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New Delhi: Where To Eat, Sight-See And Shop Like An Insider

Anthropologist and ethnographer Wei Fen Lee - who's been going back and forth India for the past decade - shows us some of New Delhi's gems.

In this week’s guide, we enlist anthropologist and ethnographer Wei Fen Lee to give us the lowdown on the Indian capital’s best spots. Lee is currently chief of cultural intelligence at Quilt.Ai, a company that studies big data on human interaction – but within the local literary scene, she’s also known for founding Ceriph, a now-defunct journal that promoted the works of emerging Singapore writers and artists.

Wei Fen Lee

Lee specialises in South Asian Studies and has been based across India over the past decade – so you’ll want to pay attention to her recommendations:

FASHION

Ogaan

No. 3 & 4, Malcha Marg Market, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi -110021

Ogaan houses creations from Indian designers – from the biggest names to emerging brands. From Anamika Khanna’s intricate anarkalis (a traditional form of women’s dress) to contemporary ready-to-wear labels such as Bodice, it’s always a treat to check in at the Ogaan store to see what’s new in the native scene. Having begun with the intent of promoting Indian craftsmanship and textiles, Ogaan stays true to course and today walks the fine line between beautiful exhibition space (think natural light and old trees) and retail fun.


Nicobar

Unit No. 215, Second Floor,The Chanakya, Chanakyapuri,New Delhi, Delhi – 110021

Nicobar has been described as “coastal chic” – it taps onto a sense of ancient Indian Ocean traditions by paying homage to moon cycles and island living, while reimagining classic designs such as the kurta or dhoti with modern, cleaner silhouettes. The materials are a highlight for me: they use only natural fabrics such as jute, chandari silk, and organic cotton, while their home collection features brass, rattan, and marble.

Nimai

416 Shahpurjat Village, New Delhi

A strange and exciting mix of the urban and the rural, old-school tailor shops sit next to designer jewelry shops in the very slowly gentrifying neighbourhood of Shahpur Jat. Nimai is a multi-designer jewelry retail store that curates pieces from designers around the country. It’s a tiny shop in the middle of the neighbourhood, their range goes from intricate bridal to elemental minimal. I love popping by to see what’s new in the play of materials and shapes, given the ever-shifting world of modern Indian jewelry trends.

FOOD

Indian Accent 

The Lodhi, Lodhi Road, New Delhi

Newly opened in New York and London, Chef Manish Mehrotra’s original restaurant in Delhi has now expanded and moved to the Lodhi, On the Waterfront. Where Indian cuisine is notoriously famous for celebrating the classics, Indian Accent delights traditionalists by highlighting the potential extension of Indian flavor profiles. I make an annual pilgrimage here to witness the marriage of sweet pickles, spare ribs, sun dried mangoes, or tamarind flavours with crab and coconut curry…

Some other highlights include the bread bar, which features an Applewood smoked bacon kulcha (flatbread), but what really takes the cake for me is their warm doda bufi treacle tart from the dessert menu. Pretty much the best version of Indian fudge that exists.

Delhi Food Walks

Various parts of Old Delhi

Of all the food walks I’ve taken around the world, Anubhav’s food walk has been the most memorable. His job requires him to taste test every single street food stall in Old Delhi, a feat in itself given the sheer number of vendors on the ground (and stacked above each other). The Old Delhi walk de-mystifies the mazes that a foreigner might get lost in, and brings to light the best butter chicken (actually soaked in real butter, not the British style), galouti kebabs, and falooda, amongst others.

I tend to skip a meal before eating with Anubhav – prepare for a few hours of non-stop sampling and eating, squeezing through crowds, feeling refreshingly unlost.

Cafe Lota 

National Crafts Museum, Gate No. 2, Bhairon Marg, Pragati Maidan, New Delhi

My favourite place for reading a book or catching up with friends on winter mornings is under Café Lota’s thatched roof. They do a heartfelt take on homemade and street food dishes, and my favourites include the palak patta chaat with its pomegranate seeds, the sabudana popcorn with its killer green chili dip.

