The Spirits of Wychwood

_MG_5490.JPG

While beer may not be an indigenously English beverage, the English sure seem to have perfected it. And of all the 1400-something breweries that exist today in the UK, there’s one particular brewery that stands out as the UK’s largest producer of organic ales and the maker of ‘the unofficial beer of Halloween’– Wychwood, Oxfordshire. The name comes from Oxford’s local Wychwood Forest and for those who are wondering what I’m on about, they’re the blokes responsible for the phenomenon that is Hobgoblin – the Legendary Ruby Ale. They weren’t always called Wychwood, though – the site belongs to an ‘Eagle Maltings’ from 1841, and they malted barley for another brewery here back then. In 1990, ‘Eagle’ was renamed to ‘Wychwood’ and the rest, as we know, is history. There’s a story behind the name, ‘Hobgoblin’, too – the beer was being served at a wedding where someone attempted to draw the bride’s face on one of the casks and its highly likely this person had consumed more than they should’ve, because what they’d drawn looked like a Hobgoblin and the name stuck. At least that’s the story we were told by Chris, our brewery tour guide.

_MG_5491.JPG

Speaking of which, this blog is the tale of one such brewery trail that traces the journey of a humble grain to the brilliant beverage it transforms to – The Wychwood Brewery Guided Tour. However, you may sometimes find me reeling off about random nonsensical gibberish, so please excuse my ADD.

_MG_5508.JPG
Left: malt in sacks | Centre: Rolling mill | Background: whirlpool separator | Right: hops in boxes

Let me start with the very basics of brewing – grains are ‘malted’ and ‘mashed’ to release fermentable sugars, which are fermented to produce alcohol (the thing that causes you to uncontrollably reveal your darkest secrets to complete strangers) and carbon dioxide (the bubbly thing that…never mind).

_MG_5494.JPG
Our ‘welcome drinks’ –  cask-poured Brakspear Oxford Gold and a Wychwood Hobgoblin Gold
_MG_5495
Note the huge embarrassment that is the King Star lager. I was reluctantly offered some and it wasn’t nearly as good as their ales. Obviously!

Based on the type/strain of yeast you use, the temperature you brew the beer at, and a few other parameters, you get either an elegant Ale or generic rubbish (lager). I won’t bother explaining lagers (for obvious reasons 😉) because this is a blog about Ales.

tumblr_m9s7mwhske1r97w8wo1_1280PC: Wychwood.co.uk 

Ales can be broken down into Milds, Bitters, Goldens, Pale Ales, Porters & Stouts and what I like to call ‘miscellaneous’, or ‘everything else’.

And now that we’ve established what Wychwood brews, let’s move on to how they do it.

We were shown about four different types of malt that are used as the first ingredient in their brewing process –

_MG_5527.JPG

Pale Malt – produced by roasting the Barley for a lower amount of time in the kiln

Crystal Malt – produced by roasting it a little further; this had little bits of white sugary residue released from the process and so was a little sweeter than the Pale Malt

Chocolate Malt – produced by roasting the barley till it’s a dark brown, causing it to taste like cocoa, and smell like coffee from the time spent in the kiln. Most sugars are burnt away, and using more of this malt therefore produces darker and stronger beverages like porters and stouts

Black Malt – I think you know where this is going, right?

_MG_5519.JPG
Foreground: Whirlpool separator | Background: Mash tun

These malts are milled in this roller mill to break apart the kernel (not Col. Sanders, he’s unbreakable just like his franchise). This makes it easier to extract the sugar during ‘mashing’, which is the next step in the brewing process. This milled grain is mixed with hot water in a large vessel called a mash tun. The plates in the mash tun allow the resulting mixture called ‘wort’, to seep through the vessel’s plates to produce a sugary concoction…which Chris pronounced as ‘wert’, but since he’s the expert, I’m not going to challenge that. Although I would’ve pronounced it like ‘court’.

Fun fact – The Brakspear mash tun filter used to look like this, and is now adorns the brewery’s floor.

_MG_5502.JPG
What used to be the Brakspear Mash Tun floor used to separate the solids from the liquid wort

Anywho, moving on – this ‘wort’ is moved to a copper tank much like this one where its boiled with hops (the second most important ingredient in brewing), of which we were shown two varieties but I’m sure Wychwood use more – English Fuggles (no that’s not the name of the owner’s cat) and English Goldings. Mr. Fuggles was grassy and mild, whereas Ms. Goldings seemed to have a sexy perfume on and smelled like Spring. After all, it was almost April. Both tasted like sh*t, though. Yeah, we ate some. We weren’t supposed to, but I couldn’t help myself. If you’re a blithering idiot like me, you’ll probably not heed Chris’ advice and regret it after approximately 45 seconds of putting it in your mouth.

_MG_5501.JPG
This is what hops look like. Of course, these are past the stage of being useful but they have them there for effect, anyway

Now to accent the hops, brewers add sulphates to the water, in a process called Burtonisation. The name comes from the town of Burton upon Trent – where the local water’s chemical composition had these sulphates naturally occurring in the water, leading to a lot of hoppy local beers and presumably, a lot of happy drunks. Wychwood sources their water from this town to avoid having to add these minerals artificially.

Right – so the resulting mixture is then separated in a whirlpool separator and cooled through a heat exchanger for cooling it to a temperature suitable for fermentation (18 degrees Celsius). Cold water and the warm wort flow through pipes in this heat exchanger in opposite directions exchanging heat, and the resulting hot water is re-used again, thus conserving energy. This wort is then fermented by adding yeast. If the wort is too hot the yeast will die; too cold and the yeast won’t activate. The temperature needs to be just right for controlled fermentation and not too (allowably) warm, or you’ll have yeast growing all over the brewery! Also, there’s different types of yeast for the different ales they brew, and its little differences like these that give each of their ales a distinct character, too. I wonder if that’s where their tagline of ‘Brewers of Character’ comes from.

