New year, new beginnings: Places that exemplify good food and drink around the country

With a rise in Omicron cases, it wasn’t the start to a new year anyone was hoping for. But, if the last two years have taught us anything, things do get better and, hopefully, this time around, we shall all be smarter

From the team that delivers the amazing Nomad pizzas comes the new cloud eatery Henry Havaldar which serves great Indian fare from across the subcontinent, slickly packed and delivered.
From the team that delivers the amazing Nomad pizzas comes the new cloud eatery Henry Havaldar which serves great Indian fare from across the subcontinent, slickly packed and delivered.

I started writing this piece before the Omicron alerts went live and we were cut down from finding our next drinking hole to cowering in fear once again, confined to our homes. Yes, it wasn’t the start to a new year anyone was hoping for. But, if the last two years have taught us anything, it’s that things do get better and, hopefully, this time around, we shall all be smarter.

By the time this goes into print, one can only assume that restaurants and bars will still be serving albeit at reduced capacity. If fortune favours us still, here is my pick of places which exemplify good food and drink around the country.

In Bengaluru, table d’hote menus prepared only on pre-booking might make BOC sound prissy but when the ladies Divya and Vishal greet you and then write out the specially curated menu on a blackboard and explain it all, this feels like the warmest place to dine at. Modest yet magnanimous, precise yet varied, focused yet comprehensive, it’s quite a yin-yang delivery overall, and one of the best addresses for a meal.

Meanwhile, almost years of research culminated with the opening of the restaurant Oota and you can taste it in every bite of every dish. It’s a meticulous labour of love, not just for food but for local lost recipes and a strong serious effort to revive and preserve them. It certainly helps that their cocktail and beer programme is equally on point.

Bier Library and Biergarten are two foremost addresses for excellent beers and food, fuss-free fun with good music and great ambience. The Bier Library served me one mean pizza while the Biergarten had some seriously spicy fare that made the beers even more desirable.

In Delhi, PDA is among the best bars in town when you want to dress up and drink well. There is also the Home bar which is equally awesome but that’s members only.

Mahabelly is the shortest route to Kerala in spite of travel restrictions and it’s a highly recommended (shocking but in a good way) revelation for all north Indians who think that “south Indian food” comprises only dosa-idli-sambar.

From the team that delivers the amazing Nomad pizzas comes the new cloud eatery Henry Havaldar which serves great Indian fare from across the subcontinent, slickly packed and delivered.

I always struggle to get consistently and reliably good Asian fare. I am sure there are many but currently Azuki has been delivering on both fronts the last few times, so, I am sharing it here.

Meanwhile, in Mumbai, easy fine dining, if that can be a category, is what they do in Americano (think west-coast chill vibes.) Also, the best pizza Southside (you can even try out chef Alex’s recipe as it’s on his Insta) all backed up by a great cocktail and wine programme.

For innovation, quality of craft and consistency of delivery, The Table and O’Pedro remain the top restaurants in Mumbai for me, located in very different parts of the city and serving entirely different cuisine styles.

In Goa, Neighbours is a new outpost which came as a breath of fresh air. It does laid back fare, that’s a mix of flavours and textures, highly innovative but nothing too ostentatious. I highly recommend the beef carpaccio and the prawns. The cocktail programme is also fabulous.

Burger Factory remains the gold standards for awesome burgers and shakes in the state. The egg-free buns are a welcome new addition.

Places like that and Goa also make one so glad that beef isn’t banned everywhere in the country.

Great food, awesome drinks and just the right kind of music at just the right volume too; you want the best sundowner in the state, you better book a table at Saz on the Beach. Enough said.

One of the most precious fine dining eateries in town, chef and owner Chris showcases his flair for flavour in Sublime with a fairly extensive menu that’s a mix of flavours both local international.

Prahlad and wife run the lovely joint The Black Market in Panjim where the food is a playful yet well-planned play on textures and ingredients. They cater to all palates and back it up with a solid beverage portfolio. Definitely one to not miss.

Meanwhile, Vinayak and Bhatti Village remain the best spots for indulging in local fare; just make sure you reserve or get there well in time else you may neither get a seat nor half the good stuff on the menu.

The writer is a sommelier

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