As kids, we all loved hanging from monkey bars. Time now to hang at Monkey Bar,
says Mudita Chauhan-Mubayi
Irreverent in an impish-chimpish way, Monkey Bar (MB) is Bengaluru’s newest haute spot. In contrast to its chic sibling—it is promoted by the team that runs Olive Beach next door—MB is all grit and grunge. Exposed brick walls, nude light bulbs, Tolkien and Playmates on the walls, stripped-down Lambretta on display, no-fuss furniture, eclectic playlist, volumes turned A-L-L the way up—it’s got character. And then some space to let you be yourself, to imbibe the vibe.
The husband and I were in Bengaluru on work. With iconic eateries like Koshy’s and MTR to be explored, we wouldn’t even consider lunch at a pub. But with the talented Chef Manu Chandra at the helm of the self-styled Indian avatar of the gastropub, ignorance wasn’t going to be blissful. Gastropubs—simply put, pubs with great food—are quite the rage now. Hell, Gordon Ramsay has three in London!
So, we made tracks to MB. Any sinking feeling that we may have experienced at not being able to hear each other over the music was swiftly countered as we leafed through the exhaustive, exciting menu, featuring comfort food from all over—Bombay vada-pav (Rs 120), beef paired with Rajasthani ker-sangri (Rs 160), Louisiana gumbo (Rs 250), Iranian berry pilaf (Rs 400)…
Rising to the MB spirit, we hit the high notes first. Mangaa, the desi caipiroska made with aam panna, was delicious, its earthy edge tempered with sweet lime. I was excited about my Kokum Ginger Margarita, but it was way too viscous, not at all the clean, tangy palate patakha that I expected. I’d have sampled the other concoctions like Goose Bum’s (gin, fresh gooseberries, salt) or the sizeable King Kong (Old Monk, banana, cream, chocolate Horlicks!), but several mismatched food platters were on the table by then. That’s not to say, however, that the service is super-prompt. Especially when you choose to sit in the basement, equipped with pool and foosball tables, it can be a while before you can locate a server. And another while before you can catch his eye.
Our eyes, though, were on the quirky jampot brimming with Pork Sorpotel (Rs 160). It was beautifully done, just the right quantum of spice and vinegary piquancy, and paired with a spongy pav. Next, we pigged out on the intriguingly named Bork (Rs 350). Double-cooked, fried, lightly crisped, blackened pork counterpointed by veggies in black bean sauce and thin noodles, it was simply scrumptious.
Then, we beefed it up. Starved as one is for good beef in Delhi, we ordered two beef dishes. First up were Killer Galoutis (Rs 220) or beef kebabs. Melt in the mouth, I tell you. Subtly spiced, tenderized with pineapple, pounded to perfection, served with a jumble of onions and mint chutney—they can take on Lucknow’s galouti kebabs in the battle for the bulge.
Speaking of which, the battle of the burger can be won here. One bite into my Lamb Burger (Rs 320)—minus the frills like lettuce, mayo or burger dust, so it was just me and meat—and I knew why Manu was making such an impassioned case for their drill of dry aging, gentle mincing, hand shaping, and grilling the meat. The mutton’s rich juices and slight gaminess were locked into the patty, which was complemented well by the homemade bun and slaw. The meat was not done rare, like I’d asked, but I had no reason to complain. Especially when the sauce selection revealed Blair’s Pure Death Sauce, a hellish relish made with my all-time favourite bhut jholokia. The burger list is substantial, featuring beef, ham, chicken and veggie options.
Our second bovine binge was fiery too. Tiger Beef (Rs 180), the Oriental preparation of beef slices tossed with chilli paste, black beans, galangal, bean sprouts, bok choy and peppers, was zesty, meaty, buttery all at once. We wiped the bowl clean.
Though the lemon meringue (Rs 120) at the adjacent table looked rather pretty, we had no space left over for dessert. And there was so much food still to be tried, like Chilli Brain (Rs 200), Spiked Nachos and the shallow-fried pizzas (Rs 200–250).
Food at MB is really good but that’s not the only reason why locals are thronging this new watering hole. They are here because it is great food in an elegantly casual setting and at really competitive prices. Oh, and the playlist is pretty funky. Abba here, Allman Brothers there, food for the soul everywhere.
Speaking of music, I do love Chuck Berry but till such time as I’ve eaten through the MB menu—twice over!—there’s nothing like ‘too much monkey business’!
Ratings out of 5
Food: 4.5 | Ambience: 4 | Service: 2.5 |Overall: 4
Meal for Two: Rs 1300 | Alcohol: Yes | Credit Card: Yes| Timing: Noon–11.30 pm
Address: 14/1 Krishna Manere, Wood Street, Ashok Nagar, Bengaluru | Phone: 080-41116878/79 | Web: www.mobar.in