Church Street Social : Of Fresh Fruit Cocktails and Fine Art

A little over a month ago, Church Street Social introduced their new avatar to the patrons of Bengaluru. Taking a step in a new direction, Church Street Social 2.0 have moved away from the ‘still’ popular industrial finish with exposed brick wall to a venue that embraces art. The ARTlet, as it has been christened will now be a venue that also curates monthly exhibitions and workshops that promote upcoming artists in the field of fine arts, visual art, sculpture and more. I’m going to quite honest here and say that while I love the vibe of the new place, there’s a lot more colour and that cheers me up a lot more than exposed brick wall, I’m still quite the philistine when it comes to modern art. I tend to leave my opinions to simpler binary choices of ‘ I like this’ or ‘ I don’ t know what this is’.

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Nevertheless, the vibrancy of the venue with more colour and art gives Church Street Social a vibe not seen at other locations. Installations from artists like Shilo Shiv Suleman, Siddhartha Karawal, Lekha Washington, Hanisha Tiralumalashetty, Laila Vaziralli, Dead The Duck, Sagarika Sundaram ( I know two names amongst this… not too bad for a fine arts philistine eh?) are currently on display. You can’t miss the rather larger dervish dancer piece as you enter. It freaks me out just a tad bit, but then, don’t take my word when it comes to fine art.

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Accompanying the new artwork, Church Street Social introduced a new range of cocktails that focus on fruit. Targeted at the ‘elder millennial’, these cocktails focus on blending the flavour of natural fruits with liquor, as opposed to being a potent mix that ensures the rest of the evening is a blur. However, even for those looking to pretty much make that ‘one drink for the evening’ count, the offer the Bamboozle Yourself (a combination of dark and white rum with freshly squeezed orange juice, served in a bamboo shell) which packs quite the punch.

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My favourite however was the Jack(son) Juice. This drink combines whisky with the seasonal jackfruit, a combination I have never quite tasted before. While one might find this to be a bit higher on the sweet quotient, I thoroughly enjoyed this drink. Your opinion on this will be completely based on whether you like jackfruit or not. While this won’t be retained in the permanent menu, another favourite of mine that will remain is the Vantablack. Made using Black Grapes and Mint Leaves, this cocktail is for those who enjoy grapes as a flavor which balances out perfectly with the booze.

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The slightly more elaborate and ambitious cocktail was the ‘Pine So Fine’. Served in a large chunk of pineapple, this dark-rum based cream on top is the highlight of the drink. More like a dinner cocktail to me, I’d hapilly polish off just the cream with a simple chocolate brownie. The Vitamin G(in) is a slightly more elaborate cocktail that’s served in jar that’s escaped the bars of a chemistry lab. I’m not a big fan of overly sweet cocktails hence this drink with strong flavours of coconut and lemon isn’t something that would make me go back for more. The CAMatka, a custard apple Margarita served in a matka, which will also feature on the regular menu is something I’m yet to make up my mind about.

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Put together by Jones Elish J, the main man behind Social’s bars in Bengaluru, and awarded ‘Best Bartender of the Year, South, 2017’ by India Nightlife Convention Awards, the festival with all these fruit-based cocktails is on till 30th August at Church Street Social only. The cocktails begin at INR 300.

Time for some Nikkei at 1Q1

I’m always a tad excited and nervous at the same time when it comes to trying out a new menu. Will I absolutely love it? Will it be pedestrian reinvented regular fare? Will there be that one dish that blows my mind and I tell all my friends about it? I always hope and pray that it’s a good menu with dishes to impress because I’m very respectful of the effort that goes into creating or re-imagining dishes on a menu. I was invited to 1Q1, located opposite the Indian Express Building in Bengaluru, to try out the new menu. The last time I was at 1Q1, I was inebriated enough to not remember what I ate. So, this was a new menu in that regard.

