Straight off the leaf at Gundappa Donne Biryani

Beyond the legendary and regular Tiffin restaurants doling out idlis, vadas and dosas there is a thriving  “Donne Biryani” culture in Bangalore. Served in large leafy cups called “Donne” – this Biryani does not trace its roots to the Mughals or the Nizams. Cooked slowly in traditional home ground spices, it seems to have originated as an easy nutritious option for the masses or perhaps the soldiers. After a reassuring appointment with the doctor about my travel beaten knee, I hopped over to Gundappa Donne Biryani in the vicinity. Gundappa Donne Biryani

It was just about lunch time and they were yet to start serving. I settled for the Gundappa Thali after a quick glance at the menu which included Biryani Rice, 5 different sides and raita. This was the best way to taste all that they had to offer.Gundappa Donne Biryani

The thali was a riot of colors and with the names of dishes (Chilly Chicken, Guntur Chicken, Pepper Chicken) that the staff rattled out, it appeared that I was in for a roller coaster ride with spice. I started off with chicken kabab gorged in red color and not chilly powder as I was anticipating. The chicken was soft but the flavour was only skin deep since the pieces were dipped in some red colored batter and then deep fried.Gundappa Donne Biryani After the seemingly unimpressive chicken kabab, moved on to the biryani topped with a slice of egg. The pudina flavored Biryani made from jeeraga samba rice (small grained) was moist, sticky and had the distinct aroma of cardamom and cinnamon that tasted better with a dash of lime.Gundappa Donne Biryani

Next it was the turn of the 3 chicken sides, each one adding a different flavor to the Biryani. The blackish pepper chicken was the it usually is and mint and pepper did a brief tango before resting in my stomach.Gundappa Donne BiryaniThe Chilly chicken cooked purely in green chillies without any soya was an eye opener. I gasped with the fire on my tongue quickly quietened by the curd in the raita. Loved this green chilly powered chicken with a slightly watery gravy and maybe I will go back for more. Gundappa Donne Biryani

The fiery red guntur chicken tickled my tongue but not to the extent to gulp down glasses of water. It did not have the aroma of freshly ground roasted red as expected from the name. I doubt whether the red chilly powder actually came from the famous spice markets of Guntur in neighboring Andhra Pradesh.Gundappa Donne BiryaniI munched into the crunchy mutton keema vada saved up for the last bite to counter the famous guntur spice. As I devoured the vada, I realised how the Bangalore special Donne Biryani was enhanced by a pepper chicken and guntur chicken with roots in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. The kabab, chilly chicken and minced meat vada has evolved under the influence of food cultures from other parts of India. It is so true for the spirit of Bangalore which is home to different languages, different food cultures from all over India !!Gundappa Donne Biryani

Food Tip:

Located on a busy Koramangala Street; this is not a place for a cosy meal. Its a stop, eat, go kind of place where food served on green leaves is the most important thing. The staff were cordial and made me instantly comfortable. If your idea of Biryani relates to long grained flavoured rice, please avoid this place. If you are someone who loves to experiment and learn about food, its origin and culture, this is the place to visit !!
Gundappa Donne Biriyani Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Heritage breakfast in “Vidyarthi Bhavan” Bangalore

What is just another old dosa joint for many, nostalgia for old Bangaloreans was a taste of heritage for me when I visited Vidyarthi Bhavan recently. When I stepped in through the door that has seen many a stalwart walk by, I was overwhelmed. Its a different feeling to be in a place which started before independence and has been witness to many a political debate over cups of coffee and dose. The name though sounds more like a library  “Vidyarthi” (student) Bhavan (building) is actually a heritage restaurant which was started way back in 1943 to offer cheap affordable meals for students.Vidyarthi Bhavan

Vidyarthi Bhavan located in the middle class Gandhi Bazaar area was started by Ural brothers from Dakshina Kannada and was taken over by Ramakrishna Adiga in 1970. I was lucky to find a seat by the wall which allowed me to gaze at the high ceiling and the framed pictures aroundl. My train of thought was abruptly broken by the traditionally dressed waiter who showed up at my table to take the order. Much to his amusement, I rattled off everything I wanted in broken Kannada.Vidyarthi Bhavan

