Sunday Brunch at JW Marriott: A Soothing Affair

I am an avid bruncher – everything about a weekend afternoon meal that stretches for hours, is lazy yet luxurious, and where a wide variety of food and drink are available, speak to me – it’s soothing, happy, and everything good about the weekend. My latest Sunday brunch sojourn was at the JW Marriott’s JW Kitchen. A themed affair, this is a Monsoon Sunday Brunch, with a vast menu of curated dishes that appeal during the cool rainy months. You know, pakodas, chaats and jalebi, hot-off-the-grills meats and veggies, kebabs, freshly tossed pastas and a whole lot more. Because aside from the monsoon specials, there is a whole slew of dishes and counters to whet your appetite and satisfy even the pickiest eater! The brunch offerings encompass the restaurant as well as the outdoor section – and there is a big play area for kids, as well as a separate menu for them. Live counters rotate, and each specialty restaurant of the hotel sets up shop one week – it was Spice Terrace when we visited – and showcases a couple of dishes from their menu. The stuffed chicken kebab was superb!

After walking around and getting a tour of the offerings, I started off with an order of Malaysian Roti Jala and Goan Ros Omelette Poi. Both these were spectacular, and had I not run out of space by the meal’s end, I would gladly have ended with these, too! The silky Malay curry, along with the crisp honeycomb style roti, and the delicious Goan masala ros elevated the humble omelette to another level. The drinks options were plentiful, with a bar set up outdoors and another indoors. We began with a glass of sparkling and then I decided to stick with wine, enjoying a smooth red wine sangria while my dining companion tried out a couple of cocktails. We then enjoyed a round of freshly grilled meat from the BBQ station including fish, pork, prawns and chicken.

Although I was too busy eating to take pictures of each and everything I ate from the various counters, indoors and out, I definitely remember them! There was a nice mezze spread with hummus and various other Middle Eastern dips, a salad counter where one of the chefs s making Caesar’s salad to order, a variety of cold cuts and picked and grilled veggies, and of course, extensive mains, including Indian and Continental. We absolutely loved the honey glazed ham, and there was also an interesting ham/spam cutlet with peas and mash. There was a good spread of desserts of course, and between us we sampled a fair number of gateau, mousse, cake, pudding (the hot chocolate pudding was very rich and delicious) and more. I had to end with hot jalebis from the live counter, and had really run out of space for any more, of anything, and we called it, after a solid two hours of gorging, while enjoying the gorgeous, windy Bangalore weather. The special Monsoon Sunday brunch will be available for a couple months, and it is a wonderful way to spend one’s Sunday. The attentive, warm service was a definite plus!

Monsoon Brunch at JW Kitchen (10)

Details: JW Kitchen, JW Marriott Hotel, Vittal Mallya Rd; Sunday Brunch; INR 2450 plus taxes/INR 3400 plus taxes for non-alcoholic/alcoholic options.

Start your weekend with breakfast at Sly Granny

I am not a morning person, much preferring the wee hours to the sunrise and early start. Night owl and all that. So breakfast isn’t really a meal I give that much importance to. That being said, I love eggs and count them as comfort food. Breakfast foods and dishes I can eat any time of the day. Indeed, I have been known to make dinner out of breakfast foods, and Eggs Benedict is in my list of top ten things to eat.

Of recent, doing lavish breakfast menus seems to be the new thing in town, and since these brekkies don’t end by 10 and go on until noon or later, they work for brunch too – which makes me happy, ’cause that’s a much more civilized hour of the weekend that I can totally wake up for and then dig into eggs and such with gusto.

Sly Granny on 12th Main in Indiranagar has been in existence for a year now, and to commemorate that anniversary, they’ve recently launched a sumptuous and decadent breakfast spread that is available between 9am and 1pm on the weekends. All the dishes have interesting twists and ingredients, and whether you love eggs and bacon or pancakes and doughnuts, they’ve got you sorted. Along with pots of tea and coffee and a couple of healthy fresh juice concoctions. Aside from the usual breakfasty options, there are things like Duck Pao, Keema Rolls, Shrimp Fritters, and even a Cheeseburger.

