City Obituary – Appetite German Bakery, Paharganj
Death of an icon.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The tables and chairs are gone. The cake counter is gone. The kitchen at the back is gone.
One of Delhi’s quirkiest hang-outs has become history. Appetite German Bakery, in Paharganj, has closed permanently—the owner’s brother confirms. Not wishing to be named, he says the coronavirus pandemic is the reason behind the closure. The place was founded 30 years ago, he informs. It underwent two major renovations over its lifetime (the earlier wicker chairs were sorely missed).
For many in the Capital, the backpackers’ district of Paharganj is a place to mingle around with eclectic post-hippie foreigners.
Appetite was its archetypal hang-out, where you would try “baahar ki (from abroad)” dishes for cheap, and chat up with backpackers in the neighbouring tables. These exotic strangers, looking so free while away from their cultures and countries, would be reading Lonely Planets or playing guitars or writing in their notepad, or simply showing off their tattoos and piercings. Words like ‘Goa’, ‘Manali’, and ‘Benares’ would be overheard again and again, in French, German, Hebrew accents. The manager, Farid, would be sitting in a corner playing chess.
Appetite had many dishes misspelled in the menu and the Today’s Special, hand-written on a white board, wouldn’t change for weeks. Whatever, the bakery counter was an eye-catcher with trays of almond cake, lemon iced cake, banana cake, chocolate banana cake, chocolate cake, and cheesecake. The fresh papaya juice was heavenly. Momos were yummy, so were the ratatouille and aloo parathas. The honey ginger lemon tea was Delhi’s best. Even so, you would be allowed to spend a whole day here over cups of masala chai alone.
The Delhi Walla has an archive of hundreds of photos of foreigners passing through this cafe.
They include an elderly woman from Sydney, Australia, who suddenly started dancing by her table; a hospital staffer from Wisconsin, the US, sitting thoughtfully with his guitar; and a designer from Normandy, France, jotting in a diary clipped with fabrics of various shades. The dinner regulars would faithfully feed the stray dogs outside.
The eatery’s glass wall too was a distraction, showing Paharganj’s cosmopolitan street life—matronly Central Asian women in robes and head scarves, Israeli rabbis in Hasidic hats and side-locks, Indian flute sellers and loafing cows heedless of bikes and autos.
The place that was Appetite is being remodelled. Very soon, a 24/7 convenience store will open in its place.