Café Thulp: Burgers, Sandwiches, Milkshakes, More


Ever since the sad and sudden decline of the Indiana Burger (if you’ve been in Bangalore for more than 10 years, you know what I’m referring to), I’ve been trying to find a suitable equivalent. The Ice and Spice burger comes close, but really, who wants to squish themselves into a 2’x2′ space, or wait half an hour to grab one of three tables?  And then share the ketchup and mayo squeeze bottles between tables, because there aren’t enough to go around?

Go Thulp!

Go Thulp!

For those of you who share my idea of the perfect burger, I am happy to inform you that I have discovered a kickass post-Indiana burger that surpasses its predecessor in size, flavor, and succulence (and, I must warn you, price). Best of all, it’s available right here in my backyard – Koramangala – and comes to you from the kitchen of Gautam Krishnankutty, the man who gave us Tai Tai and the hugely popular Asia in a Box. Appropriately, he’s called his latest venture Café Thulp! (such a Bangalore word – I’m lovin’ it!)

If being different is a measure of fortune, then Café Thulp is on course to be a success. Everything from décor to menu screams “fun”; if pressed, I’d say the theme was “comic book”, but that’s just a loose, underlying concept that seems to have been interpreted in whatever way seemed the most entertaining at a certain point in time.

Thulp menu

Bam! Pow! Thulp!

The color theme is red and white, with huge anime-style images dominating one wall. Why anime? Search me. Each place mat is different, and features graffiti art with groan-worthy one-liners such as “Insomnia is nothing to lose sleep over”. The colorful menu is a chuckle a minute. Someone certainly had a blast naming the chef’s creations!

Thulp interior

The book exchange

Large pine-finish tables ensure that you have enough elbow space to dine comfortably. Unless you’d like to sit at one of the the narrow road-facing granite counters – not recommended, really, because the roar of traffic can sometimes be deafening, especially in the evenings. I’d advise grabbing a table towards the rear instead.

There’s a bookshelf (donate one, take one). Eclectic, unintrusive music… sometimes, the radio. An odd assortment of board games (I should know, I donated a couple). A few toys for the kids to mess around with. No frills, but clean and pleasant.

The Meat of The Matter

In my opinion,Café Thulp currently serves the Best Burger in Bangalore (I’m sure some will disagree, but I’d be happy to back up my opinion based on value for money, ingredients, and conformity to the world’s finest Burger Bibles).

First of all, allow me to deconstruct the perfect burger:

  • A great bun: soft, warm, sesame-scattered, and lightly toasted. Not so thick or hard that it overwhelms the meat; not so soft that it gets soggy in seconds. And in terms of “fit”, it needs to be like a good bra: an appropriate size for what it’s encasing, neither too baggy nor allowing any over-spill of the contents.
  • A well-made burger patty: mince with a 3:1 meat:fat ratio (not lean meat), seasoned with salt and pepper alone. No onions, herbs, garlic, chilli. Zip, nada, nothing. And definitely, definitely no breadcrumbs or egg in the mix – I don’t care what anyone tells you about “binding”.
  • Fixin’s: Rule #1: Ketchup and mayo mostly on the side, not inside… I’ll add those myself, thanks. Please, no raw onion – grilled. Red, juicy tomatoes, evenly sliced. Crisp lettuce, whole leaf or shredded, key word “crisp”. Any cheese needs to be gooey, warm and meltalicious – not a fridge-cold slice carelessly tossed atop the meat. And finally, raw cucumber slices are not – ever – substitutes for gherkins or lovingly pickled baby cukes.
Moo with Cheese, Coleslaw and Fries

Moo with Cheese, Coleslaw and Fries

Someone with a sense of humor has christened Café Thulp’s burger “Moo”. All versions of Moo are served with a dollop of crunchy coleslaw and a generous portion of French fries. The fries are just the way they should be, crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside – no flaccid excuses here.

The Moo (Rs. 150) scores 10 on 10 for the bread; 9 on 10 for the patty; and 8 on 10 for the fixings.

Le mathematique:

  • The bun scores full marks for always being fresh (across several meals), and for fitting the patty as if sized by a Savile Row tailor.
  • The patty comes close to perfection; it’s 200gm of succulent meat, no filler (Moo’s Your Daddy, at Rs. 250, packs a 350gm pure-meat wallop, plus optional bacon). It loses one point for the fact that two people at the same table received different degrees of done-ness at the same meal. We hadn’t asked for that – or indeed, been given a choice (yeah, I’m picky. Real picky).
  • The fixings are where things get complicated.
    • I’m knocking off one point for the fact that one occasion the cheese in the Moo with Cheese (Rs. 170) was neither apparent in flavor nor appearance (the burger tasted great, and loses that one point for inconsistency rather than paucity of cheese).
    • It loses another two points for the fact that I had the same problem with the grilled onions – I got different quantities each time I ordered.
    • Yes, I can do the math, I know that should give it a score of 7 on 10. I’m giving one point back for the generous portion of smoky bacon that adds lashings of salty, meaty flavor to the Moo with Cheese and Bacon (Rs. 190).

