Restaurant Reviews

Mekong

We’d seen Mekong during our trips to Kanua, and one Saturday evening, when we were in the mood for Oriental fare, we decided to drop in. Mekong is exactly opposite the Kaikondrahalli Lake (map) and on the top floor of a building that also houses various other food joints and even a gym. There is a fairly large shared parking lot, so you shouldn’t have any difficulty on that front.

Just as you get out of the lift, there’s a Thai tuk tuk to welcome you, complete with flashing lights! We got there by 7.30 without a reservation and just managed to get a table facing the lake. This section was already beginning to get crowded, though there is an indoor seating option as well. The decor is functional but there are some lovely lanterns and knickknacks to add some character to the place. This continues in the menu – shaped like a travel suitcase with the usual sticker graphics to boot. All the table mats have a different Did-You-Know food byte. All of this gives the place quite some charm.

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The drinks menu had quite a few interesting cocktails and we chose the Tom Yam Siam and the Thai Bomb. The first was obviously inspired by the soup but had vodka and rum with lemongrass, lychee juice and ground chilli. This was quite a spicy drink with all the flavours well represented. Loved it. The second drink was milder and simpler – white rum with green chilli. When there’s Tom Kha on the menu, (a little incomplete version) we have to have it! The soup was a little thinner than we liked it but had fresh coconut milk, but lots of chicken and mushrooms. We then tried the Stir Fried Chilli Pork. Though it featured a lot of red chillies, they turned out to be quite harmless. The pork was really well cooked and with peanuts for texture, the dish was scrumptious!

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For mains, we debated a bit because the menu had Khow Suey, but finally chose Lamb Rendang, Phuket Fish and Thai Fried Rice. The lamb could have been cooked better, but the gravy was quite tasty. The fish gravy was a little salty but otherwise fine. The fried rice was billed as spicy but was only mildly so. There were quite a few dessert options, but we were reasonably stuffed and asked for just a Rubies with coconut milk. We were hopeful of tasting something like the awesome Cendol we’d had in Bali. But not only was this delayed quite a bit, the drink itself was extremely meh – with gigantic ‘rubies’ and powder based coconut milk! :( Turned out to be quite a disappointing end to the meal.

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The bill was a little over Rs.2600. Not really pricey, because we’d tried out quite a few things. Despite the just passable mains and bad dessert, we loved the place for the ambiance – the lake view and superb music – and superb service. We’ll most definitely drop by again.

Mekong, 51, Kaikondrahalli Village, Sarjapur Road Ph: 8884122000/22200

High Ultra Lounge

First published in Bangalore Mirror

Sometimes when you’re high, you begin to brag, and sometimes it really can be justified – like when you’re a lounge on the 31st floor of the World Trade Centre, (map) making you one of the highest located dining points in the country, and when you command a breath-taking view of the city that’s arguably unparalleled. It is very rarely that you can get a sense of the city as a whole (outside of Google Maps) and the 180 degree view that High offers is almost humbling. But that’s enough of a high, let me give you the lowdown on the place itself.

It’s open from 5.30 -11.30 PM, and reserving in advance is a good idea. There are different kinds of High, each serving a specific purpose – High View is the lounge space, High Dine is more of a fine dining experience, High Mix is the place for a cocktail do, and High Edge is a private dining area. There’s a sense of shifting moods through these sections, brought about by the colours used and the lighting. Yet, despite the individual personas, all of these flow seamlessly into each other. The seating is trendy and comfortable across the spaces, and on a Saturday night, with music in the background, and the bright lights of Bangalore spread out in front of you, it is easy to feel on top of the world!

It didn’t really make sense to leave ourselves high and dry in such a wonderful ambience, so we quickly scanned the drinks menu – a mix of signature cocktails, classic fare, some interesting mocktails and everything else you’d need in a bar! From the signature drinks, we tried the Moon Lighting, the Spell Bound Bellini and The Last Order. I’d asked for the first, and the vodka based pink-orange coloured drink got me a few smirks from the guys, but that was settled by the Bellini, which was completely lady-like in its pink frothy (and tasty) avatar. The Last Order was a more subtle drink in all respects. The one mocktail we tried – Fame of Passion – was peachy and quite refreshing.

