Restaurant Reviews

Happy Brew

First published in Bangalore Mirror . Happens to be my 50th for the publication.

There’s always something brewing in Koramangala and the latest addition is a Gastro Café named Happy Brew. This is the place that was once occupied by Soul Courtyard. (map) Yes, they have valet parking! From the name, we did expect a microbrewery, but soon learned that the happiness was limited to Kingfisher, which gets branding space all over the place. Thankfully, the pricing and the ambiance ensured that we could adhere to Bangalore’s famous ‘Grin and beer’ philosophy. The place resembles a courtyard more than anything else, with the bar at the centre and ‘good times’ caricature adorning the wall. A flight of stairs leads you to an area which won’t let you get too high, mostly thanks to the really low ceiling! The walls here are made of wooden panels with some lovely black and white photos of smiling people. While it seemed like an excellent area to lounge on a weekend afternoon, the heat became quite unbearable in a while! The playlist was a nostalgia attack – we heard everything from Modern Talking’s “Brother Louie” to Geri Halliwell’s “It’s Raining Men”, and “That Thing You Do” – songs which the younger members in our group didn’t even recognise. But between the songs, the brew and the food, we were all kept reasonably happy!

The drinks menu consists of beer, ‘beer tails’, mocktails, coffee and a few milkshakes. Conveying our order turned out to be tougher than a Mars mission, since it took three attempts before the person who took our order convinced us he had it right! The only ‘beer tail’ that worked was Diesel. (lager with cola) The Beer Mojito and Kiwi’s Paradise (beer with Kiwi) sounded promising but fell flat on taste. The Blue Lagoon, tagged a mocktail, featured Blue Curacao and scored on looks, but that was it. It also didn’t help that a couple of drinks we asked for (including a Brownie shake) weren’t available. When there’s cheap beer, perhaps one shouldn’t hope for a lot more!

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Mamagoto

In the war of cuisines on Indiranagar 12th Main, Asian is very close to complete domination! I chanced upon Mamagoto when I visited that part of the world and decided to drop in for dinner the same day. We reserved a table and that turned out to be a good idea, judging by the waiting crowd. It’s on the ground floor of the same building as The Humming Tree. (map) I think they have valet parking.

Apparently, the conspicuous yellow door, (which seemed a little resistant to push) is a sort of signature across its outlets in Delhi and Mumbai. The decor inside is bohemian hangout meets underground pub. I quite liked the graphic art that adorned the brick walls, especially a tiny one that I think was a take on The Last Supper. The chairs we sat on reminded me of the ones in government offices – Breuer chairs, though there are some plush sofa options as well. I could smell lemon grass, though I also caught a whiff of sea food, probably because I am extra sensitive to that! More

Tapwater

First published in Bangalore Mirror

Wimpy’s is one of those Bangalore icons that serve as a good indicator of how long one has been in Bangalore. You can categorise Bangaloreans based on whether they were around when Wimpy’s was.  When I gave N the directions (map) to Tapwater, (on Brigade Road) her immediate reaction was “OMG, it’s Wimpy’s!” That iconic outlet no longer exists, I pointed out, and also realised that the new gastropub that has taken its place happens to have a name similar to something that is fast becoming extinct in Bangalore – Tapwater! The name actually seems to come from a key offering – beer on tap, which was yet to start when we visited. The basement location, the wooden benches, the lounge seating in the fringes, the lighting – all attempt a new age hangout ambiance. What kills it quite a bit is the musical hat tip to its underground placement – Pitbull, at volumes – in sound and quantity – to cause permanent damage! It was only fun at some points when the Kabaddi action happening on the other screen seemed to match steps with the music! The most interesting thing we noticed about the place was the crowd – a completely random mix of college kids, elderly families, foreigners, and Malayalis in traditional mundu! We drank it all in before moving on to what we came for – food and beverages.

