A rooftop experience par excellence at Marine Drive, Hinjawadi Pune

This restaurant’s iconic namesake is probably one of the sexiest 2-mile stretches in the country, and is home to some of the most stunning rooftop views, too; the central character in these landscapes being that gorgeous South Mumbai bay.

rooftop 1.jpgPune’s version of the Marine Drive gets a 270° view of the massive Rajiv Gandhi Infotech park sprawling in the the backdrop, alight with activity. The setup, per se, is perfect for sunsets and post-sunset sessions, replete with dim lighting and neon aplenty.

rooftop 2.jpgDry-ice cocktails line the bar area, and a really great playlist makes up the rest of the ambience.

The food is a bit of a hit-and-miss story with the chicken preparations needing a bit of work, which the owner of the resto graciously accepted as feedback, and the rest of it being a good spread of options to pair with that great atmosphere.

Minestrone.jpgWe started with Minestrone Soup which isn’t on the menu (soups are ~₹150), which was great till the point we missed the crouton. The soup itself is full flavored and full bodied and would recommend it as long as it came with that crouton; but that’s just me being extra-picky.

prawn koliwada
The prawn preparations are simply amazing, with the Prawn Koliwada (₹325) being my favourite that evening, closely followed by the Peri Peri King Prawns (₹475). The Koliwada won this round because it was generously battered and deep fried to perfection while being succulent inside.
Fried > Grilled. End of.
The Peri Peri marinade was a great balance of tangy and just-about-spicy too, while being grilled just right. In summary, I’d still wholeheartedly recommend both!

nonveg platter.jpgThe Non-veg platter (₹575) needed some work around the chicken as mentioned before, especially with the kebabs being a tad too rubbery for my liking like it was done a second time. But I’m sure with a feedback system this good it’ll be sorted soon.

mushroom.jpgMultani Mushroom (₹250) was char-grilled just right, again, and the tang from the marinade went really well with the mint chutney served on the side. The Pesto Paneer Tikka (₹250) was a similar story on the charred-just-right and well-marinated fronts. The pesto could’ve used a little more basil to make it more pesto-ey, but again, that’s probably just me being extra-picky. It was good, I’ll grant them that!

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The Signature Vegetarian Pizza (₹250) made for a decent light-bite with a good helping of fresh toppings and a generous helping of cheese for good measure. Still, for a Signature Pizza, there could’ve been a little more pizzazz #PunIntended

Beer Battered Fish.jpgThe beer-battered fish fingers (₹300) came across as more of a bhajji-style preparation. My only gripe with this preparation was that it was neither a bhajji nor a proper fish-finger. Shame, because the fish seemed fresh and tender, and the batter was damn fine for a bhajji. If you’re torn between the two, though – this is perfect!

I didn’t stick around for the entrées or desserts so I can’t really comment on what a full meal feels like, here. That said, this isn’t a ‘full meal’ kinda place anyway. It’s perfect for trippin’ on a few beers or cocktails along with some light bites before you call it a night!

All in all –
Food – 4/5
Ambience – 4.5/5
Service – 4/5 with room for a little improvement but these are just teething troubles
Value for money – N/A (invited) but the prices seems reasonable given the overall experience

Marine Drive Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Out on a craic for a second innings @Irish Village, Mundhwa

The Leprechaun’s missing, but the rustic-like Jameson poster is still there to greet you. There’s about enough green to bear an Irish brand name but no Irish songs playing on the jukebox. Instead, there’s a live show by a local band and aye, it’s quare fine! I quite like my Friday evenings to begin that way!
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We were then led to our table-for-twenty and after some awkward exchanges with new faces and some warm hugs from familiar ones, we got down to business. No time was wasted in serving beer samples but I already knew what I was there for – the Stout. The wheat beer was pretty good too, but the cider and IPA weren’t as good as what I’m otherwise used to.

The Stout was well poured; the head stayed on for a while to retain a thin, but creamy lacing. It came on strong with its roasted notes and more-bitter-than-coffee-like flavors so if you’re not used to dark beers this one isn’t for you. I, on the other hand, loved it!
Wheat Beer
The wheat beer was a universally likeable well rounded sweet-citrusy, refreshing, easygoing beer. In fact it was so light, it’d even pass as a session beer. You’d have to have like four or five of those if you were looking to get plastered; not that I’m recommending it!

