Cafe Turtle, Delhi - the quest to find a quiet café in India's capital
One of the trying aspects of life in Delhi is that it can be hard to escape the deafening noise. The constant clamour of traffic competes with the guttural, somewhat alarming caterwaul of the vegetable wallahs who noisily ply their trade. Rickshaw wallahs determinedly slap their passenger seat with shrieks of ‘mere saath chalo’ (even when you are clearly heading in the opposite direction), dogs bark and children’s playful cricket games resonate through the streets.
As horns of all pitches parp, honk and wail, this vast crescendo can sometimes be too much to bear!
I am prone to being rather noisy myself, but sometimes even I want peace and quiet, and given that my terrace is street-facing, this cannot be found at home. Recently, I mistakenly thought that I had struck gold. Cafe Mocha is a chain of restaurants, the nearest of which to my home is in Defence Colony Market. They serve delicious, perfectly prepared fresh coffee from all over the world and have scrumptious cakes to match. Their style is fun and unique, their fresh juice is served in vintage glass bottles, and they have high-speed WiFi. However, from 4pm daily, someone with a bizarre taste in music, dims the lights and cranks up the tunes to decibel levels akin to those of a thunderstorm; even my noise cancelling headphones fail to eliminate the din. Delhi wallahs are noisy people, make no mistake about it; if the volume of the music increases, so too will the shouts of conversation.
It is for this reason that my discovery of Cafe Turtle was such an immense revelation! To reach the third floor establishment one has to wind their way through Full Circle bookshop up to a softly lit haven with walls adorned with the faces of Jazz greats. I will be honest and share that the food is neither fabulous nor bad, their simple salads, pizzas and sandwiches are perfectly edible and good for those who like their lunch without masala. The cakes however are good and the coffee is great.
There is a pretty outdoor terrace, perfect for soaking in winter sunshine and for the writer types who like to puff away on cigarettes whilst working and there is enough foliage to detract from the distinctly urban views below. They do not have WiFi and actually have a shortage of power plugs for laptops, and therefore unlike the other cafes and restaurants of Khan Market, do not draw in noisy lunch-meeting types who in Delhi tend to wield more technology than might be found in an apple store. Instead one must enjoy the simpler things in life; reading, writing and delightful mindless chatter with friends.
Most notably, it seems to attract a mixture of Indians and foreigners, but for some reason, perhaps it is owing to the walk through the uncharacteristically silent bookshop to get upstairs, the uninvasive waiters, the cream walls or even the softly piped Dizzy Gillespie, the clientele have learnt to keep their voices sociably lowered and it is peaceful!
There are now three branches of Café Turtle in Delhi: Khan Market, GK 1 N Block Market and Nizamuddin East Market. The one in Nizamuddin is the most special of the three; it has a smaller book selection but being in a sleepy part of town it is often quiet. Café Turtle is also a great place to order whole cakes for just 1000 rupees.
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