Murphies – Potatottaly Awesome!

If you didn’t get it from the title, there are going to be a lot of potatoes in this post. The word ‘Murph’ comes from the Irish slang for potatoes. So a lot of the menu at Murphies, KP, is based around some interesting and quite imaginative recipes revolving around those little starchy balls of pleasure. But there is a lot more to the menu apart from that, with delectable starters, great salads, juicy steaks and wonderful desserts. And what goes well with all that potato goodness? You got that right, beer! Great beers from around the world make this an ideal place to hang out and chill with a bunch of friends or watch a good ol’ match.

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AMBIANCE

Murphies is a casual cafe sort of a place, with soft warm lighting and an open airy feel. The al fresco area has a beer garden type setting with wooden benches and a bar.

APPETIZERS

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BBQ Pork Skins – One of the Murphies specialities. Crispy and herby deep fried potato skins topped with succulent pulled BBQ pork. Perfect combination of salty, sweet, tangy and cheesy. Wait, where’s my beer?…

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Bacon Wrapped Prawns – Do I need to explain this? Soft meaty prawns in a blanket of salty, crispy and fatty bacon. Close your mouth please, thank you!

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Chicken Strips – I think this was my favourite starter. Juicy chicken in a flaky batter deep fried to perfection. The batter was so crispy and delicate and the chicken was so flavourful, it was unbelievable. I dare you to eat KFC ever again!

Beef Quesadillas – A Mexican classic. Very tasty and filling, but some pieces of the beef (buff) were a bit chewy.

Potato Crisps – Crispy potato skins with saffron aioli. Exactly same as the BBQ Pork Skins, but without the pork. Damn you vegetarians!

MURPHS

One of the main reasons we were here was to taste these beauties. This is basically a slow baked open potato. The skin becomes crispy and the insides are mixed up with a variety of toppings to transform into a delicious mash which is topped with a generous helping of cheese!

Bacon and Mushroom – Have you heard the expression, ‘Bacon makes everything better’? Look no further for proof. An amazing combination, with the starchiness of the potato balanced out beautifully by the meaty mushrooms and the salty fatty bacon. Really healthy too!

Tuna – Amazing ground tuna mixed with vegetables and cheese. Really tasty, especially for fish lovers.

Steak and Gravy – A Murph with huge succulent chunks of grilled pork with a mild but really tasty gravy sauce topped with cheese. Not a bang of flavour like the others but I still liked it a lot. The pork was beautifully cooked and really flavourful.

STEAKS

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Cajun Chicken – Two massive breasts of tender juicy chicken doused generously with an extremely flavour packed Cajun sauce. It was amazing. I couldn’t stop eating it. The sides of mushroom, coleslaw and the omnipresent potato mash were amazing too.

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Fish Steak – A massive fillet of Kingfish grilled to perfection, topped with gravy, mushrooms and veggies served with a side of pasta and salad. The fish was impeccably cooked and the flavours were spot on. If you’re not a fish eater, this might just convert you!

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Pork Belly – Huge steaks of pork belly grilled, drenched in sauce and served with a bacon mash. Really tasty, but the belly was a bit overcooked and tough, but the taste was brilliant. A well cooked soft belly would be awesome.

BEVERAGES

Strawberry-Banana Smoothie – Tangy, sweet and creamy fro-yo based smoothie. Very tasty and satisfying.

Very Berry Smoothie – A berry overload! Fro-yo mixed with a barrage of berries – blue, black and even straw ones. Tangy and creamy!

We also ordered some Ice Tea, Iced Americano as well as a Frappucino which all were really well made and tasty. Real thirst quenchers and very refreshing.

Murphies is a really cool place to chill out, have a couple of drinks and dig into some delicious food. The place is just an year old but has already earned some die hard fans, including yours truly. The music is banging too, really awesome stuff adding to the magic of the place. And if you love potatoes, tell me, why are you not there already?

I would love to thank Food Prowl as well as Murphies for inviting me for the Food Tasting. I had a great time!

94 House Bistro – Exclusive Tasting

The 94 house Bistro is a cool and hip new joint in Viman Nagar with a very young vibe. No surprise considering the owners being a couple of energetic 20-somethings, fired up with new ideas and heaps of passion. The name has special significance, both of them were born in the year ’94. Feeling old yet?

The decor is a manifestation of the owners’ personalities and is covered with memorabilia and design all from the mid-90s, which we remember all too well. The walls are strewn with our favourite cartoon characters, computer games and quotes from iconic 90s movies. It’s a fun place to hangout.

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STARTERS

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Chicken Ceasar Salad

Chicken Caesar Salad – Classic fresh and crunchy lettuce salad topped with loads of shredded chicken and sharp parmesan cheese. It was served with a garlicey, buttery and crisp garlic bread on the side.

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Chicken Wings

Chicken Wings – Juicy and chunky, perfectly grilled chicken wings doused with sweet, tangy and spicy barbecue sauce. Really morish.

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Mozzarella Sticks

Mozzarella Sticks – Crispy golden fingers packed with gooey and stringy mozzarella cheese inside. The dip was fantastic too.

BEVERAGES

 

Strawberry Avocado Shake – A frothy refreshing shake with sweet – tangy strawberry and creamy avocado. Really tasty and different.

Saffron Shake – Again a very different milkshake packed with saffron. Really creamy and extremely refreshing in the summer heat. Very simple and flavourful drink.

Lemon Grass Cooler – A very unusual but very tasty drink packed with lemon grass freshness.

Watermelon and Mint – Fizzy drink with watermelon and minty goodness. Very refreshing.

PIZZA

Pesto Pollo Pizza – Crispy thin crust pizza with very flavourful pesto and shredded chicken. Topped with stringy mozzarella and fresh basil. Awesome stuff, I could have had the whole thing myself.

Spicy Corn Jalapeno Pizza – Loads of fresh vegetables, corn, spicy jalapenos and cheese. Very satisfying pizza.

BURGERS

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Shino Yaki Burger

Lamb Shino Yaki Burger – A flavour-packed patty of teriyaki glazed lamb with veggies and cheese within some really fresh toasted bun. A very new and extremely lovely burger. It was served with an amazing apple dip.