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With enough people to field a football team, there were adequate reinforcements for us to try everything on the menu. We could be here a very long time if I start going into every dish, so I’ll talk about my favourites from the menu. The appetizers featured a variety of dishes in various pan-Asian styles. Thai Chilli Potatoes, Broccoli & Baby Corn in Nam Prik Pao, Thai Birds-Eye Chilli Pork, Bangkok Chicken were some of the dishes we polished off pretty quickly. While it didn’t quite bring back memories of inexpensive Chinese take-out from my trips to the U.S, my favourite was the General Tsao’s Chicken. Crispy, succulent pieces of chicken in a sweet and spicy sauce… this would be my pick the next time I head there. The perfectly cooked pork almost made it to the top of the list, but I’d have liked the skin to be crispy.

General Tsao’s Chicken

General Tsao’s Chicken

Thai Birds-Eye Chilli Pork

Thai Birds-Eye Chilli Pork

One of the things that makes 1Q1 stand out from the numerous pan-Asian restaurants is their Nikkei section on the menu. I remember first reading about this style in 2016, but this was my first time tasting it. For the uninitiated, the Nikkei cuisine came into existence in the late 19th century when about 800 Japanese migrated to Peru and began integrating their culinary heritage with locally available Peruvian produce. While I do know that this style features a lot of sea food, I do not have an authentic frame of reference. We began with two varieties of tostadas, one with avocado, cucumber, broccoli, grapefruit and edamame for the vegetarians, and the other with tuna salsa, jalapeño chillies, hicuiana sauce for the non-vegetarians. I would very gladly trade in my plate of greasy uninspiring nachos at my local brewpub for a plate of these. The vegetarian version was a favourite of mine owing to a better balance, and diversity, of flavours while the non-veg tilted towards being spicy. (Which was a minor injustice to the fresh fatty piece of tuna).

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The Green Mango and Whitefish Tiradito was a delightful-delicate dish that had a wonderful slice of fresh red snapper whose natural flavour was enhanced by the sweet-sour flavours of the green mango. I definitely did not want to share this dish. Another favourite of mine was the Grilled Octopus in an Anticucho Sauce. Octopus is something don’t quite relish owing to the rubbery nature of the flesh. This experience was further ruined when I was served a live baby octopus in the famous Jagalchi Market in Busan, where I shrieked and bolted from the table. Fortunately, the grilled octopus, besides being very dead, was actually grilled very perfectly. Crunchy bits of octopus flesh with a citrus-herby sauce had me nearly polishing off an entire plate. Thankfully, there wasn’t much enthusiasm from the others. So yaay, all mine!

Green Mango and Whitefish Tiradito

Green Mango and Whitefish Tiradito

Grilled Octopus in an Anticucho Sauce

Grilled Octopus in an Anticucho Sauce

There were four cocktails being served for lunch. The Saku Bliss, a concoction of hibiscus tea infused with Bacardi and shaken into a sour. The Moonshine Volcano, a light gin-based cocktail and the Twilight, a grapefruit and whisky cocktail. My pick of the lot was the Mystery Dynasty. This was a balanced mix of walnut flavoured whisky with home-made banana liqueur.

Mystery Dynasty

Mystery Dynasty

Moonshine Volcano

Moonshine Volcano

We moved on to a variety of dumplings and sushi but I kept sneaking in bites of the red snapper and the octopus in between nibbles of sushi and dumplings. The dumplings, especially the Crystal Dumplings and the Pork Gyoza beat the sushi hands down.

Crystal Dumplings

Crystal Dumplings

With all the starters, the poor main course got secondary treatment.  What did stand out was the Rendang Lamb Curry with the lamb cooked almost perfectly. Also, the Phad Kaprow Gai with Egg and Rice was a very enjoyable dish on its own.

Rendang Lamb Curry

Rendang Lamb Curry

Phad Kaprow Gai with Egg and Rice

Phad Kaprow Gai with Egg and Rice

The highlight of the afternoon would have to be the desserts. The Classic Cheesecake with Sour Cherry Coulis was a wonderful combination of flavours. The near-perfect baked cheesecake was light and perfectly balanced out by the sweet citrus flavours of the sorbet. The Deconstructed Apple Pie was a delightful reimagining of a classic dessert. But my absolute favourite and the most memorable dish of the afternoon would have to be the Avocado Parfait with Gooey Brownie Squares and Matcha Soil. Served with vanilla ice cream, the parfait was superb. Fresh buttery flavour of the avocado complemented by the chocolate flavour of the brownie left me sighing in happiness.