_MG_5512.JPG
A fermentation vessel

Wychwood use a method called ‘double dropping’, which basically means that the fermentation happens in two stages. In the first stage, the wort is fermented in a vessel and is then, ‘dropped’ to another vessel (typically under the first one). This results in the inactive yeast being left behind in the first vessel, and in the second vessel – activation of yeast from the dripping and splashing about, of the wort. This method is unique to the Marston’s brand of breweries.

_MG_5546
The unique and efficient double-drip filtration system

Anyway, so Wychwood tend to do their brewing in two batches, one at 3 AM and another at 9 AM, for which they store almost 3 tons of malt, the wort and all of these ‘intermediate ingredients’. The resulting beer is bottled off-site whilst been taken away in large trucks labelled ‘Fosters’. Strange. But then again, I’ve seen stranger things.

_MG_5548

The tour ended with us sampling six of their beers in thimble-sized glasses. Not that the size of the glasses mattered, because we were helping ourselves from the bottles anyway!

_MG_5553

All this was after the half pint of Hobgoblin Gold I was welcomed with. Full marks for hospitality! And if this wasn’t enough, we were each presented with a Wychwood-embossed half-pint glass as a keepsake! 😊

_MG_5549

What a way to spend a lovely sunny Saturday! And off we were, back to the Oxford City Centre for a course of world food at Oxford’s street food market.

The brewery is located at –
10-12, Eagle Maltings, Eagle Industrial Estate, The Crofts, Witney OX28 4DP

How to get there – 
By Road – via the A420
By Bus – Stagecoach S1 from Oxford City Centre

More details of the brewery can be found on their website – http://www.wychwood.co.uk/

If you liked this blog, please let me know in the comments! (If you didn’t, please click the small red ‘x’ on the top right corner of this window and pretend the last 15 minutes of your life never happened). Cheers!

_MG_5505
Sorry for the long post – here’s a Hobgoblin shaped bottle opener

Sunburn 2016- Pune just upped its coolness quotient

Miss getting Sunburn’ed right now !

moipalateblogs

In the recently concluded Sunburn 2016, that also happened to be the 10th edition of sunburn, it was a great experience not only because of it is one of the best music festivals in the country but also because Pune was the chosen destination. This definitely gave a reason for Punekars like me to revel in this 4 day musical extravaganza.


The journey…

We tumbled into the back of the car and made our way up, through the knotted hill, turn after turn, trepidation in our hearts, waiting to witness the grandiose.
It was my favourite DJ Axwell’s performance that day and I couldnt wait to see him perform. The bands were to be collected from the box office that was stationed downhill. But thanks to Smirnoff, they ensured we got the bands which saved us a good 1 hour of sweating it out in the queue. A big thank…

View original post 234 more words

A wee slice of Irish awesomeness at the Irish Village, Pune

For a place that welcomes you with a Leprechaun and a menu touting loads of potatoes and a craft-brewed dark ale (among others), the Irish Village is about as much Ireland you’ll get without having to board a flight. Not to mention all the green you see inside and outside; it certainly helps bring out the Irish spirit as well.

leprechaun

Speaking of spirits, that’s basically what this place is famous for and after my experience, I know why, too. Now if you don’t know your beer that’s not a problem here because samplers were invented for a reason. I know my beer all too well but I still asked for a sampler (because that’s how you get an extra 50 ml of beer absolutely free!) and called for a pint of everything anyway. Everything but their Lager.

samplers

To add to the super-chilled vibe this place oozes, there are dozens of speakers spread out across the huge vastness of this property that play great commercial house at just the right volume so you can enjoy your conversations just like you’re enjoying that pint.

And back to pints, we come.

The Wheat O’Mullins is a ‘Hefeweizen’, or wheat beer (obviously)  and is full of those malted wheat flavors you’d expect.  I also found it to be comfortably devoid of the hoppy flavors that I didn’t need in my Weissbier, too. I didn’t watch it pour so it was all lacing by the time the beer reached my table, which wasn’t much for a wheat beer. I’d say it was light-bodied and not heavy on carbonation either. A fairly straightforward thirst-quencher if you ask me.

ambers

Same as the wheat beer, this pint of the Ale O’Connor had also reached me some time after it was poured so the head had dissipated to a thin lacing. The color was a beautiful golden and there wasn’t much in the way of hops on the nose. Carbonation and mouthfeel were light and made for an easy-drinking beer; the amount of alcohol also ‘seemed’ less, so this may even pass as a decent session beer.

_mg_3222

Then came the star of the show – the Irish Stout. A beautiful dark brown ale, this; the Stout O’Sullivan sat in that tall glass with a half inch lacing. Complex on the nose with the roasted malt and coffee notes, the ale tasted of toasted wheat with a coffee-ish aftertaste and had just the right amount of carbonation for that ‘neat’ mouthfeel. Sláinte mhaith!

Disclaimer – but Guinness is Guinness. Amen.

Now I like to feel that I’m not an alcoholic so I tend to order food as well…Sometimes.
Here, I’d called for –

_mg_3221

Garlic Mushrooms – Button mushrooms. Garlic, herbs and butter. Deep fry. Simple. So tasty. Oh, so tasty!

Breadcrumbed chicken.jpg

Chicken Goujons – You can’t go wrong with Dijon mustard and dry herb marination on mini-fillets . You just can’t. And when you crumb-coat and deep-fry those little bite-sized bits you’ve got yourself a winner. God bless the French for this.

