Missy baba, Tip-top, Abli, Bleddy Buggers, Dekchis, Blessed thing, Suzies – If all this sounds like mumbo-jumbo to you, you probably didn’t have cool Anglo-Indian friends and neighbors like I did! Growing up in the Cantonment area of Bangalore, I was exposed to more than my share of ‘my girl, ‘junglee’ and ‘what men (man)?’ than I care to remember. But what it also did, was expose my palate to the wonder that is Mutton Ball Curry, Coconut rice, Railway cutlets, Bobo Curry, Kedgeree and Keema Puffs. I’m not ashamed to say that I sat close to Melanie Lushington during junior class, so that I could share her tiffin! So it is with some nostalgia that I welcome the Hobson Jobson Festival at Monkey Bar. A tribute to all things Anglo-Indian, but with the customary monkey-business thrown in!
Chef Varun has put together a fun menu sourced from the Anglo Indian community in Bangalore, Calcutta, Delhi and Mumbai and has his own East Indian lineage to draw inspiration from. I was invited on Saturday for a sneak peak of the festival that runs till the 14th of Dec and came back thinking it was bleddy brilliant!
Boozards can try the Oddennino’s Hot Punch which is the community favourite ‘Old Monk’, Brandy and Gin with lemon and sugar. If you’d like to look alive for the rest of the meal, I recommend the Pink Gin which makes for a refreshing afternoon drink with angostura bitters and lime cordial.
For Appetizers, the Panthras is a throwback to my school fests where ladies with impeccable manicures and ruby red pouts sold deep fried kheema rolls. Monkey does our hearts a small favor by pan searing instead of deep frying the crepe. I tried the one stuffed with lamb mince but they do a veggie version with peppers, mushrooms and carrots as well.
The Chingree Samosa is clearly a Bengali inspiration though the stuffing is from the opposite coast. Prawn Balchao and fried onions sit pretty inside this baked samosa. They serve the samosa with some Mango Chutney, which is great in isolation but was overkill for the already tangy and robust balchao filling.
I was tempted to try the Bangalore Club Sandwich, but there were more exciting things that compelled a taste. Like the Pui Saag and Cheese Souffle. Now I don’t know how Anglo Indian this is, but if I’m going back to the festival for something – it’s this! Malabar spinach and cheese custard, baked and served with toast wedges and tomato chutney. Honestly, it doesn’t sound like much and honestly, I don’t expect you to believe me when I say it’s sublime, but honestly, you’ll be missing something if you didn’t try it! Honestly.
The Chicken Souffle is the step sister to the Pui Saag one. Which should come as a welcome surprise to vegetarians, considering they are always complaining that the non-vegetarians get the better deal! I’m not saying it’s not good (it’s dripping with the famous Monkey Hollandaise Sauce and has a raisin and nut stuffing) but it can’t hold a candle to the Pui Saag one. (Unfortunately I only have a picture of the Chicken Souffle – you have to admit that without competition from the Pui Saag, it’s quite delectable!)
If you are going to order a salad instead of an appetizer then boy, does Monkey have a treat for you! The Chickpea and Smoked Fish salad is all kinds of satisfying. Chunks of smoked Betki are drizzled with Kashundi (Bengali Mustard) and lime and served over lettuce with chickpeas and roast tomatoes.
Maincourse is a hearty and wholesome affair of rice, meat and more meat. (Ok, there IS some veg stuff). The Jalfrezi – chilli marinated roast beef with baby potatoes served with parathas are what dreams are made of. (Literally for me, because I don’t eat beef anymore). But I couldn’t resist inhaling deeply as the bowl was set in front of me and ogle at the glossy brown curry that will be the perfect comfort food on a cold winter day for some lucky bastard.
I ‘had’ to try the Dak Bungalow Murgi Roast. Pan roasted chicken skewers served with saffron and coconut pilaf, roasted potatoes and mushy peas. Just reading the description gave me a colonial vibe! I can’t imagine anyone except a Punjabi (sue me for stereotyping) going ga-ga over chicken, but this murgi is a top contender for dee-licious. The pilaf also scores high in my book of ‘I love anything with fried onions’ and the roast baby potatoes are something else! Deep fried starch was always my go-to comfort food – some of us are born doomed.
The veggie Missy Babas tried the Hot Pot which is a brown stew with loads of veggies in it. Served with Corainder droppies (adorable savory pancakes) this coconut curry is as homely as it gets.
Out of the five desserts on offer, we ate four. Excessive? More like compulsive 🙂 Brown Bread Butter Pudding, Plum cake with vanilla sauce (this one needs a disclaimer – don’t eat and drive!) Railway Pudding (vanilla cake, jam, cherries and tutti frutti) and Chocolate Éclairs. This is Monkey we are talking about – of course the desserts were fab!
At this point I ask you to lay aside your judgment of me. Yes, I know people end with dessert and no one (I mean NO one) really eats Kedgeree after dessert. To be more specific, I ate a smoked fish kichidi with ribbons of egg and spices post a chocolate Éclair. Stop screwing up your face in horror and disgust! (I thought you were not judging me). Ok, I give two hoots if you ARE judging me because this dish was fantastic. Traditional Kedgeree is mushier (like kichidi) and has boiled eggs and peas in it, but I much preferred this spruced up version. It’s a good thing it came post dessert – I might have just eschewed dessert to finish a bowl of this! Word.
There’s a lot more fun stuff on the Hobson Jobson menu. The festival runs till the 14th of Dec from Sunday to Thursday for lunch and dinner. Oh, it’s also only at the Wood Street Monkey Bar – so shimmy your bottoms to the Cantonment side of town.
14/1 Krishna Manere, Wood Street,
Ashok Nagar, Bangalore 560025.
Ph: +91 80 4111 6878
Parking: Valet || Cost: Rs.180/- to Rs.425/++ for the items on the Hobson Jobson menu.