Monday, June 25, 2007

a RESTAURANT review?!?

Yes, I'm afraid that's what this is. I must be bored...

Anyway - this evening I ate - again - at Hampi, a place I discovered on my bicycle excursions in Jubilee Hills. It's in the MLA colony, very close to Lily Pond - and an odd mixture of the sublime and ridiculous, as you'll see.

As you approach the entrance, it's immediately obvious that this in not going to be like anyplace else you've eaten in Hyderabad. Here's the covered patio outside the front door.

I always enjoy these; I'm sure there's a name for them, but I don't know what it is. It's a brass vessel filled with water, with flower petals arranged on the surface. I'd love to watch one being made sometime.

Stepping through the beautifully carved wooden doors, you are met with this.

The interior is covered with art, such as these two statues that flank the doors.

I wandered around the downstairs spaces, collecting images.

And this is just the first floor; I haven't even set foot on the second floor. From what I can see, it's at least as elegantly finished.

OK, fine, but it's not a museum, it's a restaurant. How's the food? Generally, very good. This evening I had the "special veg thali." This leads off with a bowl of delicious tomato soup with croutons. The thali itself is two large steel platters filled with small dishes of food. The larger of the two, placed before you, has a traditional banana leaf liner. In the center was one of the worst papads I've ever attempted to eat: soggy, chewy and cold. I gave up after one test nibble.

After this scary beginning things immediately got better. The roti were warm and tasty, and each vegetable curry was delicious and unique. The raita was cool and delicately spiced. The sambar is some of the best I've had - it rivals Chutneys'. A dish of fruit pieces (pineapple, watermelon and apple) provides a change from the curry. The gulab jamin wasn't too sweet, with just a hint of cardamom to make it interesting. I thought this was it for dessert, but after the thali was cleared I was given a small dish of intensely butterscotch ice cream. Yum! All this, plus a fresh lime soda with salt, for under Rs. 200.

The service was mixed. I ordered roasted papad as a starter that never came, but appeared on the bill. (This was immediately corrected when I pointed it out.) Otherwise, the wait staff was attentive yet unintrusive.

One truly jarring note (literally): the background music is insipid, uninspired arrangements of recent-vintage movie themes. Gack! These surroundings deserve better. Still worse, I realized quickly that this was the same set of songs I'd heard on an earlier visit! ARG!

So - that's Hampi. I'll be back - I still need to see the second floor! But I may bring earplugs...

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