The First Brunch

The 13th Floor
Barton Centre,
84, MG Road,

29th January, 2017

He said to them “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me. For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.” – Mark 14:20-21

This particular Gospel is believed to be an accurate account of one of the most crucial events in Christian theology. The evening Jesus Christ spent dining on bread and wine with his twelve Apostles in Jerusalem, predicting forthcoming events, which would eventually lead to his crucifixion. Given the debatable veracity of the Gospel, owing to the lack of witnesses, preferably in the form of a maître d’, willing to testify and verify that there was, indeed, a table reservation for thirteen people that night, it is on the works of Leonardo Da Vinci’s ‘The Last Supper’ that we have to rely on. A painting in which Jesus Christ takes centre stage, surrounded on either side by his twelve (faithful) Apostles.

Apart from serving as the perfect illustrative depiction of restaurant etiquette – in that it perfectly depicts how NOT to sit at a restaurant table, especially when there are more than two attendees (often resorting to Chinese Whispers to get a point from one end to the other) – the painting also portrays, probably, one of the earliest instances that one can recall of how unlucky the number thirteen can be. And that really is the whole point to this introduction – the number 13!

Considered the unluckiest number of them all (just ask the mirror!), the number thirteen is synonymous with all that is unholy and evil. Add the word ‘Friday’ before it, and you’ve got yourself enough ammunition to set alight the fears of any superstitious individual. It is perhaps for this reason (and this reason alone) that the number thirteen has found its place in society as a number pariah, often excluded in labels printed by product manufacturers, airplanes with more than twelve rows, and hotels and buildings with more than twelve storeys. Bar one. Correction! Bar two.

There’s an ongoing debate amongst the residents of Bangalore as to what area constitutes Central Bangalore (not the mall!). Koramangala, Indiranagar, Ulsoor, Jayanagar. It would take an expedition the likes of which Lewis & Clark had never experienced to perfectly pinpoint the exact location which splits the city of Bangalore into two perfect halves. Instead, I rely on technology, in particular, Google Maps, to approximate a location that is the exact centre of Bangalore. After a quick search, I am inclined to agree with those on Team Ulsoor (#TeamUlsoor), although if I am to be more precise, the centre of Bangalore is likely to lie in the middle of the never-ending Mahatma Gandhi Road.

Standing in the heart of Bangalore, where ‘X’ probably marks the spot, adjacent to the recently constructed M.G. Road metro station, the Barton Centre stands head and shoulders above neighbouring buildings, a sight that is not unlike the Burj Khalifa. The Barton Centre may not be the only building to have a thirteenth floor (though standing at only thirteen storeys tall is certainly a rarity), but it has the dubious distinction of being the only building to host a lounge by the name of ‘The 13th Floor’. Talk about adding fuel to the already burning fear amongst the superstitious. It doesn’t help that the entrance to the lounge is a broad, shiny, silver vault reminiscent of the Gates of Hell.

The plan for the Sunday Brunch came about a week earlier, days after my family and I arrived into Bangalore after spending a two-day weekend attending a wedding in Chennai. With a week left before I joined work once again, I was eager to take advantage of my break and go out into town and try out one of the many restaurants that Bangalore has on offer. When in doubt, I always reach out to a family friend, a restaurant connoisseur and foodie extraordinaire. My previous visits to Bangalore were always memorable because I would have the opportunity to dine at one of the city’s most happening restaurants, courtesy of Mr. X. If anyone was to read my conversations with Mr. X, they would think I was using a filter option on some online ordering website. I would give him my preferred cuisine and location (input) and he would suggest a restaurant (output). On this occasion, he suggested we come over to ‘The 13th Floor’ for Sunday Brunch.

We arrived at the lounge at a quarter to one in the afternoon and found the place to be quite full. Fortunately, we had reservations and were seated at a table overlooking the Chinnaswamy Stadium and other areas of Bangalore. The 13th Floor was recently recognized as the best rooftop lounge in Bangalore, and given the fact that it was good enough for British Prime Minister, Theresa May, to the 13th Floor, it is safe to say that I agree with the opinion and award.

As we sat down at the table, I realized that the tables were quite small, a characteristic homogeneous across all tables by the edge, and thus quite uncomfortable given the frequent near-yogi bending I had to undertaken throughout brunch. We were handed the menus, which comprised of a wide array of dishes from various cuisines – from Asian to Indian to American, and the beverage list, a long list of cocktails and mocktails. We decided to wait for Mr. and Mrs. X to arrive before we ate, much to the chagrin of my stomach.

 ( From top to bottom ): Chicken Kebab; Mutton Samosas; Buttermilk Pancakes with Strawberry Syrup; Flush Kleen; Fried Bacon; Khao Suey; Pina Colada Dessert
(From top to bottom): Chicken Kebab; Mutton Samosas; Buttermilk Pancakes with Strawberry Syrup; Flush Kleen; Fried Bacon; Khao Suey; Pina Colada Dessert

It was a quarter past one when they arrived, and no sooner had the gluteus maximus touched the chair than I grabbed my plate and headed over to the appetizer section. The lounge had a wide array of options both, vegetarian and non-vegetarian, but keeping my priorities straight and without the twist of the head, I headed straight to the non-vegetarian section, where I was met by three fully-filled chafers of Chicken Kebab, Mutton Samosas, and Fish Fry. Without any hesitation, I picked up the tongs lying by the side, and dropped as many kebabs and samosas as I could on to the plate, until the latter got too heavy for my arms. Exercise for the day – Check!