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Vapour

There’s some sort of race going on between Indiranagar and Koramangala on the number of microbreweries. Vapour has been around for a while, but we had delayed the visit because of mixed reviews. But on a Sunday when we just didn’t feel like having Koramangala versions of craft beer, we decided to check out Vapour. Located on 100 feet Road, it’s actually difficult to miss! (map) It’s spread across four floors, and since we wanted à la carte, we had an option of sitting on the terrace or on the 2nd floor. Given Bangalore’s random rains, we chose a table on the second floor with a view of 100 feet Road. The decor seemed to be industrial. Pop culture wall art under the a/c to add to the coolness. ;)

The menu is pretty elaborate and has everything from North Indian to Chinese to Continental. We first asked for a beer sample set (You can choose 4 from the 5 available) We visited on the week they had launched a new beer – the Gotze Blonde, so we ended up with samples of the Dark, Wheat, Ale and the Blonde. The Blonde turned out to be the best of the lot. Wheat, Ale and Dark in decreasing order of preference. Beef wasn’t available so we ordered a Fish Chilly Pepper Dry, which was quite spicy and went very well with the beer.

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Tim Tai

Residents of Koramangala would remember Ping, which rose to stardom and fell from grace all in a few years! The same vicinity now hosts Tim Tai, which calls itself an Asian Deli. (right next to bon South) It exudes fun, from the moment you see its bright signage from the road. The interiors have a high ceiling, a tree almost smack in the middle of the floor (around which there is some seating available) and functional, yet chic decor. The general cheeriness is also evident from the ‘Gurus @ work’ sign above the kitchen. Having read that it gets crowded by 8, we arrived early and managed to get a seat in the alfresco area, which even has a little waterfall.

Though they don’t serve alcohol, there is a drinks menu with a fair amount of choice. (menu, incomplete) There is also a separate dim sum menu as well. Another thing that reminded me of Ping. When there’s Tom Kha, there are no discussions. We asked for two small portions, and I also decided to check out an Asian Mary.  (that’s a drink!) That, and the Banana Wrapped Grilled Chicken with Sambal’ made up our starers. The soup portion size worked just right for us and it was excellent in terms of taste as well. It was actual coconut milk (not the stuff made from powdered versions) and had a nice kaffir lime tang for some flavour in addition to the galangal and lemongrass. The drink was guava based with tabasco and a pepper rim that made it spicy, sweet and refreshing all at once. The Chicken starter should not be attempted if you don’t have a tolerance for spice. But if you do like spice, you’ll love this one! The menu also has satays, Asian salads and cold rolls.

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Puma Social

Puma Social (map) is one of those places that people half our age flock to on Saturday nights. So we arrived there late, on a Sunday afternoon. We arrived on a social vehicle – auto-rickshaw – but I think there is valet parking. 12 PM is the official opening time as per Zomato, and we got there by 1, but they requested an additional 10 minutes to set things up! We pretty much had the place all to ourselves (except for an older couple and their kids) and after surveying two out of three floors, decided to sit on the second. The place has definitely been around for a while, and the biggest proof is probably the state of the decor and menu cards. (sauce smudges) But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a pleasant space. The bar stool seating at a few tables isn’t the safest bet after a few drinks but we weren’t planning a lot anyway, so we choose them. The place began filling up a bit after we had placed our orders. Those video cassette ashtrays, I thought, were a cool touch. :)

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From the menu, we asked for a Coconut Chicken soup, the best way to begin a meal on a windy, cloudy day. It wasn’t very spicy but was thick enough with just the right amount of lemongrass, and we quite liked it. Meanwhile, I had asked for the Jack Hammer and D, for a Mai Tai. They weren’t really generous with the Jack Daniels or the honey in my drink and with the dry Martini and pepper, it made for just an average drink. D’s drink, with the almond syrup added to the standard white and dark rum, was a much better one. More

Napoli Bistro

First published in Bangalore Mirror

After the World Cup, a bite of Italian could mean a lot of things, but in HSR Layout, there aren’t really a lot many options. That probably explains the crowd on a Saturday night at Napoli Bistro. ( Having said that, HSR continues to surprise me each time with its growth spurts!) Street parking and a flight of stairs take you to a well-lit floor with views to the busy 27th Main road. (map) The faux brick wall, the framed art and the functional, elegant furniture all add a semblance of character to the place. We got there just in time before the place filled up. The menu is all Italian and seemingly extensive.

