Last weekend, Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium played host to Delhi’s first ever Great Indian Golchakkar (GIG) Carnival. A joint venture between a company called Gourmet Planet and The Ministry of Tourism, it was a 3-day festival amalgamating the best of Indian cuisine, music and a few lifestyle brands.
Bored of the usual Saturday night dinner scenes with my friends, we decided to head to it after chancing by on a Little Black Book Delhi article. A Rs. 200 entry charge seemed a fair price to pay for the kind of brands and events it promised to have (also filters out unscrupulous elements). At the entry, we were greeted by a big group of saffron-clad, snake-charmer-isque performers playing fungi, flute etc. Many an Instagram picture opportunity of this scene was lost due to bad lighting! Tsk tsk…
WHAT IT WAS ALL ABOUT
As we moved on, we figured that the actual carnival was sprawled across a massive area just outside the main stadium. The main stage for the music performances was situated somewhat in the centre of the venue (Karsh Kale and Papon – you guys were phenomenal). The organisers had managed to put together an impressive array of Delhi restaurants. South East Asian fare seemed to rule the roost with everyone from Asian Haus, Jade, Royal China, Guppy by Ai to Nagaland’s Kitchen being present. The Artful Baker and Sugar Blossoms Cake Studio (amongst others) served as cupcake-craving satisfiers. The stars of the event, however, were the street food vendors from Old Delhi, Lucknow, Kanpur, Amritsar, Hyderabad and beyond. Nand di Hatti (Sadar Bazar), litti chhokha from Bihar, Dilpasand Biryani (Jama Masjid), pyaar ki kachori from Jaipur – people devoured their offerings with delight.
To be honest, I felt a little bad for the 5-star hotels who had invested in huge spaces where one could actually sit down and eat. I believe that Delhi-ites would be more enticed by regional offerings rather than chain eateries, as was obvious from the fact that they thronged the local stalls with gusto. I mean, you can always swing by Maurya or the Claridges, but how many times will you trudge to Jama Masjid, right?
I was mighty impressed that there was a proper bar dispensing Absolut, Ballantine’s, Kingfisher etc. right there in the open, to a well-heeled and well-behaved crowd.
I liked the carnival so much on my first visit that I took a different group of friends to it the next day. (More visits = more food!)
First I tried the Loaded Potato Skins at Smokey’s BBQ and Grill. Sinful is the word. The potatoes were baked to perfection and the filling of sour cream, chives and cheese made me forget my morning workout. Totally worth the Rs. 250! I also love the fact that contrary to many ‘bbq’ joints, they had ample vegetarian options.
Then I tried the Soya Kathi Roll by Koyla Kebabs – it was pretty meh. My friend loved their Chicken Malai Tikka though! Finally, I got some sushi take-out from Sushiya. I picked up 4 pieces each of their Avocado Maki (delicious) and Crispy Veg Roll (the broccoli was the roll’s undoing).
On day 2, I had chhole bhature by Nand ki Hatti from Sadar Bazaar. My evening was made. For Rs. 200 a plate, they weren’t cheap but the ‘Delhi girl’ in me was oh-so-happy after gorging on spicy, greasy food! Nand has managed to dethrone Sita Ram (Pahar Ganj) from my list of best chhole bhature in Delhi.
We went back to Smokey’s and had fries (before guys, always). They were really good – thick-cut, seasoned with paprika and not too greasy.
Finally for dessert, we had the Nutella and Banana cupcake by Sugar Blossoms Cake Studio (full disclosure: my sister is the founder of Baked Love by Vatsala, a direct competitor). The cupcake itself was banana, with a Nutella-flavoured icing topped with a banana piece slathered in caramel. I loved it so much I only grudgingly shared it with my friends.
So much for the good part. I wish the organisers had marketed this event better. I did not know of it till I read the LBB post. I was amazed Delhi could have such a festival – food, culture and music galore; decent crowd (surprise, surprise); ample parking; beautiful venue. In stark contrast to other food festivals which are attended by scores of people but where everyone ends up complaining about bad management and small-portioned, pricey food, The GIG Carnival has an opportunity to offer something different and better.
I hope there is a part two which is executed well after the learnings from version one.