Herbs and Spice has come a long way, baby. Maybe not in terms of distance – it’s still in Indiranagar, a few “mains” and “crosses” closer to the (old) airport road flyover. Certainly in terms of space, style, and substance though. You no longer have to navigate through cramped little by-lanes to get there and then argue with hirsute taxi drivers in white safari suits who appropriate all the parking space on the road for themselves. Nor are you forced to walk from your table to stand and stare at the blackboard menu, thereby revealing your myopia – and perhaps your age – to the entire restaurant.
Recently the restaurant shifted to a terrace at the junction of 12th Main and 80ft. Road in Indiranagar, above the Planet M store. Grouse #1: the reason you no longer have to argue with hirsute cab drivers about parking is that there isn’t any to be had. None. Nada. Three choices: you can a) park on 12th Main, if you’re lucky; b) turn right at the bottom of 12th Main, drive past the restaurant, look for a construction site shielded by tin sheeting on your right, make a deft U-turn against oncoming traffic, force your car up the 4″ sidewalk and park adjacent to the aforementioned tin sheeting (this is what the restaurant management recommends); or c) take an autorickshaw (this is what I recommend).
The restaurant is soothing. It’s an open courtyard fringed by wooden tables, cushioned benches and chairs. Sitting in the shade of the tiled roof, you can see the sky, feel the breeze. The open center features a young ficus as a centerpiece and creepers that will cool the restaurant in summer. Hurrah #1: the earlier, “a-garage-is-all-I-can-afford-and-I-make-no-apologies-for-that” theme has been replaced by a simple and refreshing, yet somehow more sophisticated look. Oversized olive lampshades overhang each table. You could almost imagine yourself somewhere in the Mediterranean (if it weren’t for grouse #2, the music, a confusing medley of U2, Abba, and other assorted artistes from the 60s, 70s and 80s).
Herbs and Spice has dispensed with the blackboard in favor of a printed menu in a very classy brown folio. Hurrah #2 and #3: they still change the menu frequently and it’s available online each day (the prawn ravioli my son liked so much last time we were here had been replaced today by a three-mushroom ravioli that a guy at the next table summed up in three words: “Yummy. Yummy. Yummmmmmy.”) They also still serve a delish bread basket with olive oil, or, should you prefer it, pats of herb butter.
We began our meal today with a salad of Serrano Ham and Melon, something neither The Spouse nor I can resist. It was good – even if the ham wasn’t anywhere near as good other Serranos I’ve tasted, even if the ratio of ham to melon wasn’t nearly enough (when is it ever? Sigh), and even though I want to go back to Spain every time I eat Jamon Serrano anywhere else, I’d give this a 7 on 10.
I then chose a Four-Cheese Pizza, and The Spouse went (forgive me my pun) whole hog, ordering a Chargrilled Gammon Steak. I’ve always liked the Herbs and Spice pizzas, and today was no exception. My pizza came topped with Bleu, goat, Comte, and Mozzarella cheeses, a delicious, full-bodied tomato sauce, and several strategically placed basil leaves. The crust was thin and what I call “rustic” – not perfectly shaped, not perfectly even. The cheese was generous, but not so loaded that you ended up feeling sick.
Which brings me to The Spouse. He pigged out (I’m sorry, someone tickled my punny bone today) on his gammon, declaring it at first “done to perfection” and then lamenting over some “overdone bits” (um, that’d be the “char” in “chargrilled”, my love.) Give me charred gammon over underdone any day… while I like my steak rare, gammon is meant to be cooked. The mashed potatoes were ordinary, no magic there, but the barbecue sauce livened it up considerably, and The Spouse licked the plate clean. A good thing too, when you consider the price of veggies today – I’d have hated to see Manjit, the restaurant owner, being reduced to a quivering, weeping mess if he had been forced to scrape leftover potatoes into the trash.
Desserts, as always were scrumptious. Oh, by the way, you can now get Herbs and Spice desserts, quiches, and breads at Opus, and you can now hear Opus music here. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s pretty cool for restaurateurs to collaborate instead of bitchin’ and gripin’ about each other, and for a live music venue to go online instead of bitchin’ and gripin’ about archaic laws and greedy cops. Way to go guys!
Herbs and Spice
39, 80 Feet Road,
Closed on Mondays