The Best Restaurants in India’s Golden Triangle

Expect brilliant colors and bright flavors at the restaurants in India’s Golden Triangle. Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur all have strong food traditions of their own but many restaurants also feature food from other regions, including South Indian food. Your Golden Triangle tour of food should include stops at fine dining establishments, stalls at markets for street food, and, of course, some ice cream to cool you off on India’s hot days. Fans of butter chicken take note: that now world-famous dish originally hailed from Delhi.

Surrounded by acres of manicured gardens, marbled colonnades, and flower-filled pools, the complex of the Taj Rambagh Palace hotel—once the home of the Maharajah of Jaipur—is one of the most serene spots in the Pink City. Even if you’re not staying here, come soak up the history—and escape the city bustle—with a lunch, afternoon tea, or a light supper at the al fresco Verandah Café, where the tables are arrayed under archways and out onto the lawn. Come during the day and you might catch a glimpse of the hotel’s signature VIP guest welcome ceremony (performed by colorfully painted elephants), or call ahead to find out if there will be a dance or musical performance on the lawn in the evening. The menus feature both Indian and international dishes, with choices ranging from sampler thali platters and ratatouille-topped potato pancakes to charred German bratwurst and Caribbean chicken salad. Afternoon tea harkens back to the royal days with traditional English scones, finger sandwiches, and a tower of freshly-baked sweets; go for the Champagne add-on for an extra-regal experience.
382, Kucha Seth Rd, Gachi Ram, Fatehpuri, Chandni Chowk, Delhi, 110006, India
In 1950, two halwais—or confectioners—from the Rajasthani city of Bikaner ventured to big city of Delhi to ply their traditional snacks together. Setting up a stall in the Old Delhi Chadni Chowk market, they crafted sweet and savory treats like rasgollas (cheese dumplings in a sugary syrup) and Bikaner bhujuia (fried flour and lentil crisps), based on family recipes—and soon became so well-known that the people of Delhi bestowed them with the nickname of “Bikanervalas,” in honor of their hometown. Today, the brand has over 50 outposts across India, from the Himalayan foot hills of Dehradun and the Mumbai airport to the upscale Hyderabad neighborhood of Banjara Hills, but that Old Delhi original remains. Come for classics like till chikki (nut brittle squares with sesame seed and brown sugar), rich halwas and milk cakes, fruit-and-nut chocolates, and more, as well as seasonal choices. All of the locations are casual, but some are take-out shops only, while other serve a fast-food menu of chaat, Indian and Continental main dishes (including parathas, veggie burgers, and pizzas), desserts, and shakes.
PVR CInema Plaza H-5&6, PVR Cinema Rd, Marg, Connaught Place, New Delhi, Delhi 110001, India
Locals may argue over their favorite places for kathi rolls, but Nizam’s is one spot that’s always on the list. The atmosphere is nothing much to speak of—it’s an order-at-the-counter, seat-yourself kind of place—but the freshly-made stuffed rolls are sure to satisfy your lunchtime (or late-night) craving. Choose from a long list of fillings, from mutton and egg or chicken tikka to paneer cheese, mushroom, and potato. Sides like kebabs, biryani rice (vegetarian and not), and omelets are also available, and you can wash it all down with a fresh lime soda. There are multiple Nizam locations in Delhi (as well as a few other in other states), but the Connaught Place shop—not far from the famous ring of colonnaded Georgian buildings, the Janpath Market, and the name-brand retailers—is a particular landmark.
The Oberoi, 443, Udyog Vihar, Phase V,, Phase V, Udyog Vihar, Sector 19, Gurugram, Haryana 122016, India
This sleek, contemporary Oberoi hotel is set in Delhi’s business- and commercial-suburb, and tends to cater to the corporate set (both local and international), and guests looking for an urban sanctuary that’s a bit removed from the fray. Fittingly, its minimalist fine-dining restaurant offers a similar modern-Indian experience designed for the discerning (and often time-pressed) guest. Make quick work of lunch with one of the three-course express menus, or linger a bit longer at dinner, where the extensive menu includes regionally themed sampler boxes and specialties from around the country (including lots of fresh fish and seafood). Got more time to spare? The seven-course PowerPlay Chef’s Tasting Menu (which can be paired with wine) is structured like a chess match, with each course building on the last.
