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There are few things more difficult than getting yourself to start going for morning walks in Delhi’s pitiful excuse of a monsoon season. I had been trying to get going for several weeks, on occasion even succeeding in rousing myself in the wee hours of the morning. But I would lose heart when just a step out of the house confirmed that sona inside was infinitely better than sauna outside.
Then I had one of those things which people rather theatrically call brainwaves: why not motivate myself with some good food?
That’s where Nagpal comes into the picture.
Earlier in the summer, on our way back from a disappointing EOiD outing for a lunch buffet at the Durbar restaurant of The Ashok, then-new joinee Manik had casually said to me, “I’m sure you’ve tried out Nagpal’s Chhole Bhature near Moolchand?” with the firm conviction that anyone who had the temerity to host a blog on Delhi’s food scene must be long aware of such a popular favorite.
Embarrassed at my ignorance, I decided to make amends. Within a few days, I landed up at Amar Colony in my quest for Nagpal’s. Finding my way there wasn’t difficult — every rickshaw-puller and shopkeeper within a few miles of the place knows exactly where it is. I wouldn’t be surprised if the nearby Frank Anthony Public School officially describes its location as xyz blocks away from Nagpal’s.
Alas my first foray was destined to be in vain. Nagpal follows the Punjabi tradition of considering chhole-bhature as breakfast food, and opens for business at 7 o’clock in the morning. I imagine the concession to cosmopolitan city life is to keep the chhole-bhature coming till 2 in the afternoon, but that’s where he draws the line. If you land later than that, like I did, you might be able to scrounge some leftover aloo samose and daal samose, but that’s about all.
Of course, I was not going to be stopped so easily — the very next day, I scooted from work earlier than usual, and made sure I was at Nagpal’s well before two. And it was all worth it — Nagpal’s chhole are full-bodied and zesty (though Chacha’s of Kamla Nagar could help him become even better), and his bhature are wonderfully soft and speckled with paneer inside, just the way I like them. And Nagpal has just the thing to accompany a plate of his chhole bhature — a cold glass of sweet lassi, sourced from the shop next door. The two together will set you back by no more than Rs. 35!
For me, the other advantage of Nagpal’s is that unlike Chacha’s, I don’t have to stand in a long line of sweaty undergrads before I can get my hands on the goodies, and there are even tables where you can stand and eat, to the sounds of the local Punjabis striking petty business deals over lunch.
I have been to Nagpal’s several times since then, more than once leaving North Campus early only to be able to make it there before the two o’clock deadline. And yes, let the record state that it was the excitement of a breakfast at Nagpal’s which got me back into my early morning walk habit — that Saturday morning, I got up at 6:30am, walked 5½ kilometres from my home to Amar Colony, had breakfast with Nagpal’s regulars, and walked all the way back in utter bliss. Not bad for a first day, eh?
Location: As you come south on Josip Broz Tito Marg, don’t take the Moolchand flyover, but the slip road on the left of it. Proceed straight through the intersection with Ring Road, and then take the first left. After about 300m, you’ll see a market with a fruit juice stall on the corner. Nagpal’s is at the other corner of the same block. Or, just ask anyone around that area. Yes, anyone.
Timings: 7:30am – 2pm everyday.
update on Oct 24, ’07: the shop now calls itself Baba Nagpal’s, and the chhole-bhature+lassi combo costs Rs. 38.
update on Mar 21, ’08: inflation, inflation. The chhole-bhature now cost Rs. 25 a plate.