Cafe Lota (National Crafts Museum, Bhairon Marg, Pragati Maidan, New Delhi)


This is a review by YUMMRAJ’s foodie friend Rashi Agarwal. She is the one who poked & prodded YUMMRAJ to go to this place.

YUMMRAJ’s review is placed just below this review:

cafe lota
cafe lota

So one fine day I decided to ditch the malls and go to the National Science Center and National Crafts Museum. What I expected while entering the majestic gate of the museum was some beautiful pottery, paintings on the wall and ancient artifacts that will take me back to the Indian glorified history. Whie walking in I saw Café Lota on the right side and thought it must be a tea/coffee break place which I will explore on my way back. Quite taken aback by all the beautiful Indian history I saw in the museum I sit in this café to order a cuppa at the café , open the menu and am speechless! Some of the first few things I saw on the menu were “Ragi Banana Pancakes, Amritsari Fish and Sweet Potato Chips, Quinoa Upama”. The first thing I did was google the place to see that did I just make a discovery like Columbus or is it a known place and I am living in oblivion.

A view of the Crafts museum near its entrance.
A view of the Crafts museum near its entrance – notice the wall paintings done by traditional craftsmen from across the country

Guess , I was actually unaware of this little jewel . But as they say it’s never too late.

the dining hall of cafe lota
the dining hall of cafe lota

Coming to the food we ordered , but of course the Fish and Chips. I think that was the most ordered item on almost every table my eyes could reach. One of the best fusion food I have come across. Melt in mouth fillets of Sole fish accompanied by, the healthier cousin of potato, sweet potato. I couldn’t have ever thought of this before I actually ate it! Remembered this quote “ The greatest things are the simplest”

A Gujarati wall mural - on the foreground & Lota shop in the background
A Gujarati wall mural – on the foreground & Lota shop in the background

Next I had the Kerela Chicken Stew and chose Appam as the complimentary bread. The aroma of the chicken stew was enough to make me smile and the first bite of the dish straight away transferred me to the backwaters. I really wish they had Malabar parathas to go with this dish!

why is this place called lota?
why is this place called lota? – there is a booklet that describes this concept

While I was having the main course I read on the internet about a lot of people raving about the Bhapa Doi Cheesecake, so I ordered the same. Well definitely it did justice to the fusion food theme of the restaurant and tasted nice, but I am not sure if it will be go-to dessert the next I visit the café. It just lacked a whiff of a magic wand to make it into a perfect dessert that makes you crave for it in the middle of the night.

the detailed read of 'why lota'.
the detailed read of ‘why lota’.

With the Delhi weather becoming more outdoor friendly I am surely going back here very soon. Can’t wait to try the beetroot chops, kachcha aam prawn curry and the kurkura baingan raita. If the management is reading this please do add some more dessert options!

Lota - on the wall
Lota – on the wall

YUMMRAJ says:

In a nutshell:

A simple yet excellent restaurant that has a calming effect, starkly different from modern Delhi brick & glass restaurants, live bansuri on Saturdays, outstanding food & very good service. In short, I was floored.

Address & other details:  Café Lota

Meal for 2: Rs. 750 onwards

Cuisine type : Vegetarian & Nonvegetarian

Disclaimer: All restaurants / eateries reviewed by YUMMRAJ were visited by YUMMRAJ himself & he has paid for the full Bill & tips also. http://www.yummraj.com does not have even one featured / sponsored reviews. YUMMRAJ believes in going to a restaurant in anonymity, as a normal guest, experience everything & give a honest account of the same to you.

receipt - proof of payment
receipt – proof of payment

I rate all the food items & then give a final overall rating which is a simple average of the individual item ratings. What the ratings stand for: 5 = Excellent, 4 = Very Good, 3 = Good, 2 = Fair, 1 = Disaster.

receipt - proof of payment
receipt – proof of payment

Short Description – in case u r in a hurry:

The restaurant is located inside The National Crafts Museum – A museum that I might have visited at least 20 times in the last few years & have always found something new, something intriguing about the amazing art forms, handicraft & artefacts from around our country. I have taken all my guests (to Delhi) at least once….

So when I heard from my friend Rashi (she has written the post above this), I was a bit surprised. I had seen a usual café there & it was no great shakes. So YUMMRAJ & lady YUMMRAJJ ended up here after a good bit of prodding by Rashi.

The doubts in my mind disappeared as soon as I spoke to the server. He said this café is owned by the same Guy who runs Roots café in Gurgaon. I initially had the same feeling as Rashi (read above) after I saw the menu. That surprise led me to the question & after hearing the answer I knew why the menu was so unique.

The café has a natural set up & that means it is subjected to the vagaries of nature. There r things to beat the weather but those r not perfect. Pls do not go here if u r averse to any bit of weather excesses.

The structure is made of iron which is painted black. But to take away the boring black pillars, they have painted it with floral traditional designs.

One side of the café is the Lota shop. Its walls have been painted / made by artisans from Gujarat.

Furniture is basic but comfortable.

