What a concept. Walk into The Global Tree Café at F&B off St. Marks Road at lunchtime. Take your pick from a menu of 10 appetizers, a soup du jour, five salads, six sandwich variants, 27 (that’s right, 27!) plated entreés, and six desserts. Order as many of them as you like, as many times as you like. Pay only Rs.360 per head.
No, this isn’t a set menu, where you get to order a fixed number of appetizers, one entreé, and a dessert. You could, for example, order six appetizers, one sandwich, two plated entreés, and a dessert. Of course, you’d need some heavy duty machinery to get you home… but that’s not their problem, is it?
If there’s one thing I dislike about F&B, it’s the fact that I have to travel through downtown traffic to get there (hey people – Bangalore’s arrived, we have a ‘downtown’ area now!). If there’s one thing I like, it’s the fact that they have parking space as well as a valet parking service. It allows you to enter the restaurant in a good mood.
Having visited several times, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the leaf motif cutouts on the far wall had been replaced by a montage of abstract paintings. Not that I had anything against those cutouts; I just felt that the paintings were a refreshing and colorful change. Apparently that wall is now called the Art Wall, and will play host to the creative talent of contemporary artists from India and around the world.
Eating For 360
I did a double take when I saw the menu, actually summoning a waiter to clarify that I had interpreted it correctly. “Think of it as a sit down buffet menu, madam,” he said. I immediately slipped into Deprived Desi mode: if something’s offered cheap, or better still, free, get as much of it as you can. Ambitiously deciding to sample everything on offer, my dining companion and I ordered a sample platter of appetizers. We got individual portions of Fish in Beer Batter; Goong Phad Samunpai; Chicken Supreme; Murgh Khatta Meetha; and Tandoori Lamb Boti Shashlik.
The last two turned out to be kebabs. I enjoyed the chicken – it was succulent, well-marinated, and flavorful. My dining companion thought it was “pretty okay”. We both agreed that the lamb was comme ci comme ça.
The Fish in Beer Batter got a hearty thumbs up. The batter was thin, crisp, and formed an even coating over the fish – which was as fresh as you could get in a land-bound city like Bangalore.
I didn’t try the Chicken Supreme (skewered, olive-stuffed chicken fillets). It looked good; unfortunately, despite being repeatedly requested to slow things down, the wait staff brought out successive starters so quickly that they were going cold before we got to them.
Goong Phad Samunpai, the menu says, is “tangy tamarind marinated shrimps stir fried with seasonal herbs and cashew nut”. The shrimp we got was definitely not stir fried. It was coated thickly in some kind of batter and deep fried. I had two problems with this dish. First, the tails were still on the shrimp – usually not a hassle, but in this case, the batter was so thick and shapeless that you couldn’t tell where the tail was until you bit into it. Second, the prawns themselves were tasteless – I’m guessing frozen and hastily defrosted – and the chef had obviously tried to overcompensate for this by slopping on the batter. Sadly, the ruse didn’t work.
Next, we ordered three salads: Lebanese Fattoush, Yam Hua Plii, and Grilled Vegetable. Of these, the Yam Hua Plii, a banana blossom salad, stood out (the fattoush and grilled vegetable salads were not only mediocre, they’d been doused in too much vinegar). The Yam Hua Plii more than made up for our disapointment with the other salads. A chiffonade of banana blossoms had been tossed with finely sliced onion, slow-roasted garlic, basil leaves, and a sprinkling of green chilli, then dressed lightly with soy sauce and possibly sesame oil – if my taste buds serve me right. An inspired creation, and one I’ll definitely come back for.
Caprese… Or Not?
By now, I was stuffed. The thought of consuming a plated entreé was simply too daunting, so I ordered a Caprese Sandwich instead. This was served as, guess what, a plated entreé. Sigh. My friend wussed out on entreés altogether and ordered a Tiramisu, which she declared to be “reasonably good”. My Caprese was essentially a toasted green chutney-tomato-cheese sandwich served with tartare sauce and a healthy side of perfectly-done potato wedges. It was absolutely delicious; but I like to call a spade a spade, and this was a toasted green chutney-tomato-cheese sandwich, not a classic Caprese sandwich, which:
a) would never have been made with pedestrian white sandwich bread;
b) would have featured fresh basil leaves instead of (or as well as) pesto;
c) ideally uses buffalo mozzarella instead of regular mozzarella;
d) is fragrant with extra virgin olive oil; and
e) is not the same thing as a grilled Caprese sandwich.
Yeah, I’m picky. Like I said, I enjoyed it thoroughly – it’s just that I have what you might call “labeling issues”, and the pesto was truly more mint than basil.
That said, with choices like:
Herb crusted fillet of fish on potato mash in tomato crème velouté
Lemongrass marinated breast of chicken with Thai-curry glaze and cucumber relish
Sarson ka Saag with makai roti, dal, paapad and salad
… and Thai red and green curries with steamed rice, kaati rolls, biriyani, pastas and more, all sweetened with that Rs. 360 per head price tag, I will definitely be returning.
Will I Be Back? Hell Yeah!
Service is friendly, efficient, and eager to please; even I forgave them the odd lapse, and God knows I am not the world’s most forgiving person, especially when it comes to service. One area where there’s definitely room for improvement: with this kind of a sit-down, all-you-can-eat meal, they need to be proactive about offering fresh plates every now and then.
In my opinion, the best thing about F&B’s latest offering isn’t the food. It’s the fact that you aren’t compelled to sit there mournfully masticating something you dislike. You are at liberty to imperiously push it aside and order something else. You’re given the freedom to make mistakes or change your mind. No tedious explanations, no extra cost, and no guilt. Unless of course, you’re thinking of the starving millions who could survive a week on your half-eaten Caprese…
[Edit: I’ve just been told that the restaurant changes the entire menu every Monday. Wow. ]
The Global Tree Café
# 8, Excellency, Ground Floor
Off St. Marks Road,
Bangalore 560 001
Ph: +91 080 4033 3888