City gets another gastropub, and this time it is a big one. It’s Monkey bar who has already made some good name in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore and is considered to be one of the happening places in town. The place here in Kolkata is situated at the 9th floor of Fort Knox Building (Camac Street) beside Urban Desi. The food and beverages that you get at other cities are mostly present here and along with it you will get several beverages which have been specially curated for Calcutta. Hope this will turn out to be one of the coolest places in the city in the coming days. Since I was invited to the pre-inauguration Bloggers Meet over food tasting session at this place, I would like to pen down my tryst with this new place. But first, I would like to thank the team at Communications 2.0 for this invitation.
Monkey bar is a part of Olive Cafe South Private Limited and is said to the pioneer gastropub first set up in Bangalore in 2012. With its new outlet in the city of joy it further spreads its wings and increases its pan-India fan base. I was very excited when I heard Monkey bar is coming to the city and then one fine day when the invitation to visit the place came to me, my excitements knew no bounds. I was eagerly looking forward to the day. Though it was raining cats and dogs on that day, but still I was determined enough to make it to the venue, and quite on-time! The ambiance of this Mo-Bar is quite in sync with its other outlets spread across the country; the place is very spacious and is divided mainly into two sections. The outer section, or the section close to the entrance is farthest away from the sunlight, so it’s not a great idea to sit there if you have visited the place before sunset and want to dine with the sunrays kissing you. Though this section is closest to the well stocked bar counter and is dimly lit and very cozy to be honest. On the wall you get the name of the food items and must-haves, so you need not look into the menu every time. The other section is pretty close to my heart, and honestly speaking if I come back to this place it will be only to sit there at this section and to have a lazy meal with some laid back sips in my glass of Mangaa or Mad Men. The section has tables and high chairs against a wall with huge glass windows that has got a mighty gorgeous view of the city, that includes the sight of Victoria Memorial, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Hoogly bridge, Tata Steel building, and more. I can keep on staring at that lovely cityscape for hours and surely Mo-Bar has nailed it with this stuff right in their pocket, its something other restaurateurs will envy. Along with this the place has got a dash of green in the ambiance here and there with greens planted in a narrow raised passageway in between. The wall decors with that exposed brick finish again nails it, since it looks so rusty, yet classy and so good. The background music which is being played is also pretty engaging and lively. Overall the place looks very young, vibrant yet with a touch of heritage to it. It tries to capture the basic heritages of the city in some paintings done close to the high ceiling that shows the hand pulled rickshaws with iconic Goopy and Bagha (from Ray’s classics), typical Kolkata taxis, etc. I just loved the high ceilings and the colonial feel that this place has got. And yes, I love the fact that this place allows loads of sunlight to sip in through various directions, it feels so close to nature even when you are seated in one of the happening gastrobars, its an awesome mix of emotions and brains that has come together to create this place, kudos!
Also the bloggers at this meet were specially engaged by some fun quiz and ingredient guessing sessions. All these contests had prizes and I was lucky to win the prize for guessing the ingredients in my cocktail, which was the Mo-Bar classic named Mangaa. The occasion was further glorified with the presence of the host and master chef, Manu Chandra with whom we had a wonderful conversation.
