Polished wood and leather dominate Punkah House’s décor
Polished wood and leather dominate Punkah House’s décor

A different kind of fandom

  • A new Bengaluru restaurant carves out a food-led identity instead of taking the microbrewery route
  • The food identity of the restaurant isn’t beholden to one chef’s vision—the entire team of chefs at the F&B company worked for months to curate an experimental menu

Walking into Punkah House, the new “it" restaurant in Bengaluru’s thriving (and despite the potholes, still occasionally charming) neighbourhood of Indiranagar, on a rainy evening is calculated to make you feel like you have walked into a plantation house in the tropics. It is by no means a subtle effort—lush green palms peep from every corner, colonial-style rattan furniture and bamboo chiks (blinds) abound, and polished wood and leather dominate the dining areas of the two-storey restaurant. Despite the occasional heavy-handedness, however, the effect is not without its charm—it’s tough not to be a sucker for the Raj’s trappings.

It is this imagined nostalgia for something few of us have actually experienced that the people behind Punkah House are betting on, both with their décor and food. The latter is inspired by colonial-era favourites from India, “Ceylon" and “Burma" (the use of the old names in their menu and food descriptions is telling). The inspiration is quite loose, though—because Punkah House has developed a menu full of experimental dishes that take off from ingredients, techniques or flavours of classic dishes but reinvent them quite thoroughly, such as the surprisingly delicious wine-aged drumsticks with goat cheese, or marinated jolpai (olives marinated in lime, fennel and berries). Or take the Kashmiri harissa chicken liver pâté—imagine a pâté spiced with garam masala, and you may wonder why anyone would ever have a regular chicken liver pâté again. There are Sri Lankan-style string hoppers on the menu, but along with the regular Ceylon chicken curry, they are also served with an asparagus and water chestnut curry and stir-fried mocha (banana flowers). In the large plates section, pulled jackfruit burgers, Kashmiri morels (featuring wild mushrooms and sticky rice in a guchchi broth), and classic softshell crabs are interesting choices.

An arugula salad with ‘chakotra’ (Indian pomelo) and tender coconut.
An arugula salad with ‘chakotra’ (Indian pomelo) and tender coconut.

The cocktails—club classics and house cocktails like the East Indian (rum, Indian black plum, basil pineapple juice) and New Republic (jasmine and tulsi tea infused vodka, orange juice)—complement the food and décor.

“Bangaloreans are foodies and the vibe of the city—with its love of old bungalows and clubs—goes well with the vibe at Punkah House," says Shikha Nath, brand director of Charcoal Concepts, which runs the Punkah House and Bombay Brasserie restaurants, on their decision to launch the brand in Bengaluru.

The food identity of the restaurant isn’t beholden to one chef’s vision—the entire team of chefs at the F&B company worked for months to curate a menu that would be experimental, says Nath. “We take inspiration from the indigenous food heritage as well as international influence—it’s a happy hybrid of identities, both East and West and old and new, all coming together on your plate," says Nath.

Punkah House is open from 6.30pm-midnight on weekdays and noon-midnight on weekends. A meal for two is around 2,500.

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