A Bangalore break
How does a business traveller chill out in the Garden City?
So, that business meeting is over, the presentation put away and the power lunch done with. You’ve got a weekend on your hands in Bangalore and it’s time to figure out what happens during the off hours in the city that put India on the world IT map. You’ve heard about the city’s crumbling infrastructure but don’t worry too much. Bangalore, as any proud resident will tell you, retains the ability to effortlessly charm the casual visitor, thank you very much.
The indefinable attraction of the city perhaps lies in its lazy ways. Though older residents complain about how the Pensioners’ Paradise has become a frenetic metropolis, it’s nothing compared to a Mumbai, Delhi or Calcutta. It has a slow, unhurried pace that nothing, not even alarmingly frequent traffic snarls and rude autowallas, can completely do away with. There are still pockets of deep calm right within the heart of the city — just go for an early morning walk to Cubbon Park or Lalbagh to discover just why Bangalore is called the Garden City.
After that, you can saunter down to Koshy’s on St Mark’s Road for a sumptuous English breakfast with bacon, eggs and sausages. One of Bangalore’s oldest restaurants, Koshy’s retains an old-world coffee house-esque charm and has a menu that’s right out of the Raj. For something more ‘local’, head towards Jayanagar and Mavalli Tiffin Rooms for an authentic South Indian breakfast. Be prepared for long queues, though.
Right opposite Koshy’s is Church Street, which houses some of Bangalore’s best-known pubs, but more on that later. It also houses some excellent bookshops — not the chain-store variety but the kind that has a million books stored higgledy-piggledy. Check out Premier bookshop, which is delightfully random —you’ll find a Georgette Heyer rubbing shoulders with a Stephen Hawking — and Blossoms, a book-lover’s haunt for its impressive store of used books and the hefty discounts on new ones.
For lunch, you can take your pick of eateries in and around M G Road-Brigade Road. For an Andhra thali —served piping hot and spicy on banana leaves — there is Bhima’s on Church Street and Nandhini on St Mark’s Road. If you crave some Continental fare, head straight for Casa Piccola on Residency Road or The Only Place on Museum Road, both famed for their steaks and salads. If your tastes run towards fast food, KFC is your best bet.
After lunch, take in Bangalore as you soak up the winter sun at one of the open-air cafés on M G Road or do a spot of shopping. Bombay stores on M G Road has an eclectic collection of artefacts, clothes, accessories and furnishings and the whole area is littered with brand showrooms. For a bit of colour, head towards Commercial Street — it’s a busy marketplace with the best brands as well as cheap street fashion all along a chaotic stretch. For saris, you have two choices — either hit the showrooms along M G Road or Chickpet. This is where you’ll get the good bargains.
In the evening, of course, it’s time for some Bangalore-style pub hopping, though be sure to start early as the non-five-star ones all shut at 11 pm, much to the outrage of the city’s dedicated pub crawlers and beer lovers. If you’re a lover of the frothy drink, Bangalore is the place to be, and not just due to the presence of a certain portly gentleman known as the beer baron.
The oldest, quaintest and most famous pubs here like Pecos, serve only beer with a generous dash of blues and jazz. For more variety, there are scores of pubs to choose from, each with its own USP. If you are a rock aficionado, Purple Haze on Residency Road with its giant TV screens that show videos of popular rock numbers is your scene.
Some pubs like Zero G and Spinn have dance floors, while others like Styx have live music by local bands, while still others such as Geoffrey’s at the Royal Orchid are perfect for a quieter evening. Lounges abound too, from the Mediterranean-feel Hypnos with its white-washed walls, wooden benches and hookahs to the snazzy I-Bar at The Park and the F-Bar. Some other pubs popular with the younger set are 13th Floor at Barton Centre on M G Road and 1912 on St Mark’s Road.
If you have time left over from all this, and are in the mood for some movie-viewing, the multiplexes at Forum Mall and Garuda Mall can serve the purpose. But if you want to indulge in a bit of nostalgia for the lost world of single-screen theatres, Symphony and Rex are perhaps your last men standing. For theatre lovers, there’s always Ranga Shankara in J P Nagar — they have a performance most evenings.
Still have time on your hands? Do visit the city’s lakes, especially Ulsoor and Sankey Tank. If you’re the kind that doesn’t consider a visit fulfilled without having done some ‘sight-seeing’, the Bangalore Palace on a wintry afternoon could quite successfully transport you to the English countryside.
A trip to the Vidhana Soudha is also considered a ‘must’ by veteran sight-seers as are the grand old churches like St John’s and St Andrew’s. For the technologically-minded, Technology Park on the outskirts of the city with the new Meccas of industry — IT firms — is also worth a visit.
So next time work takes you to Bangalore, resist the temptation to take the next flight home. The weather’s just right at this time of the year, so linger a bit in the chilly air of the city and let Bangalore seduce you.