Farzified!

The buzz around Farzi Cafe started many weeks before the restaurant actually opened its doors to the Bangalore public. Word of the opening of this Massive Restaurants chain’s Bangalore branch (in UB City, no less!) evoked much excitement – in fact, now, many months later, it is still difficult to get a reservation on a weekend and the place is almost always packed. Calling itself a “Modern Indian Bistro”, Farzi Cafe is high on the jinks – molecular gastronomy is seen in quite a few of the drinks and some of the food too. The staff are knowledgeable, friendly, stylish, and attentive – across the board. I am quite a fan of one of their bartenders, Tejas, who creates fantastic drinks behind the bar.

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Oh the drama! A kettle with a billowing cocktail made from tea, vodka, citrus.

The food is decidedly Indian, with flourishes of fusion. After a couple of visits, and attending one of the slew of pre-opening parties, I came away with an appreciation for the drinks and desserts in particular – they’re cool, presented with more than a swig of theatricality, and with nice balance of flavors. In terms of the food, it came across as a mixed bag: some really great taste and presentation, as well as some that were flat. I think the latter happens with their vegetarian offerings – be it the bhajjis or chaat and such. Their non-vegetarian appetizers however, are very good. Now, since I happened to go for lunch, and since my camera was cooperative and the lighting kind, I have, for once, a number of good pictures, so am going to let them do some of the talking!

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At the behest of our server, we began with the Tomato Soup, served with a Pepper and Basil Rusk and micro greens, which was poured from a jug into a scallop-edged bowl – great taste and of course, presented well. The next dish is one that has become ubiquitous with Farzi – Tempura Fried Prawn. Now I like the taste of the dish, but every time I eat it, I find myself not sure of the texture – its gooey and the foam on top just adds to that feeling. The next appetizer however, erased any doubts – the Coorgi Pandi Ribs were divine – texture and taste wise. Suffice it to say, my dining companion, who usually desists from eating pork, kept pace with me, bite for bite!

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Coorgi Pandi Ribs

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Dal Chawal Arancini

The Dal Chawal Arancini is one of the fusion veg offerings that I do like – it is a pretty plate, and the arincini-ing of a simple dal and rice prep, with the teeny roasted papad rolls topping, makes for a crunchy and tasty morsel. The Chicken Changezi Quesadillas that came next were another interesting looking plate and tasted nice too, as did the Mutton Irachi Pepper Fry, served with Malabari Parantha. But the standout for us, surprisingly because neither of us usually go for this, was the Bheja Fry served on a an Appam – a must try for anyone who likes brain.

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Bheja khao!

We were full with both food and drink, but desserts were forthcoming and we were not going to send them away! If you’ve been to or been told of Farzi, their Bailey’s Lollipops are a cool innovation and much loved. Like the Hajmola Pops which are brought to the tables as a palate cleanser, these too are served in what looks like a ceramic tree. The brilliant finish to our meal, however, was provided by the Parle G Cheesecake: it was a perfect cheesecake filling encased between two Parle G biscuits – childhood nostalgia from the latter, with the sophisticated cheesecake flavors making for happiness. The other dessert was pretty with a sugar structure topping it – a Tres Leches Ras Malai. And then because we had to end with a real flourish, the most dramatic of all their desserts, called Milky Way, was served to us. Various sweet elements in the shape and aspect of the galaxy for which it is named, were set on a large slab, and then with the help of liquid nitrogen, literally brought to life! See the video here to fully appreciate this wonder! All in all, a meal at Farzi is as much about the theatricality and the presentation as it is about the actual food – and you’re sure to have a good time!

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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.