1st Floor, Rambagh Palace, Bhawani Singh Rd, Rambagh, Jaipur, Rajasthan 302005, India
Formerly the residence of the Maharajah of Jaipur, and now one of Jaipur’s most elegant luxury hotels, the 19th-century Rambagh Palace has had a front-row seat to history—and has hosted a long list of royals, dignitaries, and celebrities along the way. As an homage to those regal roots, the hotel’s fine-dining restaurant spotlights the cuisine of four of India’s former princely states: Rajasthan, Awadh, Punjab, and Hyderabad. In what used to be the palace’s banquet hall—still dripping with gilded mirrors and Italian frescos—enjoy dishes like laal maas (a Rajasthani spicy lamb curry), chicken cooked with raw mango and saffron, skillet-grilled lobster, and apricot-stuffed cheese dumplings simmered in tomato gravy. Cap off the night with a drink in the nearby Polo Bar, which serves fine spirits and cocktails inspired by the royal equestrian sport.
1 Swatibal Vidhya Peeth School Link Road
It’s easy to feel like one of the Mughal royals whose kitchens inspired the menus at this fine-dining restaurant, thanks to the impeccable service, serene garden views, and elegant decor of rich woods and plush fabrics. The food would do the palace cooks proud, too, with an extensive à la carte menu full of delights like perfectly marinated, charcoal-grilled kebabs (a mixed platter is available so you can try each of the tempting choices), Bengal prawn curry, stuffed banana chilis, Mughul-style fish curry, and quail simmered in sealed pots that are heated underground. For a signature experience, try one of the traditional Indian thalis—a three-course meal accompanied by tandoor-baked breads, homemade pickles, rice pilaf, and more sides—or one of the six-course tasting menus, which feature dishes that meld Indian and Western flavors; think lamb with quinoa, “24-carat gold” chicken, and apple fritters in saffron sauce.
295 Chowk Fatehpuri, Chandani Chowk, New Delhi, India
After a day spent exploring the bustling Chandni Chowk market, or other Old Delhi sites like Red Fort, make like a local and cool off with a thick, refreshing lassi from this popular purveyor. Opened in 1974, and included in every list of the best lassis in Delhi ever since, Amritsari earns raves for both the way it crafts the yogurt-based drink (which can be ordered sweet or salty), and for its seasonal menu of flavors. Don’t miss a swig of fan-favorites like the malai flavor—made with hand-churned cream, and so dense you may not have room for much else—or rose-badam, a sweet combo of rose milk and almonds. If you’re feeling salty, the namkeen-jeera, which combines cumin and rock salt, should do the trick. Note that the stand is located in the market, and is take-out only.
319, MI Road, Panch Batti, C Scheme, Ashok Nagar, Jaipur, Rajasthan 302001, India
Today’s Jaipur buzzes with plenty of modern restaurants serving international cuisine, but that wasn’t always the case—when Niros, which first opened in 1949, started serving Chinese fare in the 1960’s, for example, it was the first place in town to do so. Now, going on its seventh decade, the place is still a favorite for its classic décor, attentive service, and extensive menu, which takes you from northern Indian standbys like chicken tikka masala and veggie curries to dumplings, stir-frys, omelettes, and even mushroom stroganoff, as well as Indo-Chinese items like fried paneer in Sichuan sauce. There are extensive choices for both veg and non-veg diners, while the kids should like the old-school sweets like American Ice Cream Sodas and Knicker Bocker Glory sundaes.
51, Dhuleshwar Garden, Sardar Patel Marg, Panch Batti, C Scheme, Jaipur, Rajasthan 302001, India
The Jaipur Modern boutique stocks products that put a contemporary, worldly twist on the region’s highly-skilled artisan craft traditions—so it’s fitting that the shop’s restaurant does something similar on the culinary front. Committed to partnering with organic and sustainable farms, individual farmers, and agricultural projects—as well as maintaining its own farm—the Kitchen incorporates fresh local ingredients into a globally-influenced menu, resulting in dishes like pizza topped with free-range chicken, spiced couscous, potato rosti with farm-fresh poached eggs, and a lengthy list of cold pressed juices. Most unique is a separate menu—the first of its kind in India—that showcases the versatility of superfood quinoa, sourced locally from Organic Farmers Co. The “Q Menu” features the grain in everything from veggie sushi, pad thai, and dumplings to decadent deserts. Including house-baked cakes and cookies.
C-98, Cement Godown Gali, Swarn Park Udyog Nagar, Mundka, Rajpath Area, Central Secretariat, New Delhi, Delhi 110041, India
Spice Route is a heavenly experience where deep colors meet exotic spices. Located in the grand Imperial Hotel, I found the restaurant to be one of the most visually stunning places I’ve ever seen. Restaurants in 5-star hotels are generally known to display lavish and extravagant decor, but this restaurant is on a whole new level. It feels as if you have walked into a dark forest with rich gold branches and heavenly waterfalls, and a pervasive aroma of mysterious spices to match. It’s an escape into nature. And it’s not as if the stunning decor is trying to compensate for the poor quality of food. The food is absolutely scrumptious, offering food from all the places that fell under the ancient spice route, from the Malabar Coast of Kerala to the shores of Thailand. I think it’s one of the very few restaurants in Delhi that has amazing Keralan food. The restaurant is really romantic, making it a perfect place for a date. It is very upscale and they are quite serious about implementing a strict dress code. It’s even rated as one of the top restaurants by Condé Nast Traveler. It’s not just a restaurant, it’s an experience!
