Koramangala

My Bar

No, not mine, it’s just a name. Located above Kobe in Koramangala, (map) it occupies a couple of floors, both offering my favourite kind of road-view seating. That’s probably what prompted a second visit. The place has a lot of knickknacks – lanterns hanging from the roof, and everything from compasses to framed Someecards adorning the walls. While the first visit was on a night when D and I were not really hungry, the second was a Sunday afternoon when the bellies were mostly empty! Their bar menu has quite a few interesting cocktails. On our first visit, we tried a Kala Khatta – a mix of vodka, black salt, chaat masala and raw mango mix, with mint, and a green chilli. Quite good, with multiple flavour pops, the only spoiler being the extended presence of crushed ice. We also tried a couple of starters – Beef Pepper Fry and Coorgi Pork. The first was (mostly) well cooked beef with the pepper corn adding a spicy touch. The braised pork was served with Kadamputtu, the pork itself was mildly spicy and juicy, but the accompaniment could have done better for itself.

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Twist

First published in Bangalore Mirror

Straight off the bat, I have not yet been able to figure out exactly why this new lounge in Koramangala is called Twist, unless I factor in the occasional ‘twists’ in the dishes. I’ll admit though that it does have its little quirks in décor – the cutlery themed door handles, the retro electric switchboard, the fake grass flooring and the copper balti washbasin, which, I hear, is fast becoming a norm in new restaurants. Being a rooftop lounge, it is able to takes full advantage of the lovely Bangalore weather, though I wonder what would happen when it rained. The place was reasonably packed when we visited on a Saturday night. For a lounge, I thought the tables could have been a bit more spread out. It also didn’t help that the rattan seating got a bit uncomfortable after a while, enough for a couple of my friends to twist and turn and make me wonder about the name. The other thing that made me reflect on the name was the spelling of ingredients in the menu – a whole bunch of them have been twisted around! Meanwhile, the service deserves a special mention for their friendly demeanour and promptness.

Given that the starters get a disproportionate share of the overall menu because it is a lounge, our focus too was on this section. Rather uncharacteristically, we decided to begin with a salad. My natural aversion to this gastronomic species was reinforced when the Thai Chilly Beef salad failed to deliver the spicy punch it had promised in the description. It probably had something to do with the Naga Chilli not turning up for the show at all! The Pesto Cheese Skewers had every ingredient in attendance but the pesto wasn’t really in a participatory mood, leaving the dish quite bland. More ‘greenery’ arrived in aquatic form – the Charmula fish. The basa was cooked just right and the marinade had enough flavour to turn the tide. The Pandi Papdi lived up to its interesting name – pork served on a crispy version of lavash. The well-cooked, mildly spicy pork and the texture of the lavash made sure it was a reasonable success. The Mozzarella Chicken Sish (sic) was another combination that aroused curiosity. The mince was marinated with Awadhi masala, and tempered with cheese stuffing. Not a bad attempt at all. Our favourite dish was the Chicken Chettinad Puff – fluffy-not-flaky pastry stuffed with tasty chicken morsels – unanimously voted the dish of the day. More

Malabar Bay

On one of those evenings when we were in the mood for our very own Mallu food, we decided to check out a place that had been on my list for a while now – Malabar Bay. This is on the Dairy Circle side of The Forum and off Taverkere Road. (map) There used to be a Kairali here if I’m not mistaken. We reached there by 7.30 and could choose a seat, but it did get crowded later. The place is quite large and portions of it have quite the Kerala touch when it comes to decor. We chose to sit in the AC section upstairs but you better be prepared for Siberia-like temperatures if you plan to do this. I wasn’t!

From the menu, we ordered a Koondal (squid) Roast. This was our second choice since mussels weren’t available, but turned out to be a good one. It was spicy and the squid was cooked just right. We also ordered a Podhi Chicken, since this wasn’t something we found on the standard Mallu menus. Wrapped in banana leaves and moderately spicy, this was quite fantastic too. It isn’t boneless though.

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Gilly’s

First published in Bangalore Mirror

I’d been hearing about Gilly’s for  while now, and when I figured out that the crowd on Saturday nights would lead us to a Hoppipola-like experience, we decided to land up on a Saturday afternoon.  Despite that, the place was reasonably packed and there was definitely a peppy vibe about the place. There are two sections – the indoor area is dim lit and has more of a retro pub feel to it, and the outdoor is brighter, seems more cheerful, and if it weren’t for the bar stools, you could mistake it for a fun café. The walls are adorned with pop culture posters, typical pub humour, and occasionally glass paintings. The music is exactly what the 20-somethings would order and the decibel levels increased as the afternoon progressed. The focus on short eats, both in terms of menu items as well as portion sizes, ensures that you’ll not need to worry about your beer not having sufficient company. More

Serafina

Serafina sounds like a fantastic super villain from the Marvel universe, but this is about a restaurant in Koramangala. (map) I think I could easily associate charming or pretty if I had one word to describe the place. The brick walls, decor, furniture, lighting and the fantastic music (classics, played at just the right sound for one to enjoy it and yet have a conversation without a megaphone) lend it a touch of classiness. They have seating on two floors inside, and an alfresco option that faces the 80 feet Road. On a pleasant Bangalore evening, we chose the latter.

