Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Secret Garden Cafe

Aptly named, the Secret Garden Cafe (In fact, so secret is its location that it took me three attempts to actually find it) is in a by lane off Cunningham Road and located inside a massive old Bangalore house. The cafe is housed in the balcony of this bungalow. Needless to say, the decor is wonderful. Old style wooden furniture dominates this quaint little cafe and gorgeous wind chimes add to the atmosphere. The blackboard menu and open kitchen are a nice touch. The place is quite small though and can seat only around twenty people. A special mention to their loo which is super clean and oh! so pretty. Pretty yellow tiles and ancient wooden mirrors stand out in the bathroom and I love that so much attention has gone into every little detail.

The menu here is has a fair, though not extensive, selection. Apart from the regular continental fare, they also have some Mexican and Israeli dishes. The Chicken Diablo (Rs. 280) had lots and lots of meat (much to A's delight). It was served with some veggies. While the quantity was good and the meat tender, the sauce was a little disappointing. It was bland and a little salt less.

If you like spice, you may want to avoid this dish. Ghatotkatch ordered the Home Made Fettucine (Rs. 200): a lovely pasta with sundried tomatoes and herbs.

This was a dry pasta and like most dry pastas it was a little bland. Despite that, I quite liked the flavour of this dish. It was also refreshing to see a pasta dish not drowned in sauce. The Mezze Platter (Rs.180) was pretty good. Pita bread stuffed with a spicy, and slightly Indian, filling. It was served along with an eggplant sauce which was wonderful. Be wary though as this is an acquired taste and those who don't like brinjal may not appreciate it much. The hummus dip served with this was amongst the best I've had in Bangalore and complemented the pita bread perfectly. The minced lamb lasagna which contains tender lamb meat amidst sheets (and sheets) of cheese is also a hot favourite.

Quantities at the Secret Garden Cafe are filling, but not extravagant.

They have quite a few dessert selections too and being the sweet lovers that we are, we decided to try that too. The honey cake with Brazilian nut was boring. It tasted OK but definitely not something to order again. It could have been picked up from any of the gazillion bakeries dotting Bangalore's streets and I wouldn't be able to tell the difference.

The passionfruit cheesecake was the pick of the desserts. Though the combination sounds a bit suspect, it came together wonderfully. This is definitely receives my seal of approval.

All in all, Secret Garden Cafe is the ideal place to have a lazy lunch and soak in the atmosphere. It is also a great date place (especially if the weather Gods decide to smile on you). The service is good but not super prompt, but its not the sort of place where you want it to be either. The ladies who run the restaurant are charming and willing to indulge in conversation. The food is largely good but a few dishes may not meet the mark.

A word of warning: The place shuts really early (7:00ish, I think) and is closed on Sundays, so plan accordingly.

This review is also available at:

Pricing: Rs. 400 per person.
  • 7/1 Edwards Rd ( cul de sac at the very end of Edwards Road), Off Queens Road,Cunningham Road, Bangalore
  • Landmark: Near Near Back entrance of Prestige Center Point
  • Phone: 41131365

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Haven Sampoorna

After shifting to Madras I've been eating out like crazy (my ballooning waistline is a testament to the same). All this gluttony has been accompanied by laziness and I haven't gotten around to posting anything yet. However, things are about to change (precipitated by a life altering glance in the mirror!) So here it is: my first 'Madras' review.
An edited version of this, with pictures, can be viewed at:
(Yes! I managed to get it published in an actual magazine. In other exciting news, I'm also mentioned in latest issue of Outlook Traveller. Look out for the article on Bangalore's darshinis. Cartwheels)
Tucked away on a service lane in the Velachery bye-pas road is an unassuming little restaurant that serves Chinese, Continental and Indian fare.
The restaurant is small and can seat around 25 people. Framed photos of Hollywood stars (along with some quirky quotes) adorn the place. If you are planning on dining with a large party, then I recommend that you make a reservation. The restaurant is also fastidiously clean.
The menu at Haven Sampoorna is vast and ranges from healthy salads to greasy Chinese noodles, from roti-sabzi to pastas. Wading through this menu and zeroing in on what to order can be quite time consuming. For starters, we recommend the Corn on Toast (Rs.60). It’s one of the most popular dishes at Haven and it’s easy to see why. Toast submerged in corn and thick, creamy tomato sauce is bound to appease your taste buds. While the toast itself is soggy, the sauce is quite heavenly. Tomato and cheese blend perfectly and the basil leaves add a nice flavour to the entire dish. You could also try the chilli babycorn. Deepfried babycorn with yellow peppers, spring onions and capsicums is a spicy, albeit completely unhealthy, way to jumpstart your meal. Other options such as Smileys, Chill Potato Fry and Veg Nuggets also sound promising.
For the calorie-counting-crowd, there are a few salads to choose from. The corn salad was OK but unless you are very particular about healthy food, I recommend the other starters. I found the salads to be a tad dry and wish the lettuce had been fresher. They also have anti-oxidant and power builder drinks.
For main course one could try the Thali (Rs.85). This comes with 3 phulkas, 2 sabzis, dal, papad, sweet, rice and raitha. The phulkas are light, non-oily and reminiscent of home. Kudos to the chef who made the wheat halwa. It was sweet, without being oversweet, and avoided being oily and sticky. This is definitely an attractive option for those looking for a filling and healthy meal. A special Thali is a variation of the same and comes with starters and soup too. In the continental section, there are a variety of pastas and bakes to choose from. The Veg Florentine consists of mushrooms, zucchinis, capsicums, broccolis and a host of other veggies submerged in creamy, cheesy sauce. Be warned that this dish is very very heavy. The fact that our mammoth appetites were considerably satiated after this is a testament to how filling the dish can be. The Pasta Arabiatta is nicely done in light tomato sauce with olive oil, veggies and chilli flakes adding to the taste. They also have a few Chinese dishes to offer but our stomachs protested (vehemently!) at the idea of any more food. However, I did notice that the next table was wolfing down their noodles and gravy.
Haven Sampoorna has a few cold beverages to offer too. I highly recommend the Blue Cuarace. There is a lit up, blinking ice cube inside and this was a source of endless fascination to us (and the ten year old sitting at the adjoining table).The drink itself is a little sweet and has sharp tang to it. They also serve lemon tea, badam milk and other standard drinks. Haven doesn’t have a vast dessert menu but the pan ice cream is something that stands out. I must say that I was a little sceptical on seeing the name but the ice cream laid my doubts to rest. The flavour of the betel leaves strangely complemented the vanilla ice cream it was ground in. This is one dish that I shall be revisiting. Haven also has a snack menu consisting of chats, burgers and sandwiches.
Thankfully, the prices at Haven are easy on the wallet. A very heavy continental meal here shouldn’t cost more than Rs.200, at most. They also have a robust catering business and takeaways seem to be a popular option.
Location: Next to SBI, Near GuruNanak College, ByePass Road, Velachery Road, Velachery, Chennai.
Phone: 9840977582, 22448882
Pricing: Rs.100-130 (per person)