Best Day Ever

Hammams, Outdoor Markets, and Heavy Ingestion in Delhi

by Vandana Verma
Time travel in Delhi. Photo by Crystal Meers.

Vandana Verma is the editor of The India Tube, an indispensable India travel guide that's as beloved by locals as it is by travelers. Here she advises on how to experience her current homebase at its best.

DELHI – Delhi isn't a city as much as a sprawling cacophony of voices, footpaths, and dust. Oh so much dust. The outward expansion of my city has created a beast in which there's way too much to see and do, from parks dotted with Mughal-era tombs to bars overlooking 11th-century minarets and urban villages that are splitting at the seams with restaurants and boutiques. You'll need a full 24 hours, a spare stomach, and teleportation abilities to cram it all in.


There's no better place to wake up than in a suite at The Lodhi (formerly Aman New Delhi), with its private terraces and plunge pools in the heart of the city. It's like living in a film. And it's not a perfect day without a massage, so it's lucky that the hotel's spa is the best in the capital, with a hammam treatment on its menu that leaves me scrubbed raw and softer than chamois.

The Lodhi

Photo courtesy of The Lodhi.

I forsee a lot of ingestion ahead, so breakfast is light, fresh, and at Nourish Organics, a great little cafe with lovely staff and selection of a raw treats. There's something so decadent about pizza for brekka, even if the "pizza" in question is a buckwheat cracker topped with olive tapenade, cherry tomatoes, alfalfa sprouts, and lots of nuts, seeds, and salad leaves. It's just so delicious.


Time to visit Dariba Kalan in Old Delhi's Chandni Chowk, where every tiny hole in the wall is bursting with display cases lined with silver jewelery, strings of semi-precious stones, and other, extremely twinkly bits. Everything is spendy but negotiable, so I always come away with a trinket or ten.

The markets of Old Delhi

Photo by Crystal Meers.


I defy anyone to not love Thugs, a wonderfully bizarre pub at Hotel Broadway, a glamorous old Art Deco hotel, where they give homage to "the hard-drinking villains" of Hollywood and Bollywood. Pencil and pen-and-ink sketches of cinematic rogues loom large over brass-railed banquettes, and the beer is so, so cheap.


Thanks to my wholesome start, I'm famished. I pick up my husband, Gaurav, and head to Hauz Khas Village, a dusty urban village that's been appropriated by restaurateurs, designers, jewelers, and all of Delhi's hipsters. We complain daily about the parking and about how crowded and oversubscribed it is, but with its seemingly endless stream of eateries, we're never away for long. We go to Yeti - Himalayan Kitchen (50a, 2nd Flr., Hauz Khas; +91-11-4067-8649), which is always full, and order butter-fried beans and pork momos. These fat dumplings are stuffed with spiced pork and then steamed, and they're among the best in town.

Nappa Dori

Photo courtesy of Nappa Dori.


Since we're not quite ready to surrender our hard-won parking spot, we meander through Hauz Khas Village, stopping in at Nappa Dori to eye the pop-bright enamel-painted steamer trunks. Nappa Dori's two stores, the original in Hauz Khas Village, and a larger, newer shop in Meharchand Market, are jam-packed with soft, beautiful leather accessories — large doctor bags, buttery wallets, and belts — as well as printed canvas iPad cases, those painted steamer trunks, and other beautiful pieces of reimagined-retro luggage that demonstrate the instinct of their designer, Gautam Sinha, for classic detailing.


Lodhi Garden ("Delhi's Central Park") might get all the attention, but Deer Park is right next door. We meander through the park, around the water reservoir that's as green as Kermit on an off day, through to Rose Garden on the other side.

Indian Accent

Foie gras-stuffed galawat. Photo courtesy of Indian Accent.


It's been a heavy day of eating, but it's not a perfect day without dinner at the shrine to modern-Indian cooking, Indian Accent at the Manor. The staff are incredible and really know the menu, and I order the panko-crusted green chili stuffed with goat cheese mousse (a personal favorite). Gaurav loves amusing twists on food, and foie gras-stuffed galawat kabab served with a smear of strawberry and green chili chutney are the wittiest. Of course there are wine pairings.


There is no way that any more food can go in our mouths, but the night is young and the sweltering day cools into a more-tolerable night (leaving aside the pesky smog to which all Dilliwallas must, at some point, become oblivious). We drive to Moolchand Mehrauli for a glass of wine at Le Bistro Du Parc, a park-facing bistro with a short list of cocktails. Le Bistro is known for its creative, gourmet cooking at reasonable prices, skillfully-executed modern dishes that use both local and seasonal ingredients, but we'll save those for another day perhaps, another pair of elastic-waist trousers.


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