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Culinary adventures in the garden city

Where do you take friends for dinner if you are in a city you do not know very well?

In my case, there is an added complication: the people I have to take out are often the world’s best chefs. They are either people I have conducted events with or just friends, eager to get a taste of India.


In Mumbai and Delhi, it is not so hard. We took the Spanish chef Dani Garcia to Bukhara and he loved it.  A few months ago we took Massimo Bottura to Mumbai’s Soam and he was fascinated by the paani puri. (Puchka or gol gappa to people who don’t live in Mumbai.) I once took Gaggan Anand and his team of chefs to O Pedro in Mumbai and they were delighted


   Sometimes it is even easier. After my event with Alain Ducasse we had lunch at the ISH/Ecole Ducasse complex, eating food prepared by the students. Ducasse had eaten all over Delhi, but he seemed particularly fascinated by Indian Accent, where he had been the day before.


   I once had a lazy, wine-fuelled lunch with Heston Blumenthal on a balmy winter’s day as the sun poured down on a terrace at the Maurya. The Dum Pukht chefs served him their greatest hits. It was, he said, one of the best afternoons he had ever had. And it certainly was one of the most memorable meals of my life. But then, everything about Heston is special.


   I mention all this to explain the quandary I faced when I did an event with the Suhring twins in Bangalore. The Suhring restaurant in Bangkok has two Michelin stars and they have been to both Mumbai and Delhi before. So, where could we take them to eat in the five days they were in Bangalore?


   I asked around and I got very little joy.


   The responses all went something like this:


   “Oh why don’t you take them to Vidyaarthi Bhavan/CTR/Brahmins?”


   Me: Yes, of course. But, is there anywhere beyond those obvious places?


  “What about one of Manu Chandra’s restaurants?”


   Me: Manu doesn’t have a restaurant at the moment.


   “There is this place called Farmlore. It is very good.”


   Me: Oh great. What kind of food?


  “Actually, I have no idea. I have never been. It’s too far, na.”


   After having versions of this conversation many times, I decided to take my chances. I called Farmlore, which was one hour away from the Suhring’s hotel. A man answered the phone and seemed astonished that I had called.


"All 14 members of the party had their final meal at Kababs and Kurries, where they were served the same dishes the Suhrings had eaten in my room."

   “No, no,” he said firmly. “We are completely sold-out. In any case, if you want a booking, you have to go to our website.”


   So, that was that. Eventually, I went with a mixture of the adventurous and the predictable. The Suhring team went to Vidhyarthi Bhawan and were impressed. We took over the Bengaluru Oota Company, a small but unusual restaurant run by Divya Prabhakar and Vishal Shetty which serves a daily set menu. Divya is from the Gowda community so she serves Gowda food. Vishal is from a family of Mangalorean restaurateurs and her food is fabulous.


   The Suhrings liked that this was home food and that you had the sense you were eating in somebody’s dining room. All of it was delicious and largely unfamiliar to people from outside Karnataka and though the Suhrings seemed a little bemused at having to eat with their fingers off a leaf, they recovered quickly.


   After my media event with the twins at the Ritz Carlton, we went to the ITC Gardenia for a quiet room service dinner. I ordered all the North Indian classics: galouti kabab, dal Bukhara, Nihari, butter chicken, chicken tikka, Dum Pukht biryani etc. They were blown away.


   Then, the Suhrings had to cook their dinners and were otherwise occupied. I went to one of their dinners (easily the best food I have ever eaten at a popup in India) where I sat with Manu Chandra who was as impressed as I was with the food and confirmed that his new restaurant would open in late October.


   My wife and I looked around for new places to try. Everyone recommended Wabi Sabi, the new Oriental restaurant at the Oberoi. I booked under a false name, kept my mask on for as long as I could but was rumbled halfway through the meal. To be fair, it made no difference to the quality of the food which was actually better before I was recognised.


   My wife thought the restaurant was wonderful and I mostly agreed, though I thought that the poor quality of the sushi let the place down. (But perhaps that is how they like sushi in Bangalore.) Almost everything else was very good: superb kara-age, excellent tempura, wonderful dumplings and an outstanding chilli chicken. The menu’s emphasis is on fun Japanese and Chinese rather than on authenticity. It is a lovely restaurant and we ate lunch looking out at the beautiful garden.


   The Leela Palace is too far from the parts of Bangalore I usually hang out in, so, I don’t go as often as I should. But, this time, I made the journey to eat the food of Chef Purushotham Naidu.


   Purushotham is brilliant. But he is so unassuming that even many of Bangalore’s foodies do not know who he is. He cooks at the Leela’s Jamavar and makes both—the food of his native Andhra/Telangana, as well as the Kerala food that Mrs Leela Nair taught him.


   He knows what we like by now so he made a terrific, onion-rich egg roast with appams, followed by a mutton sookha (he wanted us to eat it with a Malabar Parotta but we asked for appams again) followed by a killer Alleppey prawn curry with red rice. Purushotham’s cooking really is the best kept secret in Bangalore.


   The Shang Palace at Delhi’s Shangri La is one of the city’s two best Chinese restaurants, but the Bangalore Shang Palace loses out because the Bangalore Shangri La is such a dismal business hotel.


   I was intrigued by how the city’s Shang Palace had shaped up. I was happily unrecognised and the starters (especially the barbecued pork) and the dim sum were all terrific. The meal soared downwards by the time it came to the stir fries alas (by which stage I had been recognised!), with a pretty horrible Prawns in XO sauce and a so-so Gong Bao chicken in which the chicken chunks had been deep-fried. If they hired a good wok chef and brought the stir fries up to the level of the dim sum, I would happily go back.


   Finally, it was time for the Suhrings to leave. They had cooked two immensely successful dinners at the Ritz-Carlton as part of the Masters of Marriott series and had been thrilled to discover that both dinners (120 seats in all) had sold out in 24 hours. I asked if they were fed up of eating Indian food every day. The Gardenia had a very good Japanese restaurant, I said. Would they like to try that?


   Er no, they responded. They had told the rest of the crew how wonderful the North Indian food at our room service meal had been. Now, everyone wanted to eat there. So, all 14 members of the party had their final meal at Kababs and Kurries, where they were served the same dishes the Suhrings had eaten in my room.


   And there was a funny postscript for me. Manu Chandra is between restaurants. But a friend persuaded him to cook dinner for us at the experimental kitchen he has in his office. It was wonderful and I can’t wait for Manu’s new restaurant to open.




  • Sourav Dey 27 Aug 2022

    Enjoy your writing especially the food writings. It is best in its class. One recommendation, when in Bangalore, try to eat in Toscano, an Italian specialty restaurant, have several branches throughout the city. Love to here your openion about the food they serve.


  • Rao 22 Aug 2022

    I've mixed feelings about this... when someone from another country or city visits Bangalore, they should be eating the local Karnataka cuisine not Japanese or Chinese. This makes no sense to me. My choices would have been Karavali, Koshy's, CTR, ITC Windsor Dakshin, Vembanad at the Paul etc.

Posted On: 19 Aug 2022 12:00 PM
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