_mg_3217

We went a little off-course and called for Peri Peri wings too. Because you know, why not? Succulent meat falling off the bones that had soaked the tangy-spicy marinade so well. ‘Twas one of those times I wished I had a spare stomach.

_mg_3226

And because the evening was supposed to be about Irish specialties, we went ahead and called for the Irish Drunken Potato. Now mushy baked potatoes aren’t for everyone so you’d want to get your expectations right before ordering a portion of an entire potato full of veggies floating in a creamy gravy. I, on the other hand, loved it.

_MG_3235.JPG

Dessert had to be a sticky toffee-based something so we called for the sticky o’brown which was a date cake drizzled with sticky caramel and served with a generous dollop of vanilla ice cream. Such elegance exists in simplicity and this plate was testament to just that.

All in all, you’re guaranteed a whale of a time here if you even remotely enjoy beer, good music and great food so in all honestly there’s hardly any reason why your arse is still so firmly planted in that Goddamn chair and you’re not booking an Uber to Mundhwa or Baner right now. Like, why? And yes, they’ve opened in Baner as well, now. Cheers!

In summary –
Food – 4.5/5
Service – 4.5/5
Ambience – 4.5/5
Value for money – N/A (invited) but it’s still pretty good value for the whole package

The Irish Village Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Healthy Brekkies @ Fahrenheit Custom Pizza

Picture this – it’s 6:30 AM and you’ve been snoozing that damn alarm for the past thirty minutes, the music deviously blending into your dream and your brain refusing to believe that it’s well past time you had woken up. You wake up to the sight of the clock, now showing 7:00 AM, and you suddenly have all the motivation you need to finish most of your morning chores faster than Usain Bolt can do 40 yards. You jump out of your ‘jamas and put the kettle on with the toothbrush in your mouth, already. Twenty minutes pass and you’re done taking a shite and a shower (in that order, hopefully) and you’re halfway into your undies. Within the next ten minutes you’re back at the dining table to pick up the bus pass/car keys which you’d forgotten, but remembered when you got to the main door. You pick up two digestive biscuits and stuff them in your mouth. ‘Breakfast’.
Timecheck – 7:30 AM. Booyah! I’m gonna make it! Awwyiss… you tell yourself, but did you notice that you’ve forgotten to properly break your 8 hour fast just to beat the 8 AM rush….AGAIN?

_MG_3194.JPG

It’s plain sad that we (me inclusive; I try not to be a hypocrite) don’t give the most important meal of the day its due importance. I’ve promised myself that I’ll manage at least one fruit and a huge bowl of wheat flakes with milk, in the least; if I can’t manage anything serious. So far so good.

However, there’s much better options available to Punekars thanks to ‘on-the-way-located’ restos like Fahrenheit. I happened to sample one such breakfast, one fine weekday, and it fit perfectly into my schedule too. Yep, that’s right. They open at 8 AM.

What I had was a breakfast fit for a king, and lasted me till 2 PM solid.

_mg_3180I started with a round of a watermelon based refreshment, designed to counter the effects of the potations you’ve had the night before. It’s a crying shame that they dropped it ‘cos I don’t see it on the menu anymore. Loved how it was all grainy, fresh, just the right amount of sweet and about enough to wash down whatever else was on the table.

_MG_3185_edited.jpg

Then, I moved on to the waffles with maple syrup, apples, bananas, pomegranate and a generous dollop of fresh cream. The waffles were a tad too thick for my liking but I’m sure they can make them to your liking if you just ask nicely. The rest was right on point.

_MG_3189_edited.jpg

Then came the real deal – a fluffy Mexican Omlette replete with veggies (could’ve used some more veggies in the Omlette, though) in a subway-style sandwich bread served with with delicious, crisp potato Rosti, juicy chicken sausages and boiled veggies on the side. There was broccoli, green and yellow zucchini and cherry tomatoes – the good stuff. And just to make sure it’s not too healthy or anything, there was a nice helping of table butter on the side 🙂 Exactly how I like it. I think you can call for margarine as well, but I know I wouldn’t.

_MG_3193_edited.jpg

So there you have it. A sweet breakfast option that isn’t expensive or anything and can kick-start your day the right way, just around the corner (Baner is pretty much on everyone’s route to work).

All in all –
Food – 4/5
Service – 4/5
Ambience – 3.5/5 (hope they’ve solved the housefly issue)
Value for money – N/A (invited; but I’d still rate it at a 4.5/5 had I paid)

If you liked this post (or even if you didn’t), do leave me a comment below…I’d love to know what you think of the most important meal of the day!

Fahrenheit Custom Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Eats & drinks at Wynkk Inc.

What do you get when you put rock music, retro themed décor and a Pune-inspired North-Indian/Oriental menu in a mixing bowl and dress it with a good helping of Bira and other great beverages? You get a classic afterhours haunt is what. Two carefully curated storeys worth of Vinyls, wooden furniture and cushions are what make up Wynkk, a somewhat new entrant in the rather long list of Pune’s evening hangouts. The good part is that they seem to know what they’re doing; the location is strategic, the food menu is basically everything that sells alongside a good, punchy brew and service is quick…ish. The parking space, or lack thereof, seemed to me like the only downer here. This place kinda grows on you the more time you spend here and one does tend to lose track of time a lot at a place this laid-back. I, on one hand, spent the better part of three hours here before realizing that I have a home to return to but that’s what lounges are all about, right?