I missed taking pictures of the dishes from the SWEET ONES section of the menu. My bad! Definitely try the OG Doughnut and Pineapple Upside Down pancakes, and for the Elvis Presley lover like myself, The Elvis Pancake marries traditional pancakes with banana, peanut butter, nutella, milk crumbs, powdered sugar, and wait for it – crispy bacon too.

Generous portions mean that having a friend or three along will make it possible to order and try more. Here’s a look at and explanation of the various dishes we ate, and since we covered about a quarter of the menu, a repeat visit is on the horizon!

P_20180422_111832

The Morning Bun: Think savory cinnamon roll with creamy broccoli and pesto. Flaky and very delish! This is made fresh and in limited quantity – so order it as soon as you arrive!

P_20180422_120700

Skewers for breakfast?! Yes, when they are these fragrant and flavorful Lime Leaf Chicken ones that have a punch of lime leaf and lemongrass, and a hot salsa sauce!

P_20180422_115503

This was the only dish I didn’t think highly of – Fried Chicken Bun – not bad, just ho hum and not worth the space when there’s so much more interesting stuff to try!

P_20180422_113108

HASH – Corned pork, sweet potato cubes, peas and turnip, topped with a crisp fried egg. A meal unto itself!

P_20180422_112323

This dish of fried eggs on a bed of Yoghurt with spices, herbs and Labeneh was quite spectacular! Who knew yoghurt and eggs would go so well together? A must-order from the EGGY ONES section of the menu.

P_20180422_123329

Eggs Benedict upped its game with this version! A buttermilk biscuit base (to which I am most partial), thick sliced maple and brown sugar bacon and a chipotle hollandaise sauce gave this all sorts of fantastic flavor and crunch. Happiness on a plate!

Details: Sly Granny, Indiranagar 12th Main; Breakfast menu available between 9am and 1pm on weekends; INR 1200 plus taxes for breakfast for two.

Sunday Brunching – with the family pooch!

Another week, another Sunday brunch. Brunching on the weekend has become almost de rigueur these days, but aside from the fact that I love the indulgence of a long brunch, establishments are getting more creative in enticing us to gussy up and head out. The Lalit Ashok Hotel recently put up a pet friendly brunch, and the star of the afternoon was their mascot and in-house pet, Berney, a rescue Saint Bernard. I have a soft spot for this breed, a Saint Bernard named Archie being the first dog I ever “dog sat”. Berney was a credit to his kin, being gentle, chilled out, and allowing hugs and petting. Aside from him, there were also a few other handsome pooches, including fellow blogger Monika Manchanda’s Fluffy, who accompanied their families to the brunch (I hate using the word “owner” for let’s face it, most pet lovers treat their pet like a member of the family). There was a separate play area for the pups, and food too – but we also got to enjoy their company poolside where the brunch was set up.

P_20180114_163420

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There was also a second special guest that afternoon. Chef Chris Trapani, who has the distinction of being the first transgender Chef on American television, making his maiden trip to India, brought by The Lalit Group of hotels. He cooked up some fantastic food, Tex-Mex style. Set up in front of the Lalit Food Truck Company, which is basically a food truck, he had steak being prepped to order, prawns cooked in a lovely Mexican sauce and served with wilted greens, and the piece de resistance – biscuits. We’re talking proper, Southern style biscuits, the likes of which I haven’t eaten since leaving the US! And to make them unforgettable, Chef Chris had a selection of three sauces/jams on the side, of which the cherry jam won my heart. There were also tacos being served up.

Aside from this special section, of course, the entire might of the Lalit’s bruch was set out, including live counters. The bar did brisk business all afternoon, especially when the Chandon bottles began popping! I quite enjoyed the red wine sangria that was my tipple of choice. The live counters offered chaats and pav as well as a Kothu paratha, and also kebabs and biryani for which the mutton was freshly sauteed on the tava along with the rice – a good idea and definitely making for better flavors than taking it off the buffet. Speaking of which, the buffet offered salads and appetizers, as well as mains with the majority being Indian, but also some Asian and Continental dishes. Dessert was of course its own table. Thus was a very happy and cuddly Sunday afternoon spent in the company of the food family, and some furry four legged darlings!