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Chicken Double Melt Burger

Double Melt Burger – A thick juicy chicken burger with two types of cheese, served with some mustard mayo. Very good.

 

Mac and Cheese Burger – A huge, deep fried, super crispy patty of mac and cheese in a burger! Innovative and extremely tasty. It’s very rare that I commit the sin of preferring a vegetarian dish over a meaty one, but this one was worth it!

DESSERTS

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Apple Cinnamon Waffles – The name says it all, except how packed full of flavour the waffles were! It was like eating a cinnomony apple pie drizzled with sweet maple syrup and an amazing vanilla ice cream. Not your generic crap, but real vanilla ice cream. Heavenly stuff.

GOLAs

What’s one of the first thing that comes to mind when you think of summers? Apart from mangoes I think a cold refreshing ice gola is definitely on top of the list. Guess what, now you can have an amazing gola in the comfort of an air conditioned cafe with many exciting flavours! And of course without the risk of upsetting your stomach.

They brought out a colourful selection of beautiful golas served up in fancy margherita glasses! The classic kala khatta, mango and orange were awesome, no doubt, but what blew our minds were their speciality ones. Mojito – lemony and minty. Choco mocha – surprisingly good! Gola-E-Royale – mango, rose and khova topped with dry fruits! Superb. And the, wait for it, Kachi Kairi – Tangy and packed with raw mango flavour! We pounced on them and devoured them all. With prices as low as Rs. 40 to Rs. 70 for the golas, they are super VFM.

HOT BEVERAGES

Americano – Strong and dark with a good ol’ kick. Amazing coffee. Served with a soft and fluffy dark chocolate muffin. It was out of this world.

Green Tea – Refreshing, light and healthy, served with honey and a muffin which again was really amazing!

Kashmiri Kahwah – One of the owners being a Kashmiri, you know you’re getting the real deal. The Kahwah was strong, fresh and full of sliced dry fruits. Definitely one of the best I’ve had. No surprise given it is sourced right from the magical land of Kashmir.

94 House is an amazing cafe. Brilliant food, great drinks and some kickass golas. Everything at very reasonable prices. It’s a great place for everybody, no matter if you’ve lived through the 90’s or you’re one of those hip millennials.

I would like to thank 94 House Bistro as well as Food Prowl for inviting me for the tasting. Awesome food, awesome time!

 

Rhubarb – Inspired Cuisine

Rhubarb is a charming little restaurant in Aundh on the ground floor of the Seasons Apartment Hotel. Fairly understated and simple from the outside buts packs a huge punch in the food department. No specific cuisine, no pretensions, no labels. Just a brilliant chef taking local ingredients and dishing out some wonderful dishes.

The palate of us ‘Punekars’ has evolved and slowly transformed, in the last couple of years; such that, innovative Chefs can create their vision of food and it is appreciated for what it is. Rhubarb is a prime example of this revolution. Taking produce directly from farms or growing them yourself and creating a menu fine tuned specifically to suit them. The season changes, so does what the farms produce and thus the menu.

Local ingredients, simply and skillfully prepared to create the best food possible. You come here for flavour, wholesome portions and to be wowed by the ingredients. You come here to eat, not just to post a picture on Instagram. (Though the food here fervently satisfies that check box too!)

AMBIENCE

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The place is simple, classy and clean. The white walls are sprinkled with some intricate murals revolving around food, produce and spices. It’s a lovely place to sit, inside or outside. The beautiful satin black cutlery and silver napkins need special mention as they do make the table look really special. Attention to detail is what you notice here.

THE FOOD

Duck Salad

A wonderful fresh salad, pretty as a picture, heaped full of greens, juicy, sweet and earthy beet, succulent chunks of duck and beautiful little flowers as garnish. It’s a meal in itself and the taste is superb. The balance of the natural flavours of the components is amazing. Sweetness, cut through with a sharp hint of bitterness along with saltiness from the cheese.

Baked Cheese

A highly satisfying bowl of melted cheese with a nice crunchy crust (topped with nuts) served with toasted bread and olive jam. The cheese was gooey and creamy and a lot of fun scooping it up with the crisp bread. The olive jam provided a hit of tartness and definition to the mild cheese. This jam is incredibly flavourful and one of the best I’ve ever tasted.

Lamb Croquettas

Little balls of heaven. Crispy balls with a melty hot mess of minced lamb, herbs and cheese inside. Perfect with the spicy dip.

Palate Cleansers

Rhubarb and Apple Cider – A fruity, tangy and fizzy drink with actual Rhubarb flowers. Really tasty stuff. Eating the Rhubarb flower was quite a fun and unique experience.

Watermelon, Strawberry and Spearmint – A milder drink with the fresh sweetness of watermelon. Could have loved a bit more of the strawberry and spearmint though.

Homemade Bread

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A side of bread is always something I love in European restaurants and the fresh in house bread here was even more special. Soft white as well as whole wheat bread with a crispy crust, slathered with some butter and olive oil dip was very satisfying.

Slow Cooked Pork Ribs

A stunner of a dish; a must have! Succulent and juicy ribs slow cooked for 12 hours in sugarcane molasses. I picked one up by the bone and the meat just slipped away and fell onto the dish, leaving me holding just the bone in my hand. A testament to how beautifully the ribs were cooked. Sweet, meaty and savoury. I had a couple too many. Burp..

Black Pepper Sweet Potatoes

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It’s not everyday you are served sweet potatoes in a restaurant and I’m so glad they did. They were sweet and soft with a spicy hit from the garlic and black pepper. I was surprised how good they tasted which is a mark of a great chef, turning a mostly underwhelming vegetable into a finger licking dish.

Homemade Pasta

Comfort food at it’s best. Such a simple dish of flat pasta and veggies garnished with olive oil, nuts and cheese. What makes this simple dish great is the beautiful ingredients, as is with everything here at Rhubarb. The pasta is made in house from scratch and it was light, velvety and al dente. The vegetables were fresh and cooked perfectly; with the nuts adding a wonderful crunch. Best part is the restrained hand with the cheese. This makes you actually taste the quality of the pasta and the vegetables, exactly how I like it.

