Hard Rock Café, St Mark’s Road
A fortnight after it was soft launched, we stepped inside the Hard Rock Café and stood still, soaking in the rock memorabilia around us. On our right was the high-ceilinged bar with a stage placed strategically above it. On our left was the restaurant that boasted a false ceiling, giving the dining area a somewhat cramped feeling. Straight ahead was the Rock Shop with metal Harley Davidson pins, little guitar key chains, mugs and band T-shirts.
They’ve used the space well without damaging the heritage building. What was once a coffee shop (Barista) and a fine dining restaurant (1912) is now a place to meet and greet, eat and drink, and make merry while watching music videos beamed across Hard Rock Cafés (HRC) around the world. The design template is consistent across the globe. When you blindly walk into any HRC and are familiar with the brand, you know you’re at an HRC. But the classic American food menu (burgers, salads, potato skins) has changed to include some “Namma Bengaluru” favourites, such as paneer and chicken wraps, prawn curry, grilled fish and chicken curry and rice. That is thoughtful, and adds value to the joint.
Rock memorabilia is strewn across the premises—from rock-studded gloves in display cases to the autographed bass drumhead used by Black Sabbath’s Bobby Rondinelli above our table. The effect was mesmerizing for a rock buff. We skipped the HRC best-seller Long Island Ice Tea for the more genteel Wildberry Smoothie. It was a frozen delight of fresh bananas, pina colada mix, orange juice and raspberry syrup finished off with a slice of fresh pineapple.
It went down smooth and got us ready for the starter that was to follow: The Jumbo Combo. Served in large portions, four people can make the most of this delectable dish that revels in variety. The Santa Fe spring rolls weren’t as good as the aromatic and filling Tupelo Chicken Tenders (boneless, seasoned and breaded chicken). The potato skin with bacon bits came a distant second, while the onion rings kept us happily snacking all through the evening. We wanted to sample the popular Homestyle Cheesecake, but they were sold out, so we had to settle for the Hot Fudge Brownie Sundae. Luckily, the mountain of vanilla ice cream and hot fudge on a fresh brownie came pretty close to nirvana.
It’s a “faddy” place. You have to leave your name at the door and wait at least an hour to be seated during peak evening hours, particularly on weekends. The acoustics are not consistent throughout, because of the high ceiling and stone walls. And if you want to eat out on your own, it can be a tad expensive. Plus, for a place dedicated to great music, the music sucks. It goes all over the place and is loosely defined.
Cocktails cost between Rs281 and Rs419; a Kingfisher pint is Rs133. The bar snacks are between Rs143 and Rs400. Taxes and 5% service charges are extra.
i- Bar, Kensington Road
After seven years of serving teeny-boppers, i-Bar has decided to grow with its clientele and reinvent itself as a sophisticated lounge, with gauzy curtains and silk and leather upholstery in rosy pinks and deep reds. It is far better than its previous avatar of beanbags sprawled on the floor and too-loud music. It now comes close to fine dining—you can relax with a chic cocktail over tasty appetizers with lounge music subtly wafting into your consciousness.
Designed by Project Orange of the UK, the space is a beautiful box within a box, where the inner sanctum can be accessed through sliding timber screens. Those who are more comfortable by the barman and DJ can order their drinks on high bar stools, while dictating the choice of music. Others can make their way to the inner reaches of the pub for a warm, private space. The graphic pattern and colour on the sofas, walls and glass partitions add a hint of understated glamour and mystery.
We ordered the gin-based cocktail, Wasp Sting, and got ourselves the mellow high that’s always just right. Another cocktail that was just as good was Lips Don’t Lie, a unique mix of tequila, chocolate, chilli, lemon and sugar. Among appetizers, we loved the unique take on Singapore’s chilli crabs served in miniature buns. We rounded the night off with three absolutely sinful warm chocolate shots—one with cognac, one with pepper-flavoured Absolut vodka and one with orange-flavoured cointreau.
Aside from the lacklustre service, the long wait for some of our appetizers, and the steep (for Bangalore) price for some of the liquor, there was not much to complain about.
Cocktails cost between Rs400 and Rs500; a Kingfisher pint is Rs150. The bar snacks are between Rs225 and Rs550. The cover charge is Rs1,000 on weekends, completely redeemable against food and drinks. Everything is inclusive of taxes.