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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The poor form continued in the form of the Chicken Chowder soup, which, far from its thick, creamy avatar, was only a few steps away from a clear soup! Hope began in the form of the Coorg Pork Fry. The freshness of the pork was a contentious topic at the table, but I quite liked the well cooked meat and the mildly spicy masala. The Bacon wrapped Shrimp was a hit with perfectly grilled prawns that were succulent and mildly spicy, though the bacon was a tad extra salty. The vegetarian representation – Adrak ki Dingri – was splendid as well with batter fried mushrooms in a spicy, tangy sauce! The Barbequed Chicken (Spicy Sholay) absolutely lived up to its name and is only recommended if you can handle spice!

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In addition to the Burgers and Pizzas, there is also quite an attempt at pasta fusion. The names were such that we had to try a couple of them out. This time we managed to place the order in our second attempt – the person refused to write it down the first time, even after I asked him if he wanted to. The Penne Makhanwala was quite a disaster and the huge carrot slices itself were enough to kill an appetite. The Spaghetti Chettinad, with mince meat in a spicy sauce that also had coconut milk, was much better. The ‘Pigs in a Thermal Blanket’ burger was quite good too – well-cooked patty and a mildly sweet’n’spicy, tangy sauce. The fries that came with it deserve a special mention! The Rathnagiri Mutton, which as per the menu was cooked with special Malwani spices, was another dish we all liked. The Veg Thai Curry was a disappointment with the promise of Thai chilly paste and coconut cream remaining just that! To add a symbolic touch, we ended the meal with the Goan fish curry (with rice) that turned out to be a splendid concoction of coconut cream, kokum and red chillies!

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The tent card gave us exactly five options for desserts, and we tried three. We also managed to place the order in our first attempt. Sweet! The Blueberry Cheesecake had a bed of Graham crackers which made it slightly softer than the regular ones. Not bad, but not that great either. The White Chocolate Brownie was more cake than brownie but it really worked with the sticky gooey white chocolate that topped it. But the Classic Mud Pie was the best, baked to perfection and filled with delicious chocolate ganache!

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A meal for two would cost around Rs.1100 (Inclusive of taxes) – a couple of beer tails, a non veg starter, a couple of main course dishes and a dessert. Except for a couple of hiccups, we really enjoyed the food. The cheap beer and the location should work just right for the college kids who frequent the neighbourhood. The bonus is that they might learn a few old songs as well! Speaking of learning, the staff need to learn the use of pen and paper for the happiness to be complete.

Happy Brew, #40, 4th B Cross, 5th Block Koramangala, Ph: 080 40937001