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The food menu, with a lot of focus on appetisers and short eats, is a mix of Asian cuisines – Japanese, Korean and Thai. We began with the salmon sashimi, complemented well by the wasabi and ginger, but preferred the Red Snapper Nigiri over this. Also in good form was the vegetarian dish we tried – the mildly spicy Shichimi-spiced Maki with tenkasu. The Pork Belly was quite good too – well cooked meat with a lime based tangy topping that gave it a flavourful pop. The Prawns Tempura also found a lot of takers – fluffy and crisp batter with succulent meat. The starters ended on a high with the fantastic Chilly Beef Asparagus, spicy enough even for the seasoned palates.

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On a relative scale, there aren’t a lot of choices in the main menu, and a couple of dishes weren’t available, but the remaining did suffice to make a decent meal out of it. The Beef stew was nowhere near what we’d consider a stew, but well cooked meat and mildly spicy flavours meant we didn’t really complain. The San Bei Chicken was a tad too salty for our liking. We had the Soba rice noodles with chilli to go with these and it was liked mainly thanks to its zesty spiciness. The seafood noodles was surprisingly insipid.

It’s a lounge, so understandably there aren’t many dessert options. To be precise, there are three, and the Banoffee Pie was an easy winner given that the competition was a fruit platter and homemade ice creams. The dessert wasn’t bad, though I can’t claim it was the best I’d eaten.

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At a height of over 420 feet and spread across 10000 square feet, High sets the bar high, literally and otherwise. Special thanks to Guru, who in addition to being wonderful at his job as the resident mixologist, also charmed us with his child management skills! An energetic yet relaxing ambiance, good appetisers, superb service, and a view that might remain unmatched for quite a while, High has everything going for it.  A meal for two would cost around Rs.3500 (Inclusive of taxes and service charge) The pricing might make it seem a little for the highborn, but hey, the experience is difficult to top!

High Ultra Lounge, Roof Top, World Trade Center, 31st Floor, Brigade Gateway Campus, 26/1, Dr. Rajkumar Road, Malleshwaram West, Ph: 08045674567

Mother Cluckers

12th Main Indiranagar now rivals Koramangala in terms of cuisine diversity! Mother Cluckers belongs to the Plan B family and pretty much rules the roost in terms of popularity in the area. (map) I was told that finding a table among the dozen options available would be near impossible. But we were early cluckers and got a spot, near the ‘hippie entrance’. In about half an hour, the place was packed. Not surprising, since it’s not a really large space. In case you don’t get lucky, take your drink and spend some time in the smoking zone beside the entrance. They have made the most of the space – rustic brick walls adorned with plaques and posters that sum up the commitment to clucking good food. The glasses, tissues and even the menu show the lineage quite clearly – Plan B. The dim lighting (though they have done a fantastic job of ensuring tables are well lit) and a general informal ambiance and decor make it a perfect spot to unwind in the evening. That’s despite the mildly uncomfortable wooden park bench seating. The music went everywhere from ‘Walk of Life’ to ‘Summertime Sadness’, and the decibel levels don’t really encourage a lot of clucking.

