner ring road, Satya Niketan remained, for years, a low income housing locality, where pigs sniffed around garbage bins. Around a decade ago, it became a popular place for college students, especially from the northeast, to rent rooms. But the place got a makeover around two years ago, when more and more eateries started coming up here.
It is one of those inexplicable ironies that this makeover began happening just at the time when the area was at its worst and most inaccessible, what with work on a metro station as well as an underpass road project under way, littering the surroundings with construction material and debris. From this dust rather poetically rose one restaurant, then another and within months, Satya Niketan had metamorphosed into a foodie paradise offering everything from succulent rolls and wraps to noodles, chaat, shakes and desserts.
The restaurants have charming names: Two Bandits, The Big Yellow Door, Wood Box Cafe, Wow Momo, The Chocolate Factory. Some of these are part of local or even national chains, others are stand-alone cafes. All are crowded any time of the day, never mind that the municipal infrastructure is pathetic, the road project has blocked vehicular entry, the metro work adds to the din and dust, there are no pavements to speak of and garbage spills all over the road. “Perhaps when the development began, people began realising how ideal the location was,” says Vijay Garg, whose family moved to Satya Niketan in 1962. Garg runs an old bookstore and is witness to the changing fortunes of the area.
The bulk of the clientele is the student community (there are numerous colleges in the vicinity as well as Delhi University's south campus) whose demands are rather modest—an affordable place to eat and air-conditioned space to escape to when college rooms become sweltering. When not eating, they patronise the beauty parlours, gyms and gift shops. On the outer periphery are the expatriate localities of Anand Niketan and Shanti Niketan, whose patronage ensures a steady home delivery business, too.
It's July, colleges have not yet opened, so technically, it is lean season. But even at 4pm on a weekday, each restaurant is full, and even the street shops aren't seeing an idle moment.
Vapika Malik came with four of her friends from the other end of the city to celebrate her birthday and have a mini reunion. “We've heard so much about this place from friends. So we thought of checking it out,” she says in between pouting for selfies with the girls. “Yes, there's a lot to choose from and the prices are kind on our pockets,” she adds.
The older residents grumble of the noise and crowd. Old-timers, however, can take a hike. Satya Niketan is young and trendy, and finds the right mention in food and travel blogs. It needs no other attestation.