Cheesecake with Sour Cherry Coulis

Cheesecake with Sour Cherry Coulis

Deconstructed Apple Pie

Deconstructed Apple Pie

Avocado Parfait with Gooey Brownie Squares and Matcha Soil

Avocado Parfait with Gooey Brownie Squares and Matcha Soil

The Nikkei cuisine, executed very well, makes 1Q1 stand out. Small fixes to some of the dishes are needed. Overall, I’m quite happy that I thoroughly enjoyed almost all the dishes on the new menu. And fell in love with some of the dishes. It’s past midnight while I have to torture myself to complete this blog post while my mind keeps going back to that avocado parfait.

 

‘Dear Mango…’ at Café Felix

Summer time in India is synonymous with Mangoes. Restaurants and microbreweries are going all out to tame the ‘King of Fruits’ and put their best foot forward. Presenting their take on the summer special, is Café Felix; a restaurant that has very quickly turned out to be one of those places that almost always makes it to my list of recommendations for folks looking for a nice quiet evening out with great food and ambience. A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to try out the dishes from their on-going ‘Dear Mango…’ festival. As it turns out, this festival was also their way of celebrating Cafe Felix's first anniversary. Naturally, expectations were high.

Any summer festival deserves some delicious cocktails. My pick for the evening was the spicy concoction of vodka, white chocolate ganache, ripe mango and chilli. Being the very friendly bloggers that we are, we shared what everyone had ordered. And while I really liked my cocktail, I was wishing that I had ordered the Mango & Strawberry smoothie instead. We skipped the cold soup and went straight to the salads.

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The salad enthusiast in me ( YES! I like salads also. It’s not craft beer and meat all the time okay???) was absolutely over the moon with every salad that came our way. I quite honestly have a very tough time choosing my favourite. There was the Prawn and Mango salad that was a lovely mix of crunchy prawns with celery, ruccola, honey mustard, balsamic and gorgonzola, that was deliciously sweet and made me do the very uncouth thing of saying “ Oh my God, I love this” with my mouth full of food . There was the Asian Steak Salad (steak, soba noodles, mango, peanut and black bean miso) whose meat was cooked to perfection. I’d be more than delighted with just a steak whose meat was cooked that way. And not forget the melon and mango salad that was a riot of summer flavours with melon, mango, fig, cashew nuts, and crispy fennel that was topped with Sambuca vinaigrette. I would more than delighted with a large bowl of salad from this menu.

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The main course was a more sober affair with the Asian curries (served with pork and tofu variants) and basil cashew pilaf. The vegetarian option was a lot more flavourful with tofu, spinach, pumpkin, coconut and mango. While I’m a big fan of the gnocchi that’s served on the regular menu, the potato gnocchi with mango-apricot nage, pinenut  and basil pesto was equally impressive.

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Café Felix has always impressed me with their desserts. And the mango specials were no different with people getting just a tad impatient as pictures needed to be taken (#FoodBloggerLife) . I’m not even going to attempt to list favourites here. The mango tart with the raspberry mousse and vanilla bean meringue was a pretty sight to look at, with flavours to back up the very Instagram worthy dessert.  The coconut and chia seed panna cotta with home-made mango ice cream is ideal for someone not looking to be too indulgent. Crepe fans will love the crepe with mango and mixed berry mascarpone.  If you held a gun to my head and made me choose one dessert from the sinfully delightful set on the menu, I’d go with the frozen mango yogurt with seasonal fruits and cinnamon crispies. I really hate it when a dessert looks so pretty and one has to do the terrible task of destroying it. But oh well… that dessert led a good life and fulfilled its life’s purpose.

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While there isn’t any particular end date for the festival, I would recommend heading over while we’re still in the mango season. In terms of cost, most of the dishes are priced between INR 495 and INR 545 (Except the pan seared salmon that’s naturally priced higher). Kudos to Chef Ritwik and the team at Café Felix for putting together yet another delightful festival. Here’s looking to more years of delightful food and dessert.