Note: As of March ’09, the Kiellands are no longer part of Ugly Duckling – although the restaurant continues to run and attempts to serve the same food.
Like its namesake, The Ugly Duckling is unattractively garbed, hidden away as it is in Sona Towers, an unimaginative concrete office block on Millers Road. Strike one for the restaurant – no parking, at least in the daytime (however, you could park at Reliance TimeOut, just around the corner on Cunningham Road). During the evenings, the offices empty out, and there’s plenty of parking space.
Newly ‘hatched’ by owners Nikolaj Kielland and Shalini Philip Kielland, The Ugly Duckling serves European food in a no-frills, café-like ambiance. Every recipe on the menu has been gleaned from people the Kiellands have visited on their travels through Europe – a fact that sets it apart from other “Euro” eateries in the city. Nikolaj is fastidious about following recipes to the letter, especially when it comes to those of his home country, Denmark. “We’re not about haute cuisine,” he says, “We’re about the honest, home-style food that’s served in homes across Europe.”
Indeed. So while we weren’t served the stylishly presented Greek Salad found in chic Athens restaurants, we were served one – chunky, rustic, and finger-licking good – that reminded us of an afternoon spent in a no-name village on a dusty road in southern Greece. I also sampled a creamy asparagus soup that impressed with its no-nonsense, hearty flavors – although personally, I’d have preferred a little less salt.
Good news for vegetarians – aside from the good-sized salads (one of the best Caesar salads in Bangalore, insists my dining companion) appetizers include fingers of Emmental cheese fried in a thin crust of breadcrumbs; feta cheese and potato patties; and succulent mushroom croustades stuffed with cheese. The non-veg appetizer platter featured Danish frikadeller (little patties of minced beef) served with traditional Danish remoulade; pigs in blankets, an old English favorite; tangy prawns (my pick of the platter); chicken stuffed with olive and rolled in pesto; spicy meat balls (Swedish? Who cares, they’re good!); lamb souvlaki, and more. Of the accompanying sauces, we kept returning to the remoulade and the tzatziki.
From the entrée section, we sampled Slavic fish with mustard sauce (good); a Greek pork chop (very good) and The Ugly Duckling Steak (outstanding, not smothered by too much flavoring, and cooked perfectly rare). On-the-run eats include Danish-style burgers – not burgers at all, but ciabbata bread topped by an oversized meat patty and served with potato wedges and remoulade; hot dogs; sandwiches of all sorts; and stuffed bread rolls. If you don’t fancy any of their pastas (Arrabbiata, Pepperoncini, Carbonara, amongst others), use the cute create-your-own-pasta pad and they’ll whip up exactly what you want.
The ambiance at The Ugly Duckling is comfortable and casual. Pleasing framed prints adorn the walls, there’s a small bar counter (just beer), comfortable tables and chairs, and some token lounge-style seating. The air is unhurried, with neither clatter nor clutter (at least not yet). This is a place that invites you to put your feet up, use your fingers, and take your time. Nikolaj and Shalini go out of their way to make guests feel at home. They will join you at your table for conversation (they can tell you a lot about Danish cuisine and its evolution – we were surprised at some of the things we learnt), a good laugh, their own meals, and – in Nikolaj’s case – to steal (he calls it ‘sharing’) your dessert.
Speaking of dessert, The Ugly Duckling serves the best crème caramel I’ve tasted in a long while. It’s thick and not too sweet, “made from the traditional Danish recipe, one egg per serving,” says Nikolaj. They also serve a double chocolate mousse made sans gelatine, which makes it sinfully rich. The lack of gelatine also means that the white chocolate begins to melt before the dark chocolate – resulting in a chocolate mousse topped by a delicious, vanilla-tinged white chocolate sauce… slurpalicious!
Downsides? Teething trouble, perhaps, but ventilation seemed to be a problem the day we visited, with smoke wafting out of the kitchen and into the dining area. The kitchen, by the way, is spotlessly clean, and “open to anyone who wants to step in to share a recipe or just take a look.”
If you’re looking for a place to chill out and enjoy good food and good company, head to The Ugly Duckling. If you’re looking for “action,” food disguised as plated art, and a “happening” spot to see and be seen at, look elsewhere.
Average cost of meal for two (no liquor) Rs. 600
The Ugly Duckling
5th Floor, Sona Towers,
71 Millers Road
Phone: 080 22375982