The music from R K Narayan’s Swamy and Friends rang in my ears and I went back to the wall full of sketches of famous personalities who visited the restaurant. I read in a news paper clipping that these were captured in pencil by a talented waiter at the hotel who was honed by an indulgent patron. Over the years, Vidyarthi Bhavan turned into a cultural hot spot for poets, writers, actors, politicians, business men, sports stars to meet over steaming cups of filter coffee and the trademark Dosa and discuss wordly matters.Vidyarthi Bhavan

While waiting for my Benne Dosa ( Dosa with oodles of butter), I observed the machine like service by the staff often holding dozens of plates of dosa precariously stacked on each other yet carried around with amazing precision. The dosa was crisp, oozing butter and melted in the mouth. Used to thick chutneys, the thin consistency of the chutney was a welcome break.Vidyarthi Bhavan

I could not resist the super soft Sambar Vada either. A heritage visit had to end with something sweet and nothing better than the aromatic, Kesari Bath dripped in ghee. Kesari Bath is a Kannada name for semolina halwa cooked with a dash of kesar and pineapple. While I was devouring morsels of Kesari Bath, I could see impatient glances from the long queue outside the door.Vidyarthi Bhavan

Its all about food here so tables need to be shared which can lead to interesting conversations and anecdotes about the legendary place. I heard the old couple next to me discuss about the way the taste of food has remain consistent over the years. They shared a laugh over their filter coffee having greyed together, visiting Vidyarthi Bhavan almost every other weekend for their share of heritage !!Vidyarthi Bhavan

When I walked out after a sumptuous morning. Gandhi Bazaar was lazily waking up at 8.30 am with fruit stalls and flower shops being set up. I lingered around for a while, allowing the old world to seep in before modern concrete Bangalore beckoned. Do grab your slice of heritage at Vidyarthi Bhavan any day of the week except Friday. They have observed Friday as holiday over the last 73 years !! Some consistency that is.

Tips to Visit Vidyarthi Bhavan

If you have to travel across the city to reach Vidyarthi Bhavan and feeling a bit lazy to do so then there is more to include beyond the heritage breakfast.

  • Start with Bull Temple and MahaGanapathi Temple at 7am
  • Then 5 mins drive to Vidyarthi Bhavan in Gandhi Bazaar. Reach by 7.45 am to get a seat else there is a long queue
  • Walk around Gandhi Bazaar for fresh fruits and vegetables as well as flowers.
  • Take a walk around Basavangudi and there are are some nice old heritage houses to admire
  • Else – another 5-8 minute drive from Gandhi Bazaar is Lal Bagh where you can spend some time in the gardens.


Vidyarthi Bhavan Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

From Cup to Plate ~ Tea Story at Tea Trails

Having spent my early years in the Eastern part of India in a family of tea lovers, “Chaa” (Tea in Bengali) was one of the first words I uttered, closely preceded by “Maa”  (Mother). Having a cup of tea was a ritual that was diligently followed at home every morning and evening apart from those impromptu cups to greet a visitor. I skilfully remained out of this ritual for years until my work stint in Japan and my tryst with Jasmine Tea at meal times.Recently, I was invited to the launch of  a new outlet of Tea Trails Bistro in Bangalore which has gained immense popularity in Mumbai and then spread out to Delhi , Chennai, Hyderabad and Vizag. They are the first chain of Tea Cafe’s in India with a gourmet Tea experience. Tea Trails

Over different flavours, colors and types of Tea we chatted with Kavita Mathur the lady behind the concept of Tea Trails and one of the four founders. She narrated her passion for the leaf that nudged her to look beyond the regular brown / black liquid in the cup, identify signature blends and devise a whole new menu around Tea that was presented on the plate.Tea Trails

Tea in the Cup:

We started with cups of elite Silver Needle White Tea biting slices of super soft maska bun (buttered bun). While the tea addict will turn away from a cup of white tea given the lack of color, it actually is one of the best anti-oxidants and anti ageing of course !! Next up was the Japanese Glenmaicha tea with roasted rice grains popularly referred as the popcorn tea.Tea Trails

As conversation flowed cups of Lapsong Souchong (black smoky Chinese tea), Kullad Chai (spiced milk tea);  Better Wife, South African Red Tea, Moroccan Mint arrived on the table. I had my share of Kashmiri Kahwa which was perfectly matched for the cool Bangalore weather.Tea Trails

