The name, The Drunken Botanist, paints a neat picture of a sun-drenched restaurant with a chic bar, plants running wild and live music. Instead, it’s a dingy, though spacious, resto-bar with faux foliage dangling from its ceiling that blares With Or Without You — repeatedly.
Now, where it does its name justice is in the bar menu. The name — for those not in the know — is taken from Amy Stewart’s book that charts the dazzling array of herbs, fruits, flowers and fungi that have lent a hand in creating some of the finest and most loved varieties of liquor in the world. The restaurant at Cyberhub, too, manages a few high jinks behind the bar. With dates, sage, maple syrup, basil, matcha tea, almonds and elderflower in wide use, the drinks make big promises and the Basil and Lychee Spritz, especially, delivers. Shaken with Absolut Vodka, the lychee-scented, basil-infused drink makes for a great wager on a summer afternoon.
The food here, though, is another story. The menu states Chinese, Italian and Indian victuals and seems a bit like a medley of the greatest hits of Delhi’s menus — Wasabi Prawn, Aglio E Olio Pepperoncino, Macher Jhol, Vindaloo and Braised Sesame Chili Pork Belly. And then there are some that seem like a tribute to some of the city’s classics but exemplify the greed for all things good at the same time. They end up coming off as little more than confusion in the name of — you guessed it — fusion. The MMT Waffle, for instance, is a chicken malai tikka salad that is served on a waffle with makhni cheese sauce. That’s not all, there’s also a pizza base carrying the load of cottage cheese, peppers, onions, coriander, and “makhni sauce”.
Unable to find anything I might normally order at a restaurant, I passed the reins of my lunch, and by extension my well-being, to the server. He was rather decisive, reassuring me that the Gunpowder Chicken and Kashmiri Paneer Roulade are my best bets. The boneless chicken tossed around in podi, onions, curry patta and red chillies sure sets the fire alarm ringing but not much else. The roulade with a filling of spiced paneer, on the other hand, was spiritless.
Perhaps watching me grow more and more despondent, my server insisted that I try the Laboratory Rasmalai. Lo and behold, how does a culinary master validate the word “laboratory”? With clouds of smoke that have nothing to do with the food. As the rasmalai in the chocolate globe sunk further and further into its own ennui, I wondered if the dishes here really are assembled by a drunk botanist?