ITC Maurya, Sardar Patel Marg, Akhaura Block, Diplomatic Enclave, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi, Delhi 110021, India
Global celebrities like Bill and Hillary Clinton and Bruce Springsteen have all been spotted at Bukhara. Ranked as one of New Delhi’s top (and priciest) restaurants since 1977, the legendary spot—now located at the ITC Maurya hotel—celebrates India’s rugged North West Frontier region in both its décor and menu. Though the faux-rustic design seems a bit like that of a theme restaurant (think cracked stone walls, low seating, lots of wood beams and clay pots), the cuisine is legit. So legit, in fact, that there’s no cutlery, so guests eat with their hands. (You are issued an apron for protection.) The dishes of the Frontier region tend towards the warm, hearty, and comforting, crafted using tandoor clay ovens and wood fires, so expect staples like marinated kebabs, rich lentils, fluffy bread, and lots of meat; the signature Sikandri Raan mutton leg, burrah (lamb) kebabs, and off-the-menu Chicken Khurchan are particular favorites, along with overflowing shareable platters. Reservations are recommended as the place does gets packed.
Dum Pukht is not just a meal. It is a royal experience. The restaurant has won numerous awards, including “Delhi’s Best Restaurant” and “Asia’s Golden Fork Award.” Indulge in traditional Indian dishes which are created with a special method involving cooking the food in heavy bottomed and sealed vessels to intensify flavors of the dish. Along with Bukhara, another of Delhi’s best, Dum Pukht is located in the ITC Maurya Hotel. Reservations are strongly recommended.
The Lodhi, Lodhi Rd, CGO Complex, Pragati Vihar, New Delhi, Delhi 110003, India
The 50 best restaurants in the world, the top restaurants in Asia, the best restaurants in India—this elegant eatery has made all those award lists and more, often for several years in a row. Helmed by chef Manish Mehotra—himself a perennial “best chef” winner and MasterChef India judge—Indian Accent first opened at The Manor in 2009, where it quickly garnered acclaim for its modern take on subcontinental cuisine. It moved to The Lodhi hotel in 2017, where—in a striking, contemporary space lined with windows, paneled with mother-of-pearl, and centered around a “floating” glass-box private dining space—the high-quality and creativity has continued to soar. Some dishes skew “new Indian,” while others are more global with an Indian twist; either way, plates are colorful, flavorful, and artfully presented. Don’t miss signature dishes like galautis (kebabs) stuffed with fois gras, pulled pork tacos, butter popcorn upma, and duck khurchan served in a cone and topped with yogurt and chili. Get your carbs on with one of the nine types of bread—some layered with potatoes or Camembert—and wash it down with a “chat” sangria or masala-infused martini. While there are now Indian Accent outposts in New York and London, the Delhi location remains a must-visit—and, as of 2018, is still the one of the only restaurants in India to make all those award lists.
No. - 4, Khan Market, Rabindra Nagar, New Delhi, Delhi 110003, India
Along with stylish boutiques and design shops, the narrow lanes of the upscale Khan Market are lined with all manner of eateries, from cafés and cocktail bars to food stalls and fusions restaurants. As of late 2018, the roster also includes Sly Granny, which arrived on a wave of buzz generated from its original Bengaluru location. Through this often-packed bi-level outpost is smaller than the sprawling first location, the concept here is the same: a space “inherited” from a mythical globetrotting grandmother and inspired by her favorite recipes and eclectic style. Here, that translates to a décor of plush velvet sofas, old cookbooks, and crystal bric-a-brac, statement tableware, and bold, quirky artwork in the snug dining room, plus a cozy upstairs bar that converts to a cocktail lounge come dark. Drinks there range from the creative (crafted with ingredients like elderflower, yogurt, or honey-ginger syrup) to the classic (twists on G&Ts and Pimm’s cups), not unlike the style of the food menu below, which starts with pastas, steaks, and burgers, then veers towards tacos, schnitzel, chicken liver pâté, and Kerala-style fish moilee. You won’t need a granny’s encouragement to eat up dishes like bacon-gruyere mac-and-cheese balls, house-cured salmon, chocolate lava cake, and a twist on grilled cheese with ricotta, onion jam, tomato chutney, and two kinds of chilies.
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