Coffee Shop, The Ashok Hotel, New Delhi

[Rating:2/5] 7th April was World Health Day 2009, and saw The Ashok Hotel attempting a culinary makeover with the introduction of healthier recipes and ingredients. Invited to the Ashok Coffee Shop by Chipo@Perfect Relations, I was looking forward to the experience. My dining companions included Pamela Timms of, Hemanshu from Eating Out in Delhi (, Deepinder from and Angad Sodhi from Mail Today.

Arriving at the Ashok Coffee Shop, we met up with Chefs Rajiv Chopra,  Gaurav Varshney and Montu Saini, and were introduced to the reasons behind their makeover attempt. The management would like the cuisine at the Coffee Shop to embrace healthier culinary practices and churn out food that’s heart and soul friendly… which is quite different from soul food, as I’m sure most of us would agree. Anyhow, they’ve started this concept of a Chef’s Table, which needs to be pre-booked and will have bespoke menus prepared for the event, in consultation with the guest and the Chef. Based on Chef Chopra’s introduction to the subject, the Chef’s Table will feature… olive oil! He was careful to point out that this is only being introduced for patrons of the Chef’s Table. Apart from this, the Coffee Shop will also offer it’s guests brown rice and new varieties of cheese. They’re also (going by the buzz) big fans of sugar substitute Stevia, which apparently is 300 times sweeter than sugar, is herbal and has no (known) side effects.

We were served a meal consisting of:

  • Roasted Tomato Soup
  • Chilled Beetroot Borscht
  • Whole Wheat Pasta and Rocket Salad
  • Jardiniere Salad with Feta Cheese
  • Mediterranean Beetroot Salad
  • Raw Zucchini Salad
  • Assorted Breads

Accompanying the above were desserts:

  • Phirni
  • Shahi Tukra
  • Seviah
  • Tiramisu
  • Lemon Mousse
  • Sugar Free Petits Fours
  • Atta (wholemeal flour) cookies

Now that the reporting bit is done let’s begin the part about expressing opinions.

Simply put, the entire experience could have been managed much better if bloggers as a species hadn’t been underestimated and more attention were paid to the details. Now, this may not be true, but it certainly was what I felt. Why else would a chap toss some vegetables together, throw on a splash of a modified vinaigrette and present it to us with a ‘voila’, no less? I mean, that’s something I’m teaching my 7 year old! The ‘Parmesan basket’ in which it was served didn’t appear to be Parmesan, though I may be mistaken about that.

  • The breads were at least 12 hours old and were closer to breadcrumbs I’d say. The ‘healthy’ sandwiches were hard slices of brown bread with an undressed mixture of sprouts and vegetables. Most of us, when making a sandwich, instinctively toss in something to act as a binder, even if it’s something as ordinary as whipped yogurt, so the contents stay in place when the sandwich is being eaten. Not here though.
  • All the desserts, without exception, were a big thumbs down, at least in the Indian context. None were anything close to sweet.
  • The Tiramisu wasn’t a Tiramisu and was sprinkled with generous doses of instant coffee, instead of cocoa powder.
  • The Shahi Tukra had clearly been sitting there for quite a while, as it turned into a soggy mess when touched with a spoon.
  • The sugar-free chocolates and petits fours were nice and would have been a credit to the chefs until they were queried about the slightly sweet taste. After a few minutes of insisting they were entirely sugar free, we were informed that the chocolate is actually purchased as is and they were ‘told’ it is sugar free by the vendor. Tsk tsk. Also, cake is a major constituent of Petits Fours, which was missing here.
  • The Atta Cookies had an overwhelming taste of artificial sweetener.
  • The croutons in the Roasted Tomato Soup were soggy without a hint of their usual crispy nature.

The Lemon Mousse and the Kiwi Cheese Cake were technically well done, were it not for the utter lack of sweetness. The Borscht was nice, but was missing the traditional addition of sour cream or yogurt. The Roasted Tomato Soup was nice.

Honestly, I didn’t see anything spectacular about using Olive Oil for Indian food or the spread we were served. Sure, it’s a step in the right direction. Going by the experience meted out to reviewers however, I’d say the average guest should wait a while before trying out the ‘new menus’ at the Ashok Coffee Shop.

To their credit, I will say the presentation of everything was excellent.

– Sid

[nggallery id=22]

Sid Khullar

Sid Khullar is the founder of Chef at Large, a blog that began in 2007. He enjoys cooking, writing, travelling and technology in addition to being a practising Freemason. Health and wellness is a particularly passionate focus. Sid prefers the company of food and animals to most humans, and can be reached at