Details: Sunday Brunch, The Lalit Ashok; INR 2450 plus taxes (with alcohol), INR 1795 plus taxes (without alcohol), INR 1000 plus taxes (Kids (3-12 years)

When Tea was Queen: Brunch at Vivanta by Taj

For my first post of 2018, the Tea-inspired Brunch at Vivanta by Taj is apt – after all, tea makes my world go round! My day is book ended by cups of tea – it is not exaggeration to say I drink anything from 6 to 10 cups of tea a day! So, when the invite came to be a part of a tea focused brunch, I couldn’t say no, even though I wasn’t well. In celebration of International Tea Day which falls on December 15th, the weekly Sunday brunch was dressed up in everything tea. Aside from the usual spread that includes sushi, salads, grills, and an array of live counters for pasta, Thai curries, south Indian fare and more, there were special tea infused dishes that day. A really fun touch was the quotes on tea by famous writers and such, that had been painstakingly written on chalkboard or else printed out as banners, as well as the tea paraphernalia decorations.

From cocktails made with tea (Tetley Green and Black, but naturally since Tata Global Beverages was the partner), to a tea infused soup, as well as tea in the marinades of the meats on the grill, to of course, the easiest and best tea pairing – desserts, this was one tea-licious affair! Garnished with a fresh strawberry, the raspberry and black tea cocktail was definitely the winner of the day – refreshing and with the tea flavor definitely in play. I felt the same of the soup – Chef had kept the spices light so as to allow the black tea taste to come through. The prawns, fish, chicken, and beef marinated with black tea and then grilled up were all nice, but one definitely had to work to garner the tea taste. Of the lot, the beef was my favorite.

The desserts were where the tea flavors shone best. Special mention for the creative and quite good Green Tea Rasgulla. Chef had chosen to use Earl Grey (which is one of my addictions, I confess – I carry my Tetley Earl Grey teabags with me wherever I go!) in some of the desserts, which meant I was particularly happy and dug in with gusto. From Earl Grey Pannacotta to Earl Grey Choux, the flavors were well-matched and prominent. Earl Grey works very well in desserts! There were also Black Tea Macaroons and a gorgeous Black Tea Parfaite that made for the perfect ending to the meal along with, what else – a cup of Earl Grey!

Stomping & Sipping Sunday Scenes

A self-confessed Sunday bruncher, I am. Food, drink, merriment, leisurely pace – all the good things in life. And when one has worked hard through the week, there is a justifiable feeling of needing to take it easy and indulge a little, come Sunday. And what can make a Sunday brunch even nicer? How about flowing bubbly (pink and white) and a li’l grape stomping, as well as a live band playing Latin tunes and knocking it out of the park? This then, was the scene this past Sunday at Sheraton Grand Bangalore, with a spread that encompassed both, Bene and Persian Terrace, the hotel’s signature Italian and Persian restaurants. The weather too, is just right for al fresco dining and getting into a tub of grapes to squish them into submission – err, liquid, I mean.

IMG_20170611_140315IMG_20170611_135043The afternoon’s wine partner was Grover Zampa Vineyards, and featured both their sparkling wines, Zampa Soiree Brut Rosé and Zampa Soiree Brut. Light, crisp, dry and everything I desire for an afternoon of feasting and relaxation. The unanimous verdict from the group was that we preferred the Italian offerings to the Persian ones – a range of spicy kebabs and grills from the latter were nice, but it was, perhaps not surprisingly, the pasta, pizza, antipasti, breads and desserts from Bene that won our favor. A surprise visit from popular RJ, Nathan, who cracked jokes and made balloon animals and crowns and swords and shields and what not for kids and grownups alike, started the afternoon off nicely, with laughs and silliness.

