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31.10.2018

When the lift doors open up right into the marble foyer of Haute, a new wine and tapas bar in Indiranagar, we can’t help but swan in. The Gatsby-adjacent ambience demands it - all gold angles and navy velvet upholstery - and it seems like the right place for endless plates of fussy snacks (check) and increasingly indulgent bottles of wine (check, check). If only the lighting was a bit dimmer.

We’re here for a dinner preview before their grand opening, so their wine selection isn’t quite show ready yet, but bubbly is at hand to leave us well lubricated for the feast ahead. Salads show up first - all forgettable except for a vinegary papaya and vermicelli version that leaves trails of tamarind down our tongue. A halfway bubbly tepache is quickly washed down with a pineapple and cheese skewer straight out of a dinner party so classic, it should be accompanied with a flapper dress. We seem to be staying on trend.

Bite size plates of nosh appear, starting with gleaming mackerel on a bed of salted cucumbers nestled in a schmear of mustard creme fraiche. It would be simple stuff, except for the sliver of volkorenbrood - bougie for multigrain bread - it is resting on. Nearly nutty with a great chew, we are thrilled when it does an encore performance under soft-yolked pickled eggs. This is the kind of breakfast that encourages hygge living, we decide, wondering if our kirana’s yeasty offerings will ever match up.

But there’s no time to dwell on dupes, as a series of vegetarian offerings have appeared in quick succession: broccoli marinated in cashew paste, grilled and served with almond shards that remind us of Peshawari gobi. Next to it gleam slow cooked pumpkin triplets, soft and forgettable, and finally an enormous brined radish and carrot pakora that we are glad to see the back of a single bite in. Stick to Saravana Bhavan, leaf-eaters.

The advantage to tapas we realise, as our server refreshes our glasses with old dependable chenin blanc from Fratelli’s barrels, is that one doesn’t have time to linger over the lame ducks. Scotch eggs made with the same brined batch from earlier appear, except instead a stringy meat shell, we sink into meat mousse that is a perfect contrast to the silken and sharp kasundi queso it is accompanied by. Pan seared wings - boneless! - are the next surprising star. Bathing in a broth that's hearty and indulgent, these are all we want for our next sick day, the crispy crust coming apart to reveal well soaked innards. A lemongrass and green chilli basa delicately cleanses our palates as it emerges steaming from its banana leaf casing.

We can’t believe we are about to say this, gentle reader: we are exhausted from the endless eating. If we weren’t here in the line of duty, we would be calling for a closing coffee already. Instead, we soldier on. And to good result: rings of buttermilk calamari, soaked just so to combat our distance from a handy ocean, are made better by a black garlic aioli from bulbs that have been fermented for hours until they are sufficiently tan. We resist crunching our way through the entire pile. Pork belly cooked on a robata, a tower of textured tofu, and prawn dumplings in pok choi - all serviceable but unremarkable - close out the meal.

But wait, there’s more! “Main course?” inquires our smiling server as we clutch our bellies and groan. But we are professionals to the very end. An aubergine based “plato-principal” is brought in, housing a black fungus polenta cake that reminds us of Amma’s surprise guest go-to preparation, khaman dhokla, accompanied by what we are convinced is moong dal drizzled with ketchup. This is terribly insipid, and only saved by the salinity of spider’s web of aubergine crisps piled on top. We turn to the chicken roulade stuffed with a chorizo spiced chicken mousse, a sultana cumberland that reminds us of jam, and honey glazed carrots. The sliver of roulade leaves us paltry pickings for a taste and what is there is bland and over dry. Trust in the tapas/techings, we conclude.

In a nod to this Spanish invasion’s latest conquest, dessert turns out to be a Honey Cake, an old Ooru bakery favourite. Under shavings of coconut and a slither of strawberry jam lies an unassuming block of pale yellow. Dig into this surprisingly not over-sweet cake, all the way down to the honeycomb it hides. Decadent dinners are definitely our jam, but every Luru denizen needs a sensible Iyengar Uncle ushering us back to reality and into an Uber back home.

Getting There: 776 1st Floor, 100 Feet Rd, Indiranagar. Depending on wine pairings and the plates you choose, a meal will set you back by Rs. 2000-5000. Haute opens to the public on Nov 1. Tapas dinners by reservation only. Lunches are Italian and Asian noodles.

Accessibility: Two steps to the elevator that opens to a few more that lead to Haute’s seating area.

This was a result of a special preview, priced at Rs 3,600 for two + taxes. They did not know we were there for a review.

Sushmita Sundaram writes about food, culture, and discovering your city. Follow her on Twitter at @sushmitas.

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