_MG_3156 (2).JPG

_MG_3160 (2).JPG

Anywho, so Bira seemed to be the only beer on tap at the time (the place was still finding its feet when I’d visited). Bira white is my personal favourite with its characteristic smooooooth Belgian character and the citrus-ey aromas so I called for a few rounds. Now we Indians never have alcoholic beverages without a good serving of fried food on the side so I called for their best –

_MG_3178 (2).JPG

Golden pouches (Chicken) – Just the way I like ’em; perfectly crisped, and juicy on the inside. I made sure to dunk them nicely in the sauces available for that extra zing and recommend you do, too!

Tamarind chilly fish – Now, this was something that was pretty neat just by itself; the tamarind was more evident than the chili but very agreeably so.

Honey chilly corn potato – I’m partial towards potatoes so I’ll always say nice things about potato preparations. My bias aside, this particular dish was still a great thing to pair with the beer. Goodbye peanuts.

_MG_3176 (2).JPG

Golden pouches (Veg) – And I thought the veg sibling wouldn’t be as good. Flavorful, succulent paneer and veggies in the same, amazing deep fried, crispy coating.

_MG_3169 (2).JPGKanda bhajji – I have unreasonably high standards when it comes to Kanda bhajji, so nothing that’s made outside of home comes close. Then again, I don’t recall any other place that has ‘Kanda bhajji’ in its menu and serves Bira. Not even home.

_MG_3170 (2).JPG

Tandoori Prawns – Juicy, charred just right and soaked through in their in-house marinade. Paired excellently with the chutney served with it.

Chicken tikka – Can’t really go wrong with this, right? These little morsels were also done just right.

_MG_3173 (2).JPG

Chin Mai Chicken – The soy glazing and other flavors were alright, but somehow I felt like there was a little room for improvement here in the texture area.

Chicken in Plum Sauce – batter fried and lightly tossed in a piquant sauce with crunchy peppers; another great whip-up from the Wynkk kitchen.

While this much was more than my extended appetite could handle, Mr. Shrikant (owner/manager) urged me to try their Kheema Pav which I hear is quite nice as well. Obviously this wasn’t going to be my last trip to Wynkk so I promised them I’d come back for it. And I will. Next year. Soon as I’ve had enough of English breakfasts and afternoon teas.

All in all –
Food – 4/5
Service – 4/5 (could be a little quicker, though)
Ambieince – 4/5
Value for money – N/A (invited)

WYNKK The Lounge Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Raising the bar for partying hard @Bar Bar, Viman Nagar

Barflies rejoice, ‘coz binge drinking just got frugal ! Here with a tangibly evident model based on economies of scale is Bar Bar, a neat ol’ evening-only joint in the heart of Viman Nagar that has all the options you’ll want on that night out with your bevda buddies. Then there’s the deafening speakers and the long-enough list of bar-bites as well, so you can rest assured that your Friday nights are sorted. Oh, and Wednesday nights, too. And Monday nights. Aaaand Thursday nights. Let’s not forget Tuesday nights. And who doesn’t want to get out of the house on the weekend?

Anyway…so, cut to 15th June – our band of lukkhas are at Bar Bar. Seeing as how our group had hijacked most of the bar area, the other guests were forced out into the more ‘personal’ outdoor area which was less suited for large groups and more for the tête-à-tête kinda meets. I’m all for neon lights and loud progressive house so obviously, I was happy where I was – indoors.

Social hugs and awkward hellos all done, we got straight down to business –

Lynchburg
First came the Lynchburg – a swimmingly potent mix of Jim Beam, vodka Triple Sec and Ginger Ale. No surprise that most of us ordered (and loved) this little monster.

Spiced Guava Mocktail
I also sampled some of my friend’s Spiced Guava Mocktail which was pretty good, too. The glass was rimmed with masala and the beverage itself was well-spiced so the flavors ended up skewed towards the hotter end of the spectrum. Nothing I couldn’t handle, though.

DIY Basket of Fries –

basket of fries
Loaded Potato Skins
I’m a huge fan of everything potato so you’re going to get the usual ‘OMG this was sooo freakin’ awesome’ rant from me so let me skip the charades. But seriously, this was like sooo awesome !! The dips were killer, each with their own character and different types of fries to pair them with. Oh, the adventure of it all ! #OkEnoughMelodrama

Popcorn –

Pork Cuchifritos
Pork Cuchifritos – I had to be told, like a few others that we’d just downed pork. All the flavors and none of that very typical porky after-smell. If you’re into pork, you’ll not be disappointed.

Buttermilk Chicken Popcorn
Buttermilk Chicken Popcorn –  I had great expectations from this one but was a little let down, to be honest. The texture was a little off, which is pretty much everything for me, when I’m having buttermilk-chicken. Shame, really.

Vada Pav Popcorn
Vada Pav – Interesting little micro Vada-pavs, these. Not too far from the real deal, too. Which is the best part. I mean, your favorite cocktail, at a bargain, with Vada Pav on the side? To me, that’s awesome.

Mysore Vada Popcorn
Mysore Vada – There’s definitely a really dexterous Anna in the kitchen somewhere; I’m sure of it ! These little babies were PERFECT ! Perfect texture, mild flavors and a potent chutney to go with it – Bar sides seldom get better than this.

Shrimp Popcorn
Shrimp Popcorn – another light-bite of a snack; the subtle flavors were very well complimented by the piquant dip served alongside.

Toasties – for when you’re in the mood for a slightly more ‘real’ meal.

Ham and Chilli Cheese Toasties
Ham and Chilli Cheese – I’ll call a pass on this one, unlike the other pork preparation. It was a little too confusing for my palate and did have that very typical ‘porky after-smell’ that puts me off. But that’s just me.

Kung Pao Chicken Toastie
Kung Pao Chicken – smoky, perfect textured chicken bits with evidently oriental flavors from the spring onions and whatnot. Very much recommended.