IMG_20170611_140352IMG_20170611_140418Cold salads, seafood, cured meats, a delectable selection of fresh baked breads, and a pasta station where you had a choice of sauces, toppings, and pastas, tossed fresh and hot, were the order of the day. I tried a ravioli in white sauce that had a gorgonzola cheese filling and was delicious! A rustic specialty pasta called Cavatelli was also being prepared that day. Having gorged on the breads (especially that fantastic Focaccia!) and antipasti, I did little more than nibble on mains, and then headed for the table groaning under the weight of desserts. Gateaux, puddings, cream puffs, tarts, mousses, and more greeted me. There was also a Double Espresso ice cream that had a strong hit of coffee and was quite popular. For me, though, the dessert of the day was the cream puffs – airy and light, with a lightly flavored (caramel, hazelnut?) center as well as a generous whipped cream topping. I ate decidedly more of these than I should have, but then hey, what else is Sunday brunch for, if not a good reason to indulge!

IMG_20170611_140432

While this event was a one-off (and a good value at INR 2000 all-inclusive), Bene does have a Sunday brunch usually, named Grandmother’s Table, by Chef Giuseppe Lioce, Italian Head Chef for the hotel. All in all a lovely afternoon of stomping, chomping, and imbibing, and we ended by heading over to the props table and taking a bunch of photos with hats, masks, and more.

19179375_10211469686631830_1124339191_o

Brunch at the New Radisson Blu Atria

We all love Sunday brunch, don’t we? Sunday being, for many, the only day of rest in the week, the idea of waking late, then heading out to a long, leisurely, luscious brunch, has quite an appeal. I’ve always been a Sunday bruncher – it was something my mother instituted at home when I was growing up, and living in the U.S, Sunday brunch for Mother’s Day and the like was a given. Over the last couple of years, almost all the hotels in the city have started serving up Sunday brunches – some extravagant, some elegant, all enjoyable. One of the latest additions to the scene is at the Radisson Blue Atria Bengaluru. The old Atria Hotel has had a facelift and a brand makeover, and now under the Radisson Blu label, has launched a lovely Sunday brunch, which can be enjoyed poolside or indoors in the restaurant’s air conditioned comfort (which is what we opted for on a sweltering May afternoon). Oh, and a dip in the pool is part of the package, so make sure to carry your swimwear!

IMG_20170507_132135DSC_5289

The live grills counter and a bar counter were set up outside – it’s an IMFL beverage package at INR 1950 plus taxes, which means you can drink and eat to your heart’s content – now that’s a nice way to spend Sunday afternoon! There was a nice spread, with Indian, Asian, Continental, and Mediterranean offerings across the salads, appetizers, and mains. What we were impressed with was the range of salads, the live grill counter, and the meats. The Papdi Chaat and Pani Puri (I liked the way it was served to the table) went down well – we all being chaat people. There was also Pav counter with both veg and non-veg, and dim sum and tacos, as also a pasta station and kebab corner.

DSC_5320DSC_5307

I always pile my plate with the fancy salads at buffets, and this time was no exception. The Prawn salad with tomato salsa, Pesto rubbed fish  with orange segments, Seared tenderloin salad with wild mushroom, roasted shallots and Dijon mustard, and the Tuscan pork and bean salad were all nice flavor combinations and made a good chilled start to the meal on the hot day. There were the Middle Eastern dips of Baba Ghanoush and Hummus and Tabbouleh salad too – but we couldn’t find pita bread to go with it, and made do with the fresh breads from the bread counter which was quite nice. There were also Oysters served on the half shell, which were dressed with onions, lemon juice, and cilantro, and we went for a couple of rounds of these – fresh, beautiful, and definitely a treat!

