Perch Wine & Coffee Bar
71 Khan Market, New Delhi
Flat white – IRP 150 (<£2 – house blend) or IRP 170 (>£2 – single origin) – 4pm Wednesday and 3pm Friday
A thin, tight black roll neck, long hair tied back, a Gauloises burning on an ash tray, cool jazz playing, the distant chatter of groups of friends, the clink of spoons on saucers. That’s how I wanted to see myself as I sat awaiting my first flat white after days of instant coffee, the atmosphere in Perch being as bohemian and trendy (not pretentious, just) as instant coffee to me is gravy with a hint of a cheap, unsweetened coffee cream chocolate (I don’t care how snobby that sounds). You can see where this is going though … the reality.
I had a bad case of hat hair, my short hair styled by sweat. My clothing had changed colour, though I find sweat-wet black creates a deeper, darker black, more in keeping with my black roll neck image, and tight due to being stuck to my skin … hmm, not quite an epic fail but definitely not what I had in mind. No Galouises, just an empty water bottle still clasped in one hand and a sodden flannel in the other. I have no recollection of the music playing, though Billy Idol’s Hot in the City comes to mind as I write this – but that doesn’t reflect the ambiance of Perch at all. Anyway, I’ve digressed from my digression.
My first visit to Perch, mid-afternoon on a spectacularly hot and humid day after I’d walked far further than I would have thought possible or sensible, was somewhat marred by various sweat concerns. I also knew I wanted a coffee but wasn’t buying the whole concept of a hot drink being a good idea when you’re hot as it matches your blood temperature so cools you down, or some such poppycock. Probably a glass of fairly chilled water would have been better. But needs must.
I was on a mission to top up my heavily depleted caffeine levels and it turned out that Perch is a very pleasant place to sit in a pool of sweat that outlines your moist (sweaty) bottom, happily people watching and wondering whether it’d be ok to leave your bags to go to the toilet, knowing it’d be a flying toilet visit, ahem, “Delhi Belly” not being the myth I’d hoped it would be.
The toilets, by the way, are behind sliding mirrored doors with the kind of hook fastening that I never trust. It also seems to be the done thing to wander off, leaving your bags at your seat. I will never feel comfortable doing that but I wanted to mark my table with something more socially acceptable than sweat and a scrunched up empty water bottle.
While cooling down, by this time consuming large quantities of chilled water, I figured out a new air conditioning rating based on how long it takes for me to dry out (I break out into a sweat within seconds above about 20 degrees; I’m really not designed for Indian summers or monsoon season). It took a good half hour to cool down in Perch, with ten minutes being the best case scenario and never being the other extreme. For ordinary people, the temperature was probably about right. Yes, this is supposed to be a café and coffee review but, in a hot city, air conditioning strikes me as an important factor and my first visit to Perch really was dominated by my overheating issues.
Perch struck me more as a place to go for the ambiance than merely to pop in for a quick coffee though. This is no criticism, for the flat white was lovely (as was the interesting, though expensive, salad I had) and, hey, there was a tree taking up the two floors of the café and on each floor there is a wall of window to look out over Khan Market below. So who needs to be outdoors and sweating profusely?!
As for the coffee, my first Indian single origin flat white and a subsequent house blend flat white (I am just quoting the menu not going into uber coffee snob mode, honestly) were both exactly what you’d hope for, in fact probably better than I expected as I reiterate that Perch is more geared towards being a wine bar/bistro than café. In keeping with the review element, I’d give the flat white 8/10. There are also two small tasty homemade sweet treats with each coffee; what’s not to love about that?!
I would, indeed did, go again, though a shame it doesn’t open until 11am. The first floor is probably the nicest with a lovely bar seating area looking across Khan Market, the second floor has a small terrace and the ground floor is merely a missable door leading up a flight of stairs to bring you to the first floor. I didn’t find the staff particularly friendly, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt for this first visit as, dripping my way towards the mirrored loo doors, I did catch sight of my bedraggled, blotchy (heat really is cruel to me) and actually rather pitiful, very uncool self. Yes, more budget instant than fancy flat white.