Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Eating in Bangalore

A long time back, P, VP, and I were discussing how we always end up eating out once (sometimes more than once) every week. For most of you reading this, you may think "so?", or "wazza big deal?". Well, it is kinda a big deal. See, we're your typical good boys who enjoy eating at home with the family, and even if there's no family, or even if you don't eat with them, we enjoy eating home food. Now of course, we stay with our families (read parents and siblings, we aren't married!), and I can fully understand the situation of the thousands who live in Bangalore after having moved from a different city (or state), in which case, there'd be a very small percentage of people (who are single) who would cook at home. So now that I've got all the 'exceptions' out of the way (and if I've missed any, go cry someplace else), here's what we were harping upon: what does Bangalore have for it's citizens to 'do'? And don't let your dirty minds run away with the word 'do'.

In all sincerity, I am not asking this question in a condescending manner, and by no means am I pouring scorn over this city. Maybe this is the scene in most big cities across India - I wouldn't know - lived here all my life. But facts are facts, or at least, I'm not aware of anything else, so please feel free to educate me, for I'm all too willing to learn (it could help me reduce my freakin' weight, which seems to have frozen for a while now!). What is it that Bangaloreans can do weekend after weekend in the city? Most of the historical landmarks are gone, and the ones that remain aren't maintained by the ASI or the state govt., Cubbon Park and Lalbagh are passe now (come on, I've lived here all my life, I can't keep going there all the time!), Bannerghatta is too far away to visit every weekend, and what's more, the lions are in really bad shape there (and now there's some stupid bug that's killing the big cats because all the PETA and animals loving lunatics insisted that instead of feeding the big cats with beef, they be fed chicken meat injected with protein hormones that have reduced the resistivity of the cats - OK, more on this later, let's not deviate), the aquarium has the same species of marine life that were there more than a decade ago (perhaps it's the fourth or fifth generations of those species now, with probably some funky mutation from being couped in a glass box), Fun World isn't really fun, go carting isn't for everyone (ditto with bowling), I'd love to spend every weekend at Blossoms but know I can't, so that's out, we don't have impressive museums here to visit once in a while, the city central library is good but hey, it's a freakin' library - who speaks in one huh? And unless you're the academic type, ppfffbbt, and I certainly am not the type to go visiting temples every week (psst, EVER :) ). So there you have it, the only thing that my friends and I can do week after week is meet up at some place where we can sip on a cuppa (tea for me, thank you) and/or grab a bite and engage in long conversations.

Now watching movies and the like are something we do, but the central point is we can't be 'engaged in conversation' during a movie, and unless we're the only ones watching the show (like confessions of a shopaholic perhaps?), movies are out as well. This isn't a Mumbai where we have a beach front or a Marine drive where we can sit on a parapet wall with the waves crashing beneath our feet, and neither is this Delhi where we have roads good enough to drive a BMW and kill someone and get away with it because of our 'connections' (of course, assuming we can even own a BMW in the first place, and then pull ourselves to commit the ghastly acts that seem to come oh so naturally to some people). So that brings me eating. And eating we do and how!

Coffee shops and cafes dot almost every residential by lane in the city, and the CBDs (OK, no true CBD, so let's just say 'areas surrounding malls') are full of places that can spoil one for choice. Pubs and bars are usually pooled around one of the central areas of the city, or in one of the posh residential/commercial neighbourhoods (like Koramangala, Indiranagar, etc), while restaurants are spread across the city like butter over a slice of bread. And so we eat. We eat and eat and eat, and then we eat some more later. It's no wonder then than even a half-assed attempt at opening and running a restaurant that serves even half-decent food works in Bangalore. People love to eat out, and as long as there's variety (even if the variety includes some crappy options), the citizens are happy. Once in a while, those who aren't locals (read Kannadigas), or those who don't get to eat local Karnataka food often, throw caution to the wind and land up in some teeny-weeny hole in the wall place that probably serves raagi-mudde (raagi balls served with a fiery gravy) or some such dish not usually available at the fancy-shmancy locations. This constitutes adventure, although purely in the gastronomic sense though, but adventure none the less.

And so while not engaging in some charity work over the weekend, and while not sleeping off a massive hangover or nursing one of those 365-days-a-year-cold (I'm told Bangalore's penchant for causing people to start sneezing as soon as they cross the tarmac after touchdown is legendary), we Bangaloreans eat. We may spend time sipping a granita or a smoothie or a cuppa, but eventually we'll be eating, and eating out in force. That's what we are good at now, and by the looks of things, that's what we'll be good at.

We may not have a street-food culture as rich as several other cities, but the fact that groups like the BJN always experiment with Bangalore first with any place they plan to launch is testimony to the fact that we are a city that eats out. Myriad cultures, religions, nationalities even, make up the hoi polloi of Bangalore, and so there's potentially an untapped market in almost every one of those demographics (or is it demographs, or demographies). If you're a 'politically-correct gourmand', then maybe you'd be a tad disturbed at the gastronomic culture here because here as long as the food tastes good to you and needn't conform to the actual authenticity of the dish, the junta will rave about orgasmic bliss. If, on the other hand, you can take off your politically correct hat and just be a silent spectator amidst all the chaos, then no matter which part of the world you come from and where your loyalties lie, you'll conclude this: in Bangalore, as far as food is concerned, anything goes. [This line was added after the 4th comment because my 27 yr old brain hadn't realised sooner that I'd missed it: Based purely on the variety of cuisines available in this city, ] this truly is the gastronomic capital of the country.