The IPA wasn’t as hoppy as I’d like it to be and felt a little watered down, too. And the Cider wasn’t as ‘dense’ as I’d like it to be and the sweetness seemed almost ‘forced‘ so I gave it a pass, as well.

The food was a hit-and-miss story, with the hits being –
Paneer
Chimichuri Cottage Cheese – well-marinated seared paneer that went well with green chutney. Could’ve used a little stronger marination, IMHO. Can be paired with the wheat beer.

potato
Aloo Ki nazakat – little parcels of potato and mild flavors and a palatable mixture of textures, too. Stout was what did it for me with this one.

Salt & pepper mushroom – Probably the best starter of the lot – strong on flavors (I didn’t mind the extra salt) and pan-fried just right. Frying mushrooms is tricky business. Definitely a wheat-beer partner.
Mushroom Fish
Fish in banana leaves – fragrant and succulent, these mildly steamed fish parcels were a thumbs-up for most of us. Stout material.

croquettes
Smoked Croquettes – super-mushy (and bland) on the inside but perfectly crisp and golden on the outside. Best had with the strong, piquant dip that came with it. Potatoes go down with anything.

prawn
Hot Chilli Prawns – perfectly grilled, well marinated juicy prawns that are best enjoyed by themselves. The portion size was the only issue – we wanted so many more of these!!

..And the misses being –

nachos
Nachos – well loaded and crisp, but nothing special about them. Meh.

fries
Loaded fries – Ditto like the Nachos. The fries were well done, though…if you should know.

maas
Tabak Maas – Mutton is either perfect, or it isn’t. This wasn’t. There just isn’t any middle ground. The meat felt rubbery and the flavours/textures were localised to only the coating.

chicken in blankets
Chicken in blankets – I’ve had these aplenty when I was in the UK and had something of an  expectation, which this just didn’t come anywhere close to. There were too many confusing textures and smells and wayyy too meaty if you’re not used to it. Plus, I’m used to the pastry version.

Then came the entrées –

The Oriental dumpling soup, which came after the entrées was refreshingly nice; it was earthy, flavorsome and the dumpling were nice and juicy. The ginger notes added that extra zing to the soup. If you’re not used to thin soups, though, I wouldn’t recommend it.

farmers pizza
Among the Pizzas, I thought the Farmer pizza was better than the Irish meat feast. The Pizzas weren’t traditional, but rather ‘Indianised’ versions, so very palatable and fairly loaded, too. Not to mention that they weren’t very heavy at all (which is a good thing IMO), unlike the more commercial heavy-base pizzas that are sold by chains.

veg stroghanoff
The Veg Stroganoff was nice and cheesy, and can make for a one-pot-style meal by itself given how heavy it was.

drunken potato
The Irish drunken potato used to be so much better before, it seems like just white sauce and boiled ‘tatos, now. Shame, I quite liked this the last time I had it, here.

Whatever comes to your mind when you think ‘Butter Garlic Prawns’, un-think it. This was well-done, cheesy prawns that were (maybe) sautéed in butter and gartlic before they were drenched in white sauce. ‘Butter‘ and ‘garlic‘ seemed misleading but the preparation was nice by itself, to be fair. Just don’t think butter and garlic, think prawns with bite and in cheese, instead.

Oh, and the burgers weren’t impressive. As were the Panna Cotta and Red Velvet Cheese Cake. That’s all I have to say about it.

In summary then, I don’t take you for someone who can down more than 1-2 appetizers, 1-2 entrées and a few pints. I’d suggest skipping the stuff that doesn’t work and calling for what does; it’s that simple. Ask the few thousand regulars who seemed to have crowded at the venue. They’ll tell you.
The Irish Village Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Cologne-ization of Pune’s beer scene

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I don’t know about Reinheitsgebot and all that but if I can get a top-fermented German-esque lager this close to home, that tastes refreshingly citrusy, crisp, smells sweet-ish and looks the part, I’m happy in my ignorance. See, the ‘original‘ Kölsch enjoys a PGI/PDO status, so for Pune’s Kimaya Brewery to call their recently launched beer a Kolsh might be a bit of a stretch.

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Buuuut I honestly couldn’t care less ‘coz this stuff’s good. Like, 5-pints-in-a-row good.

