Bangalore - Hits-and-misses at the grand old Jamavar
Everything at the Leela Palace Hotel Bangalore was superlative as this landmark, a favorite hangout of the city's rich and famous, seeked to recreate the grandeur and old-world elegance of a maharajah's palace.
And Jamavar was Leela Palace's flagship restaurant amidst its impressive stable of luxurious eateries, all designed to make a black hole in your Calcuttan wallet. Jamavar's divided into two main dining areas - an al fresco section with its soaring ceilings, massive columns, and tables looking out into the thick foliage of its manicured gardens, with illuminated ancient Hindustone-carvings, and a brighter, glittering dining room inside with its huge chandeliers, expensive silverware, embroidered walls lined with large oil paintings of maharajahs and magnificent large windows which opened to the gardens outside.
For such a dining landmark, the service, although extremely polite, was surprisingly slow and painfully formal. One had to attract the attention of the wait-staff here, as the restaurant certainly packed in a crowd despite its average US$100++ per head dinner.
Admittedly being very impressed with the restaurant's grand ambience, I was wondering why the Times of India's authoritative food guide only rated it 4th for South Indian cuisine in Bangalore (behind Bon South, Daksin and South Indies), until I tasted its food. The standard of cooking was, disappointingly, somewhat erratic.
- Starter: A mixed tandoori platter which consisted of the melt-in-your-mouth "Galawati Kebab", flavored with spices (quite chilli spicy, too, this one) and essence of rose; a rather dry-ish, overcooked pair of tandoori prawns; and a super-delicious, best-I'd-ever-had piece of tandoori chicken, covered with creamy yoghurt-spice marinade.
- Entree: Lobster Neerulli - the restaurant's signature, jewel-in-the-crown dish turned out to be a pretty simple Keralan curry of diced lobster meat with pearl onions, strewn with kari leaves.
The accompanying appams were cold and chewy - I think I can get better appams *anywhere* else in Bangalore!
- Dessert: Banana Dosa with vanilla ice-cream was, in short, pure nirvana on a plate. It was one of the best desserts I'd had in a while - crisp-edged banana-infused pancakes that are meltingly-soft inside,and tasted milky-rich, lifted by ever-so-subtle aromatic spices.
So there you go - a bloody expensive dinner which, even though it had its Gunga Din moments, turned out to be less impressive than I'd anticipated.
Some areas for improvement:
- A selection of papads was served at the beginning without any chutney-dips, until asked for.
- The restaurant's understaffed, with a handful of wait-staff having to serve roomfuls of diners, a ratio of almost 1 to 10.
- A peek into the kitchen showed almost near-panic, frenzied pace of cooking inside. Hey, something's gotta give if you're operating at near-breaking point.
In short, it was a great place to come, see, be awed, and to try out. Will I be back? Not very likely.
P.S. - Its sister outlet, Jamavar at the Leela Mumbai, with its hip, modern decor, had much better food. I ate there at least half a dozen times during my 2008 one-month stay at the hotel, every meal was a pleasure to the senses, and I'm basically in love with the place.
The Leela Palace Bangalore
23 Old Airport Road
Tel: +91-80 2521 1234
Maybe this place was meant for the Nizam of Hyderabad or the Maharaja of Mysore!!
Veddy Inneresting report, klyeoh. I must say the food (excepting the dessert, perhaps) does not look that great, as you also report on. Oh well, perhaps a place to be taken under advisement, as they say.
The pricing at this place does seem to place it a fair bit beyond the "average" person in India. It is of interest that it is supported by enough folks who, by and large, live at that level there. Hmm - is it significantly different in "feeling" from other similar places in SE Asia or in the West?
I think food presentation's not a strong suit in Indian restaurants. Oftentimes, the food comes in a platter, and a wait-staff will serve you an individual portion onto your dinner plate tableside. No garnishing or elaborate arrangement on your dinner plate understandably.
I was actually encouraged at a couple fo places, e.g. ITC Gardenia's Kebab & Kurries' maitre'd asked me to try and eat using my (right) hand. I *can't*. I'd end up going to and fro the washrooms to rinse my hand every 5 minutes during the course of the meal if I do that.
Jamavar's Galawati kebab was admitedly good, so finely minced, a carnivore can still eat it even if he/she had left their dentures at home.
The clientele at Jamavar were mainly the Bangalore high society, which probably explained why the service staff were unusually formal and docile in their behavior. Brought to mind this clip:
I think India's caste system may have a bit to play in people's psyche, but I do see the same behavior between the so-called elite and the "masses" in Jakarta and Manila, too. Also happens but to a lesser extent in the other South-East Asian countries.