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The Permit Room combines local ingredients with classic flavours.
The Permit Room combines local ingredients with classic flavours.

Review: The Permit Room, Bengaluru

From the founders of Toit brewpub comes a restaurant in the heart of Bengaluru that serves flavourful south Indian cuisine

For a city with as entrenched an eating-out culture as Bengaluru, it is surprising how few places make the cut if you want good food, well-mixed drinks, a fun ambience and intuitive service in the central business district. No wonder then that the regular dine-outers have welcomed The Permit Room, the second brainchild of the three friends who set up popular brewpub Toit, with figurative whoops of joy.

The good stuff

Like the décor, the menu is kitschy and confident, taking off from the name of the restaurant, which references southern and western India eateries that served alcohol to those with a permit during prohibition. Despite being called The Permit Room, the food—a very assured appropriation of local ingredients and classic dishes—actually scores higher than the drinks (an exhaustive listing of single malts, blended whiskies, spirits, liqueurs, beers, wines and cocktails), though the starters, especially, are perfect to wash down with something long and cold. Over two visits, we had a hard time moving past the “Snacks" to the “Meals Ready". It is entirely possible—and even advisable—to stick to the starters if you’re not hung up on a “proper" dinner.

The unexpected hit among the starters was Bellary Palya ( 175), an eggplant mash served on a sorghum crisp with a sprinkle of a spicy podi. We got ours warm, not chilled, as stated in the menu, but it still made for a very moreish accompaniment to our alcohol-laden house specials, Watermelon Mojito ( 350) and Tamarind Tapang-arita ( 400). The Kane West ( 275), three small, deboned whole kane fillets slathered with a green chutney, steamed in banana leaves and served with pickled carrots, also disappeared in minutes. The Brain Dry Fry ( 275)—crisp bundles of lamb brain—worked even for an offal-sceptic like me, though it would have been enhanced by a tangy dip. The unanimous winner, though, was the Kerala Beef Fry ( 250): four small parathas laden with a succulent beef redolent with typically southern spices, curry leaves and coconut. I would go back just for this.

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The sweet-and-tangy Potato and Green Mango Curry ( 275) lost some of its charm to the mealy nature of the potato, but it’s a decent option for vegetarians.

The two desserts we tried were excellent: The Chiroti Sandwich ( 200) is an intelligent interpretation of the Bengaluru wedding-feast favourite, with a small tower of flaky pastry and a super-delicious, saffron-flavoured basundi, while the Chocolate Achappam ( 300) gave a very palatable twist to the idea of Kerala’s rose cookies.

The not-so-good

It’s early days, but we found the more “regular" dishes more appealing than the experimental ones. The Idli Soufflé ( 200), individual idlis topped with a spherification of sambar, brought to mind that Dil Chahta Hai line: “Perfection ko improve karna mushkil hota hai (It’s difficult to improve on perfection)." The balance between the idli and the sambar was off, though I believe the chef has since tweaked the dish. Similarly, the Curd Rice Memories ( 175), spherifications of yogurt and a hint of rice, lacked the wholesomeness (despite the pomegranate seeds and julienned crisp potato) integral to the comfort dish. The Gongura Chicken Winglets ( 225) were also a misstep: The gongura mix on the deboned pieces was let down by the rather limp batter coating.

We found our cocktails a little less than smooth. The service, while solicitous and informed, can be a tad slow.

Talk plastic

A meal for two, with two cocktails, two starters, two mains and the curd rice “dessert", cost 2,740, all inclusive.

The Permit Room, 16/3 Commissariat Road, Richmond Town, opposite Garuda mall (9019113388). Open from noon-11pm (weekdays) and till 1am (weekends).

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