Kerala in the Village

by Rupali Lamba

published in Little Black Book – Delhi

Despite the 70 odd restaurants that exist in Hauz Khas Village at any given time, the discerning Dilliwaala tends to {repeatedly} gravitate towards a handful. For me, amongst my favourites are Yeti, Gunpowder {when it was still around}, TLR, Naivedyam, Diva Piccola, Fork You, and often Smokehouse Deli.

Remember the first time you walked into any of the aforementioned establishments – that feeling of wonder and anticipation; the knowledge that you were about to experience something that was going to become special. A space that was going to become a fixture in your life, whether it was the place you went to catch up with your friends to chase away the Delhi chill, or it was the place you went to dance the night away, lost in a musical frenzy; a place you repeatedly visited with your mum for brunch, or with your man-friends for gluttonous Sundays.

The Toddy Shop, located on the 2nd floor of what is now the Bootlegger building gave me those magical tingles; I haven’t experienced these since, well…Yeti, three years ago. The space has saffron milky walls, potted plants, indigo and ikat upholstery, a well-appointed stage, and slow rock wafting through the sound system.

We ordered a Pothu Erachi Varattiyathu, {a Kerala beef fry with Porottas}, an Erachi Ishtoo {goat and potato curry in coconut milk}, Erisheri {red lentils and pumpkins cooked with coconut}, Iddiappam and an egg appam. I liked everything – including the Erisheri. Not only was every item we ordered balanced in itself, but also interplayed with others beauteously. The beef fry was dark and spicy, without causing oil-induced nausea after a few bites. TheIshtoo did its job of creating flavour and heat, and then dumbing it down with the coconut milk. The Erisheri was sweet and creamy, with freshly cooked dal texture, and helped to bring all the flavours of the meal together.

I really enjoy this type of food {which I am sure you have noticed, considering all the raving} but have always been frustrated that most establishments serve a ‘thrown-together,’ mass produced version of the same. At The Toddy Shop, each dish is meticulously prepared and exhibits a level of balance that can only come from a mother’s kitchen. Speaking of mothers, the menu is a part of the arsenal of Mrs. Kutty, who is Anup’s mother. Anup, Lubna and Randeep ran Ziro in HKV, before creating The Toddy Shop.

I cannot wait to try some other very exciting dishes on their menu, such as Ammamma’s Karal Varrathiyathu, fried goat liver with black pepper and spices {apparently an heirloom recipe}, The Aila Varutharachatu {a mackerel Kerala curry}, and the Mulaga Podi {as a side}, which is basically gunpowder and ghee.

I will now answer your burning question: No, they do not serve Toddy, and yes, the liquor license is coming soon. I experienced the calm before the storm and mania The Toddy Shop promises to become. If you want to eat in the comfort of your home and not have to brave the throngs in the Village, they also home-deliver.

Lapping the Coast

by Shantanu David
published in Indian Express

At this particular party almost everyone is wearing Banana Leaf.

While restaurants in Hauz Khas Village usually tend to flash their signs and hoardings in the market louder than a garage rock band in a cul-de-sac, The Toddy Shop flouts the norm. Tucked away in a quiet corner of the hipster hub, the sole sign to the restaurant is in the form of a discreet star. Following it like the three wise men (more of the James Blunt variety than the biblical original), we find ourselves in a cool, yellow-lit space sparsely set with framed vintage Indian magazine covers, a photography exhibition by Amit Sharma, a small stage area and a few potted palms.
The menu, a trim single sheet glossy document, laps around the Malabar coast and tends to favour the red dot more than the green — all the better for us. There are family recipes aplenty with traditional stews, fries and sides, clearly marked ‘goat’ (not the generic lamb so beloved of most city restaurants) and seafood preparations dominating the options. At this particular party almost everyone is wearing Banana Leaf, and coconut, of course, is king.
Deciding we’ll sample the vegetarian fare on a Tuesday or any day when so many meats aren’t crying for our attention from so many spots on the menu, we start with Kutty’s Fried Chicken (or KFC, if you prefer) and the Pothu Erachi Varattiyathu, more simply known as the spicy beef fry of yore. The chicken, unlike its conglomerated counterpart, is simple-y winning, simbly winning even, comprising slightly larger morsels of chicken marinated in the owners’ secret spice mix and deep-fried with torn curry leaves. The beef fry comes enmeshed in curry leaves, fragmented coconuts and caramelised onions, the degree of doneness varying from as tender as Amma’s dulcet delivery to as tough as Mammootty’s glare. Though some of the pieces really make you work, the dish is wonderfully flavoured and we dispense with it post-haste.
Having partaken of the bounty of Kerala’s land for our starters, we dive into the sea for our mains, ordering the Toddy Shop Aila Mulakittathu (a spicy mackerel curry) and the elegantly alliterative Kayal Konchu Curry (backwaters prawn curry cooked with cocum in a spicy, thin gravy) along with the vital appams. The mackerel curry comprises a whole mackerel, tail up, in a consommé-thin red gravy and far more brackish than the fish in it, which is soft and flaky though lanced throughout with wiry bones. Though light and spicy, the noticeably nautical flavour of the curry will probably make it more palatable to those who prefer their seafood to actually taste of the sea. The prawn curry on the other hand is pure unadulterated, brow-mopping, tissue-reaching spicy and makes a splash with the appam. The unique flavour of the dried cocum berry, so soil-like in taste and texture, adds volumes to the dish, like a secondary character in a good book. As an aside, the appams at The Toddy Shop are textbook, ephemeral on the outside, substantial and filling in the centre. Stuffed to the gills as we are, we beg off dessert. We’ll be floating by soon enough anyway.