Year of the Rooster

A Chinese style chicken dish, named so, as this is the Year of the Rooster according to the Chinese calendar. Juicy and beautifully cooked soft chicken in a red Sichuan inspired sauce. Not too spicy or overwhelming, tossed with blanched vegetables which still retained their wonderful crunch. It was a brilliant dish and went very well with the egg fried rice (using local Indrayani rice), which was peppery and delicious.

DESSERTS

Spearmint Panna cotta with Strawberry and Lemon Curd

I was floored with this dessert. The mint panna cotta was silky and sweet with a base of strawberry coulis, topped with fresh strawberries and tangy-creamy lemon curd which sliced wonderfully through the sweetness. I wiped the bowl clean leaving no evidence of what occupied it before!

Chocolate Cake – Why wouldn’t you have a soft and delicious chocolate cake after a meal? Especially one that tastes and has the texture of a perfect brownie? I’m still trying to wipe the smile off my face.

Homemade Chocolates – These were delicious little disks of homemade dark chocolate loaded with nuts and dried fruit. Quite exquisite!

There are a lot of restaurants harking about ‘organic’ food and charging a bomb under the pretext. But very few are doing it right, how it should be done. Understanding the land which is producing the ingredients, respecting it. Buying everything yourself, growing them and treating them with utmost care and love. Preparing what’s fresh, not into generic dishes, but creating dishes that suit their flavour and texture. Not following a cuisine for the heck of it, but using it as inspiration, from all corners of the globe. Transforming the ingredients into – more than anything else – a tasty and satisfying meal.

Kudos to the Rhubarb team! Hats off.

I would like to thank Food Prowl as well as Rhubarb Restaurant for inviting me for the lovely food tasting.

Baan Tao – An Asian Odyssey

There are Asian restaurants that serve good food and then there are some that give you an out of the world experience. There are places that serve tasty but generic fare and some that really go out of their way to bring specialized ingredients and amazing concepts from far away lands and make sure they are done right. I have had a lot of Asian food and I have to say I’m not a big fan of most Asian restaurants in Town. Baan Tao just changed all of that.

I was invited by Food prowl for a food tasting at Baan Tao, Hyatt and I was left mesmerized by the experience. Brilliantly conceptualized food, very enthusiastic and passionate chef and most importantly, food which was packed full of flavour.

AMBIANCE

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The place is beautiful. A humungous artificial waterfall, with tables right in the midst of the water and garden. A spacious and beautifully appointed interior which opens into another open seating area with wood stilts and structures over water with lotus plants. You really feel you could really be sitting somewhere in China.

Have you been wanting to ask that wonderful lady out? Want to take your wife out for your anniversary? Book a table at Baan Tao in the evening and I promise you it will be magical. (No, I’m not getting any money to say this!)

DIMSUM

As we were munching on crispy and delicious Pumpkin and Prawn crackers (with extremely flavourful green and red sauces), a beautiful platter was placed in front of us along with two more steaming baskets of traditional dimsum. They looked more like a work of art.

Non-Vegetarian Dimsum Sampler

 

This was a barrage of steamed as well as fried little pockets of glory with traditional fillings of pork, prawn as well as chicken. The plate was beautifully decorated with sauces, caviar and exotic leaves. The flavour of the fillings really shined through and the dimsum was light and skillfully prepared.

Exotic Mushroom Bell Pepper Crystal Dimsum

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Aptly named, delicate translucent crystal-like skin filled with various mushrooms and bell peppers. Succulent and full of flavour. If you like mushrooms, this is a must have.

Chicken and Prawn Sui Mai

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A very traditional dimsum. Soft and mild but distinct flavour of the meats with the crunch and intensity of the caviar on top. Very tasty.

SHABU SHABU

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Shabu Shabu is basically a Japanese ‘do-it-yourself’ hot-pot. A cooking pot is placed at the centre of the table with water/stock boiling away and a platter of various vegetables, meat, rice and noodles on the side. There are also an assortment of dipping sauces. What you do is dip the various meats and vegetables into the boiling stock (sea food stock here) until they cook, take them into your bowl along with some rice or noodles and then slurp away dipping them in the sauces. It’s a lot of fun especially with a group of friends.

Traditionally beef is used, but at Baan Tao you get many variants like exotic vegetables, chicken, seafood, beef and lobster.

Our Shabu Shabu had a selection of exotic mushrooms (enoki, shimeji, cloud ear), vegetables (kale, water spinach, chaplu, zuccini, carrots) and beautiful rolls of raw chicken meat. There was kombo dashi, ponzu sauce, soy sauce, chilli sauce as well as some nori (seaweed) as accompaniments.

The stock is extremely flavourful and fragrant. All the ingredients take on the flavour of the stock while retaining their natural flavour. The hot pot is an amazing affair with a variety of textures and a very unique and delicious experience.

APPETIZERS

Wok Tossed Salt and Pepper Prawns – This was a flavour explosion. I have never eaten anything as tasty as this dish ever in my life. The huge prawns were bursting with flavour of the sichuan pepper and the wonderful sauce. The star dish of the day.

Hoisin Pepper Lamb – Sweet and spicy, saucy and juicy lamb juliennes with vegetables.

Diced XO Chicken – Succulent chicken cubes tossed in flavourful spicy and fragrant XO sauce (imported from China).

Sambal Chilli Vegetables – Flavourful vegetable stir fry dish.

Sichuan Chilli Mushroom – Deep fried mushrooms tossed with sichuan pepper and vegetables. The mushroom was crispy but could have been better seasoned and spiced. Didn’t blow us away like the other dishes.

SALADS

Yum Ma Muang – Extremely flavourful Thai raw mango salad with crushed peanuts and shredded dried coconut. It was spicy and tangy. The raw mango added some familiarity and our Indian palate almost makes us feel like we are eating Thai chaat!

Mandarin Poached Chicken Salad – Very pretty bowl of poached, tangy and sweet mandarin with chicken and vegetables. I loved this salad. Healthy and flavourful.

