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Monday, October 25, 2021

The Undercover Review: Toast & Tonic, Bengaluru

Chef Manu Chandra’s latest coup de maître celebrates international cuisines with local ingredients.

By: Team Express FoodIE | Bengaluru |
February 27, 2016 3:58:33 pm
toast tonic1_759 Charcoal Roasted Pork Belly Skewers with Cold Sesame and Spinach Salad (left); Expressions of Jaggery. (Source: Toast & Tonic)

As soon as we walked into Toast & Tonic, we realised that the place looked roomier than it did during its Monkey Bar days. The restaurant lived up to its ‘East Village style’ theme with its dimly lit, rustic barn-like ambiance, chip-board ceilings, sleeper wood floors, et al. Everything spelt sustainability and boho chic at once.

As the restaurant’s name suggests, tonics are one (among the many) heroes here. You get them in all kinds of unusual combinations here – cinnamon and pomegranate, capsicum and rosemary, jasmine tea and elderflower and grapefruit. While the British Raj (Rs 375) – a sweetish G&T with a strong flavour of rose petals, was a tad too sweet for our taste, the Herbalist (Rs 375) – a tantalisingly potent G&T with subtle flavours of basil and orange-infused tonic, was spot on. Not to forget the sphere of coriander-orange ice in it. The attention to detail is amply evident here.

While the menu – drinks and food – is international with various influences including Asian, French, Italian and Latin American, what lifts it a notch up is the way local ingredients – like avarekai, Gobindobhog rice and Bandel cheese – fit into global cuisines. So expect flavours of Bengal like Gondhoraj lemons and nolen gur in the Royal Bengal Mojito or amaranth leaves in the Roasted Cauliflower with garlic sesame yogurt spread, jalapeño verde toasted pine nuts and pomegranate.

Interiors - 1set set - Sanjay_759 The restaurant lives up to its ‘East Village style’ theme with its dimly lit, rustic barn-like ambiance, chip-board ceilings, sleeper wood floors, et al. (Source: Toast & Tonic)

The plethora of small plates on offer are perhaps the best accompaniments to your drinks. Go local with the warm asparagus, avarekai and green beans salad or the smoked tofu and watermelon poke bowl – did you ever imagine seaweed cooked with Gobindobhog? Neither did we. The sourdough toast with soft eggs, green mustard spread and a gin mustard hollandaise, christened Soft Eggs Andouille (Rs 325), is a toast to the marriage of in-house and local ingredients. The Creole Andouille sausage topping is made in house and combines beautifully with smoked salty, crumbly Bandel cheese (native to the erstwhile Portugese colony of Bandel in West Bengal).

But the hero, for us, were the Charcoal Roasted Pork Belly Skewers (Rs 475). Falling off the skewers, the pork pieces had the pandi curry balance of the fat-to-meat ratio, a sweetish-sharp mustard glaze and the perfect accompaniment – two spinach cutlets, covered with sesame seeds, the muted taste a perfect complement to the strong flavours of the pork.

If you do venture beyond the small plates, try the flat-breads with their hearty toppings. We had the Asian Style Spicy Smoked Chicken (Rs 355) – the house-made chicken ham was tangy and spicy, its flavours enhanced by the confit garlic, chives, sautéed mustard greens and jalapeños. Our stomachs already almost full, we decided to give the buns and burgers a miss and headed straight for the Big Plates where ingredients like Elephant Foot Yam, drumstick leaf and Paunkh make an appearance. The Wood Street Beef and Mushroom Curry (Rs 460) with Brown Butter Gobindobhog Rice got our vote of approval – the beef was soft and the fried onions gave it that extra crunch but the star was the salty Gobindobhog rice, with the perfect nuttiness provided by the butter crumbs.

East Indian Company_ Toast & Tonic_ Sanjay Ramchandran _759 East Indian Company. (Source: Toast & Tonic)

It was hard work, yes, but we made room for dessert. Our reward was the Expression of Jaggery (Rs 250). The jaggery pot du crème was a panacotta-esque explosion of jaggery, the crumbled banana jaggery cake, smatterings of the sweet nolen gur, all perfectly balanced by the strong flavours of the coffee and cardamom ice-cream.

A special mention for the service – unobtrusive, calm despite the heady ambience and extremely efficient. Despite the loud music when we walked in, making our orders a bit hard to hear, there was no confusion and care was taken to explain certain parts of the menu that we had queries about.

Local, international, rustic and stylised – Toast&Tonic continues Chandra’s golden run.

Where: 14/1, Wood Street, Richmond Road, Ashok Nagar, Bengaluru
Time: 7-11pm (till 12.30am on Friday and Saturday), open only for dinner until March 1
Meal for two: Rs 3,000 with alcohol (2 cocktails) approx.
Phone: 080-4116878 (reservations online on their website

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