What can you pair it with? I’d say anything ranging from mild to sharp flavors; that’s basically anything off the Malaka TapRoom menu. Exempli Gratia –

And that’s not even the best part! You get this view at no extra cost!!

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Spread the word, y’all. Pints and stories are meant to be shared! Cheers!

The Tap Room By Malaka Spice Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Hello, 6Xey!

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Wiltshire. Home to the world-famous 5000 year old Stonehenge, 8-century old Salisbury Cathedral…and this little gem. At the very heart of this little county is the quaint little market town of Devizes, best known for the massive Victorian-era Wadworth Brewery. You’d think 2 centuries is a mighty long time to be brewing beer, no? As the local saying goes – Old cool is the new cool! Have a 6X and you’ll know what I’m on about.

Bottles

Getting here by road is easy – get to the A361 and you won’t miss Devizes. By bus, hop on the Stagecoach 49 and voila! Point is, if you’re about and not doing much, it’s worth a pop-in and it’s easy, too. Even if you are doing anything, it’s still probably worth a visit anyway.

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No matter where you are in the town centre, you’re likely to spot at least the tip of the brewery. As you walk closer, you’re able to fully appreciate how massive the brewery really is. The entrance is right next to the main structure and once in, you can purchase tickets to their brewery tour which is followed by a tasting session – the best part of the deal! 😉

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Tours are timed, so one can take a few minutes to savor the museum-esque decor if you’re early.

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There’s also an actual Penny Farthing on display which used to be driven around by Henry Alfred Wadworth himself as he did the rounds of local pubs selling his ware, to *ehm* ‘quality-check the beer’. I’m not entirely sure how he managed getting back up on that thing after he’d ‘sampled’ beer from twenty pubs!

Right…On to the entrée, then.

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The £12 tour lasts about 2 hours give or take and starts on the upper floor where we’re introduced to the most fundamental ingredients of beer – Malts and Hops. The most commonly used Malts are Barley and they constitute the sugar, colour, and flavour components of the beer, whereas the hops provide the aroma and bitterness. The hops also serve as a natural preservative.
(Fun fact – the name ‘India Pale Ale’, or IPA came about when strongly hopped beer was shipped overseas to the East India Company with the high hop-content serving as a natural preservative and just like that, a style was born! The more you know).

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Malts are germinated and roasted before they’re milled, to expose the sugars inside the malt. The nature of the roasting determines whether a malt is pale (hardly roasted), crystal(pretty roasted), black (seriously roasted) and so on. The more it’s roasted, the more coffee-ish the flavor of the ale, the darker it is, and paler malts provide for more sweeter, light-coloured beer. Most ales use a combination of malts to achieve that unique characteristic which makes it different from other ales. The hops used here are ‘Cascade’, ‘Fuggles’, ‘Golding’, to name a few. The next process is mashing, where hot water, the grist (powdered malts with a short shelf life) and hops are mixed to produce a sugary solution called ‘wort’. Wadworth’s Victorian heritage means they still have a working Copper Mash Tun from 1885 running side by side a modern Stainless Steel Mash Tun which I thought was pretty darn amazing!

Mash Tun.JPG

The wort is ‘brewed’ in the likes of an Open Copper (used seasonally, now) which used to be heated by fire kept alive by the one person with the worst job in the world. It was only in 1938 that a steam coil was added to heat the wort instead of the fire below. The hood you see was added in the 1960s, which did the public service of funnelling the steam from the wort out of the building to the nearby schools and factories, early in the morning. I know I’d have loved to wake up to the smell of that!

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Next in the process is the hopback, which separates the wort from the hops; and the leftovers are given away to local farmers as food for their cattle. Lucky cattle.

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Next in line is the pièce de résistance – the fermentation vessel. Wort is basically food for the brewer’s yeast which converts the sugar to alcohol and Carbon Dioxide; the most fundamental brewing process. The end result is the final product – what you enjoy every Friday and Shaturday and Shundayy…*hic*

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Commercially, Wadworth now produce most of their beer in a more modern facility (under the same roof) using more efficient and eco-friendly machinery manufactured by Steinecker.

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That doesn’t mean that the quality is any different from what they used to make back in the day. Or so we’re told. I wasn’t around back in the day so I’m just happy for the present-day 6X, Swordfish, Bishop’s Tipple and the rest of their ales.

