Monday, May 17, 2010

Sunday Brunch, A Tradition Like No Other

During the high heat of the six month Delhi summer, an expatriate weekend is hardly complete without the time-honored tradition of Sunday brunch. Over the past six weeks, we have been out to brunch exactly six times. I've determined Sunday brunch is the sole reason I haven't seen Biggest Loser-like weight loss. Brunches in India typically fall into one of two categories; the "over the top social scene" brunch and the "restaurant just wants to make life easier on themselves" brunch. We've been to both, and not surprisingly, find ourselves gravitating toward the former category.

Over the past few weeks, we've been fortunate enough to brunch (is it inappropriate to use it as a verb?) at Set'z (which is apparently a trendy way to spell the word "zest"), Olive, and the Leela Kempinski Gurgaon. Each of these places is basically at the same price point, INR 1800 - 2400 ($40 - $50), which is a lot of money here for a meal, but surprisingly, I've never walked away disappointed or feeling like it wasn't worth the price. Not only is it basically our only meal of the day but it also serves as entertainment for the better part of the afternoon. From my perspective, I'm actually keeping Lindsay from shopping for 3+ hours on a Sunday, so it could be (easily) argued that these brunches actually save money.

Set'z (aka, Zest)
Like many nice things in India, Set'z is located in a mall. However, the DLF Emporio Mall is unlike any other mall I've seen in India. If you're into super-luxe shops, it puts the Magnificent Mile or other shopping meccas to shame; it's home to Delhi's outlets for extreme luxury goods; Versace, Dior, Cartier, Armani, and Jimmy Choo to name a few. For the most part, the only thing I can afford in the building is brunch at Set'z. The food is split into geographic genres that span the globe. Culinary highlights include freshly tossed Caesar salad and some of the best sushi I've had in India. In addition to the food and what helps provide the value in the INR 2000 cost, is the free flow of imported sparkling wine or whatever your beverage of choice. Of course, this portion of the brunch basically renders the rest of your day unproductive, there are certainly worse places and ways to toil away an afternoon in India.

Set in close proximity to Qutab Minar, Olive at 1 Style Mile has long been one of our favorite restaurants in Delhi. Part of the allure of Olive is it's outdoor setting under a huge banyan tree. So while they do have indoor seating and it's likely a better choice during the winter, they do a nice job of cooling down the outdoors with large fans and misting machines (yes, like the ones on sidelines at football games). The spread at Olive isn't quite as extensive as the other locations; however, there are still ample choices including their thin crust pizza and a live grill with excellent prawns. The only down side to Olive (since the price requires you to drink to achieve the desired level of value) is that sparkling wine is not included in the price. While the other choices were more than adequate, you've got to think this will become some sort of competitive disadvantage down the road.

Leela Kempinski
The Leela was the site of this week's brunch and easily had the most extensive selection. If you wanted it, you could basically have it. I hadn't been to the Leela hotel, which is one of Gurgaon's newer business hotels, and had heard very good things both about the hotel and the brunch. They even found a way to give a hotel located adjacent to one of Gurgaon's largest malls actual views of something other than construction. While our table looked out over the hotel entrance, just across the road was actual open space yet to be claimed by DLF or Unitech or whatever other development company comes along next. Described by the locals as jungle (and who am I to argue), it actually looks a little more like desert with scrub trees, it's still a nice break from the constant views of progress (i.e., cranes and construction). The only detriment to the experience was the "iced popsicle with alcohol" the waiter passed around the table. It was ice on a stick soaking in some blue liquid in a tumbler. Looked appetizing enough. What they failed to mention was that it had been "Indianized" with a dusting of masala powder. Not a flavor I enjoy, yet not near enough to destroy the experience.

While it's probably not necessary to hit these brunch spots each week, if for no other reasons than it both makes me sound like a pompous entitled brat and inspires a certain level of lethargy and naps, these Sunday afternoons do provide a great way to meet and connect with friends (and provides a nice respite from the heat, noise, chaos found in most other parts of our expatriate world).


  1. Maybe I'll suggest the Leela to Paul!

  2. The mall that it's adjacent to (it's strange, they appear to be physically connected but you have to go outside to get into the mall...maybe it's a security thing?) houses one of the two microbrews in town (if that were to be a tie-breaker for any reason).

  3. excellent blog and post. do come try the brunch at our restaurant in new friends colony as well. we live in gurgaon as well (laburnum) and our asian restaurant is called the yum yum tree (

    also, for breakfast the hotels do a very good job too - the westin and oberoi in gurgaon are breakfast favourites.