One gigantic menu, one side of which is occupied by solids, and the other by liquids. The focus is clearly on bites that can go with drinks, which does make eminent sense given the place’ intent. We decided to test out the standard stuff before the specials. The Long Island, despite not skimping in alcohol, fell rather flat. The Caipirovska didn’t have as many illustrious ingredients, but was a much better drink – smooth and refreshing. The obvious choice for me, from the house specials, was Chutney Mary – a mix of vodka, guava juice, and spices. I suspect the ‘spices’ were chaat masala, but the drink is fantastic, if you’re the kind who doesn’t mind the drink being ‘hot’. Also, it does set the tone for the food. From “The Clucker’s Arsenal”, we asked for the Fiery Clucker, boneless chicken, grilled and marinated. Tasty enough, but surprisingly, despite the name, it turned out to be relatively less spicy than the other starters we tried. The Chilli Fried Pork, on the other hand, did live up to its name, and is only for those who can handle the heat! The Beef Chili Cheese Fries occupied the middle ground, with the cheese tempering the spiciness of the beef. The bacon with sausage, was exactly like all things that have bacon – great! The crunchy prawns were true to the name, and though the batter was bland, the mildly pungent dip made up for it. It was also a good respite from the spice assault! This is not really the best place for herbivores, but the Stuffed Mushrooms are totally worth a try, thanks to the delicious cheese and spinach stuffing.

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The mains options consist of burgers and a reasonable selection of other dishes. We started with the Pandi Burger, probably the most unique one in the list. Instead of the patty, there’s spicy Coorg pork, with a zesty tang to it. They have a crab burger as well, in case you prefer a sea adventure. The Smoked Spare Ribs is another dish that stands out from among the spice crowd! The marinade is sweet and only mildly spicy, with well cooked meat. Yet again, there was a pleasant veg surprise, this time in the form of Baked Eggplant, with a healthy dose of cheese and a tasty sauce.

The menu doesn’t display desserts, so we had given up hope, until one of us noticed the board outside with four options! We chose the Banoffee pie and a Chocolate cheesecake. It’s counterintuitive to go to a pub for desserts, but you’d be forgiven in this case. Spectacular stuff and a sweet mother clucking end to a meal!

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A meal for two would cost around Rs.1500 (Inclusive of taxes and service charge) – a couple of cocktails, a non veg starter, a main course dish and a dessert. There are only two things that can bring tears to your eyes – your preference for veg dishes (if any), and the spice levels in pretty much all the dishes. If you’re fine with that, and a hoarse voice that comes from shouting over the music, you’ll completely enjoy the place. The place is built for carnivores who enjoy their drinks. The rest of the world would unfortunately have to go cluck itself.

Mother Cluckers Bar, 957, 12th Main, HAL 2nd Stage, Indiranagar Ph: 9886092625

The Local

Originally appeared in Bangalore Mirror.

If, in Koramangala, Jimi doesn’t give you enough of a high, perhaps you should try a stairway to heaven, led by messaging on a steep flight of stairs. Subtext apart, there’s a new watering hole in this part of town, or rather, a ‘terrace drinkery’, that goes by the name of ‘The Local’. (map) The logo sets the tone quite clearly – it is inspired by a bottle cap. If that doesn’t bring a smile to your face, perhaps the messaging on the stairs will. It’s too long to recount in entirety, but the message is that this is a place that celebrates the ordinary, and all the kinds that make up a great hangout. The talk is easily backed up by the relaxed ambiance. Quirky is going mainstream, but The Local’s décor is certainly a candidate for tastefulness. An assortment of seating options – indoors and al fresco, featuring a motley group of chairs, stone benches, and surprisingly, greenery in the heart of Koramangala! Add to this, beer served in ceramic mugs, the little blackboard menus, offers like Tap Tuesdays and Tequila Thursdays, it’s easy to imagine an evening spent lazing around. And then there’s the music! We started the evening with classics – As Time Goes by, Uptown Girl and so on, quickly moved on to New York City Speed and such, and ended the night with everything kids listen to these days!

When the drinks menu occupies as much space as the food on the menu, it does seem like a good start. It gets better when you figure that they actually do have the stuff. There’s no end to the number of pubs which have Hoegaarden and Asahi on the menu, and on the menu only! However, their in-house specials are nothing out of the ordinary. We asked for a Strawberry Margarita and it arrived in the form of a Strawberry Martini! Someone at the bar was definitely having a few *hic* cups. They did offer to replace it though, after we pointed it out. The starters took a long while to arrive. The Veg platter which had Paneer Tikka, mushrooms, cauliflower and Basil Haryali Kababs. The last was an easy winner, since the tikka was only average, the mushrooms rather insipid and the cauliflower suffered from a mustard overdose.

