Alternative city guides
Four designers show you off-the-radar haunts in their favourite cities
Amit Aggarwal's Delhi
Load up with a heavy breakfast: I love Delhi in the mornings, especially in winter – the days are built for heavy, greasy breakfasts. Try Al Jawahar, near Jama Masjid, one of the oldest establishments in this area – I can’t vouch for the hygiene, but this is the best nihari [brain and bone marrow gravy] in town. Another place for a morning fix in the area is Sheeren Bhavan, but get here before 10am because they’re cleaned out by then. The 50-year-old shop is the only place in the capital that makes aloe vera sheera (tastes a lot better than it sounds, I promise). Their Paharganj equivalent is Sita Ram Dewan Chand. They’ve dispensed with seating to accommodate the hordes that come here for their single offering – the chole bhatura.
Al Jawahar, Tel: 011-2326 1341; Sita Ram Dewan Chand, Tel: 011-2358 7380
Sample Bihari food in Delhi: The Potbelly Rooftop Café in Shahpur Jat is perfect for when you’ve got a hankering for authentic food from the heartland. Co-owner Puja Sahu, a former fashion designer, has turned her family’s generations-old recipes into a sprightly business – the mutton chop and Maggi keema (a house special) are my default order, but the makhani thali, which comes with lotus seed sabzi and spinach puris, is very good too. I’ve gone there often over the last two years and the quality of food has never dipped.
Tel: 011-4161 2048
Pick up Tibetan pop: Walk around New Aruna Nagar, or as the locals know it, Majnu-ka-Tilla. Since the ’60s, it has seen a large concentration of Tibetan refugees. The streets are lined with hawkers selling all manner of souvenirs and curios: oxidised jewellery, bells, scrolls, singing bowls, gongs, dorjes and bright woollens. Try and get your hands on some Tibetan pop – it’s surprisingly good. You can’t, of course, leave without eating momos; Tee Dee is the place to go. Wedged on top of a narrow stairway, it also does a mean shapta, a spicy beef and garlic dish, you can mop up with spongy tingmo bread.
Tibetkraft, Tel: 011-2381 1690; Tee Dee, Tel 011-3014 6033
Skip the galleries for street art: A recent two-month-long street art festival, which brought down international graffiti artists, has given Delhi a do-over. Most of these can be found in areas surrounding Shahpur Jat and Hauz Khas Village, and on the periphery of Tihar Jail. Now Jail Road is not a place I’d usually recommend, but the scale of some of these will make you gawp. For instance, the poem Char Diwari, written by an inmate, is scrawled in bold letters across one stretch, and forms one of the largest murals.
Falguni Peacock's London
Say hello to the breakfast burrito: Every now and then [my partner] Shane and I like to go thrifting around Brick Lane (Blitz is a particular favourite) or visit homestyle cafés. Pop-ups and concept restaurants are a huge trend in London at the moment, and every time we’re here on work, we love the thrill of discovering something new. The Hangover Club is one such, which moves to a different location every couple of months, taking over a rooftop or a theatre café. They have a pretty clear mission, so their hangover cure remains mostly the same – breakfast burritos, egg-white omelettes, Bloody Marys. Shane has a soft spot for their slow-cooked steak and eggs.
Visit a speakeasy with bottle in hand: B. Y. O. C. is a cocktail bar that wants you to bring your own alcohol. The mixologist will wheel around a vintage trolley full of mixers, spices, herbs, salts and bitters to whip up a cocktail of your choice. The chesterfield sofas, high-back chairs and dim lights give it the air of a gentlemen’s club, but at a fraction of the price (£20 to enter and the cocktails are free).
Laugh a little: To catch the acts at Angel Comedy in Camden Head, get there at least an hour before the shows to find yourself a spot. It’s a free comedy joint (donate what you will at the end) but its line-up is carefully vetted, so even open mic nights won’t disappoint. Comic legend Eddie Izzard is a regular.
Catch the talkies outdoors: Silent Cinema has proven that you just need a big screen and wireless headphones to set up a cinema anywhere – in parks, courtyards, streets, old station yards, even graveyards. The gourmet food cart in a dreary setting is cheerful at best and really weird at worst. Follow them on Facebook for leads on forthcoming screenings.
Saloni Lodha's Paris
Take history lessons underground: Instead of going into the Notre-Dame Cathedral, go underneath: to the Archaeological Crypt Of The Parvis De Notre-Dame. It packs over 2000 years of history – the archaeological remains of the city’s earliest settlements, the town-planning techniques and architecture that went into making the Paris of today. It’s not a tourist trap (most people don’t know it exists) and so it’s never crowded.
Eat like a local: Grab a bite at a classic French bistro, La Laiterie Saint-Clotilde. It’s a tiny joint on the residential end of rue de Bellechasse whose owner, a French woman married to an American, is always willing to help if you’re having trouble with the seasonal all-French menu. Their foie gras merits a return, and the steak comes a close second.
Tel: 0033-01-4551 7461
Rub shoulders with the creative set: Le Bellevilloise Ménilmontant used to house the first workers’ co-operative in Paris and they called it a ‘cultural fortress’. Now, the restaurant and concert venue draws hipsters and bohemians. Hammocks and beanbags dot the place, the bright indoor courtyard buzzes for Sunday brunch and the loft upstairs is lined with bookshelves and gaming tables. You’re likely to catch an open mic night, an art exhibition or even a cabaret performance no matter when you swing by.
Stay by the Louvre: Hotel Therese, a former 18th-century townhouse, is brilliantly located – the Louvre, Opéra and Palais Royal are just minutes away. Rue Therese used to be populated with gambling dens through the 17th and 18th centuries, and is still lined with pre-revolution-era façades. The hotel itself still retains its vaulted breakfast room, panelled library and marbled baths. Then there’s that other age-old comfort – the excellent 24-hour bar.
Save room for a briani: Passage du Prado is dotted with inexpensive diners and teems with immigrants. It’s not half as grand as it was when it opened in 1785, but still boasts a wealth of Art Deco details. A Mauritian joint here called L’île AuxCerfs makes a mean briani – that’s biryani to you and me. Try the version with fish.
Tel: 0033-01-4483 9820