City Food – Shabnam Restaurant, Motor Market
The wall art.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Here in the Walled City the entire restaurant is uniquely adorned with hand-drawn paintings. This is a feast not merely for taste buds but also for the discerning eye.
And even before you enter Shabnam Restaurant you encounter art out there on the pavement—a fish and a rooster sketched in red and black on a metal box.
The wall next to the counter has the sketch of samovar which seems fitting for a Kashmiri specialty eatery. Piping hot tea is coming out of the kettle’s nozzle, and right into a cup.
Once inside, there’s the extraordinary back wall that builds on a fish and rooster motif—now hugely magnified. While, alongside the switchboard, a delicious whole chicken in a bed of salad leaves lies atop a serving dish supported on a long narrow stem. The illustration creates a languorous mood and you half expect Omar Khayyam to enter with his Rubaiyat and his wine glass.
And there’s so much more: the pantry offers the (unmasked) face of a man with a pointed moustache, intently gazing upon a samovar, with his large and so very expressive eyes.
“I don’t know who drew it,” explains the man on the counter, a native of Srinagar in Kashmir. “We bought the restaurant last year, and the drawings were already here.”
One of the most heart-winning aspects of this artsy restaurant is the fact that the drawings somehow seems integral to the place. The art doesn’t shout. And very much unlike other places, mostly in the hipster parts of the city, where the effort to be cool or artistic becomes simply overwhelming.
You can drop in anytime between 6 am and midnight, and, yes, the gushtaba is delicious. Shabnam Restaurant is tucked in the so-called Motor Market just across the road from Jama Masjid.
And yes, don’t forget to stop by the wash basin. Instead of the mirror, the wall has the sketch of a pierced heart showing a woman’s lips.
Good taste for the eye