The F&B scene in the city might not have quantity, but it certainly has quality worth envying
Recently, while on a visit to Bengaluru, a local friend lamented the lack of good places with an international flavour in the city. “There are many joints for great local fare, but when you want to eat international, then Bangalore is way behind Delhi and Mumbai.” I pondered. Was she really onto something? Save for name-dropping and muscle-flexing, in nothing else is Delhi ever to be considered ahead. Mumbai has a much more eclectic scene, but if you don’t live within 5 km, then you’d sooner fly to Paris and come back before others have even cleared the perennial Pedder road jam.
Now, to be fair, Delhi does have more places, and all open with the confidence and flair of a seasoned stalwart: minimalist names juxtaposed with lavish OTT decor, superlatives hanging off every wall. There’s no denying that the Delhi set likes to keep it plush. Plush, yes, but rarely classy. Few can match the effortless charm of Olive or the refined elegance of Indian Accent or the culinary dedication of the more modest Aku’s and Leo’s.
And now, let’s talk Bengaluru. In my barely three days there, I managed to visit three fabulous spaces. The Bira91 Taproom (with an unmatched and fresh raspberry sour on tap) in Koramangala goes much beyond the standard brews that they sell in cans and bottles, and Harshvardhan, the in-house limited-release brew specialist, has gone to town experimenting with flavours and styles. Not one—and I mean not even one— brewer in the NCR area comes remotely close to the quality of the beers that I tried here. The food by chef Vicky Ratnani was just the kind of added bonus that makes me want to drink on Monday mornings.
Next, I was at Araku Coffee and it was love at first whiff not just for the attention they pay to their in-house blends, but also to the way the entire space is slickly curated. From the coffee-related paraphernalia to even the books and props, it all lends to an ambience of effortless luxury and charm. Chef ‘Jedi’ Rahul’s brand of food is something to watch out for and here’s a fitting example of why Delhi doesn’t have it better-he worked in a luxury hotel in the capital for a year right before this stint and never once got to showcase his culinary genius as Araku is allowing him to now. As for the coffees, they have four roasts which they can prepare in various formats—pour-overs, cold brews, espressos—and they will guide you as to which works better and how. I’d vouch for all depending on the time of day, my mood and company. This was proper coffee and not the dishwater that many other chains peddle in the name of java. I will certainly be back for the coffees, but I will equally certainly be back for the food. Admitted, it’s a pricey proposition considering all the other places around it (or what ‘luru folk are used to doling out), but the experience is unmissably modern and nothing that any other metro can match.
And then I revisited Bengaluru Oota Company, a cosy little space run inside a cosy little house by Divya Prabhakar and Vishal Shetty, ladies who have a compendium of experience in F&B, but an equally finely-tuned ear for service and delivering an overall refined experience. Sure, it’s local fare, but it’s not off just any menu. It’s a fixed menu, it’s made fresh daily and it’s served to you with all the love and personal attention that not even your family may afford you. The adaptation of how they present regional cuisines is what makes it a contemporary affair for me. Do other cities have anything similar? Possibly, but even then, if I had to list my topmost memorable F&B memories nationwide, this would be right up there
Since a man has only one stomach, I was unable to do any justice to the fare at Navu, which I hear (from reliable sources) is equally spectacular. Then there are bakeries like Labonel, Lavonne and even NYC’s Magnolia first opened here rather than elsewhere. Caperberry was too ahead of its times for the entire country till the very end.
In short, and take this from an industry veteran Delhi-zen who spends an inordinate amount of time scouring the world for a good plate and a sip, the Bengaluru F&B scene might not have quantity, but it certainly has quality worth envying. And then, it has that one thing which Delhi is rarely ever going to be able to serve up, not just now but even for the next few decades, no matter how much money the smug homegrown restaurateurs keep pumping in: erudite eloquent company!
The writer is a sommelier