I am a huge fan of The Leela Palace Hotel in Bangalore. Zen has my favourite Thai beef in town and Library Bar – both inside and out – is hand-on-my-heart tied for 1st as my favourite spot in town to simply sit down and write when I need an escape from the flat for inspiration. It is probably true to say that I was a bit biased from the start as I walked into Sunday brunch, especially since it seems that I am the last person amongst my friends in Bangalore to experience it and I’ve heard so many wonderful things about it. And the Leela did not disappoint. In fact, it was the first “brunch” spot in Bangalore. And whether it is by pure virtue of years of experience or a combination of many other wonderful things, you will really enjoy their Sunday brunch.
So far in my quest to uncover the “best of” of Bangalore’s Sunday brunch I have gone with an Indian girlfriend, my daughter, my team from work comprised on Indian men, and a couple of mates of mine from Sweden. So today I was attacking brunch with my wonderful friend Ramesh who is a terrific photographer and helped me capture some lovely images for the article.
Sadly Ramesh was running on Indian time that day…so it was just me and the laptop for the first hour busily observing and taking down notes for this article. Obviously a drink is my first order of business and I’m always just a bit sad when I learn that Champagne isn’t served at brunch (so far only two spots in town serve Champagne) but I am happy to report that the sparkling wine that Citrus serves is quite nice, Lindeman’s Premier Selection Brut Cuvee from Australia.
With respect to ambience, of all of the brunches that I have visited so far, Citrus is definitely the most elegant of all the locations. Take my advice! If the weather is nice, call ahead and book an outside table. In my opinion, there is nothing more soothing than the sound of water…and the sight and sound of the waterfalls that line the back walls of Citrus are just lovely and a welcome change from the mayhem and hubbub of Bangalore.
The Leela brunch is infamous and the place was pretty well packed (yet they space out the tables nicely and give each of the outside tables their own umbrella or two to keep everyone comfortable). Although I have to admit that I wasn’t really expecting so many expats or westerners at brunch so when I walked in I was a bit taken aback by the numbers. As I sat down at my table outside next to the waterfall, I noticed right away that Citrus had the highest concentration of expats or foreigners that I’ve experienced aside from Olive Beach (which was oddly like walking into Little Europe or Little America). I’m assuming that many of the brunch-goers were actual guests of the hotel based on their attire. There were also a really high number of fun looking business meetings going on, almost all of them were a combination of Indians and foreigners.
So I was sat there, sipping my sparkling wine and hanging out with Eduardo (that’s the name of my laptop) when I realised that I couldn’t see a single table of only Indians outside, it was the strangest thing once that light bulb went off in my head. In fact, it wasn’t until I went inside Citrus that I saw oodles and oodles of tables of Indian guests – from families to sweet couples and also young, hip groups of friends. I curiously inquired about this phenomenon with Andrew Hendrian, General Manager of The Leela Palace, and he offered up his two cents on the matter: Outdoor seating versus indoor seating is very simple…while us very, very white folk try to absorb direct sunlight to darken up our skin whenever possible, Indians have the opposite desire and prefer to steer clear of the effects of the sun and therefore naturally stay indoors.
With Ramesh happily now on board the brunch train and also with a sparkling wine in hand, we were off with Ranjit Thomas, the Senior Sous Chef who takes care of Citrus, Library Bar and The Leela’s private dining who kindly volunteered to show us around and tell us all about the infamous Leela Sunday Brunch. First off, he told us that by offering multi-cultural cuisine at the brunch, that they offer up something for everyone. They have an ample selection of East Asian and Indian dishes as well as some special treats like German bratwurst, European cold cuts and suckling pig with mash potatoes for westerners.
After living in Barcelona for the past decade, let me tell you…it was It was a real treat to enjoy a FULL platter of diverse cold cuts! Given how challenging it can be to find pork dishes or products, it was super to enjoy smoked ham, salami, fuet … and then also roast beef with tartar sauce, which again can be hard to find. Their chicken pate was also excellent, definitely give that a try.
