There are few restaurants in Bengaluru that exude an old-world charm, with light influences from the colonial era. Think of the clubs of yore, of ladies in crisp saris with shawls draped over their shoulders, and gentlemen with a pipe in hand. Punkah House, with its interiors that look straight out of an elite pre-independence home in South India or even in Shimla, harks back to those times. With its distinct sections – a bar, a living room, a balcony, and a terrace – each with their own unique ambience, and a menu where every dish and glass has a story to tell, all you need to do is sit back and be transported in time.
Like its selection of curated cocktails that tell of an India fighting for independence. The lovely Tokyo Tomo (‘tomo’ meaning friend in Japanese) with a mild sake, yuzu, and flavours of pandan leaves, is a tribute to Subhash Chandra Bose’s arrival in Tokyo in 1943, where he regrouped the Indian National Army along with Japanese Allies. Alluding to the creation of the Lucknow Pact, which gave equal weightage in political representation to minor communities is the sweetish Club Lucknow, a saffron-infused whiskey, absinthe mist cloud, and a home-spun apple syrup. And as you sip on The Midnight Glory, you may just be able to hear strains of Nehru’s famous “At the stroke of the midnight hour…”.
Punkah House also has a collection of barrel-aged, flavourful cocktails, made majestic with time spent in wood. We tried The Corporal, a single malt with sweet vermouth, spiced bitters, and absinthe mist; and The Colonel, with gin, bianco vermouth, and in-house plum bitters. Each of these comes on wooden platters, poured out of a classy hip flasks, and have a smoking pipe to aid that Instagram post.
Every meal at Punkah House begins with the house amuse bouche – drumsticks steeped in wine and served with goat cheese. Quite the unlikely combination but a pairing that works surprisingly well. The Chorizo Goan Lentil Vada packs in the chorizo right in the centre of the flavourful vada, making it a surprise package. The Hoppums here draw inspiration from the Dutch bowl-shaped rice pancakes, a connection to the influence of the Dutch on Syrian Christian cuisine in Cochin, a major trading centre. Try the Asparagus and Water Chestnut option, and perhaps even ask for a plain hoppum to mop it all up. The Jamun Ceviche is as delicious as it is a burst of colour on a plate.
The Chicken Pate with Milk Toasts is definitely worth a try, simply to see how chicken can take some good pounding and give you a texture akin to liver pate. The Citrus Arugula Tender Coconut Salad is deliciously refreshing, with slivers of sweet tender coconut offsetting the citrus.
It was the Portuguese who brought oven-baked bread to India and the wood-fired flatbreads at Punkah House are inspired by those you see in Goa – try the Ghee Roast Pumpkin one. If you love mushroom, order the Kashmiri Morels (gucchi), which comes as a sticky rice with a broth on the side. Desserts include pleasers like Annanas Sorbet with a coconut foam, and a house-made Guava Ice Cream that will really take you back to those days of stealing guavas and enjoying them in your grandmother’s compound. The Kapimisu Brioche is for coffee lovers – coffee happiness on a plate.
Punkah House rewinds the clock in terms of inspiration yet serves a modern-day spread that will resonate with you.
Where: 2989/B, 12th Main Rd, HAL 2nd Stage, Indiranagar, Bengaluru
Contact: 080 3797 1807
Opening Hours: 6.30 pm to 11.00 pm, open for lunch during weekends
Recommended dishes: The Hoppums, Jamun Ceviche, Kapimisu Brioche
Price for two: Rs 2,500, taxes extra
Noise Levels: Quiet enough for a conversation on a weeknight
Service: Unobtrusive and efficient