From the live grills, we loved the prawns which were large and fresh and simply prepared with a spice rub, letting the shellfish speak for itself. The Olive and Pepper Lamb Chops were also a big hit – perfectly cooked and again, with balanced spicing that did not overwhelm the meat. There was also a Mustard Marinated Fish, and Pesto Chicken. The Barbecue Pork Belly from the carving station was another item we went back for seconds off – the jus, the pork belly with the soft fat and the crackling skin – so good! There was also a selection of fairly typical mains – paneer, fish and chicken curries, biryani, dal makhani and more for those wanting Indian food, and Thai green curry chicken, an Oriental fish prep, veggies, fried rice, and noodles for those wanting Asian.

IMG_20170507_133529DSC_5311IMG_20170507_134338

Such was the heat of the day that we stuck to beers and fresh juices, but were told they have some nice cocktails – next time! Dessert was not as vast as one sees in buffets, but everything was nicely put together, with around 8 pastries/puddings/mousses, and half a dozen Indian sweets including Kulfi, Sandesh, Ladoo, and Moong dal halwa. There was also ice cream and fresh fruits. I chose to end with the live banana fosters counter – there were various toppings and sauces to choose from and it was a good ending to the meal. Pancakes and waffles were also being made to order. I noticed a kids section with items more in tune to little appetites, like burgers, fries and smileys. All in all, a very pleasant experience at a good price point, and everyone’s sure to find stuff to their liking.

For the Love of Big Brewsky

I have a secret – I’ve developed quite a crush, one that has made me grab every opportunity to be with said crush – to the tune of four visits in one month! I’ve battled cabs and traffic and distance to be close to my new favorite, and indeed, even now am plotting ways to return. And no, this is no human love interest, but a place. Big Brewsky had been on my radar for well over two years now, but its location on Sarjapur Road meant that a trip from Jayanagar just never happened. Until a couple of months ago – and then the spell was cast!

IMG_20170318_132230 (2)

The space itself is the perfect foundation – the lighting is amazing and I really don’t think there can be a bad picture taken there in the daytime; the Koi Pond with numerous fish swimming about dominates the central part, like an old fashioned home where the courtyard is open to the sky in the center; there is an imposing three storey building where all the eating, drinking and partying happens; a special area set apart and again, off the ground, for a DJ or live band; a garden area which makes for a cozy private party; bars on more than one floor, and just an all-round expansive feeling. Plus it has some well-known and old hands in the F&B industry in charge of the place now – so you’re assured of being in good hands.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

My first visit was by invite, to check out the new menu the brewpub has launched, bringing in Chef Saby Gorai to plan and implement the overhauling. Chef Saby’s fame precedes him – he has restaurants in Pune and Delhi and after having met him a couple times now, it is safe to say his food and his charm are both swoon-worthy! The next trip was for their Sunday brunch, since a dear friend’s band was playing. And then one just-like-that visit happened. And the last one was the epic party they had to celebrate the new menu launch. Details of that evening remain a tad fuzzy, shall we say? 😉

IMG_20170318_143356

Sunday brunch, by the way, is an expansive feast set across two floors, including chaats, grills, pizzas, biryani, and with an entire car of desserts (that hacked off teal blue ambassador does serve a purpose!) and there are options for food only, food+beer, and food+cocktails, which makes it a really good deal and a good way to spend your Sunday afternoon – live music, DJ spinning tunes, loads of good food and drink, all in a very convivial atmosphere!

In addition to Saby, who flies in quite often to check on things, they have a brilliant man behind the bar, Karthik Kumar, who is weaving magic with his innovative cocktails, including using Kashmiri Kahwa! Must try that, along with The Great Pretender, which is a potent purple drink featuring tequila, tropical juice, egg white, and a homemade purple syrup that gives it the color; the gin based Pink Orchard; The Yellow Jacket with Bourbon and a turmeric syrup made in-house; and if Karthik has the popsicles in place, then the beer cocktails with a stout or blonde and a corresponding cola or orange popsicle in them are perfect for a hot summer day. My only kvetch is that the beers need some work, and I am looking forward to their pulling their socks up in this respect – the 3-4 beers I tried on my various visits were all kinda blah.

