Central Bangalore

The Open Box

It’s not often that we venture so far away from our native country – Whitefield – but the visuals of The Open Box, and its fusion menu, were enticing enough to drag us all the way to St.Marks Road. On reaching there, we realised that it was the same place that Spiga used to occupy. We were big fans of Spiga when it used to be in a house on Vittal Mallya Road, but the second version really didn’t live up.

We walked in close to 1 on a Sunday afternoon, and easily found a place. But if we had been late by half an hour, I think we’d have had some trouble getting a table. The space is separated into about 3-4 sections. The lower floor has some seating near the entrance itself, and the bar separates the remaining area into two.There’s also some seating upstairs, but it didn’t seem open. The furniture is functional-cool – I particularly liked the swivel chair I was seated on. There are some fun decor elements, and that extends to the plating devices too. Not to mention the goofy ‘Nintendo joystick’ posters in the loo! A pool table and a gigantic world map (made with artificial turf) add to the character. We found quite a mixed crowd there – at least two sets of older people having a get together of some sort, and many groups of much younger folk as well!

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The Permit Room

My Instagram feed had been abuzz for a while with some very appealing photos of The Permit Room dishes, but travel (vacation, not the one from Whitefield to MG Road) meant that it took us a while to get there. Despite the TOIT pedigree, the concept and therefore the food, ambiance and decor all are completely different. No craft beer, ok?

The name is a throwback to the days of Prohibition, and the food takes absolute liberties with good old South Indian cuisine. Spread across three floors, the decor is unabashedly kitsch – posters, quotes, art, matchbox collages, and the satirical take on taxidermy – all chuckle-worthy stuff.  We sat on the first floor, with a view of Garuda Mall.

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Toast & Tonic

Monkeys thankfully evolve, such is the nature of things, and one such has now done exactly that to become Toast & Tonic: East Village Style. (map) Our East Village experiences have been limited to a couple of trips around Shillong and Gangtok (no need to get technical about directions, now!) and we’ve never actually been inside a barn, so back in March, we decided to broaden our perspectives on both counts and celebrate D’s birthday there.  It was meant to be a surprise for her, and since I’d heard that it was usually packed, I reserved a table a day before. But we got delayed a bit thanks to our neighbour-friends surprising us both with a cake. While on our way, I wondered whether I should call and request them to hold the table. Before I could do that though, I received a call from them confirming our visit. They also asked whether they should arrange a cake for D because they wouldn’t allow food from outside. Very classy, and professional. Impressed even before I got there.

From the very second visit, the front door of Monkey has given me a “TARDIS feeling”. Partly because of the door panel shape, but mostly because the space inside is much larger than what I’d have imagined from outside. T&T feels even bigger – the chipped wood ceiling seems higher, and somehow the overall place is roomier. It could partly be because only a couple of tables were occupied when we got in, but even when fully packed (which was the situation by the time we finished lunch) it doesn’t really feel congested. Everything from the bar and decor to tableware exudes a casual elegance, making it a perfect spot for a lazy Sunday lunch, which was what we were there for.

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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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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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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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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.