Manchester United's first flagship restaurant in Bengaluru is not just about the game and its fans. It also involves an amazing gastronomic game.
So, now Bengaluru gets its very own sportsy version of the Hard Rock Café…the Manchester United Restaurant and Bar. Huge screens flashing football (what else), the DJ spinning house tracks, people tucking into hearty fare… there's a buzz about the place that pulls in footer fans, and those not into football too.
You will have gathered from the preceding sentence and, rightly so, that this writer falls into the latter category. Let me put it this way: when David Beckham left Man U, I lost interest in the club and its games. So, I was quite thrilled to walk into the spacious restaurant and see the aforementioned Beckham, glowering handsomely at me from the Legends Wall. This is good, I told myself.
It only got better. Having placed my trust in all matters regarding food in the (extremely capable, it turned out) hands of the affable manager Avinandan Bannerjee, I went for a stroll around the admittedly spacious eatery. The 10,000 sq ft of space seats 208 and is spread over two levels. Red is the predominant colour here, given that it is Man U's signature colour.
The interiors — done up in stone, leather, raw silk and steel (quite tastefully, I might add) — comprise the Dugout with a curved glass roof and bucket seats; the Manager's High Table; the compact Sir Alex Ferguson's Boardroom, which has already started hosting business meetings; a boulevard café style smoking section.
A stairway designed to resemble the players' tunnel at Old Trafford leads upstairs to the Sky Lounge where there are leather banquettes, the DJ console and the Director's Box, lifted straight from a classic English pub (an upmarket one, though) with green leather armchairs and banquettes, a shag rug and of course, the mandatory big screen telly.
Downstairs, a handful of small screen television sets back up the main 18-feet one and, take it from me, before long, every diner is willy-nilly, drawn first into watching the game, then getting most volubly and energetically involved in it! There is a Memorabilia Wall with signed t- shirts of the players and other limited edition merchandise.
Game nights are big, Avinandan informs me, and I can well believe it. I ask the efficient Vikas, who saw to my gastronomic journey in the restaurant, whether he is a footie fan. But, of course, he said, adding that he had played a match just yesterday and hurt his knee. He rests his case if not his knee, leaving me convinced.
I put the same question to the sous chef a while later and he, too, is quick off the mark, telling me he is a most enthusiastic football fan… and a Man U loyalist.
The fare is more vigorous than fancy, another upgrade of traditional pub fare. All the dishes are named in sporty if obvious fashion: Arriba! Arriba!, Moscow 2008, Champions Burger, Red Devil Knickers, Boxing Day Chickenfight and the like.
Sampling the menu
I watched a young and enthusiastic bartender go through some deft moves with bottles at the long and curved Devil's Bar, even as I relished my Twisting Turning cocktail. The starters' platter was called the Manchester Derby and had Chicken Kickers, Jaleno Poppers, beer battered fried fish and onion rings crisped and browned very nicely, as well as tangy cola glazed chicken wings. The desi tapas that came alongside were baby bhature with chole as its highlight…an interesting Indian take on a nibble.
For the main course, I tasted from a variety of dishes including the Carlington Salad, a Knights of Manchester pizza, the Red Devil Knickers which was breaded chicken with a bhoot jholakia sauce (this, for my money, was the sauce of the restaurant: strong enough to nuke your innards!) and the Champion Burger, quite kingly in size at 10 oz, but the only unsettling part was its oh-so-neat appearance, nary a sauce spilling over or a lettuce leaf out of place.
Dessert was another sampling set: the Theatre of Dreams, a chocolate brownie sundae; the Ginger Ninja, an orange crème brulee with roasted peaches and candied ginger and the provocatively named Megs between the Legs, a ganache poured over with vanilla bean syrup, garnished with nutmeg.
And then, I staggered out, replete.
As I left, I threw the poster of Becks a meaningful smile. Even though he is but a past legend of Man U, I will be back. There are a couple of cocktails and a dish called “Deep into the Continent” involving some Coorg pork, kachampuli and pandi curry masala that I want to forge a closer acquaintance with.
The Manchester United Restaurant and Bar
No 1, Kira Layout, Hosur Main Road, Koramangala.
Open from 11.00 a.m. to 11.30 p.m.