MAINS

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Skillet Grilled Scallops – Perfectly grilled succulent scallops in a minimalistic but fragrant sauce with vegetables, kaffir lime and garlic. You could smell the sea in this dish!

XO Prawns – Huge juicy prawns in a spicy and fragrant XO sauce. One of the best mains.

Pad Thai Chicken – Traditional Thai stir fried noodles encased in a fried egg. One of the best Pad Thai I’ve had. Full of basil, chilly and of course roasted peanuts. Squeeze of lime and you’re good to go.

Nasi Goreng – Very flavourful Indonesian fried rice. Served with chicken satay and peanut sauce, prawn crackers topped with a lovely fried egg. Very pretty and tasty dish.

Pengang Curry – A Malay dish, fragrant coconut based vegetable curry. Amazing with some Jasmine rice.

Chicken Mongol Kublai – Mongolian style stir fry dish with chicken and vegetables.

DESSERTS

 

Anmitsu – A beautiful Japanese dessert. Sweet little balls of agar jelly with variety of fresh fruit like strawberries, kiwi and dragon fruit. Served with mango ice cream. Very tasty, refreshing and light dessert.

Passion Fruit Panna cotta, Ginger Crumble and Tender Coconut Ice Cream – Extremely amazing combination of flavours and textures. Panna cotta was perfectly wobbly, tangy and sweet with the fresh coconut ice cream and the crunchy gingery crumble. Loved it!

Papaya Orange Pudding – Amazing pudding. I went back for a lot of scoops. A tiny squeeze of lime and the fruity-tangy flavour was bang on!

Matcha Tea Opera – This dessert brought some theatre to the occasion. It arrived with a globe of chocolate and a pot of hot creamy sauce. The sauce was poured over the globe and it melted to reveal the opera cake inside! It was flavoured with Matcha tea to give it an Asian touch and the combination worked beautifully.

This was a truely amazing tasting experience. The ideas and preparations at Baan Tao are very unique and there is no compromise whatsoever with the ingredients, quality, quantity or presentation. To top it all off, the food is extremely flavourful. Definitely the best Pan Asian food I’ve tasted in Pune. I want to thank Chef Sunil Joshi for the wonderful food and Food Prowl for the invite.

Hurda Festival at Hotel Shreyas

I was invited by Food Prowl and Hotel Shreyas for their Hurda Festival recently. I would like to thank both Hotel Shreyas as well as the Food Prowl team for the opportunity and the lovely evening.

Hurda is basically tender Jowar stalks roasted over an open fire (traditionally dried cow dung cakes or charcoal). It is found all over rural Maharashtra during the harvest season in the chilly winters, making this quite the perfect way to celebrate the harvest.

Hurda is accompanied by numerous mouthwatering accompaniments like chutneys, fresh yogurt, jaggery, roasted groundnuts, dried coconut and much more. Hotel Shreyas brought this amazing concept from the farms right to the heart of Pune city with the Hurda Festival.

The festival was hosted on the terrace of the hotel, with many live counters of traditional rural snacks like onion bhaji, fresh sugarcane juice and of course hurda. The whole terrace was decorated in traditional rural fashion, with pots and artifacts as well as miniature village homes complete with front yards and small temples. Visitors could click photos in the rural settings wearing village attire provided by the hotel. Lot of fun for the whole family.

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The Food

Hurda

Tender jowar stalks were being roasted on dried cow dung cake fire, the kernels were then separated and roasted again in a wok and served hot onto your plate. The best way to eat this is to add some groundnut or garlic-coconut chutney (or both!), a touch of red chilly powder, lemon juice, some creamy yogurt and then roasted groundnuts on top. Mix it up and devour it. Keep some dried coconut and jaggery on the side to munch on between bites.

The Hurda was mindblowingly smoky, sweet and extremely tasty. I went back for multiple refills.

Onion Bhaji

This is a very typical Maharashtrian snack. Thinly sliced onions dipped in a flavoursome spicy batter and deep fried to perfection. Tasted divine! Crispy, spicy and hot. I topped it up with some sliced raw onions marinated in lemon juice and spices as well as some sweet tamarind chutney.

Sugarcane Juice

Fresh sugarcane juice was being served which was squeezed along with some ginger and lemon. You could top it up with table salt and rock salt. The sweet juice with the spice of the ginger, zing of lemon and the saltiness and earthiness from the salts was just brilliant. Great drink to wash down all the Hurda and spicy bhajis.

Mains

Buffet style main course on the penultimate floor served traditional Maharashtrian rural food.

Kolache Pohe

This is a tasty snack from coastal Maharashtra or Konkan. This is puffed flattened rice (pohe) topped with coconut milk (with jaggery and tamrind juice) with a tadka of dried red chillies, curry leaves and many spices. The dish is sweet as well as spicy. The pohe become fluffy and soft in the coconut milk and then the papad on top gives it a nice crunchy texture. Amazing dish.

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Gul Poli – Traditional Maharashtrian chapati stuffed with jaggery and a few spices. This is superb stuff. Served with ghee!

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Mugachi Khichadi – Maharashtrian style khichadi made with rice and moong dal, mildly spiced, mostly with turmeric. Very flavourful and light.

Pithla Bhakri – This is one of the classic dishes. Gram flour (besan) curry made in spices, turmeric, green chillies and topped with fresh corriander. It is extremely tasty and reminds me of my grandmothers cooking. Mildly spiced but very flavourful. Goes great with fresh hot jowar bhakris made right in front of you topped with a generous dollop of ghee.

Eggplant Dry Curry (Khara Vanga) – Eggplant curry is an extremely popular dish in Maharashtra and this is a dry version. It was not extremely spicy but very tasty and the creamy smoky eggplant was just awesome.

Kadhi – Maharashtrian style sweet and mildly spiced kadhi. Packed with the flavour of fresh fragrant spices. I can down this like soup.

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Chutney and Thecha – No Maharashtrian meal is complete without some chutney and thecha. There were two types of chutneys – Groundnut chutney (earthy and nutty) and Garlic-coconut chutney (fragrant and spicy). Tastes great with yogurt or straight up.