IMG_20170318_132642IMG_20170318_133142IMG_20170318_132627

IMG_20170318_140023

One thing that really blew our minds was the sushi – better than what is served at some of the city’s Asian restaurants, even, rolled just so, and we couldn’t get enough. The Avocado Maki Roll, Vegetable Black Rice California Roll, Non-Veg California Roll with Salmon Roe and Tuna, and the Tempura Prawn Roll were what we had on that first visit and even though the Sunday brunch doesn’t have so many, if you’re there for it, don’t pass up on whatever sushi is on offer. The Shine Crystal Dumplings, vegetarian, taste as good as they look and are also a great inclusion amongst the Asian fare – delicate translucent wrapping without and crunchy veggies within.

IMG_20170318_140131IMG_20170318_135757IMG_20170318_153859

The Stir Fried Beef Chilli, Iranian Seekh Kebab, and Hot Black Prawns are all quite delish and pair perfectly with a cold one. Then there’s this absolutely brilliant, flavorful African spiced chicken, the name eludes me but its a must order! There are also salads, pizzas, pastas, mains including a bacon wrapped chicken, and more to choose from. If you’re a Risotto and Mushroom fan like moi, then the Black Rice Mushroom Risotto will also make your repeat order list – mushroom pate, truffle essence, parmesan cheese – need I say more?

IMG_20170318_160401

Desserts are good too – so if you can find the space, order the Asura’s Devil Chocolate Mud Cake with its rich center and gooey topping of cream cheese frosting, or the Chocolate Fondant, a lava cake with vanilla ice cream accompaniment. It is quite an expansive menu for a brewpub and we as a group had nothing against anything we ate, so there!

NSK

With Karthik Kumar and Saby Gorai

Details: The Big Brewsky, Sarjapur Road. INR 2000 plus taxes for a meal for two, including drinks. Sunday brunch packages start at under 1k a head all inclusive, and go up to INR 1600 (depending on the drinks package).

Sunday Brunch at The Hilton Bangalore

By now it is an established fact that I love Sunday brunching. Everything about it, from the late start, to the cocktails and of course, the food, which includes various cuisines and invariably an array of decadent desserts. Well then, that being my criteria for a good Sunday brunch offering and happy Sunday, the newly launched Sunday brunch at The Hilton Bangalore, Embassy GolfLinks, has checks in all the boxes, and then two additionally checked boxes too: live music and song with a mellow and quite melodious band, and pool-time for those thus inclined. Oh, and for parents – there’s a separate indoor entertainment area for the kids, and food for them too. So, you can enjoy your boozy brunch secure in the knowledge that they’re well taken care of.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Spread across not one, but two of their restaurants, Salt Grill (the poolside venue) and the indoor Ministry of Food, this is one massive spread, and we probably only touched on around half the dishes during our visit. The bar was set up outside, and the bartenders were willing to make pretty much anything one ordered, as well as customize to suit individual tastes. We started with Cosmo and Mojito for round one, then it was party time and lots of made-to-ordering happened. The service was a little slow, though the bartenders were super nice, but there were so many people and the drink orders were pouring in (yes pun intended). A shout-out to whoever on the team came up with the idea of the Jello shots – these were passed around throughout the afternoon, and were fun and quite differently served in the rind of a watermelon – and they were quite strong too!

img_20170122_144559img_20170122_144531A range of Indian starters was brought to the table from inside, and there was plenty of both veg and non-veg options. The counter with cheese, bread and crackers, dry fruit and nuts had a lovely range of cheeses that we went back to a second time. Cold cuts and salads were aplenty, and the Chaat Counter was doing brisk business. I  liked the Watermelon Gazpacho served in test tubes and there was also a counter (indoors) of Middle Eastern dips including hummus, labneh and more. These items were all kept cool on ice, which meant that they remained fresh and creamy through the afternoon. The grill section had meats with gravies and veggies, including some great roast chicken and grilled pork, but more than the meats, the star was the Quiches, which were fantastic.