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The tour ended for us with a round of their most loved ales –

Wadworth IPA – easy drinking, hoppy, light pale ale

Wadworth 6X – the traditionally brewed, well balanced amber ale

Dirty Rucker (to celebrate the seasonal Rugby games) – Deep golden hoppy-bitter ale

Wadworth Swordfish – absolutely loved the light sweet taste from the infused rum

Wadworth Horizon – a crisp, citrus-ey light ale that went down easy

Wadworth Corvus – deep black with very evident coffee and roasted malt notes. I’m used to thicker, creamier heads than what the Corvus had to offer, though. Still, I enjoyed that it was different.

Cart

The icing on the cake were Monty, Max and ‘the silent one’ (I forgot her name!), the shire horses that, to this day, transport kegs to local pubs that bear their famously famous hand-made signs.

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In the vicinity of the brewery, there’s also Reeve, the famous sourdough-bread baker nearby should you be interested and plenty of restaurants nearby for a quick bite, too.

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We also visited the famous Cain Hill Locks that sport the two-mile long canal system up the Avon and it’s quite the sight!

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It’s a great little stretch for a casual stroll after lunch. There’s also a pretty little afternoon-tea cafe for those who suffer from those classic British ‘urges’! 😉

_MG_6323.JPGCHEERS!

The Spirits of Wychwood

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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.

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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.

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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).

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Our ‘welcome drinks’ –  cask-poured Brakspear Oxford Gold and a Wychwood Hobgoblin Gold
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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 –

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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! 😊

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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!

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

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.

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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.

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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 –

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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?

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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 –

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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

Out Auf This World – Aufside @ Hotfut, Swargate

Of boundaries and off-sides, Aufside has it all. Literally. I mean, there’s actually a full-size practice net that separates the restaurant from the mall-side entrance…Its so in-your-face that for a second I thought I was at the wrong place or something, when I got there. Thank God for the signs that scream “Aufside, this side ->”; if not for these I probably would’ve doubled back and taken some detour.

aufside 2.jpg
Sports Memorabilia

Anywho, so once inside, you’re greeted by sports memorabilia, a huge projector and two screens inside this cozy little box of a place that make for an unabridged sports-bar ambience. Add to that craft beer on tap, inexpensive all-you-can-drink options, pop-quizzes, karaoke and decent grub and you get an archetypal Friday-night haunt. And that’s precisely what Aufside intends to be all about.
aufside.jpgNow, atypical as it may sound, our dinner started with food and the drinks followed; but we got enough of both for the sequence to not matter. Here’s an account of the same –

Of the starters, the Crispy Chicken Tenders and the Herbed Chicken are the ones that left a mark; the Nachos, Grilled Prawns, Jalapeno Cheeseballs, and the Olive Bruschetta were alright…and the Honey Chilli Potato Bites, Cheese and Jalapeno Poutine and Sauteéd Mushrooms were a total miss, for me.

The Crispy Chicken Tenders were perfectly crumb fried, were hot and soft enough, inside and went very well with the cajun spice dip.

drink mushroom chicken fingers.jpg
An amazingly refreshing Mojito with the prawns in the foreground and the chicken tenders in the background

The grilled prawns were fresh, crunchy enough (no, not crispy, but crunchy the way grilled prawns ought to be) and were a tad briny, probably from the butter in the sauce they were tossed in.

The Herbed Chicken was nice and herby, and the meat was succulent.

The problem with the Nachos, if there was one, was that the flavors were not coming out as much as I’d want them too. Not that they weren’t there, they probably needed a little more punch.
cheeseballs.jpg

There were no Jalapenos whatsoever in the Jalapeno Cheeseballs but they were still great to have with and the Poutine was not served separately with the fries but was poured over them, rendering the whole thing soggy and cheesy. Tsk tsk.
bruschetta.jpg

The Olive Bruschetta was missing the melted cheese topping, but was still decent as it was (not everyone on the table agreed with me) and the Mushrooms were cold by the time I had them, so the fact that I didn’t savor them much is entirely my fault.fiery fries.jpg
The one thing that was really off (unanimously, across the table) was the portion of honey chilli potato bites, the heat from the chilli overpowered pretty much every other flavor the chef may have intended to infuse in the potatoes and left a pretty nasty burning sensation on the palate and down the throat.

