Foodie Trail-Chandigarh: Willow – where street food meets exotic taste in a cafe setting

The English country-style Willow Cafe interiors
The English country-style Willow Cafe interiors

The English country-style Willow Cafe is not just another coffee or tea shop with some snacky bites thrown in. The cafe, quite rightfully, boasts of a strong menu with a rich variety of Indian street food and popular British and continental dishes to satisfy the palate of food lovers.

From the earthy and desi bread pakoras to the real-Punjabi tandoori chicken and keema bun to the very-British beer-battered fish to the classy chicken piccata with herb grilled vegetables and bar-be-que porkchop with apple compote and house salad – Willow Cafe seems quite generous with the line-up of the dishes on offer.

“The motivation to offer a wide variety of food here was to bring Indian street food in cafe dining. One always feels the urge to have the street food that has been relished during college or hostel days. It was with this idea that the menu for Willow Cafe was prepared and it has become quite a hit with all age groups,” Abhay Jagat, the cafe’s owner and a first-generation entrepreneur, said.

The outdoor sitting at Willow Cafe opens into a green belt
The outdoor sitting at Willow Cafe opens into a green belt

At the cafe, which can seat around 80 people in one go and has a little outdoor sitting area thrown in as well, the live kitchen led by head chef Balbir and his team roll out steamy dishes.

That is not all.

The quaint cafe has a whole range of drinks from the desi mint thandai, jal jeera and lassi’ to the more western smoothies that with names like D.C. (Washington), London, Helsinki, Colombo and Tokyo. There is also a variety of teas and coffee, fresh fruit and yoghurt smoothies, fresh seasonal juices, shakes and refreshers.

“Even though the area is relatively small, we opted for this location as no where else (in Chandigarh) will you get a dining experience with the windows and the outdoor sitting opening into a landscaped garden,” Abhay, who runs five popular restaurants and cafes in Chandigarh with his wife Priya, pointed out.

Chef Balbir and his team at the Willow Cafe live kitchen
Chef Balbir and his team at the Willow Cafe live kitchen

From the early breakfast time till late evening, the cafe caters to the young, the middle-aged and the grey-haired ones with equal warmth and food variety.

“People who come here mostly have a palate for spicy food. We try to make it ‘chat-pata’ and spicy,” chef Balbir said.

From soups to sandwiches and wraps to tawa foods to bar-be-que to European flavours, Willow Cafe has a lot to offer.

For those with hearty Punjabi taste buds, the chicken and mutton dishes can be accompanied by a range of Indian breads – from naans to lal mirch paranthas to hari mirch roti.

The Desi 'Bread Pakoras' served in cafe style
The Desi ‘Bread Pakoras’ served in cafe style

The Indian dishes at Willow Cafe conveniently rub shoulders with the continental fare. Surely, no one is going back empty stomach from here!

Where: Willow Cafe, Sector 10 market, Chandigarh

Food: Indian/Punjabi, British, Continental

Timings: 8.30 a.m. to midnight

Meal for two: Rs.800 to Rs.1000.

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