Central Bangalore

Mighty Small

First published in Bangalore Mirror

One of the ‘perks’ of getting into 1MG Mall from the Indiranagar side is that you get to play/watch NASCAR in the last stretch. After the Trinity signal, you’ll swing wildly to the left, because you have to turn into Kensington Road, cutting through the blaring horns (with vehicles attached) that want to continue on Swamy Vivekananda’s path. Then you’ll swing sharply right to catch the mall entry, again zooming past irritated folks who just want to go straight. If you’re wondering what this has to do with a restaurant review, well, it sets the mood for Smaaash, whose eatery – Mighty Small – we will now focus on. Smaaash is a gaming and entertainment center, and locating Mighty Small within it reminded me of Crystal Maze! In line with everything around it, Mighty Small has a carnival theme, and one must admit that it holds an appeal and charm for kids of all ages, including those in their late thirties. The popcorn machine, the red and white colour palette, the desserts display, the circus-tents and balloons, all create a bright and cheerful ambiance. Add to that a DJ who set a peppy tempo to the proceedings with everything from Karz to Avicii, and we had all in readiness for the circus!

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Watsons

From the time it had opened, I’ve had fangirls (and some boys) telling me I really should drop in. But something or the other, mostly the move to Whitefield, kept me from the place. But finally, in a very un-elementary way, it was my desire to push myself out of a post-dengue lethargy that got us to make the long trip to Ulsoor. (map) The map is perfect, and that building is a mini Church Street now in terms of eating options! This place was deserted when we were staying in Cox Town. (2006-08) There is nothing that indicates though, that Watsons is on the fourth floor! We saw floors 3,5 and 6, (those last two are eerily silent and desolate) and finally walked into Watsons at about 6:45. The plan was to reach at 6 and watch the sunset, but we had an Uber driver who hasn’t discovered gears beyond the first. We just about managed to find a table in the corner that offered a great view. I don’t know if they take reservations, but on Saturdays, I think it’d be a good idea to come early and park yourself. By 7.30, there was a constant stream of people waiting outside.

Decor elements are the standard contemporary ‘happening pub’ variety – wall art, dim lighting, a well stocked bar in the centre, a mix of high tables and standard ones, fun posters in the loo and so on. But forget all that, it’s a damn good place to nurse a drink and watch the city skyscape. Sigh. More

Bangalore Brew Works

Bangalore Brew Works had been open for a while, but we didn’t want to go all the way there until the microbrewery was up and running. That happened just in time for Oktoberfest and that’s when we landed up there. ‘Up there’ is probably the right description because it’s on the 10th floor. Thanks to that, a fantastic view of the city is on offer for a few tables. The others have to be content with a slightly less breathtaking view, visible if you allow yourself to see beyond the bar counter. The seating is mix of high tables and bar stools, and plush sofas near the bar, relatively low seating in the area that offers the superb view of UB City, and a rather haphazard arrangement of functional furniture in the centre. On Saturday night, there was a DJ playing some very good EDM. Rather loud, I’d add and at least a couple of groups were complaining. :) There’s the mandatory big screen, of course.

We had asked for a table reservation but were told we could just walk in. The place is quite suited to large groups.

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The Lost Caravan

From our current environs – Whitefield – getting to Church Street can be classified under ‘travel’, and that’s probably why I took to the theme of The Lost Caravan immediately! (map) The building it’s housed in reminded me of old hotels – the kind you used to see in the 80s and early 90s. A lift sometimes takes you to the second floor. (Bangalore and power cuts, you know the deal) A reassuring large bar and peppy interiors greet you as soon as you get in. The walls are full of curios – clocks, a neat open-suitcase way of showing travel paraphernalia and a/c ducts covered up with maps of all sorts! Also check out the post card sized travel photos. Fantastic stuff. That Mars-Venus touch on the loo doors – nice. :) We had reserved a table for 8, but got there early and sat in the smoking section, which has the kind of street-facing view I really like.