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The good news had been that the Chilli Beef had arrived first, the bad news was that it forgot to cook itself! That was unfortunate because the flavours were really good. The Portuguese Patra in name and appearance was similar to the Parsi Patra ni Machchi, but this one had a chicken version too. Wrapped in banana leaves, this was easily our favourite starter and was well complemented by the peanut based dip.

The main course options consisted of burgers, sandwiches, pizzas, pasta and a few steaks. We began with the Meat Lovers Pizza, which was a chicken, pork and cheese extravaganza. They did play their parts well, but the pizza itself was burnt. The BELT was our favourite mains dish, the acronym (and the dish) being made up of bacon, egg, lettuce and tomato. Despite the ingredients, the sandwich was light, with subtle flavours. The Penne Alfredo (we had the veg version) was only average though the cream sauce promised much. The Italian Stuffed Bell Peppers sounded quite interesting – bell peppers stuffed with cheesy rice, served with baked apple and red wine sauce. It looked quite the belle too, red and green bell peppers looking pretty in the company of the apple. But looks proved deceptive, the dish wasn’t great, the barely cooked rice being the chief culprit! We were in the mood for desserts, but they didn’t exist!

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For about Rs.1800, you could share a couple of drinks, two non veg starters, and a main course dish. (Inclusive of taxes and service charge) The Local makes no pretence to being a fine dining destination, and bills itself as a ‘my kind of place, come as you are’ hangout. The décor, music and the general buzz manages to do that quite well, but it has a long way to go in terms of the quality of food served. If the general idea is only to lounge around in Koramangala with beer and sides, and in a relaxed atmosphere, you won’t be disappointed. But if the expectation is more than casual ‘drinkery’, then the terrace might fall short.

The Local, 467, 80ft Road, 6th block, Koramangala, Ph: 2550 5119

The Island

No, not a fancy one, just the one on 80ft Road, Indiranagar. It’s been around for a while, but we never managed to get there. (map) It shares the building with Oye Amritsar, and the ‘dangerous’ design of walking paths with Banana Beach, Koramangala. But despite that, we liked the decor – the space is well utilised, and full of non-intrusive spaces for different sized groups, thanks to multiple sections. The music goes around in loops but doesn’t really do any damage. On a Saturday night, it was a mixed crowd of PYTs and grown ups like us. ;) We had reserved in advance, and that might be a good idea for you as well.

The menu has much to offer and is what you’d call ‘lounge cuisine’ – Mediterranean, Continental, American, and a smattering of Oriental and Mexican. We asked for a couple of martinis – Chocolate, and Pineapple Coconut, and though the ingredients in both were standard favourites, and they were generous with the alcohol, they just didn’t work. The appetiser – Spicy Cilantro Chili Chicken was much better fare, and in addition to the moderately spicy chicken, it also had this amazing dip – mint was definitely in it, and a fruit – we’re still not sure if it was passion fruit or pear or..

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We had ordered a Filipino soup (Chicken) which they had to be reminded about! When we finally got it, we pointed out that we had ordered a by-two. It seemed we were apparently the first at The Island to order a soup in that form, because the person who brought the soup asked us what it was! Good start to the trolling! The soup itself was not bad, more like a stew than a soup – thick, thanks to the barley. We had to debate quite a bit for the main course, and finally decided on a pizza over several other contestants. The Chicken Cravers with chicken sausages, spicy chicken salami, roast chicken, and Mozzarella among other things, was quite tasty and filling! That meant that we had to skip the second dish we’d wanted, and go straight to desserts. I signaled to the troll for the menu and he brought me the bill! :| Thankfully, the Chocolate Extravaganza was exactly that, and we were pleasantly surprised at the sheer size of it! Lots and lots of spongy, moist chocolate to end the meal on a high!