Now coming to the food talk. Mo-Bar is surely said to be the paradise for boozehounds, and yes the cocktails did have a nice variety but many lacked the punch I was looking for, the kinda stuff that draws you back to the place again and again. Let me just quickly run through the cocktails that we had – the Mangaa was served first, it’s the signature Monkey Bar cocktail across the country, and it has got vodka, aam panna, cumin, sweet lime and salt. It was served in a quirky old fashioned painted earthen pot and was garnished by a mango wedge. It tasted pretty good to be honest, the idea to punch vodka with aam panna, sweet lime in itself is path-breaking. Next came the Copper Monkey which is another signature dish of this place, and it had 100 pipers deluxe, orange juice, passion fruit and mint. It was served in a rusty copper cup which looked fabulous but it tasted a tad too sweet. Then came the Mad men, which I absolutely loved and maybe this was the best cocktail that I had here, it had all that oomph and kick that I was looking for. It was a whisky based drink with a splash of orange juice, coffee and rosemary! Rest of the cocktails are all new and have been especially curated for Kolkata, I found all to be average and nothing close to their signature cocktails. Some of these new drinks were – Pack-a-punch, which was a mix of rum, brandy, thyme, apple juice and cinnamon. Next we had Toast to Calcutta which suits the palate of Bengalis, but this drink didn’t have that punch, though it tasted pretty sweet and dreamy! It had Gin, Gondhoraj lemon cordial and basil, it was really refreshing and I felt as if I was having a cute mocktail 🙂 Then I was served Hipster Smash, I wished they had never served me this drink. Since after tasting this, I was convinced there is something seriously wrong here. It was a vodka based drink with elderflower spritz, watermelon, cucumber and mint… and yes, it tasted horrible!
Coming to the food now, there were loads of veg options so that’s one good point for my vegetarian friends. The non-veg options had everything like fish, chicken, prawn, beef, pork, etc. In fact, it is hard to get so many varieties in one single menu at most places. Things started off with a rather artsy Kerala red rice salad, which had stuffs like the red rice, raw mango, coconut, baby spinach, peanuts and upmensinkai i.e. the salted chili. Mac and cheese croquettes came next which had broccoli and loads of cheese, they were golden fried and served with chilli mayo and salsa. Next came the Med platter, which is now pretty common in Kolkata, last month only I had it at Barcelos. But I found this was pretty glorified here. It had spinach and cheese filled parcels, falafel, some nice portion of hummus, olives, roasted peppers, baba ganoush and was served with some really soft and bouncy pita breads. Next we had the Smoked beetroot and beans galawati which had a melt in your mouth texture. And then came the 4 star dishes, one after the other – Prawn Pil Pil, Tikki of joy, BBQ caramelized pork ribs, and the Tiger beef. And among these 4 dishes the best one was BBQ caramelized pork ribs and then the second best was Prawn pil pil. The Prawn pil pil had fresh and juicy prawns tossed in olive oil, garlic, chili and parsley. Tikki of Joy was basically a crumb fried Bhetki paturi, that was quite innovative and tasty. BBQ caramelized ribs was the best preparation with super-soft slow cooked pork and having very less amount of fat on them. The tangy barbecue sauce tasted insanely good, it will be a crime if you don’t try this out. Butterfly chicken and Lal maas phulka tacos which were served in the end were pretty nice, but somehow the four star dished had already eclipsed them in terms of flavors!
Next came the desserts which had Gondhoraj lime tart and The Snicker bar. The Gondhorauj lemon tart had Lemon curd, torched meringue, lemon and mint gel, pistachio cake and cookie bar in it; I liked the soft delicate and lemony flavor that it had got. The presentation was top notch and appetizing. The Snicker bar was tad better than this other dessert. It had milk chocolate ganache, snickers bar, dark chocolate microcake, hazelnut praline cream and salted caramel gel, and yes you guessed it right, it tasted awesome!
Coming to the service – I wanna keep it short. Servers need to be prompt and attentive, and if a guest is asking for something then it should be served, and shouldn’t be totally ignored. We asked for a second helping of Mad men, Prawn pil pil, BBQ caramelized pork ribs, and the Tiger beef. NONE were served! A direct minus 0.5 point for this poor service, carelessness and negligence. The place gets an overall 3.6 out of 5 from my side.
So, that’s how we wrapped this up. The meet otherwise was amazing with so many bloggers interacting and discussing about food. The hosts were very warm and caring, very interactive and wonderful. Won’t drag this any further, go to Monkey bar and try it out for yourself. If I am not wrong, you will surely love the setting and the ambiance when you step in.