We took a break with the Lychee Bubble Tea from Korea which was essentially lychee flavoured iced tea with gummy fruit bubbles that burst into the mouth. The detox tea which was a concoction of turmeric, ginger and other herbs was the perfect sip to close the evening.Tea Trails

Tea on the Plate:

We had the Japanese Matcha (green tea) soup, followed by the signature 3 Cheese Risotto served with green tea butter and Burmese Tea Salad. TeaTrails-Tea-SoupThe Risotto was infused with Parmesan, Cheddar and Gryuere cheese and the Burmese Tea Salad was lettuce with roasted nuts and dal generously doused with fermented green tea. As conversation flowed, cups of different varieties of tea and Pita Bread with Green Tea infused Hummus, Marbled Egg Salad and Grilled Sandwiches followed. While everyone gorged on the hot crunchy pakodas sipping into Kullad Chai desi style, I went back to the bowl of fried rice steeped in tea. There was something about the flavour and texture of rice that hooked me on. It was a perfect blend of tastes.

Pairing Tea with Food

While Tea is paired with food in the Far Eastern countries like China and Japan it is not popular in India. You will find someone sipping a cup of hot tea after food but never along with it. I loved sipping on Kashmiri Kahwa after an elaborate Wazwaan. Some of the pairings suggested by Tea Trails that we tried out were truly an infusion of the East and West !!

  • White Tea with Bun Maska (soft sweet bun smeared with dollops of butter).
  • 3 Cheese Risotto with Oolong Tea. The cheesiness of the risotto balanced by the dark green Oolong not just in taste but ensuring that the calories don;t add up
  • Smoky Paneer Sandwich with Smoky flavored Lapsong Souchong
  • Green Tea Hummus with any Iced Tea. Hummus and Tea tend to enhance the sweetness in each other.
  • Onion Pakoda with Kullad Chai ie India’s favorite anytime, anywhere
  • Fruity Desserts with a sip of Red Zen ( mix of herbs, fruits and flowers)
Tea TrailsAmbiance:

There is something classy and warm about the decor. The rows of pendant glass lights at the entrance are truly beckoning. The green and yellow shades on the wall with framed pictures of the tea ceremonies from around the world gives it a nice cafe bistro look. Nice place to hang out with friends or family over cups of tea.Tea Trails

Ring Side View:

Coffee was always regarded classy over Tea in India, not sure why though. During my travels to various countries and my stay in Japan and England, it was all about tea. Back in India, I hardly found any zing around Tea while the hype around Coffee got louder and louder in all age groups. With the coffee shops and cafes mushrooming, our beverage culture was Americanized. Tea started making a turnaround a couple of years ago but perceived to be street corner. Tea Trails has made a great start of bringing Tea back to its rightful place with different varieties in the cup and on the plate !! Tea Trails

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Tea Trails Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Counting Calories in “Calorie Kitchen”

When I see food on the table, something interesting and appealing, the last thing that comes to my mind is calories. I occasionally suffer from guilt pangs as an after thought which leads me to exercise with a vengeance for a while. Little did I know that diet plays a much larger role than exercise in overall fitness until I met the zesty Arti Singh. The first thing I observed is the air of fitness around her. She started Calorie Kitchen in Bangalore as a diet partner to cater to healthy food, nutrition counselling and Door Step fitness training.

Measuring Calories in Food

As I browsed through the menu, I realized that every meal from Calorie Kitchen comes with a calorie tag. Most of the salads were between 100 to 200 kCal per helping, multi-grain or brown bread sandwiches sans cheese and butter averaged at 100 kCal, and the full meals around 450-500 Kcal depending on the dishes. There was an interesting section for the muscle builders which were different combinations of Tofu, Quinoa, Broken Wheat with lots of grilled vegetables and chicken. The calories for each of the preparations have been assessed by a trained nutritionist based on publicly available information on individual ingredientsCalorie Kitchen Chicken Meal

Picture Credit – Jimmy Kuruvilla of SoukWagon

She offered me to sample the chicken meal which had a portion of brown rice, serving of dal, chicken, phulka, salad and raita priced at Rs 140 with a 515 Kcal tag. The chicken gravy tasted like home, barely any oil, mildly spiced (ginger, garlic, cumin powder and onion) and well cooked. The dal was regular, sans the ghee tempering but absolutely yummy so much so that the taste still lingers in my mouth. The raita was fresh creamy curd and not diluted stuff that is normally served in the name of curd. I saw the kitchen staff preparing a low calorie salad complete with fresh leafy vegetables, tossed in low sodium salt and low fat egg white mayonnaise which I did not taste.

