One Saturday, A and I went to ‘Veda’ for dinner. It’s not listed in the Times Food Guide, a manuscript I thumb through routinely for gastronomical directions. But I had seen it on T.V. (‘Zoom’ to be precise), and it had looked really promising. All I knew was that it was owned by Rohit Bal and it was in Delhi.
On moving here, I wondered if I had dreamed it up because no-one I met had heard of it. But one evening, as we searched for our car at Connaught Place, I saw the sign (and it aced my base - tsk! tsk! Poor joke!).
‘Veda’, it fluttered on a white, square piece of fabric - like the symbol of a sweet, discreet flag of invitation.
Now, I really had my heart set on going there. But because it was in CP, A’s notion of hell - what with limited parking space, we couldn’t make it any time soon. It took days of steady brainwashing and proper planetary alignment before we went.
Visually, it seems soundlessly unobtrusive on the outside, but inside...it’s a symphony - complex, demanding, and ever so slightly, mind-altering.
The walls are red and the soft, leather/ rexin seating is black. The tables alternately have white and red candles. Behind them, tilt silvery mirrors in vintage metal and iron frames. The placement is quite clever and you can’t really see the reflections of the diners unless you contort yourself. Reminiscent of 16th century fortress trivia.
From the ceiling hang huge, heavy silver platters with candles lit along the periphery. The entire base and the rims of these platters are intricately filigreed and their effect of these on the room is stunning. It just makes the whole place look so opulent. It instantly reminded me of the Jaisalmer palace described in Gita Mehta’s ‘Raj’.
But where my eyes wandered and stayed transfixed is the panel behind the bar. It’s a wall that looks like fabric. Much like what you would probably see as a choli or ghagra or maybe, even a sari. The texture, in that light, seems ambivalent - it could be raw silk or tissue. But it’s not fabric, it’s a regular wall. Another nod to a bygone era where perhaps, a little trickery was part of seduction. Charming chicanery.
The backdrop is in muted gold with flowers outlined in silver. In fact, it almost looks like a weave. There are little glints of gems - dots of red, tints of diamantes, vermicelli-fine strokes of peridots and lotus-pink.
Very regal and yet, wistful and timeless.
I was so taken in with the ambience that I honestly couldn’t eat. I had never had that experience before. My senses were suffused with a strange, placid, aesthetic vigor. It stimulated and it sated. But since we had to eat something, we ordered a little bucket full of ribbon-shaped fritters of potato and some other tube stems. Crispy, salty, and tasty.
What really took me in, however, is....one could easily go wrong with that kind of an ambience. A red-and-black décor, a haveli-jashn type feel in an area that probably wasn’t much more than a medium sized flat, a contrasting wall panel that almost goes unnoticed like the subtlety of a poem...And yet, it had struck just the right chord.
It could have been safe - all white, wood, and minimalistic. Or urbane - yellow, vibrant, and yuppy. But it was spirited and panache - red, black, and silver.
On my way out, I looked up at the ‘Veda’ cloth again. Now, it was still in the summer night - like the symbol of a sweet, discreet flag of victory.