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The bill came to slightly over Rs.2200, and most of it was courtesy the alcohol. The service   is not the best I’ve seen, but food is decent and the place has a soothing ambiance, so we’ll probably drop in a second time.

The Island,  Plot No.3, 80 Feet Road, Off 2nd Main Rd, Beside FCML Shop, Near Columbia Asia Hospital, 1st Stage, Indira Nagar Ph: 41261114

The Humming Tree

Indiranagar was definitely the area we wanted to be, but The Humming Tree was a second choice. We’d called up Loft 38 earlier in the day for a reservation, but they said they weren’t taking any and we should just walk in at 7.30. We did, and walked out at 7.31, because they were fully booked. Very professional! So we sulked our way to The Humming Tree, which was the other place we’d considered. Thankfully, the place was near empty when we reached and we could easily get the seat we wanted – glass facade facing the road. Oh wait, the restaurant is on 12th Main, (map) exactly opposite I & Monkey, on the 3rd and 4th floors.

The place definitely has character, and has been modeled with music events in mind. Funky decor that includes posters, a mishmash of furniture kinds, foosball and spaces that give you privacy with the right amount of buzz around you. I didn’t agree much with the music early on, but I ain’t that young no more! :)

The night was perfect for a soup, but they didn’t have any on the menu, which, unlike the pretty one you see at Zomato was just a group of printouts living together on a clipboard. We were just in time for the last Happy Hours order (< 8PM, on weekends as well!) and chose a red wine Sangria. Some of the beers listed on the menu were not available, and that was quite a downer. There was beef among the starters, so that decision was easy. The Sangria came quickly enough, and was really good. Just the right amounts of fruit, ice and alcohol and not measly in terms of quantity. The Beef Piccante was a little cold by the time it got to the table (wonder why) but it was spicy and had well cooked meat, and we really enjoyed it.

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For the main course, we asked for a Gnocchi with creamy pesto and chicken, and a Pork Burrito, which won against the Goan Pork Sausage Burger. The Burrito had braised pork, cheddar cheese, lime rice, beans, salsa, sour cream and onion and the flavour bursts ensured a good dish. The Gnocchi proved a great complement of sorts, thanks to its subtle flavours. We wanted the Chilli Chocolate Cake for desserts, but that wasn’t available. The next choice was the Dark Chocolate and Almond Mousse Cake. The texture wasn’t really mousse – it was a different kind of moist soft – but we liked it.

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All of the above cost us a little over Rs.1850, inclusive of all tax and charges. By the time we were through, the place was really packed, and it was easy to understand why. Excellent ambiance, good food, prompt service. We’d definitely like to visit again.

The Humming Tree, 949, 3rd Floor, 12th Main, Indiranagar, Ph: 9886651373

Infinitea, Indiranagar

I’ve been to the Cunningham Road version a couple of times, and am a bigger fan of its ambiance than the food served. D has not been there and such occurrences (me having visited places that she has not)  don’t sit well with her. Unfortunately, Cunningham Road is a little away from our part of the universe, so I have dillydallied. Sometime back, she triumphantly announced that she had seen an Indiranagar version and that left me with no excuses. So we landed there one Sunday noon. When going from Koramangala, take the left turn after the Domlur flyover, you’ll see the outlet on your right a bit before this road meets 12th Main. Enough lanes around to park peacefully.

The space is considerably lesser than the Cunningham Road outlet, and limited to one floor, though there are alfresco and indoor seating options. The ambiance retains some of the quirkiness, though this is less of the elegant tea room than the other outlet. But they have done their best given the space constraints. The menu is the same, and we asked for pots of Choco Ginger and Vanilla Oolong. The first one had a chocolate aroma that proved that the way to man’s heart can also be through his nose. The taste though was skewed towards the ginger. The second one had really subtle flavours and D didn’t care for it much.