Thecha is another classic preparation, fresh green chillies mashed with garlic, salt and oil till it becomes a paste. It is very hard to get the perfect balance, but you know it has been prepared by a master as it was perfectly spicy without being overpowering with a hit of fresh green chilly flavour. Goes great with bhakri.

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This amazing meal was finished off with some hot filter coffee. Strong, sweet and milky served in a earthen mug!

I had an amazing time at Hotel Shreyas with the Food Prowl team gorging on delicious hurda as well as the rural style meal. Hurda party, as it is called, is great fun with friends and family as you sit around a fire, snacking and having a good time in the cold winter weather. Usually it is done on a farm, but not everybody is lucky enough to do so. So hats off to Hotel Shreyas for bringing this concept right at our doorstep in the heart of the city. I, for sure, will be waiting for their next Hurda Festival!

P.S. – Hotel Shreyas is an institution in Pune serving Maharashtrian Thali since 1966.

 

A ‘Wild Sugar’ Rush!

Wild Sugar Patisserie and Cafe is a cozy cafe tucked in Viman Nagar. It’s a great place to hang out for coffee, have a delicious meal or stuff yourself stupid with some amazing desserts. I was invited for an exclusive food tasting with Food Prowl. I would like to thank both Food Prowl as well as Wild Sugar Patisserie and Cafe for the lovely dinner and a great time.

This cafe is owned by Darshan Bhattad and Ajay Ahuja and has it’s origins in the city of Belgaum. The Viman Nagar branch is one of two in Pune, the other being in Aundh. The cafe has al fresco seating as well as indoor seating. The interior is cozy, fun and inviting.

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The Liquids

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Apple Mint Mojito

Apple Mint Mojito – This is a fabulous drink, stuffed full of apple slices and a bunch of mint leaves. A very agreeable twist on the classic mojito. It is sweet, fizzy and fresh with perfect acidity from the apple.

Brownie Shake – Served in an old school milk bottle, this is a very satisfying drink. Chocolatey with chunks of brownie in frothy cool milk.

Lemon Ice Tea – Needs no introduction. Really refreshing, minty and lemony.

The Munchies

Vegetable Arancini Balls – Crispy golden balls stuffed with stringy cheese and vegetables served with a flavour packed salsa. Perfect with the drinks.

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Chicken Tempura

Chicken Tempura – Well seasoned chicken in a crispy fried tempura batter served with a creamy sauce. It was very flavourful but I would have loved it if the batter was lighter and crispier.

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BBQ Chicken Wings

BBQ Chicken Wings – Big ol’ meaty wings grilled to juicy perfection, doused in spicy, tangy and sweet BBQ sauce. Highly satisfying.

Salads

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Koshimbir Salad

Koshibir Salad – Not the typical Maharashtrian koshimbir, as Chef Ajay explained, but North Karnataka style. Perfectly julienned veggies – carrot, onion and beet – with lots of fenugreek leaves (methi) and sprouted Turkish Gram (matki). It was lightly seasoned with lemon juice, salt and pepper; served with al dente brown rice boiled with turmeric and other spices. It was a very unique modern twist on koshimbir which was very earthy, fresh and tasty (not to forget extremely nutritious). The rice was particularly flavoursome. The salad would do with a stronger dressing though. Even a generous squeeze of lime would elevate it to perfection.

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Apple, Pear and Walnut Salad

Apple, Pear and Walnut Salad – The other end of the salad spectrum with a lovely olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette. Sweet apple and pear, fresh lettuce and crunchy walnuts with creamy marscarpone cheese.

Ciazza (Ciabatta Bread Pizza)

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Tomato, Basil and Mozzarella Ciazza

Tomato, Basil and Mozzarella Ciazza – Thick, soft ciabatta bread topped with tangy tomato, fresh basil and creamy mozzarella in a garlicy red sauce. Very tasty, but a nice crispy crust on the bottom of the bread would have added another dimension of texture.

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Spicy Mutton, Egg and Cheddar Ciazza

Spicy Mutton, Egg and Cheddar Ciazza – Now this was a flavour bomb that just exploded in my mouth. A layer of spicy perfectly cooked mutton mince topped with a half fried egg, the yolk still oozing, garnished with salt, pepper and red chilly powder. I’m going to stop talking, I need a minute alone….

Read between the Breads

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Paneer Tikka Kulcha

Paneer Tikka Kulcha – I’m a big fan of paneer and this is one dish that just deepens my love for it. Extremely well flavoured chunks of paneer tikka in between kulchas, some fries and salad. One of the dishes that makes a hardcore carnivore like me, forget about meat for a while.

Chicken Pita Pocket – Very flavoursome dish, cubes of roasted chicken with a few vegetables and creamy mayonnaise within a pita, served with really good hummus and fries. What could go wrong?

Harissa Chicken and Egg Panini – Spicy harissa chicken, with some egg and cheese in a pressed panini bun. Flavoursome and filling.

There’s more? – Mains

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Spaghetti Meatballs

Spaghetti Meatballs – This is one dish that almost every restaurant serves. This is again a dish that almost every restaurant messes up. Not at Wild Sugar! Juicy, meaty lamb meatballs, with a wonderful garlicy red sauce on a bed of perfectly textured, al dente spaghetti topped with some basil. Mix it up, put you head down and stuff yourself till it’s finished. Then take the cheesy garlic bread and mop the plate with it and devour that too. Go to spaghetti heaven.

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Three Cheese Pasta

Three Cheese Pasta – Creamy, cheesy and comforting pasta dish. Classic. Superb.

Desserts

Wild Sugar has a fantastic dessert menu. It’s all set in front of you on display and you really want to reach out and grab everything. We tasted five –

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White Chocolate Strawberry Bavarian Mousse

White Chocolate Strawberry Bavarian Mousse – This dessert was so beautiful that it was painful to slice into it. But then I tasted it and I could barely keep my eyes open to look at it! The sweet and slightly tart strawberry layer, the creamy mousse, white chocolate and a lovey crunch from the biscuit at the bottom. It was heavenly and a great combination of flavours and textures.

Strawberry Cheese Cake – A fantastic baked cheesecake topped with strawberry sauce. Really awesome.

