I did it! I finally made it to Cyber Hub!
But considering I spend a minimum of 45 hours a week in Gurgaon, I honestly cannot believe it has taken me this long. Better late than never, I suppose?
So what was the first restaurant to be ticked off the list? Why, Soda Bottle Openerwala, of course!
The thing with niche, or themed restaurants is, that they can be great fun. The concept is supposed to take priority over everything else. In so much that the décor, the food, the music, everything is designed around the theme. According to Wikipedia, the food in fact takes a backseat to the presentation of the theme.
So if we are judging a restaurant on the basis of the theme it is trying to represent, the theme in this case being a Parsi / Irani café such as Britannia so popular in Mumbai, then Soda Bottle Opener Wala has most certainly hit the nail on the head. But, with the Delhi / NCR region’s metamorphosis in recent years into a paradise for frequent diners, the question in my mind is this: With good great food all around us these days, can a restaurant really afford to let their food take a backseat to their theme, no matter how good the execution of that theme is?
My answer would be, quite frankly, no.
Don’t get me wrong, I really liked Soda Bottle Openerwala. I liked the abundance of colour in the décor, the quirky decorations, glass jars filled with goodies populating one wall, diner-style booths with cutting-chai glasses lined up under the glass-topped tables, the steel kettles decoratively hanging in a corner right at the entrance, the attention to detail was quite endearing.
And, the place was packed! We were fortunate to bag a table the moment we arrived, in the little outdoor section. There was an option to move to a larger space inside, to one of the diner-style booths in fact, but the music inside was deafeningly loud. We thus chose to remain outside, at a table too small for four, and a little inconveniently positioned right at the entrance. My chair was bumped into every time someone entered or exited, by other diners and servers alike.
Moving along…! The service was prompt and attentive, the menu however is a bit limited. Some of the things I remember fondly from my days studying in Pune and traveling to Mumbai find their way on to the menu here: such as Bun Maska, Wada Pav, and Nan Khatai. But Dhansak, the first dish that comes to my mind when I think of Parsi food, was sadly missing. I read somewhere they plan to introduce it soon as a Weekend Special, so that’s good.
These Parsi style fried prawns were good, but not great. The prawns were well done, crispy outside and tender within, and were quite enjoyable to be frank. But there was nothing extraordinary about them.
This was another Parsi preparation, chicken this time, with potato sali (fried matchstick potatoes). I did not care for this dish much, in all honesty. In fact, none of us at the table seemed to warm up to it. What started of as an appealing tangy flavour, ended up leaving a bit of a sour taste, and we sadly did not finish this dish.
Probably Soda Bottle Openerwala’s most popular dish, the Berry Pulao (we ordered the chicken version) lived up to its hype. We loved it. The slight crunch of the berries, the hint of the sweetness mingling with the spices of the pulao, it all comes together beautifully. I’d highly recommend trying this, if nothing else.
For our fourth dish, I was keen to try the Irani Keema Macaroni. Tables all around us seemed to be ordering it and it looked quite nice. On placing the order, our server suggested we try the Sheek Parantha (apparently a highly selling item on the menu although I now have my doubts); bad advice on his part and an even more terrible move on our part to follow that advice. The Sheek itself was dry and a bit boring, the parantha which was some sort of a cross between a malabar parantha and a bhatura in taste, was served cold. Should have ordered the Keema Macaroni.
Our drinks, however, were much nicer.
The Raspberry Soda was cool and refreshing, the Sekanjebin (Persian dried plum and mint cooler) was a very interesting blend of flavours, and Mrs. Soda Bottle Opener Wala’s Cold Coffee was delicious; strong, chilled and frothy.
For dessert, we’d hoped to try the Toblerone Mousse that’s been much talked about, but sadly this was unavailable. This Caramel Custard was disappointing to say the least. Four of us were sharing just one, but none of us wished to finish it. The flavours were odd, there was hardly any caramel, and the after taste was less than pleasant.
The last word: While the ambience of Soda Bottle Openerwala is fabulous, it isn’t enough to keep pulling in the crowds. Our meal was less of a hit and more of a miss. Not only was this the consensus on our table, but we bumped into another group of colleagues on their way out after a team lunch. Their feedback was much the same; that while the Berry Pulao and the drinks were fantastic, the rest of the dishes they tried were a let down with the Caramel Custard being left unfinished at their table as well. I’ll be honest, I don’t see myself going back here. Whenever my next visit to Cyber Hub is, I know there will be many more options to choose from with potentially better food.
So, where are you eating today?