News Café is like the poor cousin of Smoke House Deli. They opened pretty much the same time on 100 ft road in Indiranagar and both have a similar cafe/ all day dining format. SHD created quite a buzz in the Bangalore food scene, whereas News café failed to garner anything newsworthy. The reason we ventured there was also because of SHD – they were full one Saturday afternoon and could not accommodate us. We were hungry and had already parked our car close by and it seemed like too much of an effort to drive again. So we walked next door to News Café and zoomed up the elevator to the terrace. (Seems like the trend in Bangalore to have restaurants and café’s on the terrace – is the rent cheaper?)
News Café is a South African chain of restaurants and boasts of having 50 outlets with two in Bengaluru and Hyderabad. (Concentrating on the IT hubs, are we?). Their website claims that they have won the ‘Best Cocktail Bar’ 11 years in a row – but I’m guessing that’s for their flagship restaurant in South Africa. Unfortunately I won’t be able to tell you about the cocktails here because none of us were in a mood to drink that afternoon. The café/ lounge in Bangalore is split into three distinct zones. A cozy indoor area that overlooks a bright and sunny deck with cane chairs and white cushions and if you walk up one more level – another deck with the main bar and really lounge worthy, blue sun beds! We headed to the topmost level because it was blue, breezy and beautiful – perfect for a lazy afternoon.
It was just us that afternoon (another group of six walking in, just as we were leaving). That itself made me wonder, if we choose the right place to eat. Sometimes…not always…crowds at a place are a good indicator of quality. This of course does not apply to the nightclubs – Bangalore’s younglings jump from one new place to another, just to be seen. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what News Café aims to be – a place to see and be seen (according to the website again). Ironic much?
The waiter was definitely attentive. After all how could he ignore a group of three ladies, when there was no one else around? We were bought glasses of water with a wedge of an orange as the menu was handed to us. The menu is designed like a Newspaper and bought to us all rolled up. (Yes, I get kicks out of such random delights). The offerings are quite vast. There are sections for All day Breakfast, Soups, Salads, Toasted Sandwiches, Wraps and Quesadillas, Burgers, Pasta, Sizzlers, Steaks, Asian food etc.etc. and it again made me wonder about the quality of produce and the holding time in the inventory, considering the dismal number of people coming in. We decided to order the Cobb Salad. Simple assembly of items is all that it requires for this American classic. They did a good job of it as well. The lettuce was crisp and fresh and they loaded the salad with Bacon – which is always a good thing. The dressing for a Cobb Salad is generally a red wine vinaigrette, but they gave us a mayo dressing. No Matter, it provided the necessary creaminess for the salad, considering they decided to give the Avocado a miss. The portion was substantial as well and I would have been disappointed if it was not considering they charged us 300 bucks for it (excl taxes). Oh yes, this place is not cheap.
I order wings wherever we go. Ok, that’s too much of a generalization, but I do order wings as a starter in most places. I saw it with the usual suspects in the finger foods section and decided to give the fiery chicken wings a try. (Besides, the Prawn Tempura at 495, bucks seemed like it would burn too much of a hole in the pocket.) The menu described it as buffalo chicken wings dipped in a fiery sauce and served with Blue cheese, carrots and celery. The wings were just fine – neither fiery nor amazingly tasty and were dry. Where was the ‘dipped in a fiery sauce’ bit? The biggest spoiler was the so-called blue cheese dressing. It looked like curdled milk and was NOT Blue cheese. If you throw away the blue cheese dressing – the wings are still palatable.
We generally can keep at appetizers and completely ignore main course, but since the wings (the most basic requirement for me) left a lot to be desired – we decided to just go in for the mains. I can’t ignore Laksa if it’s on a menu and this one promised to include both chicken and prawn. The presentation was lovely. I actually ooh’d looking at the noodles placed gingerly over the broth. It’s another story to question what a bit of parsley is doing in an Asian dish, but I will hold my peace. This was clearly a curry Laksa (not many can stomach the fierier counterpart – the assam laksa). While I agree that in principle this was a curry laksa, what I couldn’t wrap my head around was how thick it was. Reminded me more of a Thai red curry and it tasted a lot like it as well. The cubes of Chicken breast remained insipid because it didn’t absorb any of the flavors. (Maybe chicken strips or a flatter cut of meat would have been more conducive). Thankfully there were a decent number of prawns in the dish, so even though I won’t forgive them for mucking it up, I shut up and ate my meal.
My dear friend had ordered the Lamb Tagine and again though the almond slivers and stew looked appetizing, the final result was a letdown. The lamb was over cooked and tough and it had none of the exotic flavors of Morocco. (Cinnamon, saffron, cloves). The saffron rice had just a hint of saffron (I think I saw a strand peeking somewhere) and was closer to steamed rice. By now we knew that News Café could not deliver on taste.
The Beef Sizzler was something we hoped they would get right. I mean, anything in BBQ sauce should taste good right? Wrong. My friend asked for her steak to be medium-well done. Not a choice I support, but each to their own. The steak when it arrived sizzling on a plate was definitely, extremely well done. The BBQ sauce was a black glaze that had a distinct burnt aftertaste. Maybe adding a cabbage leaf on the hot plate would have avoided the same. Or just using your hotplates more would have seasoned them well enough to not burn! The garlic broccoli and potato mash were very similar bedfellows and failed to add anything to the steak. She actually left the steak half eaten and trust me, I’ve seen this woman polish off more than an 8 ounce steak with ease.
Food Chains standardize their menus after a lot of trial and error and I’m sure the actual recipes are quite delectable. But News Café Bengaluru, is a place that is let down because of its execution. For me the quality and taste of food is paramount. I will literally stand on the road and polish off a plate of biryani if it tastes brilliant, hygiene issues be dammed. Coupled with the fact that the price of my meal for three main courses, one salad and one starter was close to Rs.2500/- I’m not going back there in a hurry. We decided to leave without dessert. Lavonne next door sounded close to divine after this fiasco.
72-1-1211, 100ft Road,
2nd Stage, HAL
Ph: 080 25201238
Parking: Valet Available
Cost: Rs.1750/- for a meal for two without alcohol