Orange Chocolate Partait – A beautifully tangy and flavoursome orange centre surrounded by a sweet chocolate parfait with an armour of sweet and bitter dark chocolate! Sinfully good. This was topped with some lemon zest which just took it to another level. Served on a candy stick.

 

Paris Brest – Another lovely French dessert. A pastry base like an eclair topped with praline flavoured cream enthroned with artistically prepared dark chocolate. Many textures and very decadent.

Red Velvet Cake – Another classic dessert. Beautifully prepared. The layers of the cake and the cream were superb! One of the best in Pune.

This was a truely magical evening with amazing food, mind blowing desserts and great company. Wild Sugar has really jumped to almost the top of my list, especially for their desserts. Their menu is very innovative, the dishes are extremely well prepared, loaded with flavour and it’s just a great place to hang out.

Few more photos…

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Nisarg Seafood Restaurant – Best Seafood in Town!

A few days ago, I had an amazing dinner at Nisarg Seafood Restaurant, Nal Stop. In my opinion, it’s one of the best sea food restaurants in Pune. Extremely high quality food and reasonable prices. The ambiance is very elegant and beautiful with indoor as well as outdoor seating.
 
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Surmai Rava Fry
Surmai Rava Fry – Boneless chunks of surmai (king fish) deep fried to perfection. Amazingly crispy rava crust and juicy succulent flesh. The speciality here is that the preparation is completely non-oily. Everywhere else deep fried fish is usually dripping with oil. Not here!
 
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Butter Garlic Crab
Boneless Butter Garlic Crab  – Continental style boneless crab dish. Big pieces of fresh fragrant crab meat in a creamy butter and garlic sauce. Just brilliant and comforting.
 
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Tandoori Bangda
Tandoori Bangda – I’m a big fan of Bangda or Mackerel. I was expecting only one but I was surprised by two amazing looking big whole fish. The Captain suggested Tandoori style (which I wasn’t very keen on) but I trusted him and I’m really happy I did. The fish was smoky and perfectly cooked. Minimal bones and spiciness that was just right. Eating whole fish is a very satisfying experience, as you pick out chunks of flesh between bones and you can even chew on as well as eat some of the crispy flavourful bones. I enjoy the cheeks and other flesh in the head too!
I have to mention their special chutneys. Their classic creamy sweet and spicy green chutney and the new mildly spicy coconut red chutney are extremely addictive. Perfect with every dish. They also give a complimentary plate of fresh cucumber, carrot and radish with chat masala. There can’t be a more perfect appetizer.
 
The prices seem slightly high at first but then you have to note, they are inclusive of taxes. Also, they have not been hiked for at least 3 years! So actually, the place is value for money especially considering the extremely high quality of the food, portion sizes, knowledgeable staff and brilliant service. 

Effingut Brewerkz- Beer and Food Tasting!

I was invited by Food Prowl for a ‘beer and food’ tasting at Effingut Brewerkz in Baner. I would like to thank both Food Prowl as well as Effingut Brewerkz for the awesome afernoon!

Effingut Brewerkz is a microbrewery in Pune based in Koregaon Park. They make specialized craft beers as well as serve some smashing food. They have just launched a new branch in Baner, which is where we had gone.

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It’s not everyday you turn up somewhere and a simple food tasting turns into a mindblowing experience. We were welcomed by our host, Mr. Manu Gulati, owner and brewer extraordinaire at Effingut Brewerkz. With introductions done, a few laughs shared and a mandatory drink in everyone’s hand, Manu kicked off the beer tasting. He began with the history of beer, it’s various types, the concept behind each drink as well as his philosophy of beer brewing. One could see his passion oozing through as he told us about his travels to a myriad of countries just to learn about beer and the art of brewing.

Not being much of a drinker myself, this was sort of a ‘Beer for Dummies’ course for me. Thoroughly enjoyable and very educating. I was always fascinated by craft beers though, and I could feel these stories pulling me deeper into their world. Or it could have been just the delicious beer doing it’s thing!

 

We were seated in the upstairs section of the huge beautiful space that Effingut is. The room was a masterpiece of woodwork, with natural as well as warm incandescent lighting. The walls were covered in old superhero posters and old Hollywood memorabilia. On one side, a wall was lined with a huge collection of classic comic books and in another corner, board games and stuff I have only heard of or seen in the Big Bang Theory.

The main seating downstairs is a very modern pub with an amazing decor. The walls are strewn with incredible things, like an actual Rajdoot Bobby mini bike hung 10 feet in the air along with old bike and racing posters. There also are many classic rock and roll memorabilia. There are many a large screen TVs playing sports, making this a perfect sports bar to have a drink with your mates and watch your favourite team play. The one thing this place definitely doesn’t lack, is character.

Coming to the good stuff

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Apple Cider – Fresh, fizzy, mildly sweet and loaded with a slightly acidic apple flavour. This is not a beer, by the way, and a great drink for non beer drinkers. It’s refreshing and has great taste.

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Strawberry Cider – A variation of the apple cider with addition of sweet and tart strawberries. Beautiful red colour, lots of berry flavour and refreshing taste. Again, an excellent drink for first-timers or non beer drinkers.

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Peach Ginger Melomel – This is a honey mead with a tinge of ginger and peach flavour. The honey is sourced specially from a farm in Uttarakhand for this mead. A lovely light drink.

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Berliner Weisse – Literally meaning ‘Berlin White’, this is a mild beer (just about 3% alcohol) which is cloudy and light. It is fermented with lactobacilli (same bacteria which makes yogurt) and it gives it a unique sour flavour.

Hefeweizen – We are in proper beer territory now, with a lovely bright golden colour, a nice head of foam and the typical bitter and sharp beer flavour. The Hefeweizen has a hint of clove and banana taste. Good stuff.

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Marzen Lager – “March Beer” literally translated, is a lovely amber coloured beer from Bavaria which was typically brewed only in March. This one has a more malty flavour.

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Extra Special Bitter – This is an amber coloured ale. Great taste and depth of flavour. I liked this one a lot.