Target Audience for Health Food:

Ideally all of us should be always having food that is healthy. Since it is not to be most of the times the menu from Calorie Kitchen is ideal for the fitness enthusiast or someone trying to make peace with diabetes, cardiac disease or simply lose weight. It is also very suitable for you and me who want to take a breather from the regular binges and go healthy for some time. Next time you are looking out for a healthy meal in the Koramangala area of Bangalore, dial Calorie Kitchen.


Home delivery around Koramangala area and surroundings within 5-6 kms. Find more about Calorie Kitchen in
Calorie Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Here and Now; Quaint Cafe in Bangalore

How many times has it happened with you that you set out from home to run an errand and entered a cafe or a store instead ? It happens with me once in a while and more often than not leads to some interesting moments. While trying to find a place to park in a busy shopping area last weekend, I saw a board Cafe “Here and Now” with promises of English Breakfast and much more. I rubbed my eyes to re-check if I had read the name right; it was a strange co-incidence. I was turning the pages of “Power of Now” the previous night for the nth time in the hope of finding some additional inspiration from Eckhart Tolle and it seemed to have manifested in a cafe in front of me.


I walked up the stairs of the neatly restored building to a small reception. The walls were largely painted white and orange, adorned with framed pictures of Calvin and Hobbes and different abstract art. The first floor of a once upon a time residential property has been converted to a cafe, the various rooms and balcony turned into neat seating areas. The staff were very warm and five minutes into the conversation, I realized that they co-own the place.Bangalore Cafe Here and Now Wall

While English Breakfast figured right on top, the rest of the breakfast menu was equally promising. After some deliberation, I ordered “Spoiled Brat” which was supposedly a concoction of vegetables, chicken sausage, egg and cheese to be served along with Bread, Home Made Papaya Jam and a glass of Juice. (Opt for Tea or Coffee instead) While my order was being prepared I had the option of doodling on the papers rolled up on the table or just walk around to their game room or the book shelves on the wall.

I was more than happy to find a copy of “Himalaya” by Michael Palin. For the trekker in me enjoying a cool Bangalore morning over hot breakfast and warm stories of the mystic mountains is as refreshing as it can be.


The “Spoiled Brat” turned out to be a lasagna and it did not come as a surprise since I had been told that upfront. I sliced through the layer of egg and cheese and scooped out a spoonful or vegetables and chicken below. The mushrooms, diced chicken sausage and strips of chicken salami were well cooked but the tomato puree was a little over powering.Bangalore Cafe Here and Now

The thin consistency of the jam and the raw smell of ripe papaya seemed home fresh and went well with the brown bread. I lingered on for a while sipping the fresh guava juice, virtually traveling with Michael Palin through the West of Himalayas.Cafe Here and Now Bangalore

2 of my foodie friends Dushyant and Pratheek ( blog at Butter Theory and Grubitizer) were comfortably seated in the balcony tinkering with their cameras over their English Breakfast and Nice to Meat You. I grabbed a few generous helpings while they were busy getting their technicalities right. The pictures below are borrowed from their collection.Cafe Here and Now BangaloreThey certainly had made a better choice. Also overheard some one from the adjoining table rave over their Pork o Pine burger. Cafe Here and Now Bangalore

I will surely drop by again when I feel like spending a lazy morning sipping juice and English Breakfast. This cafe is a Cubicle to Kitchen journey of three passionate youngsters who are living their dream of creation. Bangalore has long been the start up capital for Information Technology and soon it is turning out to be a Cafe Capital as well with new ones opening up in almost every area. Some will survive, some will perish and some will go all the way to stardom. I hope Cafe Here and Now continues to innovate to be on course to stardom since they have got the basics right !!


Located opposite to BDA Complex in HSR Layout, Bangalore.

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Here & Now Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato