Everything at the Leela Palace Hotel Bangalore was superlative as this landmark, a favorite hangout of the city's rich and famous, seeked to recreate the grandeur and old-world elegance of a maharajah's palace.
And Jamavar was Leela Palace's flagship restaurant amidst its impressive stable of luxurious eateries, all designed to make a black hole in your Calcuttan wallet. Jamavar's divided into two main dining areas - an al fresco section with its soaring ceilings, massive columns, and tables looking out into the thick foliage of its manicured gardens, with illuminated ancient Hindustone-carvings, and a brighter, glittering dining room inside with its huge chandeliers, expensive silverware, embroidered walls lined with large oil paintings of maharajahs and magnificent large windows which opened to the gardens outside.
For such a dining landmark, the service, although extremely polite, was surprisingly slow and painfully formal. One had to attract the attention of the wait-staff here, as the restaurant certainly packed in a crowd despite its average US$100++ per head dinner.
Admittedly being very impressed with the restaurant's grand ambience, I was wondering why the Times of India's authoritative food guide only rated it 4th for South Indian cuisine in Bangalore (behind Bon South, Daksin and South Indies), until I tasted its food. The standard of cooking was, disappointingly, somewhat erratic.
- Starter: A mixed tandoori platter which consisted of the melt-in-your-mouth "Galawati Kebab", flavored with spices (quite chilli spicy, too, this one) and essence of rose; a rather dry-ish, overcooked pair of tandoori prawns; and a super-delicious, best-I'd-ever-had piece of tandoori chicken, covered with creamy yoghurt-spice marinade.
- Entree: Lobster Neerulli - the restaurant's signature, jewel-in-the-crown dish turned out to be a pretty simple Keralan curry of diced lobster meat with pearl onions, strewn with kari leaves.
The accompanying appams were cold and chewy - I think I can get better appams *anywhere* else in Bangalore!
- Dessert: Banana Dosa with vanilla ice-cream was, in short, pure nirvana on a plate. It was one of the best desserts I'd had in a while - crisp-edged banana-infused pancakes that are meltingly-soft inside,and tasted milky-rich, lifted by ever-so-subtle aromatic spices.
So there you go - a bloody expensive dinner which, even though it had its Gunga Din moments, turned out to be less impressive than I'd anticipated.
Some areas for improvement:
- A selection of papads was served at the beginning without any chutney-dips, until asked for.
- The restaurant's understaffed, with a handful of wait-staff having to serve roomfuls of diners, a ratio of almost 1 to 10.
- A peek into the kitchen showed almost near-panic, frenzied pace of cooking inside. Hey, something's gotta give if you're operating at near-breaking point.
In short, it was a great place to come, see, be awed, and to try out. Will I be back? Not very likely.
P.S. - Its sister outlet, Jamavar at the Leela Mumbai, with its hip, modern decor, had much better food. I ate there at least half a dozen times during my 2008 one-month stay at the hotel, every meal was a pleasure to the senses, and I'm basically in love with the place.
The Leela Palace Bangalore
23 Old Airport Road
Tel: +91-80 2521 1234