The menu card is a marvel. It had the names & the description of the food as well. We kept reading some or the other new thing on every page & our conversations wud not stop…. It was quite a task to choose from such a bunch of interesting items.

One of the best things we came across is a gentleman playing a flute (without accompaniments). He was really good with it – from classical music to Bollywood classics – he was adept at all. He wud walk all around the restaurant & play the music. While he wud rest, he wud hum a song…or two.

Though this restaurant is kind of open air & inspite of the fact that it is near the busy street, there is no sound that reaches here from outside…. As tranquil as it can b…..

The servers were very good. They took care. They knew about their food & they added value to the experience.

Detailed Description – In case u have the Time to NJOY reading:

We started the lunch with some items from ‘Smaller plates’.

We started our lunch with Bombay Keema Bao. Loved the twist in the tale – keema pao made in the form of a bao. It was essentially Steamed bao stuffed with minced goat meat, served with a sriracha dip. The bao was very soft, had mild fermented feel to it, was crispy on the bottom layer & generally very good.

Bombay Keema Bao
Bombay Keema Bao

The meat was machine minced – so was non juicy & too uniform. It lacked intensity & was a bit dry. However it tasted very good & its flavors were as good as they cud get – culmination of meat & spice flavors. Rate it 4/5

a peep inside Bombay Keema Bao
a peep inside Bombay Keema Bao

The next dish we ordered was Mutton sukka – Spicy boneless goat meat pieces stir fried with curry leaves & thin slices of coconut , tempered with coconut oil. This was served with ragi appam.

Mutton sukka
Mutton sukka

The meat was very soft , YUMM, spicy & just too good. The coconout pieces added to the taste. Curry leaves & coconut added to the flavor. Loved it very much & rate it 4.5/5.

Mutton sukka
Mutton sukka

We then moved to the larger plates section.

We chose a vegetarian dish here – Bhatt ki churkani, bhang ki chutney, aloo ke gutke, Kumaoni raita. The menu card introduced this as ‘Home style specialities from Uttarakhand.S curry made with Bhatt – an indigenous black bean. Hemp (bhang) relish, spicy potato curry, cucumber mustard raita , served with steamed basmati rice & ragi roti.’

Bhatt ki churkani, bhang ki chutney, aloo ke gutke, Kumaoni raita
Bhatt ki churkani, bhang ki chutney, aloo ke gutke, Kumaoni raita

The bhang chutney was very different than anything I have tasted so far. Just loved it. Rate it 4.5/5

 bhang chutney
bhang chutney

The bhatt ki churkan was as close to ‘home made’ as possible. Simple yet so nice. No added cream, no usual add ons. Loved it a lot. Rate this 4.5/5

bhatt ki churkan
bhatt ki churkan

The aloo ki subzi was very good – lacked a pinch of salt. On adding the salt it turned out to b excellent. Takes real calibre to transform the humble aloo to something as good as this. Rate it 4/5. Wud hv rated 4.5/5 had the salt been perfect.

aloo ki subzi
aloo ki subzi

Ragi roti – Oh I just loved it. Remined meof some extraordinary rotis I had in villages of Rajasthan years back. Rate it 4.25/5.

Ragi roti
Ragi roti

Cucumber mustard raita was thick & smooth. The cucumber was just the right thickness. The best part was that it had mustard in it & that made all he difference. Rate it 4.5/5

Cucumber mustard raita
Cucumber mustard raita

Overall rating of this dish averages out to 4.35/5

Prawn & raw mango curry
Prawn & raw mango curry

The last dish in main coures was Prawn & raw mango curry in coconut milk. Once again, a marvel of a dish. It was faintly similar in texture to malai curry but different in taste was due to the sourness of raw mango & its flavor. Super loved this & drank off the full gravy till the last drop. Rate it 4.5/5

prawn & raw mango curry
prawn & raw mango curry

For dessert we chose Apple jalebi & coconut rabri. The apple jalebis were unidirectionally sweet. The apple cud not make its presence felt. The outer layer was very crispy. It was good but not great.

The apple jalebis
The apple jalebis

The marvel in the dish was however the coconut rabri. It was low sweet, high on flavor, dense, intense. It acted as a good balance to the over sweet jalebi.

Apple jalebi & coconut rabri
Apple jalebi & coconut rabri

Together they were yin & yan.

Rate this dish 4/5.

The last dish we had here was Khajoor samosa. These were flat samosas with khajoor (date) & sesame filling indise, the samosa had a super crisp outer layer. This was just excellent. The date was intense & the sesame tasted & felt very good.

Khajoor samosa
Khajoor samosa

The samosa was erved with flavored whipped cream. Amazing how good they had infused the flavor in the cream.

Rate this dish 4.5/5

We has Masala chaas – It was thick, had a mild sour taste, was full of coarsely ground spices & tasted real good. Rate it 4.25/5

The Nimbu paani stumped me. I don’t know whether it was the heat outside that made me love this drink so much. It had perfect balance of sweet, salt & sour. Rate it 4.5/5.

Overall rating of food & beverages at Café lota averages out to 4.33/5. I wud surely revisit to try out each & every dish. What about u?

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