mains 1.jpg
Of the mains, the stuffed crepes were a lovely cheesy; so cheesy in fact that the ratatouille was lost in there. Not that I’m complaining ! I love my cheese and they’d used more than one of them here, so…

paneer mains 4.jpg
The Grilled Cottage Cheese was another winner, a perfectly done bed of cottage cheese that had an evidently nutty aftertaste from the peanut sauce and went very well with the sides.

mains 2.jpg
The Chicken Roulade was also a well done piece of work – succulent chicken breast stuffed with tomatoes, olives and … more cheese ! #ImLovinIt

beer cocktail defender.jpg
All this was washed down with a beer cocktail (the defender) that was a delicate balance between watermelon and beer (no, it wasn’t sweet, which is basically what I liked about it) but it went a little too flat after the first few sips. I always had to pair it with some food so it wasn’t much of a standalone beverage.

And our hosts were nice enough to keep, and offer Coronas.(Notice the ‘s’ at the end of the sentence, I’m talking about a plural noun here).

dessert 2dessert 1
Desserts served were both chocolate mousses and both of them uniquely wonderful in their own right. Just the right texture and not too sweet. Me likey.

All in all, Aufside is a great place to catch a match, catch up or just catch (remember, there’s a practice net right outside) and indulge in decent food and drink options while you’re at it.

In summary,
Food – 4/5
Service – 4/5
Ambience – 4/5
Value for money – 4/5

Here’s a beef starter that was as pretty as it looks, or so I was told.
rice mains 3.jpgOh, and not to forget the pork chops. The BBQ sauce was delish !
pork chops.jpg

Aufside @ Hotfut Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Hops & Happiness at the Beer Cafe, Viman Nagar

So a guy walks into a bar..
and goes ‘Bhaiyya, ek cutting laga dena!’
. . .

What? . . .Were you expecting some kind of punchline? Too bad, coz’ I was being serious.
cutting beer.jpg So bhaiyya proceeds to promptly whip out a neat 110 ml cutting glass and pours in a beautiful, dark, wheat beer that works up a rich, creamy head as it settles in. Guy chugs it down in 3 big gulps and goes, ‘kitna hua’? And bhaiyya be like – bas 79, dada !
cutting chai being poured.jpg
That’s right ! Aside from the 50-something varieties of beer that these guys have on offer, which is in-freaking-sane by itself; the clever bwuoyz at the Beer Cafe have recently come out with another winner – their Cutting Menu.
There’s the desi faves on a shoestring budget – the Cutting @39 with Kingfisher and Fosters Draught options.
For the more adventurous, there’s the Cutting @79 with Bira White, Bira Blond or Signatures from the Mumbai-based Gateway Brewing Company on tap.
For the even more refined beer connoisseurs there’s Hoegaarden, Stella Artois, Erdinger (Weissbier and Dunkel), Shepherd (Double Stout and Spitfire) and Fuller’s London Pride; also on tap @129 (Hell Yeah!).
…Aaand for those like me who like to have a little bit of everything, there’s the Cutting Slider – a ‘six pack’ of 3 premium-desi and 3 premium-videsi options. #SoMuchAwesomeness
Beer Cafe indoors
Anywho. So after I’ve made myself comfortable in the snug little corner seat of this capacious cave of a space, I go on to call for a slider (obviously), comprised of a Bira white, a Bira blond, a White zen, a Gateway AI, a Doppelganger and the Fuller’s London Pride.

cutting beer six pack.jpg

The Bira White is a cloudy looking, citrusy tasting wheat ale that’s the less bitter of the two Biras.

The Bira Blond is the clearer, more effervescent, fresher and the hoppier of the two beers. But that’s just a personal opinion.

The White Zen is a rather balanced wheat beer, with very mild hints of spice. This is the kinda beer that will go well with most palates.

The AI is Gateway’s version of the India Pale Ale is a slightly hoppy, bitter-sweet beer and is almost woody.

The Doppelganger is a dark, malty, sweeter beer that’s a little more overpowering than the rest of Gateway’s beers.

The Fuller’s London Pride is certainly the pride of this six pack, too – a quintessentially English legend, this. Works up a rich head, has a near-nutty smell, is just mildly bitter and isn’t too heavy (say, medium bodied). This is the one I savored the best.