What get’s me every time however, is their apple jelebi with coconut rabri, which might just be the best take on apple fritters.

As its housed in the Crafts Museum, it’s also worth taking a wander around to check out what’s new in the craft store and special exhibits, which often spotlight different craft traditions from around India.

Push off the door of resistance – My click📸 #oldmemories #monument #nostalgia #iphone8

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ARCHITECTURE

Lotus Temple 

Lotus Temple Rd, Bahapur, Shambhu Dayal Bagh, Kalkaji, New Delhi

Amidst all the Hindu temples and mosques in Delhi, the Baha’i house of worship, also known as the Lotus Temple, stands out for its unique flowerlike shape and its openness to people of all religions and backgrounds. The temple was designed by Iranian architect Fariboz Sahba, whose use of biomimicry makes it a bit of an oasis in Delhi’s chaos: the approach is made stunning by the marble petals and surrounding ponds. The interior space features more marble leaves that approach but do not meet, externalizing the Baha’i belief in tending towards oneness.

✨ИНДИЯ И ЕЕ СВЕТЛЫЕ СТОРОНЫ✨ 🇷🇺 А с другой стороны в Индии есть много светлого. Например, Храм Лотоса в Дели. ✨ ⠀ Это Храм религии Бахаи, в основе которой идея единства Бога, единства религий и единства человечества. В нем могут совершать поклонение Богу все люди, без конфессиональных ограничений. ☝️ ⠀ Вход бесплатный. Единственные правила: при входе снять обувь, не использовать мобильные телефоны и фотоаппараты, внутри соблюдать тишину. Перед входом стоят 2 милых волонтера в обычной одежде и по очереди на хинди и на английском сообщают желающим войти основную информацию. Именно волонтёры, а не священнослужители. Их задача следить за порядком, и они же проводят молитвенные программы: чтение священных текстов и песнопения. Что важно, без музыкального сопровождения. ⠀ Храм Лотоса в Дели показался мне самым светлым, самым гармоничным храмом из всех, где мне представилось побывать. И кроме того, самым простым. Красивое здание, но внутри все просто: деревянные лавки, вазы со свежими гладиолусами и простая кафедра. ⠀ Но сколько воздуха, света, и акустика потрясающая. 🌟 ⠀ Здесь хорошо просто посидеть в тишине, или же послушать чтение текстов. Не важно, на каком они будут языке- язык Света, Любви и Добра един и понятен для всех. 🌎🌍🌏 🙏 ⠀ ⠀

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Jama Masjid

Jama Masjid, Chandni Chowk, New Delhi, Delhi, India

Still one of my favourite places in Delhi, and a sundown visit here is well worth the crazy navigation into the old city. The largest mosque in India, it was commissioned by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan (of Taj Mahal fame), it features minarets made of red sandstone and white marble, and the black and white marble of the courtyard floor is said to resemble a prayer mat.

Climb the southern minaret on a winter late afternoon for a good view of the old city – but avoid it in the summer as the heat and the crowds can make for a claustrophobic experience.

One of the best times to visit the temple is during Eid, where one can break fast with devotees in the courtyard, and then head on to the street stalls outside to enjoy the festive food specialities.

BOOKS

Bahrisons

Opp. Main, Khan Market, Rabindra Nagar, New Delhi, Delhi 110003

My go-to for books and checking out what’s new in the Indian literary scene. Bahrison’s is supposedly responsible for grooming the reading habits and literary tastes of generations of Delhites. Its narrow shelf lanes and the helpful staff who always have recommendations on hand while they multitask stacking and packing – from academic publishing to literary fiction – hint at the intimate relationship between Bahrisons and its readers.

While the international collection is decent, it is the Indian publishing houses, titles, and authors that are the highlight here.