City Hangout – Amour de Café, Chitli Qabar
New in old.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Spitting, swearing, feet-shuffling—Oh là là! The market lane is quivering like a rushing river—a cotton candy man is shoving his way through the yelling crowd, followed by a hawker of glass bangles, followed by a guava seller, followed by a battery rickshaw. A black cat with irregular white stripes is inspecting the scene from a high-altitude tin roof.
A typical Walled City chaos. Yet you feel aloof. The very French sounding Amour de Café is the only place in old-world Chitli Qabar Bazar to indulge in a quiet me-time with an Americano (or double espresso!). Just like the gentry in posh Khan Market.
Opened just before the Omicron wave of the pandemic, the glass walls of the first-floor hangout give a panoramic view of the Mughal-era quarter, including of the dangerously dangling power cables. You’ll be instantly taken in by the catchy bazar signages: Abdullah Textiles, Dr Sachdeva Memorial Dental Clinic, Zardoz, Bhai Chhotu Dal Chawal Wale… a displaced ‘e’ in a jewellery shop hoarding has split the word ‘jewellers’ into ‘jew’ and ‘llers’.
While Old Delhi is obsessed with sweet milky chai (“malai mar ke”), it is not hostile to the coffee civilisation. In winters, many stalls serve the delicious butter coffee (not available in fancy south Delhi cafés). Two years ago, local gym owner Mohammed Saddam Khan opened the area’s first café curating a wide range of coffees (already featured on these pages). Amour too is founded by a local—travel agency owner Navaid Ahmad. The staffers include a woman, a rare phenomenon in the conservative quarter—Reema Rajput is from nearby Galli Beri Wali. The truly intriguing character here is manager-cum-barista Shiva Choudhary, who writes “prem kahaniyan” (love stories) at home in Faridabad. He is looking for a publisher.
And now the glass door opens. Samreen Khan’s hands are adorned with mehendi. The commerce teacher settles down by a corner table, orders a cappuccino and pulls out a book from her handbag (see photo). She says it is her first time in the café. Some time later, she gets up to leave; her home is in rue de Galli Qasim Jan, poet Ghalib’s last address.
Serving daily from 12 noon to midnight, the café is in Bismillah Manzil complex. À bientôt.
A time in Paris