The MexicanThe Mexican – Kidney Beans, Cheddar, Jalapenos, Nachos – is there anything stereotypically Mexican that I missed? No? This one has everything thrown in together into a delicious mix between two slices of bread. Me likey.

Pahadi Paneer Paratha
Then there was the Pahadi Paneer Paratha; basically a really nice roll – the paratha was perfectly flaky and the paneer tasted of generous amounts of mint-coriander. Made for a really delicious standalone meal option, really.
Happy Singh ka Dabba
Aaaand then there were the tiffins, which I don’t really get, to be brutally honest. I get the concept of a full meal and all, but somehow after downing half a litre of a really potent cocktail (which is their USP, by the way – the potency of their drinks, I mean) I didn’t feel anything like ‘ghar ka khana’ by a loooong shot. I mean the appetizers had done their thing already, see? So I’ll sum it up for you in as few words as I can – the Happy Ending is an ‘unusually spicy for Thai’ meal (those who don’t get the Thailand reference need to go back to pre-school where they belong), the Lovely Singh ka Dabba is a rather good Punjabi meal (Butter Paneer and Chapaati) and the Irrfan’s Dabba was a Chicken Biryani-based dabba that I just heard of but never saw.

Amigo beer
I’m not sure why but we ended our meal with a beer, but we did. It was my first time having an Amigo and I realized in one sip what I’d been missing. Pale gold with nearly no head, muted carbonation and limey aromas. Couldn’t pick up the tequila that was supposed to be in there but the beer was still awesome, nonetheless.

Oh yes, I remember why we ended with a beer. No desserts. That’s why. Tsk Tsk.

Anywho, on the ‘overall experience’ front, I left the place much happier than I was when I entered. Totally worth the experience, if you ask me !

Food – 4/5
Service – 4/5
Ambience – 4/5
Value for money – N/A (invited) But this is the whole point of it, so….

Bar Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

A Truckload of Awesomeness – @The Breaking Bread Food Truck, Aundh

Here to bring new meaning to the word, ‘Fast Food’, is the brand spanking new Breaking Bread Food Truck, licensed to park and serve on ITI Road, Aundh. If you’re in the area and looking to indulge in greasy debauchery on a budget, start looking for a parking spot ASAP, ‘coz this son-of-a-bun serves some pretty mean burgers and fries. Sure, the menu may be all of one whiteboard’s worth of fancy names but all of it still packs quite a punch.

Flambe
By the time I’d arrived (7:45 PM), they were already out of their famous Kokum Mojito which is a shame, really because I was SOOOO looking forward to have some. I convinced myself I could always come back, so no tears were shed.

Chicken in a mess
There was a pretty big serving of HOT MESS being dived into, which was basically fries with spicy beans in fresh salsa with cheese and sour cream garnished on top. Nice and tangy, but needs to be finished ASAP to avoid getting the fries all soggy. Not that its impossible, mind you. In fact our serving was literally gone in 60 seconds.

Next came the carnivore’s version of the same preparation – the CHICKEN IN A MESS. Pretty much the same piquant flavors, but soaked to the bone in the tender little chicken pieces. The flavors clearly came out more in this version and the textures were more interesting, too.

The Jerk
The Jerk came next. No, not a literal Jerk, but a JERKED CHICKEN BURGER – The Jamaican Jerk spice HAD to be accompanied with a pineapple slaw, which was classic, if you ask me; and the tart from the chipotle mayo definitely helped. Me likey.

The toasties followed
Pune Toasties
PUNE TOASTIES –  If you’re missing your college canteen’s Classic Veg (potato) Toast, this is the answer to that craving. Fair to say it was average at best. I wasn’t impressed mainly because there were so many other options that were so much better.

Chicken Toastie
CHICKEN TOASTIES – Safe to say this version was better – both, in terms of texture and the slightly stronger flavors; I’m almost beginning to sense a pattern here…are you? #MeatRocks

And then came the more serious burgers
Cajun Cottage Cheese Potato Burger
CAJUN COTTAGE CHEESE POTATO BURGER – The texture of the patty was Amazeballs –  supremely soft, melt-in-your-mouth grade minced paneer generously seasoned with a piquant Cajun spice-mix. Loved it !

Goan Chicken Bun
GOAN CHICKEN BUN – Vindaloo-style chicken generously stuffed between soft, soft buns. The punch from the vinegar was very much there, although I would’ve liked it to be just a little bit stronger. Then again, that’s a personal preference.

But wait. I’m not done yet.

There was a BANOFFE SANDWICH, too!
Banoffee Burger
I really had high hopes from this, because I’d seen a Nutella Jar somewhere inside the truck but the Peanut butter kinda blew it, for me. Again, that’s ‘coz I’m not really a peanut butter guy. It was not bad or anything, but it could’ve used a little more Nutella and a little less Peanut Butter, IMO. Proportions, that’s all.

All in all, I think we’ve got ourselves a set of wheels all set to make waves. If only the weather and the traffic scene were a little more forgiving !

Food – 4/5
Service – 4/5
Ambience – N/A? (There literally isn’t an ambience – there’s 2 stools. Period)
Value for money – N/A (invited, but the prices were absolutely reasonable for the quality of grub served)

Breaking Bread Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

How to Party 101 – @Playboy Beer Garden, Balewadi

playboy entrance
The brand that has been making boys out of men for 60-odd years now, has oh-so-recently tapped into the beer market starting with their first-ever Biergarten venture right here in little’ol Pune. With Octoberfest-style benches, a pretty face greeting you at the entrance, a DJ who knows his progressive house and a host of fancy-sounding and fancy-looking F&B on offer, this right here, ladies and gents, is how Pune spells I-N-D-U-L-G-E-N-C-E. Now we’re no strangers to the brand, given that most of us have pretty much grown up building a distorted definition of the word ‘hot’, thanks to Mr. Hefner and MTV Cribs, the Playboy-branded Beer Garden is devoid of bunnies but deals in a different variety of hot – the edible kind.
private seating
indoor seating

Cut to 10th May, 7:30 PM –
There’s beverages being served on the table –

Orgy
Orgy – an Orange/Guava/Lychee based almost-pulpy mocktail. Loved it !