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We decided to skip starters and began with a Cream of Mushroom and Chicken soup. It was slightly thinner than we’d have liked, but it wasn’t stingy with the cream, and with a dash of pepper, we learned to like it. For the main course, we ordered a Chicken Tetrazzine and a Baked Fish Parmigiano. The Tetrazzine was a baked dish with spaghetti and a cream sauce. The cheese was strong with this one, but the sauce again felt a tad diluted and bland. The fish dish was relatively better, because there was some tang thanks to the red sauce and tomatoes. This one too was generous with the cheese, and left us with just enough space for a Crillon Cake. Dark, flourless chocolate cake with whipped cream which floored us. Fantastic end to an otherwise average meal.

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The service was quite prompt, the ambiance is pleasant enough, and the meal left us lighter by only Rs.1470 including service tax and charge. That was quite reasonable, given the location.

Infinitea, 26, ESI Hospital Road, HAL 2nd Stage, Indiranagar, Ph: 41265258

Stomp

First published in Bangalore Mirror, though I had no hand in that unintentionally hilarious USP! 

I whined when I was asked to do this review, because it was in Whitefield! The Koramangala snobbery in me called it a 2D/1N package, specially thanks to traffic. But it was a good thing that I finally visited. A visit to Stomp manages to bring out both the meanings of the word. I can imagine people stomping their way (angrily) through Forum Value Mall (map) trying to find the place. They have hidden it well in a corner! But once they manage to get in, I can understand why they’d want to stomp – dance with a rhythmic stamping step.

There’s a small alfresco section, but the rest of the ambiance immediately reminded me of Richard O’Brien’s Crystal Maze – this would be the Medieval zone, with some ‘Industrial’ thanks to the large pipes. Add to this a Gothic touch, and the picture would be almost complete. Almost, because music is an integral part of the pub’s character as well. I loved the church-like stained glass ‘windows’ featuring Ozzy, Hendrix, Morrison and so on, and the quotes by famous artists that pop up at a few places. With all of that as the backdrop, we were mildly disappointed when we walked into a James Blunt song video playing on the giant screen. But that was quickly redeemed with a blast of Floyd, Dire Straits, Guns N’ Roses, The Police, Bon Jovi and videos we hadn’t seen in a long time! A hark back to the days of my youth, but as the night progressed, the playlist became younger. Avicii woke me up to the fact that I was older and Icona Pop reminded me that “You’re from the 70′s, but I’m a 90′s b***h”! The food proved to be a good distraction, and I let the non-veg mafia croon ‘Don’t you worry child’ in their own comforting way!

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The menu is mostly Indian, and even when they do stray towards Continental and Mexican, there’s an Indian touch to it. The good news is that alcohol is relatively cheap and there are some interesting cocktail options. We tried the Purple Slurple, made from cabbage juice and white rum, and the strong and frothy Whisky Lass-y. The white wine Sangria was also different from the standard, apparently using a pulpy soft orange. The complimentary Guava Martini wasn’t bad either. Solid consumption began with the Beef Chilli Fry, which was quite tasty – well cooked meat and spicy. A house special – Ghaati Chicken Sukha was up next, and it reminded us of the coastal Sukka dishes. This was our favourite non veg starter with a mildly spicy masala and finely grated coconut for texture. Baingan Burani tha, in fact it was quite good and in appearance and flavour reminiscent of chaats. The Chilli Pork was the last of the starters to arrive, and except for the animal involved, was a replica of the beef dish we’d had earlier. But we had been  warned, so I wouldn’t really complain.

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Understandably, the main course section has fewer options compared to the starters, but what was disappointing was that quite a few dishes were unavailable. All dishes are served with Indian bread/rice variations. We had to go with the Dal Gosht because the Dabba Gosht, Maamsam Koora and the Sri Lankan Beef Stir fry were not available. Unsurprisingly, this bland dish proved to be the least favourite. The Prawn Chilliajo made up for it with juicy, brilliantly cooked prawns in a delicious onion and pepper based thick gravy. The only vegetarian in the group tried to interest us in the Pesto Penne, which was quite good, though heavy, according to her, but we were preoccupied with the superb Chicken Farfalle in Makhanwala sauce – thick, flavourful and an example of a happy cuisine marriage.