There is no dearth of starter options – soup, appetisers and a host of salads – though there is a clear skew towards vegetarian. On a chilly Bangalore night, a soup is a great way to begin a meal, and that’s exactly what we did. The description doesn’t offer a lot of explanation and simply states ‘Non Veg’. The risk turned out to be worth it and we got a delicious, creamy yellow soup (pumpkin was the guess, but turned out to be carrot) with chicken sausage slices. The Napoli Pesto was a tasty dish too – toasted bread with a tasteful signature pesto. The Chicken Quesadilla – standard tortillas stuffed with diced chicken – wasn’t really the best we have had. Quite savourless and a bit too greasy.

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Leaping Windows Cafe

One about-to-rain Bangalore night, despite the comments that we shouldn’t go there only for the food, we took a leap of faith, and landed up at this cafe in Indiranagar. You’re bound to miss it if you don’t know exactly where it is, so check the map in the link. It’s a house converted into a cafe and the ground floor is devoted to the library/reading rooms. Up a winding staircase and we got to a balcony where we managed to get a table for two. There are other seating options inside as well. You’ll love the ambiance if you’re into comics. Bright, colourful murals and comfortable furniture. What works for the balcony is that it also offers non-comic entertainment, thanks to a bar across the road! From the menu, I asked for a Nutella Banana shake and D wanted a Peppermint Hot chocolate. (day’s special, said the board) The shake was more banana than Nutella, and despite me specifically asking for no ice cubes, I got them in abundance. The hot chocolate was much better!

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The Fatty Bao

On a Saturday, when we wanted to do more than just monkeying around, we climbed a few more floors to get to The Fatty Bao (map) We had reserved a table for two, and even though most of the tables were empty, we were rather firmly asked to take a specific one, just like we were told not to go upstairs because it was full. One of the tables we asked for remained empty until about five minutes before we left. Oh, well. Despite all that, I quite liked the ambiance – fun and relaxed with a dash of quirky.

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While the decor has a panda domination, the ‘Monkey’ flavour is evident in the menu. There are quite a few interesting cocktails to choose from – I asked for the Mandalay Bay, and D wanted a Bora Bora. The jasmine tea in my drink was refreshing and worked really well with the vodka and ginger beer. The other drink was quite a melange – gin, coconut water, vodka and passion fruit – and it was difficult to get one dominant flavour. But that also made it quite a lively drink! More

Brewsky

First published in Bangalore Mirror quite a while back! I delayed posting it here because I thought I’d be able to taste the brew soon. Last I heard, they still hadn’t solved the brew problem, and it’s almost a year now!

Usually when there’s talk of something brewing in south Bangalore, the reference is to coffee, and when names such as Giltasura or Kamacitra are brought up, you’d be pardoned for thinking that it’s about some new play at Rangashankara. That probably explains the open jaws, quickly followed by excitement, when I mentioned that a microbrewery had opened in JP Nagar. (map) Spread across two floors for now, it goes by the name of Brewsky, and though they ran out of brew samples by the time we visited – and that was a real pity, because they really sounded interesting on paper – there was no shortage of sky.

On one side, the bar stools lining the wall on the lower floor offer a wonderful view of South Bangalore’s skyline – one of the best I’ve seen. On the other side one can view the brewery itself, glowing blue at night, with graphics of the brew characters. The upper floor is alfresco and would be perfect for a brunch. Another floor is planned below soon, with space for live performances – we got a preview and the Viking helmet lampshades and ‘chandeliers’ made of beer bottles all pointed to a hangout with character. Watch out for a few interesting elements of a biker theme too! They plan to serve the full-fledged beer menu in about a month, for now you’ll have to make do with a standard alcohol menu. More