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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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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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The Fort Kochi Connection

We’d been eyeing The Fort Kochi connection for a while now, especially since the ads started appearing in the Malayalam daily, and the only reason we’d been delaying the inevitable trip was that we thought it would be a revamped version of its earlier avatar – Oyster Bay. But on the day we were planning to watch Bangalore Days in PVR, its location gave it an advantage and we succumbed finally.

The layout has been modified only slightly, if at all, but the menu seemed different. A few good Cochin photographs have been added too. The ‘connection’, thanks to Kochi being a major trading port, allows it to have a smattering of all kinds of cuisines – Chinese, Portugese, Dutch, and of course, British. But like all well brought up Malayalis, we first checked out what was available in beef. We also completely ignored everything but the Kerala cuisines – Malabar, Kochi and Syrian Christian. After much debate, the Achayan Pothularth (who makes these spellings man?!) was ordered. It sounds Sith, and is dark, but did an amazing job nevertheless – spicy, well cooked meat. They had a special Kallu Shop menu going, but unfortunately what we wanted from it was not available. We also tried the Karimeen Pollichathu, and while its masala was decent – spicy and a good texture, we have had better, and on healthier fish.

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The Boozy Griffin

First published in Bangalore Mirror

One would have to wonder at the intelligence in adding alcohol to a mythical creature with the head and wings of an eagle and the body of a lion, but hey, it does make for a fun, quirky name – The Boozy Griffin, and it sits right below a joint named after a pirate ship! (map) Yes, there is valet parking. Welcome to Koramangala, where we have seen it all! Once inside, the plush black sofas, high bar stools, the relatively dim lighting, and the red telephone booth all manage to convey a British pub theme. The smoking section, with its faux fireplace and posters starring Charlie Chaplin, Mr.Bean, Sienna Miller and so on, probably do this theme even more justice considering that the larger non-smoking section features First Blood and Scarface! It’s tough to get the right balance of relaxing and vibrant in terms of ambiance, but this place manages it. There are multiple TV screens placed so that most tables get a clear view, but for some reason they were showing WWE for a while before remembering their British theme and switching to EPL. By the end of the night, there were shouting matches at practically every table, thanks to the really loud music, which had switched from classics earlier in the evening to current hits and remixes of old favourites, all the while increasing in volume as well! So much for the sound, now let’s talk about the bite.

For a pub, the beer menu is pretty disappointing with just about three options! They do try to make up with a cocktail selection and an otherwise exhaustive bar menu, though we found a couple of missing items there as well. The menu gets a neat British touch with an entire set of James Bond themed cocktails. I tried the ‘From Russia with Love’ from this and though it was potent and delivered on the ingredients – especially the vodka and the chilli – it was loved about as much as Russia is these days! The mocktail we tried – Pear Mojito – was closer to being virgin than pear. The gin based Foxtail, a light drink guaranteed to keep you at ‘that level’ was the best we had. The other gin based cocktail – Tom Collins – also disappointed. It was the Caipiroska (4 for the price of 3) that saved the day.

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From the food menu, the interestingly named Son In law Eggs arrived first, and the Thai combination of fried boiled egg and tamarind soya sauce was just fantastic. The Cottage Cheese & Tellicherry Pepper Fry was spicily awesome if you’re fine with curry leaves. The Beer Batter Fried Calamari was a dip in the high standards thus far, an actual dip would have helped! The Chilli Beef Fry wasn’t available, and that proved to be a blessing in disguise because its replacement – sautéed Stir Fried Chilli Pork in soy chilly sauce turned out to be one of the best dishes we had.

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The main course has burgers, a few steaks, some pasta and some old school pub grub to be had! Unfortunately none of the beef dishes were available! The Chicken Espetada in Peri Peri arrived first. Served with butter pilaf, and on skewers, with onions, this had superbly spicy and perfectly cooked chicken. But the Angel Hair pasta with its Walnut & Thyme infused cream sauce was the clear winner. A wonderfully nuanced, flavourful dish! The Crispy Chicken Butty (nothing posterior about it, as the coaster explains, it’s just lingo for a buttered sandwich) wasn’t a bummer either, and the mildly spicy dish was well liked. The Deviled Kidneys on Toast (stir fried lamb kidneys) was not bad, and is quite obviously for those who enjoy these body parts.

There are only four dessert options, and three were unavailable! Let’s just say that the Sticky Toffee pudding is not worth saving stomach space for!

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A meal for two would cost around Rs.1450 (Inclusive of taxes and service charge) – a couple of cocktails, a non veg starter, a main course dish and a dessert. The service is friendly, but occasionally tardy.  With a well-crafted ambiance, (barring the sound assault – carry cotton!)  some interesting food, and reasonable pricing, the Boozy Griffin has a lot going for it to hold its own even in the competitive grub landscape of Koramangala. But on the flip side, the unavailability of a lot of menu items could make the griffin seem woozy.

The Boozy Griffin, #105, 1A Cross Road, Near JNC Road, 5th Block Koramangala, Ph: 08064050000

P.S. It’s open till 1 AM on Fridays and Staurdays

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