There are only four dessert options and the house special wasn’t available. The Gulab Jamun turned out to be quite good, though not extraordinary. The shocker was the Shahi Tukra. Though they weren’t stingy with the milk ‘sauce’, it wasn’t really rich, but the bread was the kind that could be successfully used for interrogations. You must pray that the tooth prevails!

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For about Rs.1800, you could share a couple of cocktails, two non veg starters, a non veg main course dish and a dessert. (Inclusive of taxes and service charge) The service is friendly, but occasionally careless. They also need to be coached on dishes. I had to wonder how many people coming to Forum Value Mall would be interested in this kind of an offering. A pity because once you find your way in, the only thing that could piss you off is the lack of a toilet – you have to use the mall’s common facilities. Despite all that, I think the combination of good food, excellent ambiance, and different and interesting meal deals through the day will help this wonderful hangout establish a stomp of authority in Whitefield’s pub scene.

Stomp, 12A, Ground Floor, Forum Value Mall, Whitefield, Ph: 080 49420000

Hoppipola

first published in Bangalore Mirror

My first Hoppipola visit was an experience I’m not likely to forget soon. They wouldn’t take reservations so we had to try our luck on a Saturday night. This is on the top floor of the Mainland China building immediately after the Domlur flyover when coming from Koramangala. (map) A bunch of kids were waiting in the ground floor lobby expectantly eyeing the lift every time its doors opened, for such was the crowd that only when guests left were new ones let in. We finally managed a place in the lift, and smugly assumed there would be a table waiting upstairs for us. The doors opened to a college fest, (or school – debatable) with alcohol, and standing space for just about four people. The only way to get a table was to have Spidey like speed and reflexes. Since we were barely on the right side of forty and had no special effects for support, we felt like people in the namesake Sigur Ros song and beat a hasty retreat before the sharp increase in the average age on the floor provoked an uncle/aunty comment. The second visit, on a Friday afternoon, was more peaceful and we could appreciate the quirky ambiance as well. Garden seating with potted plants and creepers for company on the outside and large tables and bar seating inside, exam pad menus with offbeat descriptions, board games, books and a happy wall whose doors and windows can be opened for surprise gifts, all add to the youthful vibe. Judging by the crowd, Hoppipola has definitely been successful in its endeavour to make people of all kinds happy!

We took quite some advantage of the ridiculously cheap alcohol prices. The Apples and Curry Leaves mojito was refreshing with the curry leaves adding that extra bite. If you’d like things to be a little less sweet, go for the Kafir-Lime and Lychees version. Even spicier tastes? Go for the Guava Balsamic Mary, served in a salt-rimmed glass and strong in flavours and alcohol! The red wine based Sonora Sangria is not bad either, with the wine quantity making up for the relatively lower overall volume.

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The Pimped Shrimp was our solid start, and in addition to the promised garlic and burnt chilli flavours, it also had a lime presence that added an excellent tanginess. The mildly spicy Sansho fish came a close second with vinegar and chilli flavours. We also liked The Mexican samosas – they chose to call it empanada – crispy exterior with a creamy corn and jalapeno filling. The Teriyaki Paneer, with a unique presentation style and gingery flavour, and the Chickiti’tah – grilled chicken with a whiff of tangerine and ginger – were not bad either. The Rasta Chicken came recommended, and though it was crisp-fried and tasty, it didn’t really live up the expectations.

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On a relative note, there are fewer options in the mains section, and it didn’t help that a few items were unavailable. We chose Captain Haddock to begin with – a carbonara pizza with ‘chicken bacon’ and though a tad bland, we still liked it. The tomato heavy Margarita was a thin crust pizza and even discounting our collective meat bias, this was not something we cared for. We tried two versions of “The Drinking Man’s food” – ‘Champagne Cream’ with a creamy cheese sauce and champagne with chicken and ‘Pesto Rum’ with shrimp. Both were excellent, though we could detect no trace of the alcohol mentioned’, and it took several rounds of debate before the Pesto Rum was given top honours. The last to arrive was the Coin Lamburgers – three mini burgers with mildly spicy and tasty patties.

