Monday, April 25, 2011

Theobroma: The reason I want to shift to Bombay

I was in Bombay over the weekend and adored it. The bright lights, the crowds, the chaos, the mad activity and not to forget the never ending number of good restaurants here: I was, and remain, hooked.  

I walked into Theobroma and it was instant love. Warm wooden flooring, soft lighting and the indescribable scent of freshly baked goods create a cosy, casual ambiance. The place is a little cramped but given the astronomical property prices in South Bombay, you would be hard pressed to find a place that isn't. All around are wonderful looking baked goodies and desserts. Ready to put Theobroma to the taste test, we quickly placed our orders.

I ordered the millionaire brownie. This combination of chocolate chip brownie layered with buttery caramel and dark chocolate is sinful, to say the least. It perfects the dark, rich flavour of chocolate with just the appropriate amount of relief so that all that chocolate doesn't completely overwhelm you. This one's a definite winner (as the ringing of the sales machine indicates). If you want the pure, unadulterated taste of chocolate then the overload brownie should be your choice.

They have a wide array of desserts and I did my best to try as many as I could. Pri went with the Mango and Passion fruit cheesecake. The mango was definitely on the sour-er side, but it hit the right spot with us and we wolfed it down quickly.

I forced Ganje to order the Vodka and Green Chilly Mousse. The subtle flavour of vodka and the kick of green chilly at the very end (right when it goes down your throat) was quite interesting. While we liked it, it may not be everyone's cup of tea. Tread with caution when you order this and know that it could go either way.

Their baked cheesecake was decent but I must admit I was a little disappointed. It wasn't as great as I thought it would be. Pali Village Cafe and Saltwater Cafe both dished up better versions. 

We also had the cold coffee and hot chocolate here. Both were good but neither was special.

They also have a number of savoury items but I was so distracted by all that sugar that I didn't get around to tasting them. I did however pack an astonishingly large number of brownies and cookies to pig out on in Chennai. Completely inadvisable and unhealthy it might be, but it is worth every chocolate-y bite.  If you see me walking around with an impish grin for the next few days, you know why. 

They have a bigger Bandra branch but I think the Colaba one is more charming. Even though we spent long hours at the Colaba branch, it is mostly a takeaway/quick bite scene. A few entertaining South Bombay-ites graced the establishment when we were there. Many thanks to 'check-ME-out' and 'the Aishas' who provided much entertainment. Theobroma has a clean little loo. 

If you are in Bombay, definitely pay this place one(several) visit(s). You won't regret it.
P.S: Theobroma has a national brownie delivery service. Hint! Hint!

Location: Shop 24, Cusrow Baug, Colaba Causeway, Shahid Bhagat Singh Road, Colaba, Mumbai
Landmark: Opposite Central Bank of India
Phone: 22873778, 22886464, 22830101

Monday, April 11, 2011

My Top 5 'things-to-do' in London

In true guidebook style, here's the list (in no particular order):

5) Ice Skating at Somerset House: In a moment of total lunacy I signed up for ice skating. Not only did I suffer intense physical pain and public humiliation, I paid good money for it. I also had to face the ignominy of watching perfectly formed men and women gracefully gliding around the rink. Seriously, who are these people!!

But you know what? It was insanely fun. Falling on my backside, bringing down some others in the process and clinging desperately to the wooden balustrade turned out to be a great way to ring in the new year. In addition, should Laughing Boy, Cheesy Girl or the Pimp ever assume public office, I will have some very incriminating pictures to blackmail them with ;)

The ice looks pretty doesn't it?
Wait till you fall on it

4) Visit Spitalfields Market: The last thing I thought I would do in England was go to a flea market. After all this was the land of Harrods, Bond Street and all things fashionable and pricey. This little market ended up having way more character than all those shops put together. There is a universal pleasure to be derived from  a good bargain. You can pick up vintage Beatles records, quirky t-shirts, beautiful jewelery and  even some great furniture.

Unfortunately, budgetary constraints meant that I merely browsed through all the wares, picked up some coffee and headed to the nearby Brick Lane.

3) Watch an EPL match: Growing up, I learnt a lot about England. Children's literature was, and I believe still is, dominated by the English. Enid Blyton, P.G. Wodehous and Agatha Christie always portrayed the English as a reserved, polite and incredibly restrained people. Clearly, none of these authors witnessed a live football match. 

60 year old grandmothers cursing a storm, precocious 8 year olds trashing England's most famous footballer and delusional men trying to communicate with the players through wild hand gestures: the atmosphere was electric. A great match and some lovely post-match burgers rounded up a wonderful evening. Spending 2 hours with a horde of mercurial football fans will surely show you a whole new side to England.

