Carter Road, always popular with nonagenarians, welcomed a new kid on the block this weekend. It’s a bit late in life for Keventers (b. 1925) to be moving out of its Delhi stronghold, but everyone needs some sunset and sea-breeze in their life.
Everything is not quite tick-tock at Mumbai’s first outlet of the brand that once supplied milk powder to the Indian Army. Last-minute repairs and a languorous cleaning schedule betray that the franchise is already tipping into the Bandra-boy habits of this crazy old strip. When we return, the opening-week crowd means it takes forty minutes for two overworked “milkologists” at the counter to deliver our order. Can you imagine what the other retired occupants of this promenade would say if they were in line? As it happens, we’re the oldest people in queue: props for staying calm under a crush of complaining teenagers, Senior Milkologist Ayaz!
It’s martini o’clock by the time we finally escape, but a bracing cold coffee shake revives us at first gulp: we were disappointed to be told that their new sugar-free option isn’t available yet, but this is light, markedly un-saccharine, and leaves us pining for a chicken pattice from Connaught Place’s venerable Wenger’s. NB: Theobroma next door to this Keventers offers a chicken puff pasty that fills in quite nicely.
A deliberately prankish order for tutti-frutti thick shake also surprises pleasantly, cloudy and grainy on the tongue and tasting more of strawberry than the ice-cream nobody liked as a child. (The junior milkologist has been churning out shakes in his two mixers at such speed that we can’t help but wonder if we’re tasting the dregs of someone else’s ‘exotic strawberry’ order, but we’ll take it.)
An alphonso mango shake will have to do much better to show its face in this part of the world: this version doesn’t even compare with the declining charms of Aarey Energee, let alone the mango lassi every dairy will be peddling in two months’ time.
Does it match up to the Delhi original?
Oscar Wilde did say consistency was the last refuge of the unimaginative: perhaps this is why Keventers, even though it’s expanding around the country like a Midwestern burger chain, doesn’t quite nail everything. An alphonso mango shake will have to do much better to show its face in this part of the world: this version doesn’t even compare with the declining charms of Aarey Energee, let alone the mango lassi every dairy will be peddling in two months’ time. Syrupy Mint-Oreo crumble does justice to neither of its flavours – it looks and tastes like something you’d poison a dictator with. Also, the handsome milk bottles, some wheedlingly printed with a decal of the sea-link, are yours to keep: “We don’t recycle,” we’re told when we ask how best to return the bottles.
Okay, we’ll say it: dry, cracking plains heat and a century of nostalgia means that Keventers tastes better up in Delhi. Strictly speaking, this writer’s time in the capital was marked by a preference for that other great cold coffee brand, Depaul’s, so perfect with Janpath momos and Jhandewalan parathas. Over the last couple of years, however, Keventers’s startling change of fortunes has created sweet little pick-me-ups all around Delhi: once plagued by fakes trading on its famous name and a deal that led to the CP original turning into something called “Shakes Square,” Keventers now hawks its bright-coloured drinks and cheerful Edwardian nostalgia at seemingly every market corner up in the NCR. We’ll be back for that low-sugar cold coffee as Carter’s gets sweatier. It’d be nice to get a senior citizen queue of our own on this block, though.
Getting there: 9-B, Gagangiri Apartments, next to Theobroma, Carter Road, call 7710925995, Rs 99 for a small cold coffee, Rs 125 for a mint-Oreo crumble.
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