Standing by the bar, sipping from a tall, cold glass of beer called Bangalore Bliss, I’m watching a high-decibel scene whose cast includes a mix of suits, 20-somethings in short dresses, scruffy, creative types and IT professionals—all assembled around large communal tables or on the alfresco balcony. A pitched foosball battle is being fought in one corner. In another, a more subdued duel is being waged around a carrom board. I’m at the Arbor Brewing Company (ABC), one of Bengaluru’s homegrown microbreweries and my head is buzzing. Not from their blended beer, mind you, but from the heady food and drink revolution that the city is experiencing (of which, ABC is just the latest poster child).
Once upon a time, Bengaluru was known for its beautiful weather, lush landscapes and pubs. Throughout the ’90s, locals frequented these modest drinking holes to consume their tipple into the wee hours, earning it the title of ‘the nation’s pub capital’. But the nightlife scene dipped in the early 2000s, and the 11.30pm deadline imposed by the government in 2007 proved to be thefinal nail on the proverbial coffin. Consumers only visited fine-dining restaurants to celebrate special occasions, and there, too, had to be satisfied with very limited offerings.
But that’s not the case today. From street stalls and five-star restaurants to gastropubs and microbreweries, there are many food and drink options available. This recent explosion had a lot to do with the huge immigrant population (both Indian and non-Indian) that the city now boasts. Their global tastes, along with large disposable incomes, have nudged this once-quaint city to grow into one of India’s top food-and-drink destinations. Gaurav Sikka, ABC’s managing director, says, “It is extremely pleasing to see how people have embraced craft beer. Serious drinkers are now choosing fresh, full-flavoured ales over mass-produced ones.” ABC—along with other craft beer breweries such as Toit, The Biere Club and Windmills Craftworks—is a popular post-work hangout.
Bengaluru currently has seven breweries, which is just one short of Gurgaon’s tally. But, with two more rumoured to open soon, the IT city is all set to become India’s microbrewery capital. Monkey Bar on Wood Street, the first gastropub in the country, has upped the city’s cool quotient by a million points. Whether it’s the bright-blue, vintage Lambretta mounted on a doorway, the monthly foosball tournaments, or Wednesdays’ British Invasion nights (a tribute to the country that introduced gastropubs to the world), they’ve all been instant hits. Showing signs of following in its footsteps is the all-American Mother Cluckers Bar in Indiranagar, whose 15-burger menu features chicken, pork and crab varieties.
In complete contrast, Skyye, on the 16th floor of UB City mall, is all glitzy and glamorous; you go here to see and be seen. (The mall also houses one of my favourite Italian restaurants, Toscano). And the view—all 360 degrees of it—is simply breathtaking. Its colour-changing floor, assembled from glass tiles, as well as delicious cocktails and shooters have made it a must-visit. The only drawback here is the city’s 11.30pm deadline. But you can try your luck at partying late by heading to the Taj West End’s Blue Bar (which has a 1.30am deadline). Sticking to the hotel’s five-star DNA, it delivers a classy, after-hours experience.
The one thing that tops the relative exclusivity of a five-star is a member’s-only club, and the brand-new Sanctum opened its gilded doors on Residency Road this April. It’s come as a breath of fresh air for the well-travelled Bangalorean looking for an (almost) European nightlife experience. From the moment you step into the elevator, you get the feeling you are entering a secret society rivalling London’s gentleman’s clubs. With international bartenders, live performances and the country’s best DJs, this is where you go to get a taste of the high life.
It’s almost silly these days to ask people what they will be doing on a Sunday. The simple answer is brunch—either by the poolside Bricklane Grill (serves Indian with a focus on Parsi food) in Indiranagar’s Escape Hotel & Spa; at the more chilled-out Fenny’s Lounge & Kitchen in Koramangala, or at the 1MG Road Irish restaurant, Blimey. All these places are new to the city’s brunch scene and are rapidly gaining popularity. But no one does a Sunday brunch quite like Shiro. The Bengaluru outpost of the landmark New Delhi bar, club and restaurant, is single-handedly responsible for popularising the concept in this city. In homage to its pioneering status, the city’s well-heeled religiously fill its tables every weekend.
