Sheila Kumar, July 7, 2012
LIVING IN THE KITCHEN
Good food served at a pub? Why not? The concept of a gastropub may soon catch on
I am probably outing Bangalore’s newest secret: a neat mix of good, unpretentious food, innovative cocktails, mocktails, and some fabulous old-fashioned rock and retro music at Monkey Bar, India’s first gastropub. In that order. The place was opened to Bangaloreans recently, on Wood Street and has been rocking ever since. Denizens of a city, where fine dining restaurants open at the drop of a damask napkin, are flocking to this low-key place to partake in liquid sustenance with names like Mary Beer, Goose Bums and Maanga, sink their teeth into finger-licking fare like Bombay Vada Paav, Chubby Mushrooms, Devilled Fish and Caramelised Ribs while swinging along to good old Clapton, Pink Floyd or Led Zeppellin. Occasionally, if cheers emanate from below stairs, it’s the poolroom crowd down in the basement, having a good time.
The USP of this place is clearly its sheer lack of pretense and that’s refreshing. No kitschy interiors, no long-winded explanation of any dish and the making thereof, no fancy cocktail shakers. Of course, dispensing with frills and furbelows cannot be done unless what is on offer is first- rate. And that’s where the Monkey Bar gets lucky: behind this venture is a trio of old hands at the business: Chef Manu Chandra, arguably one of India’s best skillet-wielders, restaurateur AD Singh and ideator Chetan Rampal. And so in pub city, along comes a place where the food matches the drink. What’s more, an evening at the gastropub does not break the bank either.
The interiors are reminiscent of a typical NYC eatery, complete with wooden counters, bar stools and retro wall posters. The drinks run the gamut of beer, vodka, martinis, wines, sparklers and Mobar specials like the Aam Panna Caipiroska, Pear and Mint Slim Jim,the Virgin Cherry Tomato n’ Chilli Caipiroska.
The food runs a gamut of wholesome fare like the Bork, where slices of pork are double cooked and then fried and served over veggies flavoured with black beans on a bed of thin noodles; melt-in-the-mouth galouti kebabs, soups, pizzas, salads, sandwiches, steaks. And what is arguably Bangalore’s best burger currently — the buns are baked in-house and the dry-aged multiple cuts are minced, hand-shaped and grilled over a wood fire. On each table are some hot sauces that rewrite the concept of ‘hot’. As for the dessert platter, there is a fair share of confections but after I set eyes on the perfect caramel custard, which was perfect, too, all else was grass.
Gastropub — a space that holds the essence of a pub but is backed by excellent food and service at accessible prices. Which describes the Monkey Bar to a tee.