There was a live pasta counter as well as a Khow Suey one – both good. There were many options for Indian and Asian mains, but we were way too full to indulge (and keeping some space for the tempting desserts), so we restricted ourselves to the flavorful Biryani, though the different Parathas being made looked rather tempting! The desserts were numerous (take a look at the slideshow below to see the range!), and apart from the range of pastries, mousses, and more, there was also a Jalebi and Rabdi counter, and a Nitrogen ice-cream one! We were there at the launch of the brunch, and it was clear to us all that Hilton EGL has a winner on its hands. So here’s to many more brunches, and remember to pack your swimsuit!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Details: Sunday Brunch; Hilton Embassy GolfLinks
Pricing: Alcoholic Brunch INR 1999 plus taxes; Non-alcoholic Brunch INR 1499 plus taxes; Kids Brunch (5-12) INR 749 plus taxes

Staycationing at Howard Johnson

I love hotel rooms! The bouncy bed, the fluffy pillows, the feeling of being on holiday (even when I go away on work), and the change of scene, and some much needed pampering  – these are all the reasons I love settling into a hotel room, even if it’s just for one night. Well, living as we do, with Bangalore’s ever-burgeoning traffic, sometimes a staycation means going to a part of the city you generally don’t get to, and enjoying the hospitality and new surroundings of a nice hotel. This is exactly how I spent my last weekend, staycationing at the Howard Johnson, a four star establishment in Hebbal. Located on a busy street, right next door to a mall, from the outside the glass facade does not give you an inkling even, into the lovely interiors and decor that the hotel boasts of. A lot of thought and attention to detail has gone into the creation of the interiors, and I found something to admire and click a pic of, at nearly every spot.

share-from-pixlr-4

We checked in on Saturday noon, and were shown to our rooms, which were of the Executive Club category (INR 7500 plus taxes per night), one level below the seven suites the hotel has. A large, well appointed, pool-facing room was mine, with the usual accoutrements of desk and chair, armchair (with footstool, a nice touch!), a big bed that was the perfect amount of soft, and had pillows too, that were just right (nothing worse than the rock hard or sinkingly soft variety!). The bathroom made me super happy – from the rainshower to the magnifying mirror that made makeup application oh-so-easy, to the good amount of space on the sink counter to spread my stuff out, and of course the toiletries provided, from shampoo and conditioner (something that many a hotel omits), and shaving/vanity/dental kits. Pristine, fluffy white towels and a robe completed the picture.

 

share-from-pixlr-6

A highlight of our 27-hour stay was a visit to the onsite spa, one of the Sohum Spa chain. Small, but perfectly maintained, and with massage and facial services, this is one pampering you really should go for! I am not a massage person, so I opted for an Express Facial, though two of my fellow guests got massages and the combination of bliss and lethargy on their faces and in their demeanor, said it all! My facial too was just fantastic – the young woman had serious magic in her fingertips. The soothing music and peace and quiet in the small space all added to my feelings of contentment. Equipped with a shower stall right there as well, even non-hotel guests can avail of the spa facilities in comfort. Located on the same floor as the pool, there is also a well equipped gym next door.

share-from-pixlr-5

At present, the hotel has one multi-cuisine restaurant, called Nest. It serves Indian, Asian (mainly Chinese with a Thai curry or some sushi at times), Italian and Western fare. Chef Dev Bose, who has been a part of the team since the hotel opened nearly three years ago, says that Italian and Mediterranean cuisine is his forte (I chose to cook what I love to eat, he told us), but of course justice is done to all the cuisines served. Nest offers not only a daily lunch and dinner buffet, but also an a la carte menu, and Chef Bose and his team are always willing to customize and create something to a guest’s particular fancy, given a little advance notice. Considering this is a business hotel with lots of long-stay clientele, this is a lovely gesture indeed, for those who might not want to be faced with a buffet at every meal, are fussy eaters, or who develop a hankering for a simple meal from home. There is also a bar space, which too had  an eye-catching decor and seemed to be well stocked. LIITs are apparently a specialty, but we stuck to the safer and much less potent Mojitos for our Sunday brunch.

