New Delhi, India
October 8, 2013
Koshy’s, we discovered after we’d entered this restaurant, was set up in 1940. The building housed a department store and the restaurant to start off with, and was supposedly Bangalore’s most happening place even back in the 50s and 60s (and later), with big names and familiar faces to be seen here, from Jawaharlal Nehru and Nikita Khrushchev to Queen Elizabeth II. Today, the Koshy’s building houses a couple of eateries, both part of the same chain: one is called the Parade Café, the other is Jewel Box. We went to Jewel Box.
This one, with its windows (framed by faux lace curtains) looking out onto the street, its dark blue runners on white tablecloths, and its shiny copper-like pillars, has a definite air of a bygone era. Down one side of the restaurant is a large, not very good fresco depicting a mermaid in a marine setting: it reminded me something out of a fairy tale. The restaurant seems to be L-shaped (we didn’t go all the way to explore), with a gleaming bar counter and more tables at the far end.
We began by sitting at a table beside one of the windows overlooking the street. Within minutes, we realized why the table had been unoccupied all this while: the air conditioning ducts were just above it, and the blast of cold air was freezing. We got ourselves shifted to a table in the centre of the restaurant just after we’d placed our orders.
Talking of our orders, the menu. The Jewel Box menu is a sort of throwback to the 40s and 50s, when a ‘fashionable’ restaurant was expected to serve stuff like fish and chips alongside more familiar Indian food. The menu contains lots of typical old-fashioned Continental fare, such as fish in white sauce with cheese, grilled/fried/barbecued pork chops, baked crab, and so on. There’s also a section of North Indian food. South Indian dishes, which I’d expected to find in a restaurant that seemed to bill itself as a ‘multicuisine’ one, was conspicuous by its absence, though this place did serve some pretty predictable Indian-Chinese dishes.
After some thinking, I ordered grilled pork chops and my husband settled for the baked crab. For drinks, though Koshy’s does have a bar (which seems to be very popular, and by all accounts quite a happening place), both of us ordered a fresh lime soda each. The waiter took our order and returned a couple of minutes later to let us know that the crab was unavailable, so my husband would have to change his order. My husband, after searching in vain through the menu for something, preferably seafood, that sounded interesting, finally had to settle for fish and chips.
Our drinks arrived within a couple of minutes and were fine. The food arrived after about ten minutes, and just one look at the two plates, and our hearts sank. The fish fillets of my husband’s dish were very thin, crumbed and deep fried to a rather dark brown. The chips were French fries, really, not traditional chips. And on the side were served a very incongruous assortment of vegetables: slices of raw tomato, onion, radish, and carrot. The waiter also bunged down a plate with two unprepossessing soft rolls and a small steel bowl of butter, neither of which we touched. He also gave my husband a bowlful of mayonnaise mixed with coarse-ground traditional Bengali mustard sauce; and a bottle of tomato ketchup. My husband reserved his opinion till he began eating, and then said that that the dish tasted as ordinary as it looked. Nothing close to a good fish and chip dish, really.
My pork chops (two of them, heavily laced with fat) were cooked good and tender, and served with lots of grilled onions. So far, so good. But the pork and onions had been drowned in a too-salty, too-highly seasoned brown sauce, and the steamed vegetables served on the side (which, oddly enough, included cabbage) were overcooked.
We decided to give Koshy’s one chance to redeem themselves, so we ordered dessert: a caramel custard each. "Sorry, that’s not available," the waiter told us. Would we like something else? Ice cream? Apple pie with ice cream? We settled for the latter, and our plates of apple pie arrived within five minutes. Each plate had one large wedge of apple pie each, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side. After the thoroughly disappointing main course, this turned out to be a refreshing change: well spiced and cooked apple, light pastry (with a slightly crisp brown lattice above the fruit), and just generally a good, satisfying dessert which came as a surprise to us.
Our bill at Koshy’s, inclusive of taxes, was Rs 1650; we left a tip in addition.
Would I recommend dining at Koshy’s? Only if nostalgia and the thought of eating at an ‘institution’ appeal to you more than good food does. The food here – barring the apple pie – was very average (in fact, downright unappealing in parts). And, at the sort of prices they charge, it isn’t even cheap.
From journal Eating and Sleeping in Bangalore