The thali at Baba’s stall near Jantar Mantar — a hole-in-the-wall eatery going great guns for around 25 years now — scores high on both spices and taste, writes Rahul Verma

Our friend, Vikram Dutt, came home one day — carrying a box of sweets and a wedding card. Vikram is a foodie and often calls me up to tell me about some small eatery somewhere where the food is good. So, over tea, we talked about some of the hole-in-the-wall eateries that we had been visiting lately. He informed me about one bedmi seller who has a tiny establishment in East Delhi. I am going to go looking for him one day, but this week I am going to tell you about another small place which is in the heart of town.

The day Vikram came home, he had stopped there for lunch — and enjoyed the food that he had been served. The eatery faces Jantar Mantar, near Connaught Place, and is known in the neighbourhood as Baba’s stall. It’s one of the stalls that came up a couple of decades ago near the bus stop there.

I used to go to that food hub often when I lived in the neighbourhood. I never tried out Baba’s food, but focused on the idli and vadas which one of the other stalls served — and still serves. The food was always fresh, and my teatime hours (and occasionally breakfasts) were livened up by the South Indian snacks I got from there.

But I haven’t gone back there for years. For one, I don’t live there anymore. And second, there are many other small places which sell excellent idlis, vadas and dosas. My neighbourhood in Mayur Vihar, for instance, has several such stalls.

How to reach

But I went back there after several years to try out the food that Vikram had eaten. Baba’s stall is the first one on your left if you are facing the stalls. A sign says Thali — and then lists all that you get there. I dutifully asked for a thali. It came with generous helpings of shahi paneer, kali dal, kadhi pakori, boondi raita and two kinds of rotis — a tandoori (atta) roti and a missi roti. I paid Rs.70 for the thali. You also get rajma chawal there, as well as samosas, papri chaat (I ate some dahi-vada, which was rather nice) and fried potato chaat.

The thali food was filling, and the dishes had been cooked well with lots of spices. I enjoy eating spicy food every now and then (because the daily fare is mostly lightly spiced) and quite liked the paneer and the kadhi. The rotis, just off the tandoor, were crispy, and I really enjoyed the missi roti — which I ate dipped in the kali dal.

Baba is from Sitaram Bazaar in old Delhi. His stall has been around for 25 years and is quite a rage in the area. Office-goers and shoppers often stop there for lunch. And I guess Vikram is a regular there too.

I felt quite nostalgic going back to the area after years. There are now several food stalls and I am happy to see that they all do brisk business. Those shopping in Connaught Place don’t have to eat in any of its upmarket restaurants. Baba and others like him are there to indulge our pangs of hunger. Taalis for the thalis, please.

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