With Bengaluru's IT boom, the number of professionals with disposable cash keeps rising exponentially -- leading in turn to a perpetual explosion of options on the dining scene. We've reviewed a combination of upmarket eateries with excellent and very atmospheric budget alternatives.
As in Tamil Nadu, you can get a good, clean, wholesome vegetarian tiffin ("light meal") all over Bengaluru. Most famous of all is MTR; but equally good for its Tamil Iyengar food, especially the must-have puliyogere (a kind of tamarind rice), is Kadambam (112 C South Block, Manipal Centre, Dickenson Rd.; other branches as well). Gold-framed pictures of deities line the wall, the simple open kitchen is spotless, the food is cheap and delicious, and the filter coffee -- if, that is, you've developed a taste for sweetened South Indian filter coffee -- extraordinary. Vidyarthi Bhavan (32, Gandhi Bazaar; tel. 080/2667-7588) is where you head for the best masala dosas in town, while for authentic Karnataka cuisine, Halli Mane (no. 14, 3rd Cross Rd., off Sampige Rd., Malleswaram; tel. 080/4127-9754) is Bengaluru's busiest restaurant, serving pure vegetarian, dirt-cheap thalis, or buffet meals (Rs 75). For affordable, nonvegetarian coastal Karnataka cuisine, Unicorn (94/3 Infantry Rd.; tel. 080/2559-1670) is great. The menu changes every week, but expect fish, coconut milk, and lots of flavor -- ask for the signature Unicorn Special Prawns. And if you aren't hopping across to Hyderabad, have a taste of excellent Andhra cuisine at Bheema's (No. 31 Asha Bldg., Church St.; tel. 080/2558-7389) -- almost everything is great and super spicy so bring a few tissues! There are a couple of rooftop restaurants with eclectic menus that are very popular as well: Ebony (13th Floor, Ivory Tower Hotel, Barton Centre, 84 M.G. Rd.; tel. 080/2558-9333) more for its open-air views, and Paparazzi for its innovative cuisine -- both have great ambience and music and an excellent bar attached.
The most delicious ice creams and sundaes are available at Corner House (44/1 Residency Rd.; tel. 080/2521-6312), which, owing to its popularity, is arguably the narrowest space with the biggest vibe in Bengaluru. The Death By Chocolate (Rs 115) is just that -- no trip to Bengaluru is complete without at least one shot at surviving it. And given that caffeine runs in the blood here, you'll have no problems getting your fix -- great coffee options available with eats at Café Coffee Day, Barrista and Nilgiri Café outlets all over the city. But if you really want the best of the lot, make an effort and head for Brahmin's Café (daily 8am-10pm), a hole-in-he-wall tucked into the crowded lanes of Chamrajpet, close to Ramakrishna Ashram -- straightforward and simple, this is the best place to sample south Indian filter coffee. (Note: In Karnataka, you may overhear the person sitting next to you order coffee and say "by two" -- this seems to be the norm at most budget restaurants or roadside stalls, which means one coffee into two glasses. It's not so much an economic factor that has brought this about as one of sharing -- after all, too much caffeine is never a good thing.)
In the big hotels, besides those reviewed, the following are worth a mention: For North and South Indian cuisine, Jamavar at Leela Palace Kempinski (tel. 080/2521-1234) is one of Bengaluru's class acts, with arguably the best tandoor dishes in town. For specialty South Indian cuisine, there's no better place than Dakshin (tel. 080/2226-9898), the upmarket restaurant at the Hotel Windsor Sheraton, with a menu that represents the best of all four southern states. It's hard to know what to order from their extensive menu, so go with the maitre d's recommendation or get a thali (the seafood thali, Rs 1,050, is fab). Staying with Indian, Masala Klub (tel. 080/6660-5660), with tables set alongside a 100-year-old tamarind tree in the gardens of Taj West End, attempts to prove that Indian cuisine doesn't always mean an overdose of oil and spices -- die-hard enthusiasts may disagree, but in this health conscious day and age, the concept certainly seems to be working. The ambience in this stylish indoor-outdoor restaurant is great, especially in the evenings, and other than the extensive wine and food menus, you can do your own grills, marinated in herbs and spices, on imported Matterhorn stones. A recent phenomena, but one which the local hoi polloi haven taken to like the proverbial ducks to water, is the Sunday Champagne Brunch which almost all five-star hotels now offer, allowing you an afternoon of conscience-free decadence as you wine, dine and float in refreshing pools -- reserve ahead.
If you need to catch your breath while shopping at V.M. Road, nip over to the extremely popular Sunny's (Embassy Diamante, Vittal Mallaya Rd.; tel. 080/2212-0496; www.sunnysbangalore.com), which has a spacious outdoor and indoor seating area and lounge bar. The eclectic menu is a reflection of Bengaluru's growing sophistication and the desserts are to die for. Shiok, which means "yummy" in Malay (96, Amar Jyoti Layout, Inner Ring Rd.; tel. 080/6571-5555; www.shiokfood.com), a fine-dining restaurant-cum-cocktail-lounge run by owner-chef Madhu Menon, who has traveled extensively in the Far East to study different styles of cooking, is another favorite. Thai, Malay, Indonesian, and Singaporean dishes are on offer, with -- apparently -- more than 60% of the ingredients flown in from overseas, making it rather pricey in terms of "food miles" but worth it. Olive Beach (16 Wood St., Ashok Nagar; tel. 080/4112-8400; www.olivebarandkitchen.com) lives up to its high culinary style and pulls in the city's who's who, just as it does in Mumbai and Delhi. Pebbled paths wind through a heritage bungalow, revealing an atmosphere full of light and laughter, especially as you sip the quintessential Olive margaritas. Book a spot under the cherry tree. Giving i-t.ALIA a good nudge, both in cuisine and atmosphere, is Gian Carlos (4/1, Walton-Lavelle junction; tel. 080/4157-1350; www.giancarlosplace.com). Even though the brain behind this very cool restaurant may be sitting in some other part of the world, what he has started is definitely in full throttle with simple, elegant interiors (plus a great rooftop option for the evenings) and some utterly delicious Italian gourmet fare -- the wood-fire pizzas are simply delicious as are their innovative Itushis (Italian sushis); the affable Sandeep will be only to happy to guide you through the bewildering choices in hand.
And there's more -- driving an hour through Begaluru's evening traffic may not seem the best way to work up an appetite, but it's worth it to reach Grasshopper (45 Kalena Agrahara, Bannerghatta Rd., past the Meenakshi Temple; tel. 080/2659-3999; meal for two Rs 3,000 without alcohol), an urban warehouse full of surprises -- stylish accessories and clothes, theatrical performances and a European fine dining restaurant serving delectable seven course gourmet fare. Fashion designers Sonali and Himanshu decided to expand their creativity from Hidden Harmony, their own line of clothes, to Grasshopper: Emphasis is on subtle flavor and presentation and meals are tailor-made for each table according to preferences -- prawns with ginger, sesame and seaweed, veal chops with blue cheese butter and lemongrass ice cream are some of the favorites. Incredibly romantic by night, the outdoor restaurant is open for lunch only on the weekends. Reservations are a must.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.