[update: Ten has been closed since September 2007. This article may now be considered an epitaph.]
I used to think I knew every little nook and corner of central Delhi better than the back of my hand. So you can imagine how piqued my curiosity was, when Harneet first told me that right under my nose — presuming my nose hovers like a benevolent alien saucer somewhere over Lutyen’s creation — was possibly the best restaurant Delhi has to offer.
However, it is a sad testament to my scepticism that it took another glowing recommendation from Abhik before I finally went to try out Ten, the restaurant on the campus of the YWCA International Guest House, at 10, Parliament Street.
As the title suggests, I give it full marks. The place has a lovely ambience: wood decor and light green walls adorned with vases of faux orchids, large windows that let the sun stream in and make the place feel airy, elegant and spacious, and a well-maintained lawn outside (with seating) that enhances the green. Add to that a mix of quiet (often foreign) customers and efficient waiters, and you have a nook that feels like a world away from the busy Sansad Marg just beyond. The restaurant is multicuisine, and is very much geared at the international visitors who frequent the hostel. Consequently, following occidental practice, every dish is complete unto itself (even the Mughlai ones), and is intended to serve one person of somewhat light appetite. The spices are held in abeyance, but not annoyingly so. And a 10% service charge is included in the bill — but it is certainly one of those rare places where you’d never grudge that tip. Moreover — and this is such a charming surprise, especially for a restaurant in this price range — the chefs pay careful attention to the presentation of the food too, which is often different the next time you go and order the same dish. In winter, possibly the greatest favour you can do yourself is to order one of their several fish dishes — I’ve tried their fish and chips, as well as the Grilled Fish. The latter was simply brilliant, though that wasn’t the only reason it left me wanting to eat more. They also do their Mexican dishes exceptionally well — a friend opined that their enchiladas are far better than anything Rodeo serves up. Even if you don’t want a Mexican main dish, their chicken quesadilla appetizer (with fresh diced tomatoes and sour cream; also available as a vegetarian dish) makes for a great start to any meal.The italian pastas are a delicious, if unadventurous option — the two or three choices (carbonara, boulognaise, etc.) served with penne, spaghetti or farfalle, are all good, and very filling too.
The Mediterranean dishes are similarly good — the Greek salad I’ve had was a little short on olives and feta cheese, but made up for it with its excellent accompanying hummus (a dip made with chick-peas and tahini, a sesame paste) and crisp fresh vegetables.
The Thai curry I’ve tried was perhaps the most authentic I’ve had in Delhi at this low a price.
And even if you’re just passing through town and need a little break from the hustle and bustle, Ten makes for a far superior option than the Baristas and Cafe Coffee Days that seem to be the fashionable hangouts of the moment. A simple coffee costs just Rs. 30, and if you’re pecky, their grilled sandwiches (with several options for fillings, and accompanied by french fries) are delectable, and make the counterparts at other fast-food places pale in comparison. Plus, instead of the overbearing crowds at other cafes, here you will find peace, quiet and unobtrusive service.
And what is really incredible is that with all this going for it, Ten remains undiscovered by almost all of Delhi. I have never yet seen the place at full occupancy, and at any time other than dinner, you are quite likely to be the only customers in the place. This also means that even during peak hours, you will find ample (and free!) parking space in the hostel campus — and this, just steps away from CP!!
No surprise then that Ten is comfortably the absolute favourite restaurant for no less than three moderators of the Eating Out in Delhi community — Abhik, Harneet, and happily now, me.
Prices: Rs. 500 to 700 for a meal for two, including service charge. No liquor is served.
Location: coming from Patel Chowk on Parliament Street, the YWCA International Guest House comes on your right, just after the LIC building, before the traffic crossing with Tolstoy Marg. Parking is available within the gates. Map Location