Express News Service

Since March, Priyank Sukhija, owner of the popular Dragonfly restaurant in Aerocity, Delhi, was in a state of dismay. The lifeless atmosphere of the once bustling place, which was a popular watering hole for boisterous free-spending youngsters, had been barren in spite of its insect kitsch. The unlock didn’t help. The music would play non-stop and the service would be impeccable even if there was only one table to service.

After the second wave of coronavirus, Sukhija tried all tactics, from standard sanitisation protocols to social distancing. This was tricky for a 8,000 sq ft restaurant like Dragonfly with 180 covers. Then the idea bulb switched on.

Dragonfly claims they got what no other restaurant in India had – private dining pods. Each of the 10 sleek 10 ft by 10 ft steel pods accommodates no more than 12 guests. With a gold powder finish and transparent acrylic walls on all four sides, guests keep a safe distance from other diners but are not cut off from the energy and ambience.

Each pod is sanitised after its occupants leave. Customers can ask for their orders to be left outside on small serving tables, which they can then bring inside. Sukhija was worried that the large pods could diminish the 8,000 sq ft restaurant.

Its high ceilings, massive bar, marble tabletops and kaleidoscopic insect wall are meant to create the illusion of otherworldly vastness. Large dragonfly motifs dazzle on the ceiling like fluorescent air-borne visions.

“People love Dragonfly for its size. Guests like to roam around, go to the bar, swing by the music console, and stroll in and out. The structures restrict movement. On the bright side, they have made dining out safer,” he says. 

The bill of fare has been redesigned to suit the times. Dragonfly has a special immunity-boosting menu. “People have never looked forward to novelty so much since the pandemic struck. It has kept restaurateurs like me on our toes, forcing us to think out of the box,” he admits.

He recommends the Avocado and Baby Spinach Salad (a signature with dehydrated crispy coconut chips, the goodness of peanut butter, sesame dressing and Californian grapes). The Broccoli Truffle Dim Sum (with water chestnuts, truffle flakes and Maldon sea salt) is another chef-special.

The Carbonara Dumplings (traditional Italian-style carbonara with a blend of bacon, egg and cheese) won’t disappoint. “You cannot miss the Barley Porcini Risotto, a low-fat version, which swaps traditional risotto rice for barley. And the Avocado and Mango Salad is a refreshing plate of heath and deliciousness,” he advises.

There are special discounts for women diners (40 percent off on all-women’s table). Small-scale live events are put up. Sukhija is doing everything he can to win back scared customers. If not now, then never.

Ten steel pods have been constructed to make private dining areas. Powdered with gold, they have see-through acrylic walls on all four sides. You’re at a safe distance from other guests but not cut off from the restaurant’s energy. Each pod holds up to 12 guests.

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