Literary City Guide | Bangalore, India
Tour Guide: Maria Thomas
Maria moved to Bangalore six and a half years ago to finish high school and now works as a journalist in the city. Her work has been published in Vogue India, Architectural Digest India and on Fathom. (All photos by Maria Thomas)
Relationship to Bangalore: I’ve lived here for over six years, attending school and university. Now I work as a journalist with a media house based in the city.
Writer you'd like to invite to dinner: Alexander McCall Smith
Chef you'd like to prepare the meal: David Chang. I’m obsessed with Momofuku’s Pork Buns!
Writing soundtrack: Absolute silence
Pen or Pencil: Pen with purple ink
Coffee or Tea: Coffee, preferably ice cold and with caramel
Paperback or Hardback: Paperback - I like the lines that form on the spine: evidence that you read the book well.
Blossom Book House. This is the bookstore every local will send you to. They have a vast collection of second-hand and new English fiction and non-fiction titles and a crazy range of genres. The books are stacked in perilous piles and the attendants somehow know how to find any book you're looking for.
BOOKSTOP! One of the few well-curated bookstores in India. It's very small but they have a lovely selection of titles and you'll always find something you've never seen before. They also have a great shelf at the back full of discounted books.
Paperback. This bookstore is located inside Bangalore’s best theatre spot, Ranga Shankara. It carries a sensational range of non-fiction, as well as some niche fiction. You definitely won't leave without picking up a thought-provoking book.
British Council Library. This is a small but well-stocked library that has books by popular British authors and a great range of British magazines. It’s a lovely place to read on the weekends.
READINGS & CONFERENCES
Atta Galatta. This bookstore/literary space in Bangalore often hosts book readings and other literary events. They also have a lovely selection of books in English and regional Indian languages.
Urban Solace. This restaurant/creative space hosts poetry readings on Tuesdays, called Tuesdays with the Bard. It's open to anyone brave enough to stand before the crowd and has a lovely laid-back vibe.
Bangalore Literature Festival. This is a fun literary extravaganza with authors coming in from around the world. There are literary-themed events, interviews with famous authors and excellent panel discussions to watch, all for free!
The Bangalore Writers Workshop. One of its kind and a brilliant way to spend a Saturday morning. The Writers Workshop involves extensive discussions about good writing and is an excellent way to build up your fiction-writing skills. Bonus - you get to connect with Bangalore’s growing community of writers and the facilitators always have excellent book recommendations.
Cafe Noir. This Parisian café serves wonderful sandwiches on freshly baked baguettes. They also serve delicious drinks, including a hot chocolate served with a perfect madeleine for a bit of Proustian reminiscing!
Ranga Shankara Cafe. This cafe makes the most amazing snacks for theatre-goers who come for the lovely English and regional language plays that are performed at the Ranga Shankara theatre. The café’s iced tea is freshly-made and their sabudana vadas (a deep-fried snack served with spicy mint chutney) are irresistible.
UpSouth. This is a South Indian restaurant chain that serves excellent filter coffee in a traditional steel cup. The coffee is strong and perfect after a long day wandering around the city.
A PROPER MEAL
Chandni Chowk. This is my favorite Indian restaurant in the city. It's styled like a traditional dhaba, which is a type of restaurant found frequently in North India that serves amazing local food for truck drivers and tourists passing by. Chandni Chowk plays popular Bollywood music and serves delicious buttery naans, chicken curries and tikkas and unbelievably cooling lassis.
Like That Only. This wonderfully quirky restaurant serves amazing Asian fusion food in a uniquely decorated courtyard. Try the beef and jalapeno gyoza and the dim-sum, they’re fantastic. Try not to stare at the waiters’ green, ladybug-printed shirts!
News Cafe. Bangalore's outlet of this South African restaurant chain makes the most amazing nachos I've ever tasted. They're freshly fried and topped with fabulous sour cream, guacamole and salsa. Also try the Cajun grilled burger and sit on the terrace for a great view of Bangalore’s trees.
Chez Mariannick. This little restaurant has a small menu of wood-fire baked pizzas, lasagna and desserts but you'll never leave unsatisfied. The pizza crust is perfectly charred and the cheesecakes are mind-blowing. As a bonus, you can walk off your heavy meal outside the restaurant among the fields of beetroot and other vegetables planted by the locals living in a village nearby.
Thulp. Best American and Asian food in the city, hands down. Their burgers are huge and juicy - try the Ho Chi Minh, a Vietnamese pork burger, or the Moo beef burger with bacon and cheese. Also make sure to have the Bangkok Dangerous (spicy, crispy beef), the Skin Flicks (stuffed potato skins) and a Sour Puss, a lime soda drink that goes perfectly with all that flavorful food.
Chianti. The most beautifully decorated Italian restaurant in the city. Chianti serves lovely wines and the thin-crust pizzas are pure perfection. I always get the chocolate peanut butter mousse for dessert.
Windmills Craftworks. This microbrewery has a beautiful terrace and serves well-made burgers, sandwiches and salads to go with its beers. The restaurant also features a wrap-around library with a huge range of books for you to pore over while you wait for your meal and they often host jazz performers at night.
Berry D'Alive. This is a non-traditional dessert place in that there are more fruity desserts than chocolate ones. So even though their chocolate caramel tart is the best I’ve ever had, they’re best known for their lychee pavlova and strawberry crumble pudding.
Corner House. This ice cream chain is a Bangalore favorite and is best known for its signature sundaes: the Cake Fudge (chocolate cake, vanilla ice cream, nuts and chocolate sauce) and the Death by Chocolate (like the Cake Fudge but double the size). The thick chocolate malt shake is the ultimate drink for a hot day.
Spoonful of Sugar. Everything in this tiny little dessert shop is worth eating. Seriously, everything. The cupcakes, the pies, the cakes - go for it all!
Maria's 5 Favorites
1. Favorite view: The garden area outside the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA). The trees are stunning and it’s a lovely, quiet place to sit.
2. Favorite place to write: I write at home, on a purple chair with my feet up and my computer perched precariously on my lap.
3. Favorite museum: Technically it’s an art gallery - The National Gallery of Modern Art. They have a lovely collection and the building is old and beautiful.
4. Favorite coffee shop: Kalmane Coffee, a brilliant local chain that has the best cold coffee in the world!
5. Favorite thing about Bangalore: The friendly local culture, the plays, the trees and, of course, the coffee.