So far in my research I can tell you that the cheese selection is the best in town and includes Manchego, Gouda, Bleu, Brie, Chevre and more. Do try their winter salad (although as I’m writing that now that I realise that it sounds like a seasonal dish but do ask!), it is a lovely combination of aubergine marinated in garlic, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. The cantaloupe and goat cheese salad was also a favourite.
As far as my favourites amongst the western cuisine, the list includes the pork shank that was wonderfully tender, a delicious rabbit stew (it was the first time I remember seeing rabbit at brunch too), mash potato (I realise this is simple but I do miss it!), and the ever-so-dramatically presented stuffed suckling pig with red wine sauce (the stuffing is pork, nuts, bratwurst sausage and sage and de-lish). Citrus also serves two varieties of amazing German sausages, presented on a bed of very traditional cabbage and both are excellent.
I have to admit that I didn’t try any of the Chinese dishes but they looked tasty, but I did try some of the Indian dishes. Their mutton biryani was finger-lickin-good and you really shouldn’t miss the tandoori fish, which was a highlight for us. It was tender and spiced just enough that I actually felt the pain as a wimpy white girl who can’t handle too much spice but I didn’t care…I wanted more!
And let’s not forget our friend dessert!! With over 20 desserts to choose from there is certainly something to tickle anyone’s fancy. My favourites were the cherry crumble and the raspberry and white chocolate ganache. One disappointing dessert was the tiramisu, sadly, as I am a huge fan. I’ve eaten it many times in Italy and in other countries and – although it was tasty at The Leela – for me it was all bits of wrong because it was missing the savoiardi (the ladyfingers, which are light and sweet sponge cakes roughly shaped like a large finger)…that is usually THE staple ingredient because they are pre-soaked beforehand in either straight coffee or coffee with rum.
Entertainment at brunch is pretty rockin’ I have to admit. The Leela’s musical duo (male on keyboards/vocals + female vocalist) played a cool mix of soulful and sultry lounge tunes at the beginning in the genre of world music with mostly the female vocalist. It was a nice change from the pop and rock tunes that are usually on from beginning to end. As the afternoon progressed, they did of course pull popular hits but surprisingly they were more clubby than poppy which was super!
Kids are also given royal treatment as the outdoor chill out area of the Library Bar is converted into a ‘palace of fun’ for the kids with Disney films playing, toys and games, floors covered in bean bags and mattresses, puppet houses and with comfy pillows thrown all about. There is a kids buffet and staff to attend their every wish, all way far away from the eyes of the parents (and the ears of guest, thank you so much!!), all of which allows for a more relaxed brunch.
The service is attentive and I noticed some attention to detail that I hadn’t witnessed elsewhere. For example, when guests stand up from the table to go in for more food, a waiter will often walk over and fold the napkins and place them on the table or on the seats to make guests feel like they were enjoying a fresh napkin upon their return.
Ramesh and I both had a wonderful time and I can’t wait to return to Citrus for another elegant and relaxing round of Sunday brunch fun soon.
Coo Coo for Cheese 5-star rating: 5* (they have the most ample international selection of cheese in town)
What I liked best: the ambience, the delicious tandoori fish (do not miss it!), the amazing variety of cold cut meats from Europe, and – of course – the cheese!
What I liked least: No Champagne, Meen Moilee (fish in coconut, ginger and green chili) was somewhat dry and the ladies finger salad because it was the one thing that seemed like it had been sitting out a bit too long.
Cost: Rs. 2,927 (inclusive of taxes) with unlimited Lindeman’s Premier Selection Brut Cuvee from Australia and cocktails (no special price without alcohol). For kids 6 and over it’s half price, 5 and under are free.
Opening times: 12:00 – 3:30pm, although they do extend past 3pm and both chefs, Ranjarajan and Ranjit, confirmed that the desserts and drinks are extended generally until 4pm.
(reviewer Angela Carson)