The teppanyaki at Shiro is particularly in demand, making it just one of a clutch of restaurants that are perfecting the art of cooking Japanese—the others being OKO in The LaLiT Ashok (for its meticulously rolled out sushi and grilled meats), The Tao Terraces at 1MG Road and the open-air Harima, located in an inconspicuous building on Residency Road. Complete with a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, low seating and a hush environment, it provides an authentic culinary experience.
For lovers of South Indian food, Bengaluru’s cup of regional flavours is brimming over. For a taste of spicy Mangalorean food, there’s little to rival Karavalli at The Gateway Hotel. Its succulent curries transport you to the coast in a matter of minutes. Comparatively newer, Sana-di-ge at The Goldfinch Hotel serves dishes drawn from the length and breadth of the western coast—Mangalore, Goa, Kerala and the Konkan. You can also find Konkani dishes at Kanua on Sarjapur Main Road; its chicken ghee roast and valiambat come highly recommended.
If you’re looking for spicy Andhra food, look no further than the popular Bheema’s on Church Street—the chicken and ghee rice, along with Andhra-style dal, will have you coming back for more. Koshy’s Parade Café, a landmark beer bar on St Marks Road, is where local foodies go for stellar appam and stew. (Sit in the non-air-conditioned section. Air-conditioning is for tourists.) Located off Miller’s Road, Windsor Pub offers Malayali dishes such as kothu parathas. And Cheers Coorg in Indiranagar serves authentic Kodagu food such as pandi curry and pork chops.
In recent years, the city has also seen a surge in the number of bakeries and pâtisseries, where you can buy everything from Parisian baguettes (at Whitefield’s Chez Mariannick)to decadent waffles (at Desserted, off Cunningham Road). Of course, Bangaloreans can’t do without the native establishments that have fed them for generations—which is why Janardhana Hotel is still so popular. Locals know to skip everything here and go straight to the ghee-licious dosas. Also, sip from a cup of piping hot filter kapi under the huge banyan tree at Airlines Hotel off Lavelle Road. And if you’re looking to cure your hangover, do as the locals do and visit Empire. Located just off MG Road, it is the perfect place for some soulful comfort food.
WHAT TO ORDER WHERE: Drinks Arbor Brewing Company: Bangalore Bliss beer (www.arborbrewing.in) Toit: Basmati Blonde beer (http://toit.in) The Biere Club: ‘You Have Got To Be Crazy’ Bomb beer cocktail (www.thebiereclub.com) Windmills Craftworks: Coconut Porter beer (www.windmillscraftworks.com) Monkey Bar: Mangaa cocktail (http://mobar.in) Mother Cluckers Bar: Dirty Ho cocktail (098450 96332) Skyye: Mind Eraser Shooter cocktail (www.skyye.in) Blue Bar: Classic Cosmopolitan (www.tajhotels.com) Fenny’s Lounge & Kitchen: Margarita (090 3608 2911)
Dishes Shiro: Mahtani chicken (http://shiro.co.in) Blimey: Bangers and mash (www.blimey.co.in) Sanctum: Paella (www.sanctum.co.in) OKO: Jasmine rice and sushi platter (www.thelalit.com) The Tao Terraces: Chicken siu mai dumplings (099869 11444) Harima: Sushi (080 4132 5757) Toscano: Caesar salad (www.toscano.co.in) Bricklane Grill: Salli chicken (http://escapehotels.in) Karavalli: Mutton Karavalli (www.thegatewayhotels.com) Windsor Pub:Kothuparatha(080 2225 8847) Cheers Coorg: Pandi curry, pork chops (www.cheerscoorg.in) Sana-di-ge: Stuffed kurle (www.goldfinchhotels.com) Koshy’s Parade Café: Appam and stew (080 2221 3793) Kanua: Chicken ghee roast and valiambat (080 6537 4471) Bheema’s: Chicken and ghee rice with dal (080 2558 7389) Janardhana Hotel: Ghee dosas (080 2225 4444) Airlines Hotel: Meduvada, sambar and filter coffee (080 2227 3783) Empire: Chicken and mutton dosa, Empire kebab (080 2559 2821) Chez Mariannick: Baguettes, brioche chocolat (097394 06536) Desserted: Waffles with maple syrup and fruit (080 3041 2940; ext: 819)
- Sanchita Wahi