What could be done differently? I need to see the cheese spilling over the side of the bun – every time I order a cheeseburger. I’d like the option to order more grilled onion on the side. Other than that it’s perfect. Bruce Lee Mani, my large, ever-hungry rock-star buddy, would like more options for fixings – mushrooms, jalapeños, sunny-side up eggs. I disagree, because I’m a burger purist. I even dislike Sloppy Joes, because they’re too, um, sloppy.

Shake, Rattle, and Roll

What else does Café Thulp have on offer? Plenty.

Let’s start with the beverages.

Snickers Blizzard

Snickers Blizzard

I haven’t had such satisfying milkshakes in a while. They’re called “Sheikh Yerbootys” (thank you Zappa), and come in Chocolate, Espresso, Vanilla, Malt and Chocolate, or “Snickers Blizzard” flavors (Rs. 100 each).

These shakes don’t come in fancy glasses sporting colorful little umbrellas, all dressed up  like they are vacationing in Florida. Perhaps that’s because they are so down-home good. Adding cherries and mountains of cream foam would be like slathering too much makeup on Liv Tyler’s gorgeous countenance – blasphemous. Everyone I have dragged to Café Thulp so far has lavished unreserved praise on  the Snickers Blizzard, served with a Snickers bar on the side as well as in the shake. Shockingly sinful.

Drinkable apple pie

Drinkable apple pie

Meanwhile, Vacuum Cleaner is slowly but surely developing an addiction to something called a Sludge Fest (Rs. 80), a yoghurt smoothie. His favorite is the Apple and Cinnamon flavor; he claims it’s “like drinking apple pie”. I have been able to wrest a couple of sips from him, and I have to agree.

They also serve hot chocolate, chai, espresso, capuccino, and even Bournvita – something for everyone.

On the food front, you can choose from starters, sandwiches, entrées, and salads, and at dinnertime, from themed blackboard specials that range from Kerala fish-curry-rice to Tom Kha soup depending on Gautam’s mood and what ingredients are fresh and inspiring that day.

Starters range from hummus with pita (Rs. 85) to chicken satay (Rs. 110) to momos (Rs.110) to french fries (Rs. 75). One starter worthy of mention is Prawnic Healing (Rs. 150), billed as a “spicy prawn cocktail”. Instead of being dunked in the sauce, the prawns are lightly kissed with cornflour and fried till plump and juicy, then hung over the side of the bowl. Dip with caution – the cocktail sauce has kick worthy of a martial arts expert.

I tried a chef’s salad in a mustard dressing topped with grilled chicken (Rs. 110). Decent portion, served with four slices of garlic bread. Good, but it ain’t going to inspire me to write poetry.

I haven’t gotten round to trying the entrées yet; all I can tell you is that they are priced between Rs. 125 and Rs. 225, and are served between 11am and 3pm and 7pm and 11pm, and include fried fish, fried chicken, steak, and a couple of pasta dishes.

Sandwiches

The sandwiches are served submarine-style, you can agonize over whole wheat or white bread, and there are seven non-veg and six vegetarian options to choose from.

I have tried the Rocky Balboa, a “Philly sliced steak with  grilled onions, grilled green peppers, and cheese sauce”; Great Balls of Fire, a meatball sub featuring roasted garlic; The Cows Came Home, house cured beef with pickles, tomatoes, onions, and mustard; Pigs on the Wing, Chinese-style BBQ pork with grilled pineapple; and PETA Ka Beta, a toasted tomato, mozzarella, and basil pesto sub.

Pigs on the Wing

Pigs on the Wing

I’m going to start with Pigs on the Wing. Taken individually, its constituent ingredients were great. Unfortunately, the whole simply does not add up to the sum of its parts. The pulled pork had the right proportion of fat to meat, was moist and tender, and cooked in a tangy, spicy sauce.  The slightly caramelized pineapple provided an additional layer of flavor, and the side of spicy, garlicky, herbed potato complemented the sub perfectly. My problem was with the bread. Not the bread per se – that was fresh – but with the fact that these particular Chinese flavors simply do not marry well with bread, and much less so, somehow, with the tomato slices that were also in the mix. Plus, I have had the pleasure of tasting  the pulled pork unadorned, and it is superb. In this version, the sauce swamps its exceptional flavor.

