If Kochi felt like the present compared to Chennai, arriving in Bengaluru airport felt like a glimpse of the future. The beautiful forecourt with chain and artisanal food outlets, even a craft brewery. And a very organised Uber with attendents and three levels of service. So western, so affluent, such bad traffic. Eventually they will get the metro up and going, but in the meantime, any travel of 5 km can take an hour. Still Uber and Ola are plentiful and our drivers spoke pretty good English, though accents over the the phone were so difficult.
We had come to visit Kerry, a kiwi brewer friend, and Aldo, a local friend and workmate of a friend in the States. Kerry was gracious enough to allow us to crash at his brand new place in a posh neighborhood. We explored a little each day as we fought to set up the logistics of the next section of our journey. There were single estate coffees to try,
mostly mediocre beers to sample, supermarkets and fast fashion shops to explore and a continuous prowling in search of an ATM with cash in it.
Evenings we were seamlessly integrated into Kerry’s social life. GandTs and takeaways one night followed by an epic eating and drinking extravaganza the next. John, a Texan living in China in town to install Kerry’s brewery, had to take us to Bob’s and order the menu, plus a number of pitchers. Three orders of Tandoori Paneer because OMG! But also amazing mutton, pork ribs, chillie chicken, etc.
Bob’s isn’t the place for cocktails though so we had to carry on to Old Fashioned, where a round of old fashioneds was followed by a couple of gorgeous Basil Smashes.
And then “just 2 more” became John’s mantra through a few rounds of fabulous off menu creations. We remember a marvelous Manhattan and a crazy cool peanut thing.
We weren’t sad this was followed by a pretty chill NYE with John and Archie and rum in a box.
As we days went by fighting with the system trying to get train tickets online – why is our power bill not proof that we didn’t set up a fraudulent profile? We tried to keep up our spirits, and listened to stories about setting up a life and brewery in India. Kerry says one of the reasons he got the job was his ability to not get angry in face of constant inefficiencies and denial of failures. (This project will not be behind schedule, even if it was supposed to finish phase one three weeks ago.) I am sorry, but you have moved, so your bank account paperwork will have to start over, which could take another month. (Paycheck must be direct deposit to an Indian bank.)
The posh neighborhood with Mercedes and Porches in some carports, was tree lined and quiet. Every few metres was a security guy, sitting in his plastic chair, watching his phone, and the street. With an eye out for dog packs, walking at night felt peaceful and safe. The weather is apparently always perfect here, so we also enjoyed the respite from the hot, humid South.
New Year’s day we were invited to Aldo and Julie’s for lunch. They were also entertaining a family from Texas who were back visiting family in Kerala. Kids and dog Rio and a constant stream of wine and delicious local delicacies including chillie prawns and eggplant with dried fish flowed through the compact lounge/dining area leaving Julie’s mom and helper staying quietly in the kitchen. We finished with a signature dessert from Julie then it was time for Aldo to fly off to Mumbai.
Eventually we succeeded in booking train tickets in and out of Hampi and were able to enjoy our last night out with Kerry, John and Nate, another expat brewer.
Dinner was at MTR, a very old local chain with a Special Meal that Kerry had been raving about. Arriving at opening meant only a 30 min wait, and then the food started flowing. The veg thali basics with multiple rounds of mini dosas, chutneys, lime pickle, dahl, soup and Chai were enhanced with awesome ginger and bean salads, sweet puddings and fresh grape juice. Everything arrived as and when so we were never sure if we’d tried it all, and Kerry might have been given special service before by the owner, but we all eventually tapped out too full to carry on.