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.

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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

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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

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

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

A Summer fling with Malaka: The all-new Seasonal Menu at Malaka Spice, Baner

Malaka started out in 1997 with a vision to present Pan Asian cuisine to Pune with a signature twist that’s hard to find outside of fancy TV shows and they’ve really come a long way from an already high benchmark that they’d set for themselves back in ’97. In this quest for continuously one-upping themselves, innovation has been an intrinsic part of Malaka’s culture which is also evident from the special menu that they keep coming up with, periodically. Their Classic and Street menus apart, their ‘Special Menu’ is usually Seasonal, and is typically themed around ingredients that are best sourced during that time of the year. Also, given that a lot of their ingredients are grown in-house, the freshness of the ingredients and the flexibility of selecting ingredients is apparent, too (we were witness to prawns and carambola being paired together but more on that, later). Veggies like gourds (bottle gourd, bitter gourd, etc.), pumpkin, beans and tomatoes and fruits like berries, papaya, melons and mangoes are great ways to counter the effects of Summer and the enterprising chefs of Malaka have attempted to use all or most of these, in their avant-garde Summer Menu which we were invited to sample. The bulk of what we had was a laundry-list of stuff that they intend to launch, but not all of what we had that evening may make it to their final Menu. For all reasons healthy, I really think they should include it all, but that may not be commercially viable. C’est la vie.

Now, I should warn you, this particular blog may come across more as a photolog than a blog, so I’ll urge you to watch it on your desktop/laptop on high speed wifi to avoid draining your phone’s data pack. And to enjoy the photos in high-res, of course ! 🙂

Chilled and Hot Watermelon Soup
A lovely blend of classic ‘soupy-ness’ and the refreshing juiciness of watermelon. The watermelon scoops in the soup were a nice touch, too. Even for someone who doesn’t appreciate cold soups, this one’ll cut it.
watermelon cold soup.jpg

Sinigang Sa Miso
This soup had a mild tang from the tamarind and the Soy, but should’ve been a warm soup. Somehow, I wasn’t able to fully appreciate this Red Snapper cold soup.
red snapper soupred snapper soup_large

Korean Spicy Cold Noodle Soup
Loved the texture from the pulses and the noodles, but again, not as appealing as the chilled watermelon soup.
cold noodle soup

Warm Salad of Napa Cabbage in peanut butter. The Thai Crunchy veggies gave it a lovely texture and I especially liked the perfectly acceptable warm temperature that it was served at. The peanut butter dressing went well at that temperature, too. Loved it !
warm salad

Yan Woon Sen
This preparation was more about texture, in my opinion – the tender shrimp, soft glass noodles and the pulses were a nice mix of textures and the fresh herbs gave it an delightful aftertaste.
salad

Duck Watermelon and Red Pumpkin Salad
The hoisin sauce used to glaze the duck-meat was a delicate balance between sweet and briny and when had with the watermelon and pumpkin, resulted in a flavor burst I just can’t describe. I really hope this one makes it to the final menu.
duck pumpkin salad

Indonesian Mango, Pineapple and Carambola salad
While this was a really good preparation by itself, there was so much scope to use contrasting flavors as against using different kinds of tarty and sour ingredients.
star fruit salad

Prawns Mangorita
The mango’s tanginess and the watermelon’s fresh sweetness went well with the prawn’s neutral juicy meat, but in retrospect, I somehow felt so much more could’ve been done with that preparation. A dash of chili powder or a strong-flavored dip could do wonders for this preparation.
watermelon shrimp.jpg

Of the Stir-fries, the Goya Champaru Bitter Melon and Bottle Gourd Stir Fry was unbelievably delicious. I’ve never had bitter melon tempered so well except in the form of deep-fried chips. If this gets on the menu, this is an absolute must have !
bitter gourd

Korean Honey Chili Potato
Should I even bother explaining how awesome it was? Naah. I popped half the bowl with the Belgian Wheat Beer I was having without realizing it. The best appetizer that evening. Or maybe I just love potatoes too much.
honey chilli potato

Lobster butter garlic with Morenga and Thai Chilli
The butter-garlic had seeped into the near-crunchy lobster meat, loved the flavors, the texture; an exquisite preparation, this.

Tiger prawn in Carambola
Pineapple juice and star fruit are rather mild flavors to cook a prawn in, don’t you think? I mean, with the plain dearth of any strong flavors, the juicy prawn couldn’t do much by itself except soak in the rather flat/mild flavors. This one needs a little re-thinking, in my opinion.
tiger prawn

Bak Kut The
The Bruneian mutton spare ribs were to die for. The Chinese Crullers, not so much.
mutton chop

Lah Bak
Five Spice rolls like the ones found in Penang – crunchy outside from the deep fried roll sheet and crunchy inside from the fresh veggies. The meat was well seasoned, too. Loved this !
spring rolls

Vietnamese Mutton with Fenugreek and Spinach – Overbearingly bitter, these desperately needed a palate cleanser. A complete no, for me.