* I'm sure the last sentence will elicit brick bats and stinky, worn-out shoes. Hunting season opens.
** I'm still sure the last sentence will elicit brick bats. Bring 'em on.

12 comments:

Nadir said...

You sure are correct about the last sentence ;). I love Bangalore, and am still exploring it (with some decent help from you), but capital!?? ..so you haven't been to Mumbai, I presume. Whatever your budget, whatever your mood, whatever the time of the day (had kebabs and paya from a old'n'famous Irani place at 3:30 am once; had awesome "breakfast" outside Mumbai Central at 3:00 am once) --- Mumbai will give you what you want....
Lack of a vibrant street-food culture goes a long way in preventing namma Bengaluru from claiming the crown of the "gastronomic capital" of India.

Karthik Shetty said...

I have visited Bombay, and I know that the food there is served very late into the night. But that's besides the point. I'm trying to say that there isn't much to do in Bangalore apart from going out and eating :) and given this fact, even though we're missing a street food culture native to Karnataka (discounting the dosas served in the night on Avenue Road, or somewhere neat the Market area), we can still claim the crown as one of those cities where the multitude of cuisines makes us rich.

Nadir said...

Now that, Karthik, I do agree with. You could say that its an awesome city for restauranteurs to experiment in. I mean, the city populace (local, plus immigrants such as yours truly) is willing to give different and new types of cuisines a shot, and is more accepting.
(Proud and happy that my native Pune has such an accommodating nature too)

Suhas said...

Agree with the gist of the post, most of my weekends end up being defined by food and drink. My weekend somehow doesn't feel complete without checking out a new eatery, a trip to blossoms, a game of tennis, a cold beer with spicy finger food, and a triple sundae at lakeview. I'm sure everyone can name their own weekend Meccas.

About the last line, every urban Indian foodie likes to believe his/her city is the 'capital', and a good case could be made for each of the major cities. I'll say this: Bangalore certainly gives every other place a run for its money in terms of choice of restaurants. As a random example, it's easier to come a cross a quality Andhra joint here than in Hyderabad (in my experience at least)!

Karthik Shetty said...

I only made the comment in the last line based on the fact that we have enough eat-out joints to even make the two clowns on Highway on my plate to say they're never gonna come to Bangalore again coz there are so many places to eat here. Maybe the one line that was missing is that based purely on the types of cuisines available here, so I"ll just add that line now :)

Anonymous said...

Anything & everything doesn't go 4 me,have almost trie'd many of the joint's Or eataries in bangalore, very few restuara's offer good lip smacking dishes along with their ambience. Eg:- Chandni chowk. Pay 4 only the ambience, the so, so..There r 101+ food joint's just 2 fill u're belly & dig u're pockets. The typical kinda food is mostly run by small prop.The techies who have just left their jobs 4 running food joint's r mainly & purely doing brisk bussines 4 minting money.There is one I think Rama hotel on Ibrahim Sahib, commercial street which really serves the kind of food that would satisfy u're taste buds & fil u're belly.No doubt u're reviews are damn good, with a good sense of humour.I have no brick bats or worn out shoes but my weapons r my only comments.:)

Karthik Shetty said...

No beef with you there - but the fact that many restaurants, in spite of serving average to below average food, stay in business for years together is proof that there are people in Bangalore (may be other cities as well) who will still visit it and keep it in business as it probably suits their budget/taste buds.

Anonymous said...

Anything & everything doesn't carry on with everybody, atleast not with me. I crave 4 good & healthy food.Though iam from Hyderabad & single. Living in Bengaluru has not dug holes in my pocket, but search'n 4 good restuara's has surely left me penny-less. The joint's run by small prop r doing fine, like the one Rama hotel in Ibrahim Sahib street in Commercials. Though the ambience is so, so, the food is absolutely fine 4 my craving taste buds. There r few joints run by techies who have left their jobs 4 doing brisk bussiness 2 mint money .Investment on the ambience might b classy, but the food surely leaves a taste on the plate not my buds.I miss my place!!,- this 25 year old belly of mine has realised sooner or latter. U're reviews r good with a great sense of humour.:) Yup!! their's not much 2 do in Bengaluru, but eating out is like experimenting on my poor intestines, which bears the brunt:(. Though I donot have brick bats or stinky worn out shoes, I surely have comments as my weapons.

Anonymous said...

R they left with any other option?There r some joints where I have paid enormously & still left food on the plate.Would have sued the owner, if it was - in states, & ended up rich....

juliesindia said...

Well I've live in Bangalore for less than 2 months and I've gained at least 5 kgs!!! I'll certainly say Bangalore is quite the gastronomic city.

Anonymous said...

Hi,
I'm an intern with a newspaper and I happened to come across your blog. I'm doing a piece based on eating out. wondering if you can tell me about your 5 favorite cuisines, since I need quotes. please get back to me as soon as possible.


Thanks.

Karthik Shetty said...

Hello anonymous intern, I'd be glad to give you details, but I'll need a name and an email id if I am to get back to you, won't I? :P You can mail me at my mail id mentioned at the top left of the blog under "Contact".