Vault Cafe, opened in Connaught Place, pays homage to the East India Trading Company and all the places they, um, traded in, and does it show. The cavernous interiors are lit up in Babylonian red and Eastwood-ian yellow (or ‘yaller if you prefer), the space seemingly taking its name from the ginormous faux-vaults sunk into one side of the wall; behind their riveted doors lie plush seating, which act as semi to wholly private dining areas, segregated from the main seating section. The other side is dominated by one of the longest bar counters we’ve seen. The entire restaurant is a colonial sitting room meets steampunk meets industrial and everywhere you look there’s some objet d’art that begs further examination.
The menu, much like its chief inspiration, traverses the globe, or at least straddles all the continents of the northern hemisphere, picking up regional favourites from all across. Those colonials loved their sundowner and it shows in Vault’s alcohol menu, a sheaf of pages with more options in it than an Eastern potentate had in his harem.
Determined to swim in as many waters as possible, we begin with the Mediterranean non-veg platter and The Vault Special Warning Extra Spicy Chicken Wings, because how can one not. To extinguish any subsequent fires in the belly we also order a Cheesy Potato Mash. The platter, perhaps more Levantine than Roman, comprising Sumac chicken, sole fish in Zatar, lamb rolls with the usual middle eastern dips, olives, pickled vegetables, pita bread and tabbouleh arrive first, perhaps due to its geographical proximity. The other dishes aside, the fish and the tabbouleh are particularly palatable, the former flaky and with a marination that has really sunk in (nautical pun unintended) and the latter with all the zest of newly made New Year resolutions. The chicken wings which come after we’ve disposed of the platter, are slightly less loquacious than their labelling but are still packed with piquancy. Their offset, the cheesy mashed potatoes, clearly follow Gustave Flaubert’s obsession with ‘le mot juste’; we’ve never eaten potatoes more mashed or more cheesy, coming with a gloriously gratinated crust.
For our mains we dally across Italy and Korea, ordering a Penne with Bacon and Mushroom in a Cheese Sauce and the Beef Bulgogi respectively. The pasta cosily murmurs “comfort food” in your head with its luxuriant melange of al dente penne slathered in deliquesced cheese, swirled around with bits of crispy bacon bits and mushy mushrooms; we wish it came with a pair of pajamas and a yellowing paperback novel. We’d be set for winter. The bulgogi comes in a gravy instead of its usual semi-dry form, pooled in a bed of rice and accompanied by kimchi and while we’re not sure about its authenticity (our fascination with both Gangnam style and the latest glorious leader notwithstanding, we’re a little behind on our Korean) it also makes for soulful winter fare. Perhaps with a Hanbok instead of pajamas this time.
Well-satiated with all our jetsetting we decide to keep it simple for dessert, settling for Chocolate Brownie and ice cream. A piping hot squidgy brownie with a resultant melting scoop of vanilla later; you can lock us up in this vault and throw away the keys.
Meal for two: Rs 2,000 (excluding alcohol)
Address: F 60, Connaught Place