It is hard to miss Hebbal’s latest watering hole. With neon red lights announcing its name, Hebbal SOCIAL catches your eye instantly. And if you have been a resident of Bengaluru for the past few years, chances are, you are already familiar with one or more of the six other outposts in the city.
Since its first branch on Church Street in 2014, SOCIAL has come a long way in the city. Some would even say they have grown up with it. The college kids who once grimaced through their first taste of beer there now hang out in the same bar and relive those memories over happy hours with their colleagues.
The latest outlet offers the techies, hustlers and inhabitants of the northern locales in namma ooru, an adda to hang out in their side of town. The interiors and vibe pay homage to this part of the city and its commercial persona, making use of raw materials such as steel and concrete in exposed form. The grunge aesthetic gives it a laidback look and it is no surprise that when we head there on a weekday, the place is already buzzing.
The space is expansive, offering multiple seating options, including mini staircases that lead to private booths on a level above. Despite the crowd, the staff wears an ever-present smile and is happy to help you decide from their wide-ranged menu. Scanning the menu shows a few crowd favourites from the other Social outlets — Chinese bhel, chilli paneer, baida roti, pita baos, and more.
The Hebbal outlet, however, also presents a new special section — Local Heroes. A glocal mix, these offerings are a treat both to veteran Bengalureans, and those new to the city. We sampled the ghee roast masala paneer, nati style chicken and threesome mushroom. Each dish was cooked and spiced beautifully, pairing well with the drinks on hand.
If gin is your poison, do not miss out on trying the go coconuts, a citrusy, tropical drink that combines gin with pineapple and coconut. One sip and you almost imagine yourself to be amid sun, surf and sea! Seafood lovers can also try the Squid 65 to elevate this experience. The dish we felt lacked punch, however, was the naked fish fry, where a fresher catch of the day might have added more zing.
SOCIAL, of course, is also famous for its LLIITs, which is their looong interpretation of the Long Island Iced Tea. In electrifying colours and flavours, this tall drink is a group favourite and we were not surprised to see it dotting one too many table tops, even on a weekday night.
Wordplay extends to everything on their menu. Take, for instance, Trip On The Drip, a vodka cocktail which even comes in a little plastic baggie not unlike a hospital IV drip.
Such is the allure of the place and their drinks that some of these cocktails have remained signatures, right from the early days of 2014. Their food menu too features classics such as the China box (a DIY meal where you choose your base, sauce and protein). We, however, decided to try something new with the tandoori ratatouille pizza and Nina aunty’s mutton dhansak. Both dishes did not disappoint, combining their Italian and Parsi roots with a fun desi twist.
It is always a cracking time at SOCIAL but it would be nice to keep in mind that as the hours go by, the decibel levels of the music increase too. It makes having a conversation with your dining companions hard but this is easily made up for by the infectious vibe. As time passes, smiles are easily swapped between customers across tables and some even go a step further to sway to the foot-tapping mixtape.
The night is young and the desserts make you feel younger. Our favourite is Ramesh & Suresh, a throwback to the famed ads for a popular chocolate brand of the 90s. True to its name, the chocolate bars come deep fried with fudge and ice cream. It is a sinfully rich dessert, best recommended if you have a group to split it with. Brownie points to the steel dabba it comes served in. Hello, nostalgia!
It is a comforting dish, especially seeing a chocolate bar from years ago being the star of a dish even today. Just like seeing your college adda in a new avatar, still kicking, still thriving!