I first visited Toit within a few months of its opening in 2010 but since I didn't have a food blog then this review is being written on the basis of my second visit, 4 years later. In summary, I started off as a fan and years later, still am. In a world that won't stop spinning the resilience of restaurants like Toit offer my whirling soul solace.
Toit has the advantage most visually memorable spaces display - fascinating architectural elements as opposed to an effort to invoke interest in a staid rectangular commercial space with superficial décor additions. When the fundamental structure of a restaurant is so engaging, for example Monkey Bar in Delhi or the rickety open Piccadilly in Bombay, you don't need pillar candles and bird cages to get people's attention. Toit is housed in a unique wooden barn on verdant 100 Ft Road in Bangalore.
The place, though usually packed (both in 2010 and 2014), still offers a sense of space and serenity because of the high slatted ceilings and open, sun dappled layout.
The menu is fun with pub classics like Bangers and Mash. They're also known for their pizzas which come with a long (and interesting) list of toppings and a crust so thin it could give Cara Delevingne a complex. The crust is a delicate, crunchy platform for the cheese, sauce and munificent toppings.
The real revelation for me were the Scotch Eggs. I understand from my very knowledgeable friend that the dish Toit serves isn't authentic but they were three of the most perfectly soft boiled eggs resting on a bed of the world's butteriest mashed potatoes, flanked with spicy, hot lamb mince. I can't get them out of my head and I can't wait to try to recreate the dish on my Restaurant Recipe Rip Off series.
Toit is also famously a microbrewery and implement a fantastically clever way to get people drunk. Order their sampler which sets out the beers in order from lightest to darkest and once you've tried them all, order the one you like best. The flavors range from incredibly mild (almost watery) to deep resounding coffee undertones.
Toit starts to get very loud and crowded by the evening, specially on weekends, and the staff seems overwhelmed by the crush of patrons. Getting a seat later in the day may require a long and tedious wait for a table. Go early unless you're prepared for the bustle.
I really enjoy the ride down 100 ft Road - it's a straight, long, tree lined road with lots of buzzy, bright restaurants. I'll probably never get the chance to eat my way down the street but I'm delighted with each new place I get to try and the old favorites I've had memorable meals at.
If you've read my earlier reviews, you know I 'm partial to rooftops and balconies. I spend so much of my life in a cubicle that every moment spent out in fresh air is precious. Unfortunately, Delhi's weather ensures that the outdoors is only habitable for about four months in a year. When I land in Bangalore, having just escaped the bitter cold or grueling heat (as applicable) I immediately promise to move to the city for good. I doubt I will but Bangalore will always be my favorite Indian city for al fresco dining. A cup of coffee is better with a gentle breeze, the food more delicious when the sun is trailing gentle patterns on your skin and the beer more fun under a bright blue sky.
We have places like The Hummingtree in Delhi - minimalistic, industrial grunge influenced spaces with a few pops of quirk and color but we don't tend to have the luxury of space that Bangalore affords.
The menu is a medley of non controversial American and European food, including pizza, pasta and smoothies. The Fusili with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes was heavily Indianized but delicious. The vaguely oriental Lemongrass Grilled Chicken Salad was excellent, with the crunchy lettuce and julienned red cabbage providing support to tender bits of grilled chicken, all generously doused in a coat of sesame seeds and tangy dressing. Also, fantastic was the impossibly soft and buttery French Toast with bananas and cinnamon.
The service wasn't particularly prompt and they missed part of our order but if you go on a pretty day with an old friend or for a gig with a loud gaggle of people you won't mind.
For all the joy of homemade chocolate with none of the effort
Any true connoisseur will agree nothing beats homemade. This winter skip the mass manufactured candy and order an assorted batch from Cocoa Garden, each chocolate is hand made and packaged in small batches. I inhaled my box within a day of receiving it. The dark chocolate and butterscotch were so good they vanished within the first couple of hours of receipt of possession.
I love bars and restaurants with unusual themes and an unusual literary theme is even more irresistible. Edward Rice Burrough's Barsoom might not have been my first choice in fictional settings I want to recreate (that would probably be Enid Blyton's Faraway Tree or the treehouse from Swiss Family Robinson) but I've been excited about this translation of an imaginary planet into an HKV bar nonetheless.
The extraterrestrial references are subtle and clever, never sinking into tacky obviousness. This is an interpretation of Burrough's work and not an unimaginative replica. The fluid lines, emphasis on contrasting textures and sense of minimalism create an elegant, quiet space removed from the noisy clatter of the neighbouring HKV rabble. The layering of wood, leather and woven textile embellishments and the absence of bird cages demonstrate more depth and maturity in design than I've come to expect from HKV.
The menu is unique in that while it covers the usual bases, like Pastas, Salads and Soups, the dishes are all over the places geographically. The Lamb Goulash is nestled gently between the Fish and Chips and Barsoom Beef Steak and shares the same page as the Aubergine Parmigiana. It reads a little like a well travelled person's list of favorite foods.
The Empanadas (with spinach filling) were a success, delicate leaves of spinach drowning in near molten cheese trapped in crispy fried shells and accompanied by fresh, zingy salsa. As was the perfectly crunchy Boba Feta (feta cheese and watermelon on a bed of arugula and black olives).
As Barsoom is run by the guys behind the laid back (now closed) Flipside Café it features Flipside's trademark crepes. I tried the savoury Spinach and Cheese variation and while the crepe itself was perfect, soft without being doughy, fluffy without being too thick, the Spinach and Cheese filling was bland and underwhelming.
Fueled by nostalgia for picturesque autumn days spent in Prague a few years ago I ordered the Lamb Goulash with Cous Cous which also turned out to be a damp squib. The curry of the Goulash was think and too sparse to cover the slightly dry cous cous and nothing like the thick, hearty gravy I ate every day in Prague. The "award winning" Banana Chocolate Tart was the only dessert available and though it was good, I'm not sure the batch I got would have won any awards.
In terms of the bar menu, I enjoyed the Watermelon Martini but was surprised to find the much more commonplace Mojito was quite amateur.
All in all, you can try your luck. The space is intriguing and the food reasonably competent but there are some definite misses on the menu.
I turned up at Barsoom on a Monday afternoon when the place was completely empty. The staff seemed prompt and helpful but I realize the true test of their worth lies in their ability to handle busier circumstances.
For when you're trying to be healthy but are also very lazy
I can't get over how well the city of butter chicken with butter naan is adapting to the healthy eating zeitgeist. My latest low cal discovery is Rawleaf, a service that allows you to order individual or family packs of fresh salads online. Rawleaf promises that their salads are made of fresh, pesticide free produce that has been harvested less than 48 hours in advance of being in your box. The individual packs are great for a working lunch and the family packs would make an ideal side for when you have company over.
Their portions are generous and the revolving menu makes sure you don't get bored. I really like the Ceaser and Hawaiian Salads and am looking forward to trying the Kale Grapefruit and Nicoise Salads. I'm very fussy about salad dressings - the dressing has to marry the flavors of the various fruits, vegetables and salad leaves without overwhelming any one of them. Also, nothing irritates me more than people being stingy with the dressing. You need to give enough to evenly coat the salad without leaving it dry or letting it get too sludgy. Rawleaf gets these proportions just right.
Packing and Paraphernalia
While the packaging is perfect, their delivery logistics are cumbersome. You have to order before noon to get delivery on the same day and even then the delivery can take anywhere from 4 to 6 hours. It's a pain to try to get your order in every morning and it might be best to call them and set up a regular arrangement with them.