Grilled Fish in Mint Sauce
Perfectly grilled meat that went well with the sweet-spicy sauce. However, the mint was so subtle it was almost nonexistent. Not to say the sauce was bad; it was great, but maybe not as minty as the chef intended for it to be.
grilled fish

Stuffed Calamari with Peppery Tamarind Sauce –
The only non-fried Calamari I’ve had that wasn’t chewy. The Calamari was surprisingly well done and the tamarind sauce was good too. One problem with this preparation was the multitude of similar seafood crammed into one preparation and the size of each morsel – it was not as appetizing as Malaka’s own Calamari rings so I probably would skip past this and call for the usual. Unless they use some other kind of meat and fry the calamari pockets somehow.
calamari

Gulai Daun Singkong Tumbuk
Himalayan trout made with okra?! Lovely, tender grilled fish that went surprisingly well with the ladies’ fingers. Loved how bold this preparation was and how well it was executed !
himalayan trout

As for the entrées –
Bun Cha
A Vietnamese grilled chicken preparation that went well with the rice noodles and the salad served on the side.
chicken

Macau Curried Tiger Prawn with Bottle Gourd & Fenugreek
No one flavor or smell was overpowering, here. The mild flavors had blended into the coconut milk and the prawn was very tender, too.
??

Massaman Curry Mutton
Rich, yet mild, just the way a massaman curry ought to be. The mutton, however, was not well done. Scope for improvement, there.

And onward we went to the desserts, of which two were sago based and the rest were fruit or chocolate based.

Malaysian Sago Pudding with Palm Sugar
The palm sugar drizzling was lovely but it had not seeped into one single pearl of sago. The sago, per se, was totally tasteless (just the way boiled sago should be) so sans the palm sugar drizzling, it hardly came across as a dessert.
sago palm sugar

Mango and Sago Parfait
The mango parfait was flavorful but was frozen too hard. Also, the sago was coming out separately and as tasteless – there’s so much scope to blend the sago in.

Coconut and Orange Bake Pudding
Full marks for the texture, but the orange wasn’t coming out strongly. Some orange zest while boiling the milk could possibly bring out the flavors s’more.

Sticky dates pudding
A pretty good dessert per se, but didn’t exactly come across as a pudding.
sticky date pudding

Vodka Lava with White Chocolate Sauce – the vodka wasn’t too evident but the white chocolate sauce was pretty good. One suggestion for improvement could be to flambé this leveraging vodka, so the vodka would be much more palpable and it would add to the presentation, too.
vodka lava dessert

Banana and coconut roll –
Crisped and lightly sweetened on the outside with a yummy, melt-in-the-mouth textured banana inside. You’d go bananas over this !
banana dessert

With this, and dessert wine we closed our intestine-numbing food-barrage of the finest Pan-Asian experiments Pune has to offer. I’ll be heading back soon to see how much of this actually made it to the menu, and suggest you do, too ! Cheers !

 

Sorry for the long post. Here’s photos of some stuff I didn’t have –

mains 1
Okinawa Taco Brown Rice

Malaka Spice Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Chillin’, Chandni Chowk Style at Evviva Sky Lounge, Courtyard By Marriott, City Centre

Our capital city was also a centuries old Mughal capital, which is why North Indian preparations bear a strong semblance to Mughal Cuisine. While the fast living habits of New Delhi’s people led to the growth of street food culture (which is why the paranthewali gallis and lassi/chhaas outlets came about) but the Mughlai roots, to this day, still hold good in the older part of the city – Puraani Dilli. The streets of Chandani Chowk are abuzz with stalls dishing out stuff ranging from lip-smacking chaats, to delectable parathas to rich kormas to mouth watering tandoori preparations to brain-freezing rabdi faloodas.

bar counter

Chef Akhilesh Pathak had exactly this in mind when he decided to tap into his Awadhi forte to come up with exclusive menu for the Chandni Chowk festival (12th to 20th March, 2016) at Evviva Sky Lounge.

evviva seating

The sky lounge, per se, is a great setting for hosting pretty much anything – let alone just a speciality food festival. The place is airy, inexplicably cosy (in a good way), plush, and enjoys a madd view of the vicinity.

cityscape

street

The DJ knows his deep house/progressive house, the bartender knows his drinks and the captain knows his kitchen. Now while a lot of effort has gone into designing the menu and preparing the dishes, an abysmally low amount of effort was spent in decking the place up per the theme. Food for thought? Anywho, so I’ll cut to the chase, then.