By the time I got back to my seat (which wasn’t too long), I noticed two tall glasses and one short glass standing upright on the table. Drinks were served – two Flush Kleens and one Sour Cherry and Star Anise Mojito. The Flush Kleen, a mocktail comprising of a combination of tropical juices, coconut cream, and blue curacao syrup, was unlike any drink I have ever had, most notably in its appearance. Reminiscent of a full bottle of Listerine mouthwash, I failed to notice any hint of blue curacao (though given the slight blue tinge, it must have been there), though the taste of tropical juices and coconut cream was plenty.

It must have been the hunger residing in me, for I swallowed the pieces of chicken kebabs and lamb samosas lying on my plate without giving a second thought to its flavours. Once my stomach was content, I went back to the appetizer section and filled up my plate once again. This time around, I made sure to pay attention to the flavours of the dish. The chicken was soft and, despite being left untouched in the chafer dish for some time (as is with most buffet dishes) on quite a bright and hot day, had surprisingly enough moisture left inside of it, which kept it from being too dry and chewy. In addition to the chicken, the spices were well-blended into the meat and had just the right amount of heat, and with a spoonful of mint chutney on the side, it was the perfect summer dish to munch on (preferably with a tall glass of beer and not Flush Kleen).

The mutton samosas, too, were quite appetizing. The balance between the inside filling of mutton and the other covering of samosa pastry was spot on. It neither felt too heavy or rich in mutton nor did it feel as if I was dining on bread (like the apostles!) for brunch. Just like the baby bear’s bed, it was just right! While the balance was indeed perfect, the mutton in of itself was slightly dry and lacked a certain spice, which was made up for by the pool of mint chutney flowing all over the plate.

Once the appetizer was done with, there was barely enough room in my stomach to go for the main course. I took a walk past the main course section, and found everything to be quite heavy and filling. Second guessing my capacity to eat any of the mains, I was about to head back to the table when something caught my eye. And this wasn’t something small either. What it was was a big poster of the lounge’s D.I.Y. Khao Suey special. I had never had Khao Suey before, so I thought that there was no better time than the present, and headed over to the D.I.Y. table. It was fortunate that I noticed the ‘Steps to making Khao Suey’ before I made a fool of myself. It was a simple procedure really – the broth, the noodles, and the various toppings available on the table (egg, prawns, onions…). As I got back to the table, Khao Suey in hand, I noticed a plate lying beside my drink. A red plate with something flat and fried lying on it. It didn’t take me too long to figure out that in my absence, a special order of Fried Bacon strips had been placed.

Like the Khao Suey, I am going to do this step by step. The chicken broth that filled my bowl was rich and spicy; the noodles were al-dente and perfectly absorbed the spices of the broth; the toppings of onion, egg, and coriander were the perfect compliments to the dish. Add fried bacon bits to the equation and it’s a win-win situation for everyone (except the vegetarians!). Across the table, my sister had picker up for herself three mini buttermilk pancakes with streaks of strawberry syrup. The pancakes, freshly-made, were soft, fluffy, and not overly sweet despite the topping of strawberry syrup.

It was time for the most important part of the meal – Desserts! It was half past two and the sun was out in its entirety and beamed down on us with such vengeance that the waiter advised us to move inside to a cooler and shaded part of the lounge. As we shifted tables, one closer to the T.V. in order to watch the finals of the Australian Open (What. A. Match. am I right?), the waiter arrived with five Martini glasses. Another surprise? You bet! It wasn’t Martini (shaken or stirred) that filled these glasses. Rather, the bottom of the glass was filled with some sort of custard, topped with three mini-doughnuts. Upon enquiring as to what the dish was, I was taken aback when I was told that it was a Pina Colada dessert – coconut cream custard topped with three rum-soaked pineapple doughnuts. Full marks to innovation! In terms of taste, it was not as sweet as I thought it would be, which necessarily isn’t a bad thing. The sweetness from the custard base was equally matched by the sourness emanating from the rum soaked pineapple hiding inside the really hot, and freshly-made doughnuts. While the dessert was quite interesting, I really felt that had the pineapples been slightly sweeter than it had been (owing to the rum probably!), or the doughnuts been drizzled with a sweet syrup,  the dessert would have been more fun to eat and something to marvel at. Well that’s why a pilot survey is always important! I believe this was the first time that the lounge had served the dessert, and being the only ones to taste it, we were the guinea pigs for this little experiment. And boy was I glad I was chosen!

After having my fair share of rum-soaked pineapples, we decided to call it a day. It was half past four and I was in a rush to head back home to catch the final set of the Australian Open finals (which I did!). Overall, I was glad to experience a Sunday Brunch in Bangalore, and more importantly at one of the city’s finest rooftop lounges. The food, the drinks, and the special orders of Fried Bacon and Pina Colada desserts certainly made the afternoon a memorable one. As we made our way back, I couldn’t help but think that the number 13 isn’t so bad after all. As for the Gates of Hell, turns out you can never really judge a book by its cover. What was inside certainly was far less fierce and far more welcoming (and offered delicious food!). I look forward to spending another brunch at the 13th floor. As the title says this certainly was the ‘first’ of many brunches to come!

The 13th Floor Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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