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.

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.

P_20180210_170041

 

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.

P_20180210_173042

 

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)

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.

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