Best of city’s eateries beyond their ratings
Where do the young and restless go to enjoy food and drinks in Bengaluru? Let’s face it
Where do the young and restless go to enjoy food and drinks in Bengaluru?
Let’s face it. A lot of what is considered best is subjective. Even if you go through crowd-polled websites, it is hit or miss. The other day, I went to Sante Spa cuisine, awarded 4.8 stars on Zomato. The service was lethargic, the food so-so. Ditto for Manjit da Dhaba near Bangalore East station,4.5 stars on Zomato. You climb up the stairs into a dark no-frills space and get excited. Proper dhaba look, you think. The food will be good. Well, let’s just say that it ain’t a patch on Punjabi dhabas. So what’s the takeaway?
Mine is not to trust Zomato ratings because while they are crowd-polled, they aren’t customized, as in geared to your taste. My technique is to ask trusted friends and then account for their biases. When a Kashmiri friend says the food is too spicy, I automatically think it is probably perfect for spice-loving me.
So what’s new and hip in Bengaluru?
Well, one trend is animal-inspired names: Trippy Goat, Red Rhino, Gawky Goose, Rogue Elephant, Tipsy Bull, Boozy Griffin…. Seriously? Is this the formula? Pick a creature, any creature. Then attach an adjective. Open a restaurant. That said, these restaurants are decent. Trippy Goat is owned by Vishal Nagpal, an old Bengaluru restaurant hand and a friend. Red Rhino is a popular microbrewery. College kids love Gawky Goose for the live music and the large space. Rogue Elephant is in a terrific location in Basavanagudi, opposite Krishna Rao park and next door to Ambara where handcrafted goodies await.
The other restaurant trend is misspelling names which drives me nuts but there it is.
This is particularly true for the many microbreweries in Bengaluru. Byg Brewski, Brewklyn Microbrewery, Seven Storyss, Shakesbierre, Ssaffron, Communiti. What in heaven’s name are these guys thinking? Is it numerology? Or the attempt to be cool? Bit of both I think.
Independent restaurants closed and opened.
Manu Chandra, Bengaluru’s beloved chef quit the restaurant he co-founded, Olive Bar and Kitchen, and is en route to do different things. When I last texted him, he was in Gujarat. Abhijit Saha, who introduced molecular gastronomy via his much-feted and now-closed restaurants, Fava and Caperberry, is now a consultant. He has collaborated with two new restaurants, The Pet People Cafe and Glass Bar and Kitchen. Koshy’s thankfully remains and people do keep going to it. Corner House and Airlines Hotel still draw a crowd to their leafy centre of city location. My brother and I still like Tandoor where we used to take our kids– now he takes our mom. Ebony, which overlooks MG Road, suddenly gained clients during Covid because of its outdoor views.
Hallowed bakeries like OG Variar and Iyengar’s still hold their own. Albert Bakery on Mosque road still sells its popular “khava” naan or bread stuffed with khoya. The small red velvet cupcakes with fresh cream from Glen’s Bake House are eminently scarfable. Fabelle’s by the ITC group has — and I hate to say this, given this is a giant five-star chain in the company of Iyengar’s and Variar’s bakeries — excellent dark chocolates. Zed the Baker has made Zaid Sait a hit in Bengaluru.
Military hotels are going strong.
Empire hotel on Church Street where the drunk and the depressed show up at 3 am still survives. Nagarjuna and Bheema’s haven’t messed with their Andhra menu, thank God. Eden Park with its hearty biryanis and strong liquor is popular among college kids. Hunan’s signature sauces are now delivered home, thanks to Covid. People-watching is still possible, even in laid back Bangalore at UB City’s many restaurants. 12th Main in Indiranagar is where you need to go for dining choices. Konark is an old haunt that still serves excellent breakfasts. Bengalureans finally don’t have to crib about the terrible paneer here. We each have our neighbourhood place– I buy mine at Infinitea Cafe on Cunningham Road which imports Delhi paneer daily.
Microbreweries deserve a separate column but Toit has reopened, hallelujah. Arbor Brewing Company attracts a loyal University of Michigan crowd, including my husband – who doesn’t drink but accompanies me out of solidarity. Geist beer by our friend, Narayan Manepally is opening new branches. Brik Oven’s arugula pizza still rocks. Lavonne’s almond croissant competes with Magnolia Bakery’s croissants. Honore Bakery’s seeded sourdough still comes home every few weeks. Tewari Brothers’ dal puri and aloo sabzi are to be savoured in solitude. Anand Sweets and Bharatiya Jalpan on Commercial Street serve excellent chaat — okay, not the Delhi or Mumbai level. The Maddur Vada across the road at Woody’s is a secret pleasure. Sattvam in Sadashiv Nagar is where ISKCON loving families go regularly to dine.
So where am I going to go? Well, these are a few places I haven’t been and want to try out. Three Chennai chefs are running Salt and lots of my foodie friends recommend it. Chef Regi Mathew is rocking it at Kappa Chakka Kandhari, the name is authentically vegetarian even though friends love the crab and seafood dishes. Pizza Bakery is on my list to see if it is as good as the ones at Sunny’s and Brik Oven. Rameswaram Cafe’s ghee podi idlis have created a line outside, so of course I have to check out if it’s as good as my Murugan idli in Besantnagar, Chennai.
Oh, and a whole lot of microbreweries. Give me a few months for that.
Shoba Narayan is Bengaluru-based award-winning author. She is also a freelance contributor who writes about art, food, fashion and travel for a number of publications.