The best spent years of my life were definitely my days spent in college. One suddenly feels free after the straight jacketed years of school…..hanging out with my friends in all nooks and corners of the campus, trying to hitch a ride with someone at the college parking, never going near a place called the library, starting the day with oily food from the canteen, giving proxy attendance for friends and expecting the same favour in return always, living on the Chinese food doused in chili sauce from outside our campus, defying the whole world by having my first smoke and alcoholic drinks with new found friends. In short, feeling like a free bird and having lots of clean fun. These memorable, precious days are what are sought to be recreated in Prankster – the country’s first food and brewery campus.
Prankster is Gurgaon’s biggest single plate restaurant spread over 10,000 square feet and is equipped to seat two hundred and fifty people. It is the brainchild of Inderjeet Singh Banga and Jasmeet Banga – two brothers running the high successful Pirates of Grill restaurant chain spread across India. Joining them in this venture is Pawan Soni, a food blogger of repute. It has the most unique décor and theme of a college campus. They are serving “nostalgic progressive cuisine” where the food will help connect to the bygone nostalgic years or the same will be presented in a modern way.
As I step into the lobby, a smile appears on my face as it has only upside down things in it – a larger than life metallic red horse, a never before seen pouting Mona Lisa taking a selfie, potted plants, furniture etc. This, I was told, was to prepare you to jog down memory lane that takes you back to your college campus days.
Climbing the stairs to reach the first floor, I see two big doors which are obviously not the main entrance. The smaller back door is the main entrance for the prankster out for fun. I enter a huge hall where to my left I see the library with lovely woodwork, a ceiling to floor bookshelf with books, a chandelier created out of open books, table lamps created with books piled on top of each other and a high definition projector where anything can be viewed including cricket matches. This was one of the most welcoming libraries I’ve ever encountered. The only rule this seemed to have is to break all rules including being silent like in any other library.
To my right is the mixology laboratory which resembles a science lab in school. I remember how, being a commerce student, I would sneak in here to dissect frogs with the science students. They have a never before seen concept of making one’s own cocktails here. Each high stool sit out has a wash basin which can be used if so desired. When I looked around I saw a wall full of beakers and Bunsen burners of all shapes and sizes. The second wall had a blackboard full of chemistry formulae and the last wall had white curtains.
Adjacent to the lab is a very lively and colourful canteen with red curtains. It has huge metallic containers of the brewery with FUEL written on it. The canteen is right next to the kitchen which has some of the dishes from the actual menu written on the walls, above the service counter. Right opposite the canteen is one of the biggest bars being 35 feet long. The bar shelves are made like lockers in college and are stocked with the choicest of alcohol from around the world. There is a very rustic looking table hanging from the ceiling, which I’m told is a tree cut in half from the centre lengthwise to make a table.
Not to miss is a support pillar with CCTV cameras placed to look like glares on a face between the canteen and the bar – supposedly the face of the principal who always keeps an eye on his students. Next to the bar is the amphitheatre area with sliding tables where one can hang out with a laptop or just have a drink. Next to this is the classroom with a blackboard, high definition projector, a multi coloured painting of Einstein and lamp shades made by using big paint brushes. The ceiling is painted half black and half yellow depicting the path from ignorance to acquiring knowledge.
There are two open balconies facing the whole sector 29 market/parking area which also double up as open air smoking areas. The first balcony is the “Parking Area” with an actual Mahindra jeep converted into a sit out, a line up of good old Lambretta scooters converted into comfortable seats with backrests, with a pull down table if so required between two scooters and an actual, fully functional food truck cooking Chinese food. The second balcony is behind the mixology lab, facing the leisure valley and has a “Hostel Room” with bunker beds where those of us who were in hostel were up to one prank or the other. There is also a panvadi (pan and cigarette seller) under an artificial tree and the far corner has a dimly lit “Lovers Point” which is where we’ve all been at one point or another.
Enough about the interiors now. Let’s talk food !
The amuse bouche, Flat Gappe, was a baked papri topped with a sphere of tangy and sweet water, potatoes and black chana and with a speck of saunth and a pudina leaf. It definitely stimulated the taste buds to prepare them for the meal ahead.
Dry Fruit Salad breaks all the conventional moulds other than the fact that it is healthy. There are no greens, oils or dressings here. Dry fruits are served with a tamarind based sauce, nitrogen cooked orange segment and a citrus coulee (made from orange juice, apple cider and a hint of black salt). It sure does pack in a punch of vitamins and breaks the monotony of eating dry fruits by themselves.
Sambhar Cappuccino is a thick sambhar with coconut foam sprinkled with Madras powder and served with a baked dosa crisp. This dish simply takes your taste buds for an extra ordinary treat with tangy sambhar intelligently served like a soup.
Dahi Bhalla Ice Cream, believe it or not, is a savoury dish. A bed of baked crisp roomali roti strips, puffed rice and pomegranate is topped with dahi bhalla ice cream nitro frozen (bhalla mixed with curd and then made into a sweet ice cream), dehydrated tamarind chutney and a -20 degree nitro papri. This is a mind blowing dish and has to be eaten to be believed. The best part about the dish – the crunchy elements don’t get soggy till the end and the curd remains chilled till the last bite.