Our evening started with –

Aam ka Jaam – an amazingly refreshing drink with the evident sharpness of raw mango, and the ground black pepper gave it that extra punch.

Mango Lassi – a novel twist to a classic favorite. This was almost halfway between a classic Mango Lassi and raw mango pulp. Sweetened with honey, as against sugar, it was healthy, even. The earthen cup was a nice touch, too.

 panna and lassi

Masala Chaas – a classic desi cooler, this – best for beating the summer heat. Not too watery, and the cumin helps digestion, too. Given how rich and heavy the rest of the meal was, for us – this really helped !

chhaas

Angoor aur Pudhiney ka Sharbat – Another well balanced minty, fruity and light cooler that went down easy.

grape mint

With the pleasantries out of the way, we moved on to the appetizers –

Lal Mirch ka Paneer Tikka – well grilled, succulent cottage cheese cubes marinated in a laal-mirch based almost-achaari masala. Worth calling repeats on.

paneer

Tandoori Jhinga – tiger prawns marinated in rich tandoori spices and char-grilled and served on a mini-grill. Tiger prawns aren’t like your usual bite-sized prawns where the prawns are soft and the marinade seeps well into the meat; this variety is more crunchy in texture and the marinade is more superficial. The best part was how well they had cleaned the prawns because there was no residual smell that sea prawns usually have. Absolutely loved this !

prawns starter

Tandoori Pomfret – Another winner, this – the distinct marinade of ajwain-garlic had found its way to the bone and the pomfret was amazingly well done. A seafood lovers’ delight – highly recommended !

pomfret

Musallam Tangri Kebab – Juicy chicken drumsticks STUFFED with delicate spices and mincemeat. Meat Excess warning ! *wipes drool*

chicken starter 1

Chicken Chargha – This came closest to the traditional Tandoori Chicken, only it was very carefully grilled (no charring of meat anywhere like you typically get) and despite the meatiness of the leg piece, didn’t feel that heavy.

chicken tangdi

Entrées –

Mutton Nalli Nihari – If I were to describe it in one word, it would be ‘Ambrosial’. A food worthy of the Gods (if Gods are into mutton..I wouldn’t know), the meat was so tender it was falling right off the bone. I kid you not, you can eat this stuff with a knife and fork…but you wouldn’t, right? The gravy was lovely too – creamy and rich but not too thick.

pulao nalli nihari

Nargisi Kofta – Boiled eggs stuffed inside a shell of ground lamb meat, generously seasoned, and topped with a thick gravy. If you’re into the more traditional preparations, you’ll definitely appreciate this.

nargisi kofta

Haleem – The star of the show – wheat, barley, lentils and mutton slow cooked to a lovely blend….grainy, earthy, and well balanced…a little too balanced, I’ll say. Awadhi cuisine is characterized by the aromas and flavors of ‘khada masala’, which is something that this preparation could use just a wee bit more of. Not to say I’ve had better Haleem elsewhere, but there’s scope to make awesome even better, right?

Dhaba Daal – black and gram lentils, ghee – just like home. If you’re away from home and missing daal, this is the answer.

Aloo Paratha – Maybe it was the standards that the rest of the food had set for me, but somehow, the Paratha wasn’t as awesome as the rest of the preparations on the table. The stuffing was spot-on, but the paratha, per se was a wee bit too dough-ey for my palate.

Mix veg pulao – The khada masalas and rose flavoring were discernible in this scrumptious pulao. I was told that the good folks in the kitchen used actual rose petals et all to make this. Exquisite !

As if this much weren’t enough, we had desserts too –

Paan ice cream – honestly, I’ve never had ice cream this awesome in a long, long, long time. Perfectly creamy with every single flavor of the paan – saunf, gulkand, etc. coming out individually. Highly recommended.

paan ice cream

Kulfi Falooda – The vermicelli was spot-on, the rabdi, even better. But the kulfi gave me a locked jaw and brainfreeze. I couldn’t get my head around an icy kulfi. Anyways, feedback was passed on, acknowledged and accepted and hopefully, the good folks in the kitchen would sort this over the week.

All in all –
Food – 4.5/5
Service – 4.5/5
Ambience – 4.5/5
Value for money – N/A (invited)

In summary, a great place to chill with your peeps and catch a well thought-through ‘Puraani Dilli da Menu’, with wind in your hair and a Puneri Panorama in the backdrop. Cheers !

vodka based cocktail

Evviva Sky Lounge - Courtyard by Marriott Pune City Centre Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato