Nestled in the heart of Meher Chand Market, Chez Nini‘s humble interiors belie its tasteful dishes. The restaurant opened its doors to food aficionados only three weeks ago and has already mustered a cluster of loyal customers. The décor designed by chef-and-owner Nira Singh herself, is nothing too ornate or extravagant, rather it’s elegant and inviting. Warmly lit by an army of tiny lights, an artistically designed nest looms overhead. Supporting the nest is a quasi-metal tree, tucked at the corner of one of the walls, which glows somewhat like a Halloween pumpkin, while its braches arch up and sprawl across the ceiling. The tables are made from the Neem tree and the flooring is of bamboo wood. The idea was to create a space that reminds its guests of nature, in a way.
A fantastic French Brasserie, it also offers the Canadian Poutine on the menu. They haven’t acquired a liquor license yet (which they assure will take a few weeks), but in the meantime, you can skim through their ice-tea menu. Try their Pomegranate Ice-tea (Rs. 100), which goes down smoothly on a hot summer evening. Next up, soup! Their New Delhi’s French Onion Soup (Rs. 300) is a must-have. The soup, made of caramelized onions comes with a floating loaf of melted-cheese bread. Packed with bangs of flavour, this dish is quite filling. Word of advice: order only if you are absolutely famished. If you want to get straight to the entrées, try out their Chicken Balotine (Rs. 400), which is a belt of stuffed chicken rolls with an all spice gravy poured generously on top. Roasted pinenuts and tiny potato cubes sprinkled as garnish add texture to the dish. However, if you are someone who enjoys pork, ask for the Rillette de Pork & Olive Bread (Rs. 450). This dish comes with a dollop of hummus-like pork belly and a spread of crisp biscuit bread, which is made at the restaurant itself. As an aside, you are given some greens, confit tomatoes and tomato jam. The dish can be slightly on the drier side, so order according to your palate. If you are a vegetarian, we suggest you try Chez Nini’s signature dish Nini Poutine (Rs. 325), a dish that echoes flavours and memories of Montreal. This is a handsome portion of French fries, soaked in caramelized onion gravy and home-made cheese curd – which are tiny pillows of absolute goodness. Be careful though, the fries become soggy within minutes, so if you like your fries to be crisp, this may not be the best dish for you.
The main course however, is a charmer. Go for the oven-cooked duck, which is beautifully tender and succulent. The Confit Duck Legs (675) come with braised root vegetables, sweet potato, paper-thin slices of radish and turnip, and a tiny jar of landaise sauce (which I would have preferred to be slightly thicker) to pour over your scrumptious meal. And if you still have room for some good sweet lovin’, order the Chocolate Caramel Tart (Rs. 250) – this one is not on the main menu, so make sure you ask for it separately. The chocolate tart comes with oodles of caramel, a generous layer of chocolate on top and is sprinkled with sea salt to give that sweet-and-sour tang.
Chez Nini is only open for dinner at the moment (7pm onwards). Although walk-in dinners are welcome, its better that you reserve a table since there is a good possibility you wouldn’t get a place to sit. If you wish to bring your friends along and chitchat over some tea, coffee and cakes, the doors are open for you from noon onwards. The restaurant remains shut on Tuesdays._
Address 79-80 Mehar Chand Market, behind India Habitat Centre (Gate no. 3), Lodhi Colony, New Delhi
Reservations 011 49050665 or 9311125344
By: Radhika Iyengar