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SodaBottleOpenerWala

Jacques La Brasserie had been on my list for a while now, and the only reason I missed out was because its neighbours like Biere Club and The Glasshouse seduced me away. Given that we’re now in Whitefield, a trip to Lavelle Road is pretty much counted as a weekend getaway! But thanks to the hype that SodaBottleOpenerWala has been getting on my Instagram feed, a visit was warranted. Jacques La Brasserie was my fallback option in case we didn’t get a table, except that when we got there, we realised that JLB had given way to SBOW! Such is Bangalore’s restaurant scene. The place is right opposite the Harley Davidson Showroom (map) and they have valet parking. To note, of course, that your car could disappear. They don’t take reservations, ensuring that there is always a crowd outside waiting to get in. Thankfully, we got a table immediately. High stools and close to the bar, but hey.

The space is not huge, though it manages to pack in tables with enough room in between. They have also ensured that all sorts of group sizes can find a place. Irani Cafe with a modern finish, that would describe the ambiance. The decor ensures that quite a few adults (like me) behave like kids in their favourite store, pointing out interesting things to those with them. The framed photos, the signature, red-checked table cloth, the little bakery, the old fashioned switchboard, the wall signages – make sure you take the time to soak it all in. Do not forget to look up and catch the toy train. D spotted it, I was too busy with eye level sights. The music, when we got in, was complete retro Bollywood, played really loud. Somewhere during the night, it switched to contemporary pop! The television was tuned to some gags show.

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The Glass House

Though we’ve been hearing a lot about this place on Lavelle Road, (map, they have valet parking) a love for my internal organs had made me resist it every time D made the suggestion. But for her birthday dinner, we decided to finally drop in there. The place is indeed lovely, especially at night, when the roof can be seen in full glory. Some of the open air seating on the ground floor makes for a good setting, but we preferred sitting upstairs in a corner overlooking the next compound and a jackfruit tree! We arrived early and had a table reserved, but it did get crowded by around 8.30, so you might want to book a table.

They have a pretty impressive wine list and we tried the Malbec Bodega Norton Coleccion and Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon Redvale ‘Rivergum’. The first had a sweet spice hint and the latter was more full blooded with a berry undertone. We asked for a Bacon and pickled chilly hash, served with a three cheeses dip. That was just average since the flavours mentioned in the name never really appeared. D volunteered to finish my wine so I could try a Tennessee Coffee. JD, coffee and chocolate were all very well represented in this one, and I enjoyed the play of the flavours.

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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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Bierre Republic

First published in Bangalore Mirror

Church Street has been getting quite a high these days – Social, Tapwater, and Bierre Republic. Pavilion Mall, where Bierre Republic is located, seems like a sandwich with nothing in between – the ground and top floors are active but the two floors in between looked unoccupied.  There’s no valet parking but they have space in the basement. The huge signage outside serves as a beacon of hope as you trudge past two floors of desolation and alien-looking faux vegetation to finally land up, ironically, near a man in a sailor suit! You could choose to be boring and take the lift too. Another small flight of stairs gets you to the dining area with many parts to it – alfresco with a few enclosed portions, a smoking section, a smaller lounge area, and even an ‘upper deck’. The furniture is almost all wood, except for the plush sofas in the smoking section and some other elements, and that includes the décor consisting of ‘barrels’! It was edging towards tackiness, but the beer posters manage to pull it back a bit. The alfresco section is the perfect place to be in typical Bangalore weather and offers a superb view of the Public Utility building. A live band was in the house, and except for a massacre of The Cranberries’ “Zombie”, which almost provoked us to violence for the sake of silence, they were quite good! Meanwhile, as the evening progressed, the service began reflecting the ‘ship’ theme – they were totally at sea, and were finding it difficult to manage the orders, despite the valiant efforts of their active crew, whom we felt sorry for. More

The Tao Terraces

The Tao Terraces has been on my radar ever since this one once commented that they serve a good Khow Suey. On the Diwali weekend, (yes, I know!) we decided to get out of our regular gastroturf i.e. Koramangala/Indiranagar and head to 1 MG, (map) which to me is the new UB City in terms of #posh. The experience at Blimey wasn’t really fantastic, and since then I tend to look at the entire mall with suspicion. But go there we did.

