You know how, at restaurants, people always seem to ask the serving staff to charge their phones for them? How annoying must that be? And if, somehow, the phone gets stolen, who’s the prime suspect? Yes, it’s that same waiter fellow who’s bound by the implicit ethics of hospitality to cater to your every whim. Well, not at the new Social in Defence Colony. Instead, they have these lamps — at every table on the second floor of the two-storey place — that you can just pull down and each one comes with an attachment that has four plug points. I wouldn’t technically call it an innovation — it’s probably more a novelty or a luxury that other restaurants would cast off as unnecessary expenditure. At the Social, though, the purpose is twofold. See, night-time is party-time (but of course), but during the day, they double up as a communal working space for unemployed self-professed freelancers. A networking hub for people to connect with and con clients into giving them work, all the while lying through gritted teeth about commitment to deadlines. For a monthly price, you can register and use their internet and chairs and location. And their plug points.
Usually, how these reviews work is that the restaurant and an agency arranges for a meal. I (the reviewer) am treated like there’s royal blood dripping from my ears, which is different from but just as nauseating as bad service or a hair in your soup. So, in this case, we went anonymously, and as luck would have it, the place was packed (on a Wednesday) and we were asked to come back in 45 minutes — a sure-shot sign that a new venue is doing well. (So make a reservation.) Half an hour later, they were kind enough to get us a spot on a makeshift table with two little stools. The Social (is it a restaurant, a pub, a workspace?) is dimly lit and loud. Much like its older brother in Hauz Khas Village, the Defence Colony version also has a range of performances that take place here. As soon as you enter, you’re greeted by a bar that’s just a few feet away, giving the illusion of no space; it feels cramped because it’s relatively narrow, even though it’s spread across a long length. Upstairs is far better, thanks to the little terrace and absence of the bar.
This place, like many others, relies on flinging considerable novelty and postmodern kitsch at you, from teacups and hashtags to the word “Paani” in Devanagari script on glasses of water. The questions arises: How do you out-novelty yourself? I found out the hard way when I saw an orange bar ice-cream floating around in my Famous Social Margarita (Rs 350). It’s like a regular margarita drink, a good one too, but with an orange bar whose primary purpose was to presumably knock against my nose with every sip. There were grape and mango options too, sadly (?) unavailable on this night. Freshness is all fine, but quality should ultimately define an eating/drinking place. And that definitely works in their favour — the food, even at the Hauz Khas branch, has always met certain standards. There’s a lot of mixing and matching going on with the extensive menu, from some kind of soup with beer in it to flavour-experimentation to Chinese, Indian, ontinental and breakfast food, making it no small task to pick something.
The food is mostly inexpensive — the Jalapeno Cheese Nads (er…) cost
Rs 250, while the Sriraja Chilli Chicken/Beef (we went with the beef) is Rs 220, and the portions more than adequate. The nads have a heavy (they’re deep-fried), cheesy quality that complements the spicy-ish sauce they serve with it, while the chilli beef was predictable but well done (in quality, not preparation). The Southall Fish Fingers (Rs 280) are another interesting treat: chunks of fried fish served with not tartar sauce but a red, tangy “lehsun chutney mayo”, making for an odd but fascinating blend. For the main course, I picked the Jus-C Lucy burger
(Rs 380), boasting a tenderloin patty and molten cheese. I don’t have many complaints about the burger either — it’s something they do well, with a pleasant tenderness to the meat and a corresponding placid taste, but it does feel a tad bland. (They also have a burger with peanut butter inside, if anyone’s interested.) The one big problem with the burger was logistics. The slippery bun, the makeshiftness of our table, and the extreme fragility of the patty (plus my oafish tendencies) made for a tough eating experience, with chunks and crumbs flying everywhere. But it’s a bar. I would go there again, not for the kitsch comedy and look-at-how-cool-we-are inclinations but the good, affordable food and drinks (their cheapest beer is only Rs 90).