My early memories of travelling from Chandigarh (or my hometown in Himachal) to Delhi involve stopping for a quick bite at dusty roadside dhabas furnished with nothing more than a set of humble charpais with a wobbly table set in the centre and a swarm of flies buzzing all around. Despite no-frills appearances, these humble eateries did the job of serving lip-smacking, filling paranthas with dollops of white butter dancing atop in its molten glory rather well. Cut to present, the Chandigarh-Delhi stretch of NH 1 is dotted with swanky joints hosting outlets of all leading multi-national fast food brands and some local favourites.
On a recent drive, I noticed a new entrant of the highway food scene – an airplane-themed restaurant just outside of Ambala called Runway 1. You can now have multi-cuisine delicacies served to you inside a real airplane on a highway! A break on your road trip doesn’t get much refreshing than that.
The restaurant is the brainchild of a couple from neighbouring Shahabad Markanda town, who purchased an Airbus A-320 and converted it into multi-cuisine restaurant that can accommodate 80 diners at a time.
Of course, we made a quick pit stop to explore this quirky new restaurant, and came back awfully impressed. As you step on the Runway 1 premises, you are required to collect your boarding pass from the reception area on the ground before heading inside the plane.
You are then led to your seats inside this 15-year-old aircraft, where you are served by staff dressed as flight crew members. On special occasions, such as Valentine’s Day, they even organise special outdoor seatings, where you can enjoy a quite meal with your significant other on an airplane wing, even as you watch an endless stream of vehicles zipping past in the distance.
The food is fairly decent if you keep your expectations realistic. Not quite the fine dining experience it promises to be. Between the three of us, we ordered dahi kebab, dal makhni, kadhai chicken and lacha paranthas, all of which were pretty well prepared. It wasn’t the best preparation of these dishes I have ever tasted but good enough for us to polish off our portions and get our tummies satiated. But hey, it is the kind of place you’d go to for the experience more than gastronomics, and on that count the Runway 1 delivers perfectly.
If you have some time at hand, you can even unwind with a gaming session at the virtual 3D flight simulation set up inside the craft. Definitely something your kids will enjoy thoroughly. Then there are some ‘meetable’ cartoon characters, which includes Doremon, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck among others, on the arena that kids can cuddle and play with. Be prepared to be coaxed for a stop over here on every ensuing trip.