share-from-pixlr-7

Saturday night was the launch of Nest’s new menu – an annual affair, where Chef Bose and his team add some new items to their menu based on guest feedback as well as Chef’s inspiration. This year, he chose to use figs as his muse, and many of the new dishes had that element present, from a fig salad, to a fig cheesecake. That night, what stood out for us was the main course: chicken roulade, salmon infused with chilli/paprika, and a delicious mushroom risotto. After a mini dinner of the new items on the newly launched menu, there was also a buffet spread, where we loved the live counter of appams, which were a great accompaniment to the freshly made kheema, boti and bheja fry. I am not a big spare parts fan, but the treatment here was super.

img_20161113_200942

In fact, having partaken of both the Saturday lunch buffet, as well as the Sunday brunch buffet, I came away with the feeling that the Indian food was what shone. Whether it was a paneer gravy, or the Kuthu Paratha or Kheema Pav (these last two were the live counters at Sunday brunch, along with an appam station and pasta station), it was all done well and tasted good. The Chinese and pasta/roast chicken/au gratin dishes were decent, but not outstanding. The buffet, whether for lunch, dinner or Sunday brunch, is set up with a counter for desserts, one for breads, salads/cold cuts/appetizers, and hot dishes comprising Indian, Asian and Continental fare. Sunday brunch has hot appetizers brought to the table, along with some live stations, but otherwise it is a similar spread to the weekdays.

share-from-pixlr-2

When you visit, definitely make it a point to stop by the third floor, where there is a Knowledge Center/library area which has a treasure trove of knickknacks and items like a beautiful, unique, hand-carved chess set and an old-style station clock. Oh, and don’t miss the gramophone! Nest too, has some really cool design elements (note the mounted plates at the restaurant’s entrance, which feature numerous trees – places where birds “nest”), faux marble finish columns that also become lights in the evening, and a private dining space with a beautiful chandelier. In the lobby area there are light fixtures that draw the eye, and the honeycomb patterned partitions are worthy of a second look too. As a business hotel, HoJo finds itself quite full on weekdays, with Saturdays seeing a bit of a lull. The pool is of a decent size, the rooms as I have already waxed eloquent on, are very comfortable, and the staff are attentive and smiling. Complimentary WiFi and free pickup/drop to and from the airport are part of the tariff.

img_20161112_133255

Details: Howard Johnson Bengaluru Hebbal; INR 1500 plus taxes for a meal for two; INR 999 plus taxes/INR 1500 plus taxes (with alcohol), per person for Sunday Brunch.

Another Sunday, Another Beautiful Brunch – BG’s at Courtyard Bengaluru

I am an unabashed Sunday brunch fan. The idea of waking late, and then spending a few hours indulging in food and drink in the company of friends – it is the day of rest, and I can’t think of a better way to start it off! Since I also belong to the “will travel for good food” mindset, a trip to Marathahalli to check out the recently launched brunch at BG’s (Bar and Grills, natch!), a restaurant that does double duty for both the Marriott Courtyard and Fairfield by Marriott hotels, which share the space, was not daunting. And the somewhat less crowded roads of a Sunday noon helped too.

IMG_20160724_125047

On arriving at BG’s, the sight that first greets your eye as you get off the elevator is the dessert spread – it takes up the entire wall, multiple tables laden with all sorts of sweet goodies – and you already know that your “dessert stomach” will need to be in top form! Plus, it’s always good to get a glimpse of dessert first, right?

They have some fantastic cocktails on offer, and each week, a rotating special cocktail bar is set up – the week we went it was Mojitos, and there were a variety of fruits and syrups to choose from – I unabashedly dug into the pitcher that came to our table, and my glass too, to get at the alcohol soaked peaches therein (you can get the mojitos customized with the fruit of your choosing – kiwi, peach and so on). We were told the earlier weeks had seen Martinis and Margaritas as well.

IMG_20160724_130513

Continue reading