Located in the Outer Ring (‘L’ block, more precisely) of what the locals call “CP”, this café in the vast UK chain’s armada is reportedly the largest in South Asia. It’s actually a bit impressive, particularly given that the chain has designs on adding 300 more Costa Coffee outlets in India over the next four years.

Connaught Place (a.k.a. Rajeev Chowk) marks the geographic focal point in the center of New Delhi. The British built this Westernized shopping district in the 1930s, complete with colonnades and traffic circles. And while the city traffic in Delhi today reminds one of the 1960s Wacky Races cartoon — with every flavor of transportation imaginable competing for the same roads with few rules to get in the way — CP’s primacy as a shopping destination for the locals has waned over the years with the expansion of new markets and more Westernized shopping malls towards the edge of town. But tourists and locals alike still intermingle here, and it remains a sort of social heart of the city.

Connaught Place - where death by auto rickshaw reaches epidemic proportions Vendor in an alleyway near Connaught Place: if he sold coffee in SF, he'd be the bomb

As a chain founded in 1971 and globally expanding rapidly, Costa Coffee seems to have far too many parallels with Starbucks. There’s the mainstream chain store environment. There’s a sense that Costa copies many of Starbucks’ corporate moves. There’s even cheesy adult rock (think Bryan Adams) playing overhead in the café.

While the Costa chain at least did not copy Starbucks’ costly move to horrid superautomatic espresso machines (just how can Starbucks claim they can’t wean themselves off these crap machines when the vast Costa chain can live without them?) — it’s all enough to make us long instead for the Malaysian street food experience.

In New Delhi, independent coffeehouses are typically old restaurants - as with this Connaught Place example Entrance to the biggest Costa Coffee in South Asia, at New Delhi's Connaught Place

There are two floors to this large storefront of glass, dark wood, comfortable furnishings, and walls painted in bold colors. And despite their obvious mermaid envy, the quality controls and use of real machines here seems to be a real upgrade from all that plagues Starbucks.

They pull espresso shots with a three-group, Costa-branded CMA machine. The resulting shot has a thinner, medium brown crema, a thinner body, high acidity, and a sharpness to a mostly pungent, herbal flavor. Only Rs. 29.

Read the review of Costa Coffee at Connaught Place.

Corporate Costa Coffee drink menu Inside the comfy confines of Costa Coffee at Connaught Place

The Costa Coffee three-group CMA machine The Costa Coffee espresso