Kung Pao Chicken with an Indian twist – batter fried chicken cubes tossed in a spicy tamarind based sauce and topped with coconut foam and a liberal sprinkling of cashews. The foam takes care of the sharp, spicy and tangy chicken dish. I simply loved this dish and had a tug of war with the server who was taking the last piece away.
Pao Bhaji Zinker Burger is another innovative dish that left me asking for more. It is served inside a hollow Rubik’s cube which you lift for it to reveal a vada pao look alike burger sprinkled with spicy Maharashtrian garlic and peanut chili chutney. The difference is that the crisp tikki is made out of bhaji of pao bhaji fame and is layered with cheese to cut the chili with a welcome change of onion roundels like the good old days before McDonald’s, Burger King et al came to India. It has all the flavours of street food to make you reminisce about your college days and more.
Lahori Bun Kebab is a street food of Lahore in both veg and non-veg. I tried the veg version – a fried bun, raw mango chutney, onion, shekhampuri kebab, crispy okra and then the bun again. All the flavours were there but I was missing some zing in the pasty kebab.
Tempura Fried Prawns with Milagai Podi (gun powder) – crispy, and like really crispy, tempura fried prawns topped with mayo, gun powder and micro greens. Served on wooden rulers, one can actually see the gigantic size of the prawns. Another must try dish.
Super Sago Samosas is another beauty from the Maratha land. It comprises of a filo pastry stuffed with sago made with peanuts on a bed of mustard tempered potatoes, kiwi chutney, citrus pickled pineapple and onions. The textures and flavors all complemented each other.
Dry Ginger Glazed Pork Chops with Walnut are simply to kill for. When they arrived, I saw two huge chops and that put a smile to my face. When I tried to cut it with my knife, the chops were like butter. The consistency was like pulled pork assembled together in the shape of chops with the most amazing sweet and tangy Indianised sauce. This was one of the most amazing pork chops I’ve ever eaten. I learnt later that they were confit pork chops which are pan fried. Am still dreaming about them.
Fresh Anardana Sorbet was to cleanse the palate. It had a tannin effect like wine.
Compressed Paneer Barrels in Thai Makhni Curry has a subtle coconut cream flavor that justifies Thai word put in the name of the dish. These cute little paneer barrels accompanied with this fusion sauce surely sets the taste buds tingling.
Murg Palang Tor – as soon as I heard the name, I cross checked whether it has an aphrodisiac J in it. The gravy of this chicken curry had the texture like that of a mutton nihari. I was totally intrigued as to how the chef managed that and was bowled over when he shared the lengthy process behind it. All the mutton lovers should try this dish to become converts to chicken.
Rampuri Mutton is a traditionally slow cooked taar gosht with all the goodness of mutton. Perfectly paired with the most soft sheermal where I could smell the saffron and cardamom brushed on top to give an orange color. What a heavenly pairing.
A quick mention here about the Stuffed Pyaaz Kulcha which was served in the assorted bread platter. This is a bread not to be missed which is loaded with seasoned chopped onion and can make a meal by itself.
Baked Sheera in Coconut Payasam is a dessert never seen before because this is a dessert which was conceptualised by accident by the Chef. What a beautiful accident this was ! A baked semolina cup cake which came swimming in a tender coconut payasam pool with tender coconut pieces floating in it. Reminded me of the times when my dad would crave for something sweet and on not finding anything, would put bread pieces in hot milk laced with sugar, to satiate his sweet cravings.
Textures of Jalebi with in house Saffron Ice Cream – the jalebi batter is used in three different ways to make churros, papad and pearls (boondi ) all garnishing the most creamy, subtly sweet saffron ice cream. The plating is done in the most interesting way – from the traditional jalebi and rabri to the modern take on the same where rabri is replaced by saffron ice cream. I could not get enough of both.
All the above creations are of Chef Harangad Singh who is half Marathi and half Sikh. He learnt to cook with his grandmother in the kitchen from age 15 years onwards. His journey began with Varq in Taj Mansingh, New Delhi after which, he moved to Tresind in Dubai and the rest as they say is history.
There are so many reasons to go back to Prankster (it has nine different mini restaurants inside). The food was totally par excellence and there are just as many veg dishes as there are non-veg dishes on the menu, each flooring you with its innovative twist. The pricing is done as if keeping a college student’s tight budget in mind. In a busy place like sector 29, they are offering valet parking. It will appeal to all ages – the younger generation as they will immediately connect with it and the older generation to go there for a fine dining meal at campus rates and to relive those golden years of campus life.
Ratings (Out of 5)
Food: 4.5 | Ambience: 5 | Service: 4.5 | Overall: 4.5
Meal For Two: Rs. 1,500 | Wheel Chair Friendly: No | Credit Card: Yes | Alcohol: Yes
Address: Prankster, Site 8-10, Sector 29, Gurgaon | Phone: 0124-4266653/54
Disclaimer: This review was done on an invitation from the restaurant. Due judgement and care has been applied by the author to remain objective and unbiased in the review, but readers need to consider this review keeping this fact in mind.