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Citrus Burst IPA – Another great ale with a deep amber colour. The full form of IPA is – India Pale Ale. This beer was produced specially for the British soldiers in India during the Raj, with addition of lot of hops to prevent spoiling during transport. The hops impart a bright citrus flavour.

Beer Cocktails

First Dose at Effingut – A beer cocktail with whiskey, beer, rum, tequila, vodka, triple sec and cranberry juice. It had a sweet, tangy and fizzy flavour. I wasn’t very sure about beer cocktails initially, but it was quite nice. Great for non beer drinkers.

Safe Sex on the Beer – Another beer cocktail with apple cider, lager, white rum, litchi juice and coconut syrup. Refreshing and flavourful with a tinge of beer flavour.

Green Monster – A bright green drink with cider, lager, melon liqueur, vodka and blue curacao syrup. This one has a stronger vodka taste. Great if you don’t like beer flavoured cocktails.

The Grub

Non-veg Starters

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Bacon Wrapped Prawn and Sausages – This was a heavenly dish. Succulent prawns and cheese wrapped in crispy bacon with a piece of sausage, all on a skewer. Perfect beer food? I definitely think so. The sausage and bacon were extremely flavourful and a perfect combination with the prawns and cheese. The bacon was slightly chewy, though. The mustard dip was sensational.

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Chicken Nachos – More classic beer food. Crispy nacho chips topped generously with Monterey jack cheese sauce, capsicum and chunks of chicken. It was seasoned with pepper and served with a fresh tomato salsa. It was amazing and impossible to stop eating, especially with the delicious beers.

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Smoked Red Chilly Chicken – A spicy Asian dish with chicken stir fried with lots of garlic, onion, spring onion and burnt red chillies. The chicken was slightly crispy on the outside, juicy inside, with crunch from all the vegetables, spice of the chillies and pungency of garlic.

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Murg Thecha Kebab – This is an interesting twist on chicken kebab. The herby tandoor grilled chicken was topped with an extremely flavourful, fresh and spicy Maharashtrian thecha. The thecha was not overly spicy and was a treat to the senses.

Kung Hom Pa – A delicious Thai deep fried prawn dish. The crispy prawn rolls were scrumptious and were served on a bed of fried noodles with a side of spicy and tangy Thai dip.

BBQ Chicken Strips and Wings – These were ordered separately. The chicken strips were amazing with the smoky, spicy, sweet and sticky BBQ sauce over perfectly grilled chicken. The wings too were delicious.

Vegetarian Starters

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Italian Cottage Cheese Kabab – Luscious paneer kebabs with a herby green marinate, grilled in a tandoor with onions and capsicums. The paneer was spongier and more succulent than usual. The green chutney accompanying it was really fresh and minty.

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Gun Powder Onion Rings – Extremely crispy onion rings topped with zesty gun powder! This is an amazing twist on onion rings and it really works. The creamy dipping sauce was great too. A more generous hand with the gun powder would have been awesome though! Another good friend of Mr. Beer.

Smoked Red Chilli Paneer – Chunky paneer stir fried with lots of garlic, onion, spring onion and burnt red chillies. This was similar to the spicy and flavourful chicken dish. The paneer rounded off a bit of the spiciness, though.

3 Cheese Quesadillas – Tortillas topped with vegetables and a trio of cheeses – Monterey jack, cheddar and mozzarella. A very nice dish served with nacho chips and salsa.

Effzza – Effingut’s spin on the pizza. This is a big old hoop of crispy stuffed pizza with various toppings inside.

Pork Effzza – A sinister combination of various pork goodies – high quality sausage, Belgian ham and bacon – stuffed inside a thin crust of dough along with a generous amount of mozzarella cheese. This is unbelievable stuff.  Get ready for a porkgasm!

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Chicken Effzza – Grilled chicken, capsicum, onion and cheese stuffed inside the effzza. This is a delicious alternative to people who don’t eat pork.

Paneer Effzza – Amazing grilled paneer and cheese stuffing. People who don’t eat pork or chicken, for you buggers!

Mains

Non-veg

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Murg Dhania – A herby corriander based curry with juicy chicken. Mildly spiced and very flavourful.

Mutton Biryani – This was a surprise treat! Served in a clay pot still wrapped up in the dough covering. The moment the dough cover was removed, the beautiful aroma filled the room and we rushed to get some on our plate. The rice was extremely flavourful without being very heavy on masala and one bite of the mutton just made my jaw drop! It was so perfectly cooked, soft and juicy. One could see the mutton was really high quality and it was so delicious! This is probably the best biryani I’ve ever tasted.

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Seafood Pasta in Saffron sauce – Another masterpiece. Fish, prawns and calamari in a creamy saffron sauce with penne, served with garlic bread. The bright and fresh flavour bestowed by the saffron to the sauce was unbelievable and it paired brilliantly with the seafood. Dare I say, the dish tasted like a wonderful, seafoody and savoury version of ‘ras malai’. And that’s a good thing!

Veg

Cheese Makhani – Literally, chunks of cheese in a creamy and buttery tomato based gravy topped with even more cream and cheese. The combination of the soft cheese with the mild gravy was awesome. Move over paneer butter masala!

Thai Chilli Rice – A very fragrant Thai styled rice fried with lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and red chillies. Lovely!

Dessert

Beeramisu – Another winner from the Effingut clan. If you’ve ever wondered, ‘What would happen if you replaced coffee with beer in a Tiramisu?’ This is what happens – Awesomeness! The Beeramisu is an amazing dessert. Layers of beer infused chocolate sponge, mascarpone cheese topped with loads of dark chocolate. It’s sweet, it’s creamy, it’s chocolatey and it’s finished off with the lovely bitterness and freshness from the beer. Beerissimo!!

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Sizzling Brownie with Ice Cream – As you can probably guess, this Effingut version is no ordinary one. It was theatrical and impressive with flames and melting goodness unlike the lukewarm brownie with some chocolate sauce served by most places. The brownie and ice cream was brought over on a hot pan. Some booze was poured over it which, with some help from a lighter, burst into flames! Then the flames were doused by gooey hot chocolate sauce which was poured all over the melting brownie and vanilla ice cream. One bite and I was floored! It was so luscious, chocolatey and gooey! The cold melting ice cream stops you from burning your tongue so that you can relish this beautiful hot mess of indulgence for longer.

