Bringing an element of quirk in delicious food is not a skill many can master. But Gurugram‘s newest brewpub Ardor 29 does it with ease. Here’s why it should be your weekend itinerary. Text and Photographs By Bayar Jain
If you’re familiar with Gurugram, chances are you’re no stranger to the plethora of pubs that adorn Sector 29. Restaurants and micro-breweries spring up in this region like mating mice, possibly duplicating a conventional formula as each new venture is established here. When I first went to Ardor 29, this same thought lurked in my brain. Gurugram doesn’t need yet another brewpub, I thought. The fact that it happened to be a rainy day, leading to an almost-flood like situation in the area’s parking lot only heightened my worries.
Like a ray of hope in dark times – literally – the yellow logo of Ardor 29 caught my eye from a distance. It seemed as though this bungalow-like restaurant paid homage to its sister-restaurant, Ardor 2.1 in New Delhi’s Connaught Place, but with its own tinge of quirk. Climbing up the dark narrow stairs of the restaurant only reaffirmed this thought. Quirky posters, LED lights, and the words “Vellapanti kar jaao na (Lets do some time pass)” greeted me. A graffiti-style painting of a monkey on the walls of the first floor – the indoor dining area – added to the chill vibe that the place so skillfully creates. A mix of sofas and bar table stools serve as the perfect setting to sip on their delicious cocktails.
As you flick through their menu, the first thing you’ll notice is their tribute to all things vintage. You’ll find yourself transported straight to your school days all thanks to the snippets of Chacha Chaudhary, Archies, and Pinki comics that don the pages. Amid these lovely comics are drinks named Gin-e ka jaadu, Jaws, Beauty & the Beast. It’s instantly evident to me that here ‘conventional’ doesn’t exist.
The chhah (6 in English) was my first tonic for the night. This refreshing vodka-based drink skillfully combines kiwi, litchi, egg white, lime water, and lime juice to create a beautiful green colour. What might sound as a stiff drink turned out to be delightfully pungent and fresh. Our tip? Bite on the fresh piece of kiwi alongside to cut through the pungency if it gets too overpowering for you.
An equally light drink is their Summer Breeze. Dubbed as India’s first female beer, this fizzy Nimbuz-based drink gives you the excitement of alcohol, without the baggage of getting drunk and the bitterness.
For the ones who prefer something relatively bitter, try the Modi v/s Mamta – a personal favourite. This concoction of smoked whiskey with honey comes as a duo of contrasting flavours (hence the name!) The lingering flavour of smoke adds a touch of beautiful bitterness, while the accompanying honey cocktail soothes your palate. Not to miss the equally funky glasses they are served in! A closer look at the glass’ structure will help you understand which one is the ‘Modi’ drink, and which one is ‘Mamta’!
Another one of their quirkier, and truly unique drinks is the Thaan. Roughly translating to bolt in English, this green concoction truly lives up to its name. Served in a chilli-shaped glass with fresh herb springing out of the top, this drink has a multitude of flavours intermingling. Think spice, sweet, fresh, and citrus-y all mixed into one. The lingering flavour of paan adds an element of surprise; one which would be an ideal way to end your meal.
When drinking, chakna, or bar snacks, is a must. And Ardor 29 doesn’t disappoint! Keeping the spirit of unique presentation alive, each snack is also served in a similar quirky avatar.
I started my food journey with classic Chips & Dip. The two types of potato wedges (regular and peri-peri) came perched on a blackboard, with three different dips as accompaniments served in syringes. Crunchy on the outside, yet delightfully soft on the inside – just the way fries should be!
Another classic bar snack is tortilla chips. If given a choice, I could gorge on these delicious finger snacks all day long, more so with their variation of it. Named Soch Kahi Bhi Aa Sakti Haai, this is their desi take on the classic Mexican snack. Wondering why the weird name? A look at the dish will debunk all your questions though. Served in a large yellow sink, complete with a faucet, the nachos here are super crunchy. Their secret? Not using nachos! The fried goodies are actually rumali roti crisps served along with nutri keema dressed in salsa and cream cheese. The generosity of flavour is hard to miss. No matter how full you are, you’ll find yourself constantly reaching out for more.
Keeping up with the food extravaganza, a gigantic platter of vegetarian kebabs followed suit. Think of any Indian kebab, and you’ll find it on the plate! Ajwaini paneer tikka, achaari kumbh, bharwa chutney waale aloo, hara bhara kebab, dahi ke kebab, Punjabi tandoori soya chaap, kali mirch pudina ka paneer tikka, kaju khoya ki kurkuri tikka, and tandoori rani…phew! Long list of food, but one word to describe it: amazing!
After a long line of delicious food, choosing a favourite became a task. Then, the Japani samosa entered and I found ‘the one’. For starters, there’s absolutely nothing south east Asian about this deep-fried snack. The dish originally dates to the streets of Old Delhi and has been lost to urbanisation and globalisation since. Ardor 29 aims to bring this lost gem to the general Indian’s palate, and rightfully so! This flattened puff pastry has a flaky casing making it a fun mess to eat. Peas, potatoes, and mild spices cosying under this layer brings in the punch of flavour. However, it is the generous serving of a piping hot chickpea curry and a peanut chutney that makes it even more unique. One plate of this culinary delight is enough to satiate your hunger!
But main course remained, as did my craving for more comfort food. The India Gate picnic turned out to be the one-stop solution to all my main course woes. Served in a picnic basket and a miniature replica of The India Gate, this dish transported me back to the 90s. The homely flavour of rajma chawal coupled with rice papad took me down memory lane, while the orange candy accompanying reminded me of simpler times.
I was super stuffed by now, but there’s always room for dessert. Tea-ramisu satiated my sugar cravings in the best way possible. This light creamy layered tiramisu is abundantly flavoured with tea, giving you the ideal dish to end your meal. The sweetness isn’t overpowering, and neither is the cream. Despite eating for two hours straight, this dish left me craving for more. As I licked the last bite off my spoon, a smile spread across my face. If this is Ardor 29’s definition of vellapanti, then I don’t mind being jobless!