Almost a Philly cheesesteak

Rocky Balboa

I liked the Rocky Balboa, but if you’re expecting a full-blooded Philly cheesesteak, you may be disappointed. The beef is excellent, thinly sliced and oozing pan juices; the grilled onions are smoky and nicely caramelized; and the green peppers are used judiciously so as not to overwhelm the palate. The cheese sauce is delicious too – but it isn’t Provolone, which is what should be used if you like it highbrow, nor is it Cheez Whiz, that gooey stuff you’d want if you were a stickler for The Rules. Also, a true Philly would be messier, more moist, and contain more onions. I also came across another instance of inconsistency: on one occasion, the cheese sauce was wonderfully cheese-laden; on another, the cheese flavor was barely apparent.

If you’re looking for simplicity and crisp, fresh flavors, either order The Cows Came Home or PETA Ka Beta. In the former, I’d have half the quantity of pickles – or pickles on the side – because their tartness drowns out the clean, slightly sweet and nutty flavor of the beef. No complaints with the latter – I loved it, despite its lack of meat. Tip: it’s a great way to introduce “grown-up” flavors to kids.

House-cured beef sub

House-cured beef sub

For PETA people: Basil, tomato, and cheese

For PETA people: Basil, tomato, and cheese

Mr. Small’s favorite sub was the Great Balls of Fire. Unapologetically over-the-top flavors, redolent with garlic, rich with tomato and cheese – and devilishly spicy. Caution: Not suitable for all children – Mr. Small can stare down a bird’s eye chilli, if not with élan, at least with murderous intent.

The Desserts…

Brownie with icecream

Brownie with icecream

… are from Painted Platters, and include standard Painted Platters fare like Kir Royale,  Apple Crumble, and Chocolate Mouse Cake, plus some fun stuff like Picasso, a colorful, multi-layered, blancmange-style dessert. Prices average Rs. 50.

From top: Choc mousse cake; Picasso; Kir Royale

From top: Choc mousse cake; Picasso; Kir Royale

… And Now The Bad News

I’ll give it to you in one word: service. It’s slow, and it’s often hard to get anyone’s attention. I guess that’s okay if you aren’t in a hurry, but staff members who do not know their own menu and who try to convince you that “Milkshake: Vanilla/Chocolate/Espresso” means all three flavors in one glass and then refuse to go and check should either be trained or sacked. In a hurry.

Ditto for a waiter who overhears someone saying to a fellow diner, “I think I’ll order an apple crumble for dessert,” and then unceremoniously puts one on the table, despite the fact that he knows that particular diner’s lunch order has just been placed – and then argues with you, insisting that the dessert had indeed been ordered.

On two separate occasions, plates with food in them and glasses with a few glugs still left were cleared away when the diner was in the restroom, leading to surprised and outraged “Hey, where’d my Snickers go?”-type outbursts from grown men.

I will admit that these issues were resolved smoothly and efficiently, but they shouldn’t have happened at all. I’m assuming that these are teething troubles, and as long as they are dealt with pleasantly, I’m willing to overlook them because the food is worth it.

Soooooo worth it.

Café Thulp
998, 1st Main
1st Block
Koramangala
Bangalore 560 034

Phone: 40933344/55

Take a look at the menu!

No frills, but it’s pleasant. At night, the sound of traffic makes it hard to converse in peace, so grab a table to the rear.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to Ma.gnoliaAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine

Advertisements

34 thoughts on “Café Thulp: Burgers, Sandwiches, Milkshakes, More

  1. This is now a must check-out place. I bemoan the lack of quality burgers in this town. The Citrus burger is such a pale imitation of it’s once-awesome self. OP’s has the Whopper which, IMHO, is the best Bangalore has to offer. On occasion, when the starts align, the burger at Hard Rock is worth a visit.

  2. Gautam K, if you’re reading, email from a reader wanting to know “how much for extra cheese? I always ask for extra cheese no matter how much there is to start with.”

  3. Suman/Gautam – was at “Thulp” last evening. Burgers were really meaty but was sorely disappointed with the French Fries – toooooooooo thin, very crispy and no body. Need to work on that. Enjoyed the hummus and pita bread though bread could be a little less tough.
    Will spread the word around.

  4. Oh no! I was going to name my restaurant Thulp! Tsk tsk – too late. Anyway, I’m glad that the place that *stole* my dream name got a glowing review from you. Until now, my place to get my meat-and-bread fix has been Stars & Stripes (a steak and cheese sandwich, with their amazing in-house mayo, oh my!). Thanks for the heads-up on Thulp, Suman!