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There is no way to sugar-coat this. There are no desserts! I am rarely one to rant about the youth of today, but is this what it has come down to? How can we be called a civilisation without a sweet tooth? What about those researches that correlate chocolate and happiness? Sigh. A minus point for that, though I was told that desserts would be added soon!

For about Rs.1350, you could share a couple of cocktails, two non veg starters, and a couple of non veg main course dishes. (Inclusive of taxes and service charge) The service is reasonably prompt, though they do tend to get hassled sometimes. If you can brave the challenges of gaining entry, you’ll find that the ambiance and the buzz do give Hoppipola the lively bonhomie it aspires to have. It also hits the sweet spot in terms of pricing, but c’mon, some desserts to sweeten the deal?

Hoppipola, 4032, (Mainland China Building – terrace) HAL, 2nd Stage, Indiranagar, Bangalore Ph: 080 25217070

P.S. This happens to be restaurant review #200 on this blog. Burp! :D

Bricklane Grill

Bricklane Grill has been a source of emotional attyachar from the time I went there for an office dinner in December 2012. (thanks, foursquare) Every time the restaurant pops up in a discussion, I get accusatory looks. “Tonight, we end this!”, said I, on a Saturday evening, when both D and I were sneezing in tandem. And that’s how we landed up at Bricklane Grill. (map)

We had reserved, and though only one table was occupied when we got there, (early – 7.30) by around 8.30, the entire section was full. For some reason, they were only serving drinks and appetisers in the alfresco area. Anyway,  it was a windy evening and we were already have sneezing fits, so we sat inside. The decor is functional yet classy, and the place has a very pleasant ambiance, with sufficient space between tables, and by the end of the evening there was a fair amount of buzz. Just right. I remember sitting upstairs (technically, the 6th floor) the first time I was there. That floor had a room almost similar to the one we were in, and a small terrace, where we had sat.

One of the service staff introduced himself and began offering recommendations from the menu. When he heard about our nasal troubles, he offered to make us a toddy based hot drink. Good touch, but though I asked for one and said we would order another if we liked it, we got two, and D didn’t even like it! :( Should’ve sent one back! We also ordered a Cream of Mushroom  soup and a Bheja na Cutlets to begin with. A complimentary plate of bruschetta arrived on the table. Not spectacular, but not bad either.  The soup was not bad, though uni-dimensional in terms of flavour. The cutlets were really good – mutton brain with a crumbed and deep fried egg batter coating. As for the drink, it couldn’t hold a candle to the LTO. (at Like That Only)

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We waited to see what appetite we had left before ordering the main course – Patra ni Machi and a Bricklane Mixed Grill. The mixed grill had beef of two kinds, chicken, and pork. The Merlot beef was my favourite, followed by the Jack Daniels pork. The garlic chicken was not bad though the Peppercorn beef was a bit of a disappointment. But in general, well cooked and succulent meat. The fish dish, came wrapped in banana leaf, as it’s supposed to be, with a mint and cilantro chutney. D found it too bland, though the dressing on the plate could actually change that! The best part was that we still had space for dessert – so we could have that South Indian Coffee Brule (sic) that we had been eyeing. That turned out to be excellent, with the filter coffee flavour coming through beautifully. It was served with an almond biscotti, whose texture added much to the dish.

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The service was quite good, except for the drink fiasco. The bill came to just over Rs.3050, including charges and taxes, Rs.1000 of which was thanks to the two drinks! But we enjoyed the meal and the ambiance, so wouldn’t really complain much.

Bricklane Grill, 5th Floor, Escape Hotel & Spa, 770, 100 Feet Road, HAL 2nd Stage, Indiranagar Ph: 080 42415505