Wake me up – watermelon and mint with hints of orange and apple. Just hints. #TakeAHint

Brain Freeze
Brain Freeze – the sexiest of the lot – tequila, blue curacao, lime juice and oodles of sex appeal. The effect with the Dry Ice in the Playboy mini-barrel was crazy-awesome !

Asian Mule – Vodka infused with kafir lime leaves, lemon grass, thai basil – this was an amazingly refreshing cocktail that was super herby !

burnt pineapple whisky sour
Burnt Pineapple Whisky Sour – Bourbon blended with nicely grilled burnt pineapple – perfect for Whisky-lovers. And definitely the more punchy of the lot. I, however, gave it a pass after the ceremonial three sips ‘coz I’m a beer guy.

Next came the amuse-bouches and the amuse-gueules –

watermelon feta cups
Watermelon Feta Cups – This increasingly popular preparation took a bit of a twist; the watermelon bits were carved into cups and feta was crumbled into them. Made for a very neat way to eat them, for sure and the proportion of the watermelon and cheese was perfect, too.

roasted balsamic beetroot salad
Roasted Balsamic Beetroot Salad – Feta again; this time with beetroot, walnuts and rockets; neatly packed together. The flavors and fragrances blended together only too well. Loved this combination, too !

baby potato bites
Baby Patatasbravas with Garlic Aoili – This was a Tapas-style serving and came with a nice and creamy garlic Aioli. ¡Qué delicioso!

baby patatasbravas with garlic aioli_botanas
Nachos  – crispy nachos served with oodles of sour, creamy cheese.

bean and chevre crostini
Bean and Chevre Crostini – little bite sized crostinis that weren’t, in my opinion, as creamy or tangy as they were supposed to be. But still a decent appetizer to be had, nonetheless.

hooters style chicken wings
Hooters Style Chicken Wings – I’ve never been to a Hooters so I can’t say to the authenticity of this preparation, but the wings were awesome either way. Tender little wings glazed in a sticky, piquant sauce that left me licking my greased fingers, clean.

Paneer Hariyali Tikka
Paneer Hariyali TIkka – fresh, soft paneer cubes that oozed flavor; the clay-roasted yoghurt-mint-coriander-chilli marination was almost rustic !

Lamb Gillafi Kebab
Lamb Gillaffi Seekh Kebab – Succulent pieces of mutton marinated in a mild spice-mix. The ‘khade masale’ were very evident in this preparation.

Tres Mushroom Slider
Tres Mushroom Slider – Ever had Wild Mushroom or Shiitake or Porcini mushrooms before? You can have ’em all in this slider, at the same time ! Crunchy 3-mushroom mini-patties in bite sized buns; an absolute delight !

Thai Slider Prawn Patty
Thai slider with Prawn Patty – Another bite-sized wonder; juicy prawn patties in mild Thai spices.

And then came the entreés –

Cagliari Pizza
First came the Cagliari Pizza – Vine ripened tomatoes, pesto, spinach, feta (the Chef’s favorite!), shallots and evident garlic on a perfect thin crust – one of the best Pizzas in town, hands down !

Penne with smoked cherry tomato sauce
Penne with Smoked Cherry Tomato Sauce – The thing about cherry tomatoes is their mildly different sweet-tangy flavor. And when you make a pink sauce out of that and top it off with a healthy dose of Parmesan, well…you’ve got a great-tasting sauce ! The only problem here, was that sauce was a little too runny so it had all settled at the bottom and the pasta, per se, was rendered almost tasteless. Shame, really. But feedback was taken in stride and I hope to be pleasantly surprised the next time I call for pasta, here.

Champagne Risotto with Asparagus
Champagne Risotto with Asparagus – Have I stressed enough about indulgence already? Either way, let me re-iterate. They cook their Parmesan-rich risotto with Champagne. ‘Nuff said.

Cottage Cheese Moussaka with Harissa
Cottage Cheese Moussaka with Harissa – The Paneer was just as awesomely soft as Paneer can be and the Harissa was nice and punchy. It was smart to pair it with the Paneer, really.

Chicken Cafreal with Fondant Potatoes and Chilli Jus
Chicken Cafreal with Fondant Potatoes and Chilli Jus – A beautiful marriage between Goan and French cuisines – spicy cafreal (note the chili jus) served with pretty little Fondant Potatoes and Tapioca chips; a delightfully complex fusion of a preparation, if you ask me !

Veg Thai Curry with Aromatic Rice
Veg Thai Curry with aromatic rice – a little too spicy and a tad too over-the-top aromatic preparation, this. I’d give this ‘overenthusiastically Thai’ dish a pass !

And before we recovered from this food coma, desserts were served :O
But I’m not complaining; the desserts were just WOW ! Words aren’t enough to describe just how supercalifragilisticexpialidocious the last course was !!!

Banoffee Pie
Banoffee Pie – Everyone on every (food blogger) table was going bananas over this one ! Golden brulee bananas, sticky-crunchy toffee served alongside a PERFECT mousse in a pie base garnished with potent little coffee beans. Things like these are worth stretching your appetite and budget for !!!