. . . But wait, there’s more !

Now, no self-loathing, frustrated IT dude’s visit to a bar is complete without a HUGE round of sides, right? I mean, we don’t get our bellies from beer; now, come on !
BBQ platter
So I noticed there was another menu with a BBQ Platter option with grilled meats and I go on to call for one.
The platter is replete with a succulent near-minty Hariyali (Chicken) Kebab, a well spiced Piri Piri Chicken (yeah, the piri piri-ness was very much there), 2 juicy chicken drumsticks – the Chicken Tangris with notable tandoori spices,  and fish tikka –  basically well seasoned, perfectly grilled Basa. Not to forget the PERFECT mint chutney that complemented everything on the table.

Round one of beer was over at this point and I was already parched, so Round 2 was called for –
The Beer Mule – Now the first time I’d attempted a Beer cocktail (in vain) was at home; it was a failed experiment with some cheapass strong beer and canned fruit juice. So my strongly negative outlook towards beer cocktails that had formed all those years ago was shattered, no scratch that, I need a stronger adjective – OBLITERATED in all of 3 seconds when I downed one single sip of the Beer Mule. A bona fide summer cooler and an ultimately delicious one too, with fresh cucumber and ginger notes, a very mild punch of vodka and the smoothness of beer. Not as effervescent as beer but just as refreshing. Hugely recommended.
beer mule stella.jpg
Stella Artois (pronounced ‘art-twa’) – a classic Belgian Lager, the Artois is beautiful golden in color and has a clean, malty taste. No surprise why the world loves this beer.

While we were guzzling, more food found its way to the table. But this time, it was a round of more stereotypical sides –

Beer-battered onion rings – perfectly panko-crumbed and deep fried onion rings. Beer’s best friend. All authentic. No BS.
onion rings.jpg
Butter Garlic Prawns – Juicy and crunchy in texture, briny and buttery…very buttery butter garlic prawns. The prawns were well sourced, too – no residual funky smell that I’ve been noting lately in a lot of restaurants.
butter garlic prawns.jpg

And Round two of beer was done so a round three had to follow. Obviously.

Oranjeboom – a straw-yellow colored beer with a head that dissipated quickly. Modest bitters…very light and goes down easy. No, it doesn’t really taste like oranges but is very mildly citrusy. If that counts.
oranjeboom.jpg

Shepherd Neame Double Stout – an Irish-style dry stout (that’s actually English – it’s brewed by England’s oldest brewer) that works up a rich head which dissipates to a near-zero lacing; and the beer has very notable roasted malt and coffee-ish flavors. I think it’d make for a great session beer. Unfortunately, I ended mine with this but hey, there’s always a next time !
Shepherd Neame Double Stout.jpg

Round three of grub was the Beer Cafe signature meat platter – the Hungry Tide
hungry tide.jpg

Chicken Wings – the batter was a little chewy but the BBQ sauce was spot-on. A little work with the batter ought to set this preparation right !

Chicken stuffed potato skins/jackets – the jacket was a tad bland which means that the chicken could’ve been seasoned with some stronger flavors but it wasn’t. Rendered the preparation a little flat, if you ask me. Still, after all those beers I’d gone from “Hi, how are you?” to “How high are you?” so the lack of character this preparation showed was automatically forgiven.

Chicken Tenders and Fish Fingers – well seasoned and crumb fried, yet super juicy inside. A little too much meat if you ask me but still, the better of the lot. I liked the chicken tenders especially and they went really well with all the sauces served on the side – mustard mayo, home-made salsa and tartar sauce. Gotta hand it to them for the sauces, though – amazing stuff !

So by the time I was done, the awesome tracklist that had set the mood for me had ended, and despite the alcohol in my bloodstream I could tell that songs had begun repeating.
knick knacks.jpg
The kooky signs on the walls had begun to make a lot of sense, and I realized that my eccentric ass had been very warmly accommodated for the good part of 3 hours. My beery adventure was formally over. #OlaTime

All in all –
Food – 4.5/5
Service – 4.5/5 (the servers know their beer and give good suggestions, too!)
Ambience – 4/5
Value for money – N/A (invited), but I’m definitely heading back for their cutting menu…the thrifty beer-loving ass that I am
beer cafe entrance

The Beer Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato