Mediterranean at Estia, Aloft Hotel, Whitefield, Bangalore

[singlepic id=1727 w=80 h=92 float=left]Staying at a business hotel in Whitefield (home to many of Bangalore’s tech parks), the last thing I expected to encounter was excellent Mediterranean food (Greek, Spanish, Italian, Lebanese to name the predominant dishes on the menu). Estia is named for the Greek Goddess of the Hearth, Hestia. Its a tranquil, elegantly decorated blue-and-white space with rustic charm (stone walls, wooden furniture that felt very farmhouse-like). Overlooking the swimming pool area, on the first floor of the property, the setting perfectly compliments the food and peaceful feeling the environment inspires in one. The menu features a range of starters, soups (some chilled, perfect for this summer heat), pizzas, mains and desserts (sumptuous!). As those who read my posts know, I’m a sucker for ambiance and presentation, alongside great tasting food. On all these counts, Estia was a resounding success. With a couple of minor exceptions, the dishes we ate at lunch were consistently tasty, beautifully plated, and satisfying in all respects.

On this particularly hot Bangalore summer Saturday, my companion and I opted for mojitos and left the mezze selections in the hands of Chef Manmohan Singh. The first platter to exit the kitchen was a mezze platter of Sundried Tomato & Rosemary Dip/Hummus/Tzatziki/ Muhammara (160), served with Pita Bread and Vegetable Crudités. The tomato and rosemary dip was the star of the platter, with lingering flavors and aromas both rich and yet, delicate. The hummus was perfectly adequate. Muhammara is something I’ve experienced in small doses before-mostly out of a jar. I have never warmed to this hot pepper dip, personally, but my friend enjoyed it. The Pita bread was freshly baked and just perfect. Our server also brought us a bread basket with a tempting selection of breadsticks and grilled garlic bread that was delightful! Seeing bottles of olive oil and balsamic vinegar on the table, I made the standard concoction of the two for the both of us and we got a-dipping.

The next entry on the table was Gambas Al Ajillo (450), described as “garlic prawns, pan seared, served with chilly mayo.” The prawns were succulent and juicy looking, but their taste did not quite match up to their looks. The dish was okay, a little too mildly seasoned for our palates. What followed though, knocked our socks off! Possibly the highlight of the meal, this was a starter of meatballs seasoned and cooked to perfection… Albondigas (275): Spanish meatballs served on a tomato and basil sauce. The rich taste and texture meant we made short work of it! I requested tasting portions for soup and salad, else the main courses would not get the attention they deserved. Chilled Yogurt and Bulgur Wheat Soup (125) a refreshing, mild, soup that hit just the right notes, and Horiatiki Salata (175), comprising tomatoes, kalamata olives, onions, peppers, cucumber, and feta cheese…a treat for me, a feta lover all the way.

Our main course consisted of Rosemary & Thyme Braised Lamb Shanks (450) for my friend, and Toga Wrapped Tenderloin (400), a filo pastry wrapped around tenderloin and stuffed with spinach, feta and herbs, done medium for moi. Both dishes were accompanied by a side of Polenta in a traditional (to my thinking) tomato sauce presentation. I LOVE polenta, and hearing me marvel at finding it on the menu, Chef Singh was kind enough to make that a part of the proceedings. To me, polenta is comfort food and will perhaps not be everyone’s cup of tea to have alongside ‘gourmet’ dishes like tenderloin and lamb. Both dishes were perfectly prepared, succulent and with fall off the bone meat in the case of the lamb.

Dessert consisted of two items: Baklava (175) served with an insanely good rose flavored ice cream that I, for one, could have gone on eating all day.  The baklava was as good as any I’ve eaten from eateries that claimed Turkish or Greek authenticity, or homemade versions. The other dessert was a Mango & Pistachio Panacotta (175)… balanced flavors and consistent. I noted, rather sadly, that we were the only occupants of the place for lunch; apparently the multi-cuisine restaurant next door gets the chuck of business.

When I mentioned my weekend plans to a colleague who asked if I was going to visit my parents (in Mysore), she joked I might as well be going home; Whitefield is a long way from South Bangalore, lets face it! All I can say is, I consider Estia worth the 1.5 hour drive, for its ambiance as well as cuisine. And while not a casual or cheap meal, the price tag is definitely not exorbitant for such fine dining. I hope others of you will also give it a try! I for one, was charmed, and will most certainly be back…

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Natasha Ali

Natasha's first foray into food writing has been with Chef at Large. Who knew all those years spent eating food, reading about it and looking for the next restaurant to try or watching cooking shows would have left such an indelible impression?! She's back in India after having spent over a decade in the US where she studied as well as taught in academia and now works as a content writer seeing as she can write about pretty much anything. Movie mad, obsessed with the English language, and never one to turn down a glass of good wine, cup of tea, or a good book, she's open to trying any dish once, she enjoys a variety of cuisines with favorites being Ethiopian, Thai, and Lebanese. Natasha covers Bangalore for Chef at Large and can be reached at natasha.ali@www.chefatlarge.in