The Rise of Experiential Dining

Funny, how sometimes work and hobbies end up going hand in hand. Just recently at work, I wrote about the rise of experiential dining and the trend of adding zing to the dining experience. And then last week, I attended a multi-course meal that two of our city’s passionate chefs, Kanishka Sharma (founder of The Tenth Muse culinary experience) and Pallavi Mehta, had put together based on their personal life experiences and with local ingredients and influences in every dish. Part of an on-going series (of a monthly sit down wine and dine, The Courtyard Food Project) at the lovely space on Double Road, The Courtyard, which serves as an al fresco restaurant and dining space for events such as supper club dinners and dining experiences as well as a community space with performances, on arrival I was greeted by a beautifully set table and a glass of Svami Tonic Water.

 

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These dinners bring together a diverse set of people, who share an interest in experiencing an intimate menu created especially around a theme. NAVU, which means ‘us’ in Kannada, was the name and context for our meal last week. This meant we heard Kanishka and Pallavi’s reasoning for creating a specific dish as well as felt local influences in the dishes, while their storytelling gave us a glimpse into their lives too. Kanishka talked about how a neighbor when she was growing up, would always ask if she drank tiger’s milk, since she was a fearless kid, and this translated into our appetizer course with coconut milk (Ice apple or Ceviche with coconut tigre de leche). And then there was Pallavi’s reminiscence of being the new member of a mainly Bengali staffed kitchen, and their reaction to her throwing out prawn heads rather than using them in her cooking, which led to her serving up the chutney made with prawn head.

 

We actually began the meal with a tangy Rasam and deconstructed Sabudana Vada. This was followed by the Tigre de leches appetizer and then a raw mango rice with mango salsa, topped by a fried papad. The next course was the prawn pickle and head chutney served on an amazing rice cracker that made me think of the rice apalam/papad I would eat as a kid in Chennai. This was one of my two favorite dishes of the night. And then came the other stellar dish, a beautifully cooked and seasoned pork chop served with sauteed local greens – this dish also incorporated 100% Karnataka single origin chocolate. Of course there were veg versions of both dishes, with veggies replacing the prawn and meat.

 

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And then it was time for dessert, which came in two rounds, the first being a jackfruit cremeux with fried cheese on top and black rice kheer topped with puffed black rice. I have never warmed to jackfruit, so left that one after a bite, but the gusto with which another diner accepted my offer of it, proved its appeal! And then out came a caramelized roselle flower and chocolate truffle made from Naviluna chocolate (formerly Earth Loaf – with their little factory space in Mysore). Our entire meal was accompanied by the always delightful wines from Big Banyan Wines. I loved all the local touches, from the chocolate to the wine, and it was a pleasure to spend an evening with a new set of folks. Just proved to me yet again, that a good meal is a great way to get people together, laughing, talking and relishing! Something that the team at The Courtyard and Kanishka have been doing successfully for some months – I met some folks who were on their third such dinners.

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A South Bangalore Haven: Staycation at The Woodrose

In the midst of the madness of work, life, traffic, and more, a staycation provides the perfect antidote – without having to book a ticket or plan a lot, you check into a local hotel and have a mini vacation. So, an invite a couple weeks ago to spend the weekend at The Woodrose, the Brigade Group’s Club property located right next to the Brigade Millennium apartment complex in JP Nagar, was one I couldn’t pass up. After all, its not every day that there is a place just a couple miles from home, and I was also curious to check out the club facilities. And impressive they were! Badminton with a coach on hand, tennis court, a giant swimming pool with a lifeguard/coach, and a gorgeous property with plenty of greenery and cozy nooks, a lovely little library, and good F&B, too. Although we didn’t avail of these services, there is also a salon and spa, Ayurvedic clinic, and a store on premise.

 

What really stood out for me was the service – this is a team that takes the term ‘service with a smile’ seriously, and goes out of its way to ensure the comfort of guests, be it in-house room guests or club members and their families. Whether it was the librarian, the coaches, the service staff at the restaurant – everyone was smiling, welcoming, and interactive with all the guests. The rooms were well appointed, quite large, had every amenity in terms of toiletries as well as a mini fridge and something that I really depend on, being a tea drinker from the moment I wake up to the time I sleep – an electric kettle with mugs and tea/coffee setup. And since we were on the second floor, there was a cozy sit out area where I sat and pondered life, tea mug and Kindle on hand.

 

The food too, was a cut above what one usually expects from a club – homely fare, concentrating on Indian and Indian-Chinese with a smattering of Italian. Nothing greasy or over spiced, and in fact, attention paid to healthy options. The breakfast buffet spread was sumptuous, with Indian as well as Continental offerings. We enjoyed an al fresco dinner on the upper level/terrace space – highly recommended! With a cocktail, glass of wine or beer in hand and some dimsum, satay, or fried snacks to munch on, you can unwind and enjoy the serene space. The Sunday brunch – well it was really a lunch time and lunch menu focused meal, was packed with multi-generational families – clearly a popular activity with club members. There is a different live station each week – it was a chaat counter the Sunday we were there. On the campus there is a small outlet of The Baking Company, Brigade Group’s bakery, with cookies, tea cakes, muffins, and more, which are made in-house at the Woodrose kitchen, under the watchful eye of Executive Chef Prakash Kumar. Both sinful and healthy options are available, with millet being a focus. The Coffee and Lemon sponge cake is to die for – definitely will be stopping by to pick that up soon! The Bajra with peanuts and Raagi cookies were great too…again this felt like old school bakery or home bake products.

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The property is so serene and pretty, you won’t even believe you’re still in Bangalore, much less a bustling main road in JP Nagar! The trees and shrubs and plants, the feeling of being away from city and in a secluded space makes for such a welcome respite. And it is also popular for private events and parties, with the outdoor space rented out for such gatherings – there was something on every night of the weekend. The club membership is available in 1/3/5/10 year buckets, and is surprisingly affordable, if my eulogizing has gotten you interested. For people with kids, or who would avail of the sporting facilities, it’s really worth it – especially that pool! There was someone doing laps, breadth wise, to give you an idea of its size. If you just want to check it out for a weekend, or book rooms for someone visiting, then you can do so on the club website or by calling 9972305352 or 080 41995999.

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