  5. nice. you’ve tempted me into going.
    might have to stay the night, its so far, but hey. maybe mr kutty will give sleeping bag?

  6. hey gautam…..

    so proud of you…..

    will bring krishna for burger real soon as he is man who loves his meat……..

    congrats

    sheila

  7. went there yesterday… loved the Moo… tried a couple of other things too… the grilled chicken sandwitch and the special for the day.. .chicken with olives and cheese sandwitch.. everything was good… was not very happy with the banana smoothie… it was strictly OK… but – best burger i’ve had in india… hands down..

    changes i would request next time i go – i need raw onions on my burger… and a nice thick slice of tomato.. and thicker/more pickles… the mustard was fantastic … and the patty was divine melt in the mouth… loved the cafe…

    however i overordered …. and had to pack half of my burger… by the time i got home… the lettuce, tomatoes and the bun was soggy… so not sure how gautam is going to handle the home delivery of these… its sure to get soggy and not so nice when delivered…

    cheers and three stars for the food though…

    • and btw… agree with the salad part of your review… it was also strictly OK… not something that will make me go back… will try the snickers blizzard the next time i go there…

    • Hey Sameer: Raw onion on your burger??? Ewwwww… strictly Micky Ds 🙂 Though I am sure they’d have obliged if you’d asked. And burgers don’t take well to the doggy bag. At. All. I don’t think they home deliver these as of now – and if they do in future, you’re right, it’ll take a good deal of thought.

      • i genuinely disliked McDs or even BK… Thulp reminded me of having burgers at decent steakhouses… (yup, i’ve had burgers at steakhouses too, preferring them over steaks, somehow) … i’ve always loved raw onions on my burgers (esp the vidalia sweet onions) .. i like the contrasting crunch and flavour it adds…

        i met gautam at the cafe… and told him that i had tried asia in a boz after your review… and accidently bumped into cafe thulp while driving… so tried out… he said they were finalising the packaging etc.. and they intend to deliver sometime soon…

        i seriously over-ordered… the menu was fantastic 🙂

        • Vidalias, sure – but you don’t get ’em (or Walla Wallas) in namma Bengaluru 😦 We get pungent reds – awful on a burger – and, if you’re lucky, yellow…

  8. Wonderful reviews. It has been a year since I left Bangalore, but the smells and the tastes still remain. I remember those late nights snacking at Indiana with friends. ( during the days when there wasn’t any 11pm curfews) Have you done any reviews on pub food in Bangalore?

  9. Dewars was a shock. One of my friends invited me there and I had a misconception that it was one of those lounge bars as I thought the name was De Wars. Strangely, I don’t seem to remember how the food was. I like pecos and windsor for their food and music. I am an 80s man, Hendrix, page, Morrison and their kinds. The beer at pecos sucks, the place is filthy, but the food is much better compared to the junk other pubs serve. My fav would be the prawns roast masala with dosas. The chilli beef is also nice, but on the oily side. Windsor has comparatively better ambiance than pecos, better beer and good food. Dublin and take 5 is great for decent Irish and Belgian beers. But the food is nothing to write home about. Geoffrey’s on airport road is pretty nice too.

  10. Thanks Suman. The post is so well written that i had try this out the next day and every bit worth.

    i liked you rating but totally disagree with the quality of the bun. I ordered the ‘moos your daddy’ (starved the whole day for it) without bacon (nah!). The patty was out n out the best i’ve had anywhere. What killed it though was the bun. The bread was not fresh and after about 20 mins kept falling apart.

    We also ordered the buff wings which was ok but the cheese garlic fries were to die for.

  11. Sumit: First of all, congratulations on eating a 350gm beefburger with sides, buffalo wings, *and* a portion of cheese garlic fries.
    Since a burger in its most basic form consists of a patty and a bun, either one of those being below par is unacceptable. I’ve a question though – is it possible that the bun was over-grilled rather than not fresh? That can dry it out to the point of falling to bits.
    I’d encourage you to visit again though. I live next door to Thulp (sooooo screwed, man!) and can vouch for the fact that hard buns (pardon the pun) are an aberration.

  12. I am sick and tired of NRI’s telling me we get below par burgers in India . Cant wait to get my hands on that beef burger . I see this blog is visited by good old blore ppl , please do something abt the 12 o clock curfew . its killing the city . When the police asks u to stay off the streets after 12 its leaves a bad taste .(yeah that happened to me outside le rock. so much for free land )

  13. Outstanding review! can’t remember the last time i said that to a non-newspaper writer. ’twas as detailed as it was delightful. visited this place last year and put up a review exxpressing disappointment at the poor service

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s