Are you having a bad day? Is your boss a right old back-side? Need a little pick me up? Stop what you’re doing and come down to Effingut. Have a craft beer, have some nibbles and stuff your face with some drunken sizzling brownie. I’ll see you on the other side!

Post Script :

I would again like to thank Mr. Manu for hosting us at Effingut Brewerks. It was really like hanging out at his home with great beer, amazing food and great conversation. The place is brilliant, music is rocking and it almost guarantees a great time for everybody.

Some Additional Photos

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The Munch Box – Food Tasting

I was invited for a food tasting by Food Prowl at The Munch Box in Kharadi. I would like to thank both Food Prowl as well as The Munch Box, for the wonderful lunch.

The Munch Box is a lovely little cafe in Kharadi near Eon IT Park. It is a fun little place, with a very well thought out artistic interior splashed with colour and brightly lit by natural light pouring through the windows. The cafe has a lot of character with beautiful wooden furniture and art pieces as well as an adorable bicycle and cart in the open air section. The dining area is clean, spacious and welcoming.

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Their menu comprises of a well thought out mish-mash of Continental, Thai, Lebanese and Indian cuisine as well as a horde of delicious desserts and baked products. The cafe is owned by a brother-sister pair who are extremely passionate about their food as well as hospitality. Akshay is the talented chef and Shweta is the master baker and dessert specialist.

The Food – Beverages

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Virgin Mojito – It was a perfect drink. Fresh, chilled, loaded with lime and mint. Sweetness was just right and it lasted almost the whole meal without losing flavour.

Appetizers

Garden Pizza – The pizza was super thin and crisp as it broke off with a satisfying crunch everytime I bit into it. It was topped with red, green and yellow bell peppers, corn, olives and jalapenos with a tangy red sauce and a generous amount of mozzarella cheese. Believe me, it was divine! It was well seasoned and slightly spicy from the jalapenos. So no oregano or chilly flakes required.

Shami Kabab – The kababs were fabulous. Very fine texture and luscious. Slightly crispy on the outside and soft inside. The accompanying green chutney was fresh, minty and tasted great with the mutton kababs. A big thumbs up!

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Chicken Empanadas – A crispy, savoury and hearty crust filled with a healthy dose of juicy and mildly spiced chicken filling. The empanadas were very flavourful and the dough casing needs special mention, it broke apart perfectly without crumbling and was crimped beautifully. But I wished a little more chicken filling was packed inside to prevent hollow pockets.

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Cheesy Spinach Dogs – This was the perfect appetizer. It was basically a whole baguette, hollowed out and filled with a smooth and creamy filling of spinach, cheese and corn. It was then topped with cheese, garlic and coriander. It was brilliant.

Mains

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Assorted Sandwich Platter – This was a trio of Mushroom Pesto Panini, Roasted Chicken in Focaccia and BBQ Chicken Burger.

The Mushroom Pesto Panini was the best of the lot. Amazing succulent mushrooms with a perfect herby pesto between two pieces of well toasted bread. I devoured it!

The Roasted Chicken in Focaccia was a very flavourful and hearty sandwich with roasted chicken and vegetables sauteed in spices.

The BBQ Chicken Burger again was amazing. A perfectly cooked BBQ chicken patty which was full of herbs, also fresh tomato, lettuce and a wonderfully toasted bun.

A lighter hand on the cheese and salt for the Chicken focaccia and burger would have been perfect, though. But a winning trio of sandwiches.

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Chicken Geschnetzeltes – This Swiss dish might be a mouthful to pronounce, but it put a huge smile on my face. Two perfectly fried discs of rosti, a delectable salad and a warm, hearty and creamy white sauce with chunks of chicken. It was extremely comforting and filling. Perfect for a cold winter night. Full marks in by books! The cabbage, capsicum and tomato salad was especially nice. Well seasoned and refreshing.

Dessert

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After this king size meal came the dessert platter. A super quartet of sweet treats!

Pineapple, Coconut and White Chocolate Pastry – This was a luscious cake with a wonderful coconut and white chocolate flavour and just a hint of pineapple. The cake was cool and refreshing and not heavy or overly rich.

Opera – This classic French cake was sinful! Beautiful soft layers of coffee sponge, coffee cream and ganache garnished with a coffee bean. A must have for coffee lovers.

Salted Caramel Cheese cake – I have to confess, I have a weakness for cheese cakes and this one clearly hit my “cheese-spot”! It was soft, fluffy with a delicate base and topped with an incredible salted caramel sauce. All that was enthroned with a walnut within a pulled caramel stick. The cheese cake was superb with an intense flavour and the salted caramel rounded it off perfectly!

Chocolate Pastry – A crumbly baked pastry packed with a dark chocolate ganache and topped with an almond chocolate ball. Amazing!

Coffee

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A strong classic espresso was the perfect way to end this brilliant meal. The coffee was freshly ground, strong, smooth and just marvelous. It surely helped me keep my eyes open for the drive back home!

The Munch Box has definitely made a mark in my heart with flavour packed and hearty food. The dishes are uncomplicated and comforting with something for everybody’s palate. But what takes the cake is the dessert menu. I’m not usually crazy about desserts, but i loved The Munch Box’s creations. Very beautiful presentation, very well prepared and incredibly tasty. I know for sure I’m going back for more!

WanderDriveEat Ratings –

Ambiance – 5/5

Service – 5/5

Food – 4.5/5

Desserts – 5/5

Price – 4/5

Have you been to The Munch Box? Tempted to go there now? Please tell me what you think in the comments below.

Important Points to note –

  1. Portion sizes were small for us as we had gone for a tasting. Actual portion sizes are much bigger
  2. All prices at the cafe are inclusive of all taxes.

Links –

The Munch Box – http://themunchbox.co/

Food Prowl – http://www.foodprowl.com/

Pune Food Bloggers Guild (Facebook Page) – https://www.facebook.com/groups/punefoodbloggersguild/

Additional Photos

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