Mixed Berry Eton Mess
Mixed Berry Eton Mess – Meringues, Fruit Puree and cream; hard to go wrong with something so simple ! It was obviously shadowed by the other desserts we had but by itself, its a fairly good standalone dessert.

Mango Cheese Cake
Mango Cheesecake – My raison d’être – Mangoes, somehow made more awesome than I thought was ever possible. A Philadelphia-style BAKED cheesecake (yep, these are rare) garnished with oooooodles of Alphonso mango pieces. Definitely the BEST mango cheesecake I’ve ever had; and I’ve had quite a few.

All in all, a great place to soak in the luxe and the chilled vibe and catch some of Pune’s best desserts (yeah, that was unexpected!)
Food – 4.5/5
Service – 4/5
Ambience – 4/5 (the indoor seating is much more forgiving during summers)
Value for money – N/A (invited)

Here’s some more stuff we had –

Egg Decker
Egg Decker – Hash Browns, Spinach Mornay, Scrambled Egg, Cheddar Fondue
Chicken Satay
Satay Chicken

Playboy Beer Garden Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

What’s more Japanese than a Honda? – Miyuki @ DoubleTree by Hilton, Chinchwad #FTW

For all its stunning panoramas and rich culture, the land of the rising sun is known also for its awe inspiring food. The Japanese are sticklers for presentation and detail and it shows, especially when you visit an authentic japanese restaurant that draws Japanese regulars from across Pune by the half-dozens. Why ‘half-dozens’, you ask? ‘Coz Miyuki only seats 7. That’s why. And yes, Miyuki is about as authentically Japanese as it gets.

Cooking Sake and Miso
Cooking Sake, Miso and other traditional Japanese Ingredients

Chef Amarjeet, who has been cooking up Japanese food-storms for some eight-odd years now, hosts the exclusive kitchen that serves all of 7 guests per sitting, in a cozy corner of the DoubleTree by Hilton (Chinchwad). On offer is everything ranging from Sushis to Sashimis to Tempuras to SAKE !!! #AwwYeah

I’ll get to the what’s what but for now, let me re-emphasize that Miyuki is all about an unadulterated Japanese experience, that’s to be shared with only a handful other adventurous gastronauts at a time, and is not for the faint-hearted (I’m talking raw fish, here).

seating arrangement
So the restaurant is a snug little place that’s comprised of but one L-shaped serving table surrounding the Teppan, or the iron girdle. This serving style is called Teppanyaki, where the food is cooked on the gas-powered flat iron girdle and is often served to guests, piping hot, right off the cooktop. Not all the food was cooked in front of us but a lot of it was, and the dexterity with which Chef Amar did his thing was a sight to behold.

Sake
So our evening began with a chilled sake – it was dry, a tad acidic, and there was a faint aroma that almost lingered for a second or two…kinda like wine. Maybe because it is wine; rice wine, that is.

Italian rose
We also had an Italian Pinot Noir – Rosé, – a delicately fragrant, mildly floral and very smooth wine. What was even more appetizing was the color of the wine – a gorgeous pink !

Mojito
One of us even had a good ‘ol Mojito – an absolute classic ! The barman sure knew his Mojitos !

CUCUMBER WRAP SUSHI
Next came the cucumber wrap sushi – typically served during celebrations, this sushi can be prepared in a number of ways. Ours came packed with saku tuna and Philadelphia cheese; a rather interesting medley of tangy-creamy and a clean, smooth flavor of the tuna. What was I celebrating? The end of world hunger – starting with me.

NASU DENGAKU
What was served after that was probably my favorite, that evening, the Nasu Dengaku – a miso glazed eggplant preparation that’s served during summers. Why? Why do they serve ‘aamras’ in Summers? ….exactly ! The preparation had a lovely mushy texture and the sweet-tangy miso married with the baked cheese really well. This is something you’ve got to try !
Oh, and miso is basically fermented soybean paste. A rich, dense, flavorful paste that forms the base for a lot of Japanese preparations.

maguro tataki
The Maguro Tataki followed, which was basically a Sashimi (very fresh, raw/near-raw meat) of tuna that was seared on an open fire and served with a refreshingly citric Ponzu (Japanese lemon+soy) sauce. Kinda reminded me of West Bengal’s ‘Gondhoraj Lebu’ because it was so beautifully aromatic !

veg tempuraseafood tempura
We also called for Tempuras : Vegetable and Seafood –
Deeeeep fried crispy, crunchy veggies, prawns and fish served with green tea salt and tempura sauce. This is how you spend a Saturday night, if you ask me !! What was interesting to note was the deep-fried soba noodles held together with seaweed, garnished alongside the tempura platter…that cute little broom was edible !!

cheese balls
For our vegetarian friend, there were cheeseballs that had nothing to do with Japan, but they were served nonetheless and were just as awesome as the rest of the food on the table.

So all of the preparations so far had come from the kitchen. The rest of it was made in front of us, on the teppan, in this order –

grilled seabass
Grilled Seabass – a teppanyaki-style cooked seabass in lemon butter garlic sauce that went very well with the meat and the pak choi as well.

tofu steak
Tofu Steak – Grilled Japanese Kinu Tofu blocks that were surprisingly soft despite the tempura flour coating. The sweet soy sauce glazing rendered it a nice zing, too !

YAKI MESI WITH MISO SOUP
Yaki Mesi with Miso soup –
Fried rice made on the teppan. Not as awesome as the other teppanyaki preparations, but more elaborate and elegant. The miso soup, though, was delish !

cut fruits and mango ice cream
We ended the meal with a beautifully creamy Mango ice-cream and fresh, cut fruits. They did have other dessert options but given that we’d been dabbling in the exotic all evening, we thought something simple would be nice !