We chose the seating on the ground floor, by the little pool, partly because we’d read that they only served a limited menu in the lounge on the second floor. (though when we asked whether this was true, the service staff said this was only true for the starters, and anything in the main course could be ordered upstairs as well) The seating is comfortable, and this section is dimly lit with a lot of Buddhist/South East Asian decor elements. The music is generic lounge and the overall effect is quite soothing.

On a whim, we skipped the Dim Sum and appetisers and asked for the Spicy Tuna Maki roll, but since that wasn’t available, decided to go for the Nigiri Sushi. (salmon) On a relative scale, we’re sushi n00bs, (both of us have always felt some kind of a strange revulsion!) and didn’t really have a benchmark to compare against. I experimented with the Wasabi paste and soy sauce and found my preferred combination in the third and final attempt. I liked the texture of the fish and the overall dish and am emboldened enough to keep experimenting. We’d also asked for the Laska Lemak Malaya (Chicken) soup. Spicy, tangy, with tofu and chicken, this was probably the best dish of the day. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

For the main course, we predictably asked for the “khau-swe” and since both of us were reasonably hungry also ordered a Wok Tossed Smoked pork and Jasmine Rice to go with it. The Burmese dish was reasonably good, though a tad too heavy for my liking. Also, the coconut flavour seemed to have come from a packet. The pork dish was quite salty with a standard smoked smell that even the jasmine rice couldn’t neutralise.

We would’ve loved to try out the Kafir Lime Tiramisu and the Wasabi Ice Cream but we were too stuffed! In all, except for the soup, it was an average meal that cost us a bit over Rs.2400. The service was reasonably prompt, though they always had an ‘are you sure’ expression on their faces.

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The Tao Terraces, 5th Floor, 1 MG Mall Ph: 9986988444

Lan Thai

Lan Thai has been widely regarded as a sort of hidden gem, and for some reason, had been appearing on my various timelines for a while now. It had been a long while since we’d been to Brigade Road – there actually aren’t many reasons for us to do so – but since I had books to sell at Blossoms and since D and I don’t need a lot of encouragement to make trips for the soul (yes, by design) purpose of eating, we decided to drop in at the 5th Avenue mall, where this little place is located. It’s in what can be called the atrium space of the mall – open – and shares its premises with a juice shop. The seating is functional, and we managed to find a little corner.

We had to rebuff the advances of the juice shop guys and wait a while before we got the menu. There’s also an extra seafood menu, but we had already more or less figured out what we wanted to eat from the main menu and didn’t think there would be any space left! We ordered everything together because a) we would then have to eat it even if we were reasonably stuffed (we’re strange like that) and b) some main course items seemed suspiciously similar to starters!

The bubble milk tea arrived first, ice blended and a tad less sweeter than we expected, but still good enough. It reminded us of the Cendol we had during our Bali visit, but that is probably an unfair comparison because it had coconut milk and palm sugar and was in a class by itself! The Chicken in Coconut Milk and Galangal came next and though on the thinner side was fantastic in terms of flavours! No stinginess in terms of ingredients and reasonably spicy as well. The other soup we tried – noodle with chicken – is probably the only dish we’d avoid. It had a vaguely cloying (though mild) sweetness and not many other flavours. We took the help of all the sauces available on the table to modify its taste! Those bowls are big, by the way, and almost a meal in themselves!

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The Spicy Minced Beef Salad had chilli flakes in it but wasn’t really spicy. (probably by our standards) That, of course, does not mean that it wasn’t tasty, and the meat was well cooked except for a couple of pieces that I got. The Pad Thai was the last to arrive, and despite what I thought was a mild overdose of bean sprouts, was absolutely awesome. We really didn’t have the space, but asked for desserts anyway. Unfortunately, there weren’t any! :(

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All of the above cost us Rs,1200. I don’t think they accept credit cards though. The service is friendly though they do take a while to get to you. Thankfully the delivery of the food is really prompt. We probably will drop in again when we have a Thai food craving.

Lan Thai, 5th Avenue Mall, Ground Floor, Brigade Road