I was told before I left for my big business trip to Bangalore and Mumbai, ‘don’t try the street food’. I lasted three days. Don’t they know I’m a food blogger and that I have a stomach of iron?! Telling me not to eat street food in India is tantamount to ‘Don’t press the big red button’. It’s going to happen sooner or later.
Mooli’s, eat your heart out – this very excellent Chicken Roll I ate in the Bandra neighbourhood of Mumbai was stuffed with spicy sautéed onions, tandoori chicken, peppers and wrapped in crispy flatbread was less than a pound. It was brilliant, and I did not get sick.
Moving slightly up the scale, we went to Rajdhani Restaurant, just outside the UB City Mall in Bangalore. We didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into. Rajdhani serves Gujarati Thali, which means as soon as you sit down, they just start bringing you little cups of vegetarian Indian food until you ask them to stop. Poppadoms, naan, khichdi, three types of dal, spicy aubergine and so much more – all for less than £5 per person. This was one of the best meals I had all week.
On my first night in Bangalore, my host took me to the ITC Royal Gardenia where we had drinks and nibbles. There were the standard veggie crisps and popcorn (of all things), but I also order some Idli – fried pieces of what could be described as a pressed rice gnocchi-type dumpling. Served with a spicy tomato curry sauce, this was ok – but didn’t knock my socks off. Our bill was one of the more expensive nights in Bangalore, pretty much on London prices – about £40 for two glasses of wine, two beers and the starters.
In Mumbai, I took out the team to Dome at the Intercontinental Hotel overlooking the Bay, by my colleague’s recommendation. At night, it is absolutely spectacular – one of the best views of Mumbai, I was assured. It was truly beautiful. Unfortunately, the food was fairly average. Apart from a very nice chicken dish with fried sliced potatoes and a rich tarragon cream sauce, I wasn’t overly impressed. It was also very dark, so I didn’t get to take any pictures – a food blogger’s nightmare.
Still, nice view:
I should also give a bit of credit to Kingfisher Airlines who also provided actual real cutlery on my flight from Bangalore to Mumbai! Seriously impressed, guys. It was a breakfast of dosa, something couscous-like and I’m not entirely sure what else, but it was good.
My last night out in Bangalore was at Vembanad, an upscale restaurant in the specialising in Southern Indian cuisine. Southern Indian food still maintains the spiciness and the richness of what most people associate with Indian, but it is much more reliant on fish, dosa and rice, rather than a heavy naan.
I started with the Prawn Rassam, a delicious soup of savory spices and small prawns, paired with a slight sweetness from tamarind and a truckload of giant dried chilies. It may have been the spiciest thing I had all week. My lips were burning.
My main was a Fish Curry. On first bite, it was much more mild than my soup, which I was disappointed with. Then, as if by magic, it became spicier over the course of the meal. I had realized that my soup mouth was beginning to wear off, and I could actually taste again. I like it much better after. The fish was a bit overdone, but the curry-infused coconut milk with shallots and slices of mango was superb.
India’s a fascinating place. The common thread amongst everything I had was SPICY. And in a very good way. It was the best kind of spice: so hot it makes your mouth tingle, but not so hot that you can’t taste the complex flavours underneath. I was a little worried that I might be sick of the food after 8 days straight of it, but I’m totally not. Bring on the curry – I’m hooked.