A couple of weeks ago, the office group pinged as usual. For a second, I thought we were discussing a post that had to go live. However, the group that exists to make our work from home life easier (which occasionally sees a joke or two) pinged with 'food news'. One of the team members shared a trending thread on twitter. The conversation was about how The Big Chill Cafe in Delhi is overhyped. This was followed by a discussion, which obviously divided the group. I, of course, completely disagree with those who think Big Chill (as we lovingly call it) is not worth the hype.
While some people might say, it's just a restaurant. For me, the restaurant is home. It's the place I wait to go to when I fly back home from Mumbai. It's also the place where my order hasn't changed for the last ten years and where where my best friend and I go together when he visits home.
21 years and going strong
In 2000, when the cafe first opened, it had the advantage of being the first to offer Italian food in Delhi with a menu inspired by the all-time-favourite flick, Breakfast at Tiffany's. Owned by Fawzia Ahmed and Aseem Grover, who entered the industry with little to no experience, Big Chill is a little bit of a modern-day landmark in the capital Ahmed ran an Asian women's refuge in the UK for eight years before she serendipitously met Grover on a trip to Rwanda. Once back in India, the two joined forces and opened The Big Chill as an ice cream parlour. The duo worked together to build the cafe into an iconic haunt slowly, but surely, with Ahmed curating a majority of the menu. And as the business grew, they started adding different cuisines and dishes, too.
The feud that never ends
I will find every point in the book to be on the winning side of this argument, so just hear me out. I've never had a meal there that ended badly and that is saying something, isn't it? Over the years, the original cafe in East of Kailash turned into an iconic chain of multiple cafes. Until the pandemic, they had no social media presence, either. Their popularity has always grown through word of mouth and they have made sure to keep the taste that they represent intact.
While doing my research, I also realised that in Khan Market, one of the most expensive markets in the country, there are restaurants and stores opening and closing every three to four years. Growing up, I have seen some eateries move to other corners of Delhi as it was cheaper to operate from there.The pandemic saw several stores and restaurants closing their doors because of the sky high rents. However, The Big Chill Cafe continues to have all it's outposts and its sister brands, The Big Chill Cakery and The Big Chill Creamery, running uninterrupted across the city. There must be something they're doing right to withstand the impediments of the F&B biz, even if a handful of people think the cafe is overhyped.
And what I love, about Big Chill, the most, perhaps is that even after being around for so many years, much of their ethos has remained the same. Be it their rustic ambience, interspersed with hues of olive green and bright orange, the cafe's walls that are emblazoned with movie posters or the food, that has managed to retain its humble, satisfying flavours. The good part about being a Big Chill fan, is that you can walk with an expectation, and walk out with them having been met.
You can see this in their menu, too. And while some might be inclined towards calling it irrelevant, because they don't play around or innovate with the offerings much, it is homely, classic and timeless. All I am trying to say is, why fix something that's not broken? And in the end, we all know that the best thing about food is that it has the power of evoking emotions that one may have long forgotten otherwise. To that end, The Big Chill will always be special and that place where I share my Mississippi Mud Pie with my baby sister; where I had my first pepperoni pizza; and it's also, where I had my first date at the age of 16.
I would like to end with a life changing recommendation - their double chocolate decadence cake will change the way you look at chocolate cake. And if you don't, then please do tell me what you think didn't work for you. I'm intrigued.
Devika is not just a food writer, she is a writer with a political science background. She switched her field to pursue her dream of writing. She is up to date with all things travel, food, pop culture, and Instagram. When she is not writing to meet her deadlines, Devika spends most of her time reading, binge-watching Gilmore Girls for the nth time and scrolling through Zara’s newest collection.