Yes, we were part of this mad crowd

2) Take a walk through the Greenwich Gardens: On a last minute impulse, I decided to visit Greenwich and it  reaffirmed my faith in impulse decisions. I was completely blown away by the gorgeous gardens in the middle of winter. I took a long relaxing walk around these magnificent gardens and this remains one of my fondest memories of the trip. Definitely better than the more famous Hyde and Kensington Parks. Greenwich also contains the Queen's House, it's creepy spiral staircase, a surprisingly enjoyable maritime museum and the Painted Hall.

The reason I initially wanted to visit Greenwich was because of the Metro station's name: Cutty Sark on Maritime Greenwich. My fascination with English names is boundless. I made a torturous 65 minute train journey so that I could have the satisfaction of having visited Harrow on the Hill. Sigh!  

1) Visit St. Paul's Cathedral: I know this is super cliche-d and a guidebook favourite but there's a reason. Christopher Wren's labour-of-love is indescribable. This striking marble dome against the grey-concrete skyline of London is especially beautiful at night. Take a few steps back and view this monument from the nearby bridge. I plonked myself on the bridge and spent a good fifteen minutes impeding pedestrian traffic, just to take the view in.

St. Paul's during the Blitz

It's not just a pretty package: there's a beautiful chapel inside. Huff and puff up the stairs and you can visit the famous Whispering Gallery and take in the views from the outer balconies. The Gallery view was a little bit of a letdown. Not as great as I thought it would be. At nearly 12 pounds, entering St. Paul's is fairly expensive

If you are in London for a quick visit, I highly recommend the Sandeman's walking tour: Cheap, fun and rooomba informative.

I had a ridiculously fun time in London and I am sincerely hoping that there are going to be many more follow up visits. Even a job maybe? If you hear of any opening for a food and travel writer in London: email me ASAP.

A HUGE shout out to KK, Shan, A-ditty, Badri, Suchi, Mahesh, Anita, Kavita and Geeta. Thanks for everything. Muah!

Haven't read my earlier England posts?? Click here

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Koshy's: Go, despite the average food

I was in Bangalore over the weekend to: a) watch the EPIC match with the family; and b) pay my respects to Bangalore's restaurants. In an event nearly as momentous as India's victory, Rat finally condescended to meet with me. We decided to hit Koshy's for breakfast. Walk down St. Marks and you will spot this Bangalore institution at the Church Street-St.Marks Road junction.

We ordered the Mushroom Toast, Bacon Omlette and the Smilies. I also made the mistake of ordering the Chocolate Shake (Rs.53). This consisted of brown powder mixed with watery milk. After having a sip and then having another one (because surely it couldn't have been that bad), Rats and I left the milkshake(?) alone. The accompanying photo will show you exactly why I am whining so much about this. We later ordered Iced Teas which were the of the general Lipton variety.

AFTER (Eeeeugh!) 

While the Mushroom Toast I ordered was fine, it was nothing spectacular. I fancy that I could have dished up something similar at home (If you don't already know, I cook these days). The bacon omlette was good. The Smilies is nice, timepass food (as are most other fried potato snacks).

Mushroom Toast

Bacon Omlette

Smilies :) 

Nympho is a huge fan of the chicken liver at this place. The one thing you should never order at Koshy's is the French Toast (sweet) which was like bread soaked in sweet milk, with eggs on top. (Barf!) It makes my list of 'Most vile dishes I have eaten'

Koshy's makes a mean prawn curry which is generous in portions and reasonable in pricing.  I also hear their appams are good though I have never made it early enough on a Sunday morning to verify this.

I've been to Koshy's many many times and the food has consistently bordered on average with occasional moments of brilliance or deep despair. Despite its average fare and the array of better restaurants on offer, I find myself revisiting Koshy's. Why? Because it has the one thing that so many many restaurants today lack: Character.
Walk in and you will see a random assortment of individuals: middle aged men getting a beer just like they have every week for decades, grimy students in clothes that haven't been washed in this decade, old grandpas and grandmas, the list goes on. You could strike up random conversations or receive unsolicited advice about the book you are reading from  a woman who looks eerily like Helena Bonhom Carter. I love this sketch. It beautifully captures the essence of Koshy's (What do you think?)

Thanks to Google Images and Jai Iyer

Koshy's is one of those rare places where I am going to suggest that you don't go by my (or any other reviewer's) opinion. Go and find out for yourself. You will either love the old-world, laid back atmosphere that it exemplifies or dismiss it as a pretentious place which is not worth the price. There are enough supporters for both points of view but I must admit I firmly belong in the former. There is something familiar, almost comforting about Koshy's (even its average food).

Make sure you go to the older, more battered portion of Koshy's, not the new one with plush decors. I just don't think that has the same magic. 

P.S: They don't open till 9 a.m. Once, Nympho and I stayed up all night in gluttonous excitement and got there bright and early only to find closed doors. We then spent the next two hours walking up and down a deserted St.Marks/Brigade Road with other suspect Bangalore elements. (Good times!)

Pricing: Rs. 200 per person
Location: 39 St. Marks Road, St. Marks Road, Bangalore

  • Phone: 22213793, 22915840