All in all a great experience – the exquisiteness of it all was what really won it, for me ! Definitely a great place for a change of palate for when you’re bored of the conventional.

Food – 45/5
Service – 5/5
Ambience – 4/5
Value for money – N/A (invited)

Miyuki - DoubleTree By Hilton Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

World Burger Day @ The Hard Rock Cafe – A Burgertastic World Tour !

Few things come close to the awesomeness of winning a Burgerthon at the home of The Legendary Burger on a World Hamburger Day. Like more burgers, for example. Or Beer. Definitely beer. And some more burgers.

Miami Cuban Beef Burger

As the home of the Legendary and the Local Legendary Burgers, there couldn’t be a more apt place than HRC to kick off a world Burger tour. With eight burgers and eight cocktails on offer, the ‘preview’ was pretty…..exhaustive! I mean, literally – I was exhausted at the end of it. More like happy-exhausted. Add to that the super-chilled ambience of HRC, killer rock-n-roll playlists and you have a pretty potent formula for a great afternoon or evening.

As every meal should, ours too, started with alcohol. An array of exceptional to just-par cocktails was had, the gist of which is as follows –

el matador.jpgEl Matador – I was half expecting a sangria-like Spanish cocktail, given the Spanish connotation in the name of this beverage but it turned out to be more of a beer-based strawberry-ish tasting concoction, with hints of basil and a very, very welcome punch from the salt/chilli rimming. #NotDisappointed #NotDisappointedAtAll

watermelon hoedown.jpg
Watermelon Hoedown – while it did it’s job as a classic summer cooler, the original (intended) vodka content was a little de trop for me, so I had to customize this baby with a lot less vodka and a little more beer. The result was a balanced beverage that went down well.

hangman's blood
Hangman’s Blood – If you’re the type who can’t decide among spirits and end up wanting to have it all, this one’s for you. I don’t like my cocktails too strong, so I gave this one a pass but my friends who’re into whiskey called for repeats on this. #FoodForThought

Melonpalooza
All Jacked Up – Jim Beam, Whiskey, Captain Morgan’s spiced rum & honey with Pineapple juice. I thought the pineapple was kinda lost in all that alcohol but the freshness from the lime juice was there. Decent, if you ask me. Then again, I’m not really a cocktail guy.

All Jacked Up
Melonpalooza – a lovely blend of flavors from the Bacardi rum, coconut rum and Midori Melon liqueur; truly refreshing !

Sweet and Fiery
Sweet & Fiery – This one really left a mark; there was a bloody Jalapeno floating in the jar ! The mild sweetness of the beverage was complemented with a punchy aftertaste which got a little stronger with time. Or maybe it was the rum in my bloodstream making me feel so. I don’t really know.

Citrus Summer Shandy
Citrus Summer Shandy -This was easily the mildest and the fruitiest cocktail of the lot; for those out there who like their cocktails light and kinda syrupy. Bacardi orange, fresh orange, lemonade and passion fruit syrup – doesn’t get any more citrusy or fruity than that !

Crisp Sipper
Crisp Sipper – Basically gin & tonic, cucumber syrup (its a refreshingly overpowering flavor) with a touch of rosemary and thyme – this one’s definitely for the gin-patrons in the house !

Having had these, we moved on to the pièce de résistancethe burgers

The first one we had was easily the unanimous favorite, the top seed, the burger par excellence – THE ITALIAN CHICKEN BURGER
Italian Burger
The first thing you’d bite into would be the piquant sun-dried tomato aioli, next would be the crispy, golden, panko-crusted Cheddar Cheese layer (I’m drooling just writing about this), the third thing you’d dig through would be the herb-infused chicken patty and then finally the veggies and bun. Yes, it really was that brilliant ! #AbsolutelyRecommended

Carribean Burger
As part of the Burgerthon, I downed the Carribean Vegetarian Burger, a brown lentil based burger patty suffused with spices all through, topped with cheddar, quinoa relish and sunflower seeds. The sunflower seeds were obviously not evident, given the pace at which I gulped the whole thing down but the rest of it was pretty awesome.

Lebanese Veg Burger
The Lebanese Burger had a nice mix of garlic aioli, hummus and cheddar, but the oh-so-healthy beetroot base patty didn’t really cut it, for me. The texture was pasty and almost lacked binding.

Mediterranean Veg Burger
The Mediterranean Veg Burger had a very fresh mix of flavors, from the mango aioli and the spinach slaw;  the patty was nice and juicy, and the cheddar slice helped, too !

Istanbul Kafta Chicken Burger
The Istanbul Kafta Chicken had a lovely medley of cumin, coriander powder and pepper flavors…almost like having a seekh kebab of sorts ! The hummus aioli and feta crumble added a welcome brine to the bite, too. This one was another winner !

Indian Tandoori Chicken Burger
The Indian Tandoori Chicken Burger was a very-desi burger and that’s exactly what won it, for me. Felt almost like biting into a leg piece, I tell you ! Also, the cheddar, and mint mayo were another great combination that complimented the base flavors.

Mexican Quesadilla Burger
I didn’t have the Mexican Quesadilla Burger or the Miami Cuban Burger (first image in this blog) but I was told they were decent as well.

Limona Bomb
I didn’t have the Limona Bomb either, but I had fun photographing it. While it lasted. For all of 2 minutes.

And with that, we called it a wrap but I’m told, the tour is going to be around for a while, so  I’m sure I didn’t miss anything that I can’t come back for…(It’s on from the 1st of June to the 31st of July) Cheers !

In summary,
Food – 4.5/5 (for the novelty of the burger-innovations !!)
Service – 4/5
Ambience – 4.5/5 (it is, after all, an HRC)
Value for money – N/A (invited)

Hard Rock Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato