The premier restaurant at the Leela Bangalore is the Jamavar, which serves food from various regions of India. There is an indoor dining room that is air-conditioned, with high ceilings and generously spaced tables, and an outdoor terrace that looks out over the lovely hotel gardens; we tried both locations during our stay here.The wine list is extensive, reflecting the business clientele of Bangalore that appear to eat here in large numbers, while prices are eye watering. Meerlust Chardonnay 2008 was INR 5,000 (£59) compared to a UK retail price of around £15. There are choices from around the world, such as the Kesselstat Monopole Spatlese 2003 at an absurd price of INR10,000 (£137) for a wine that you can find (with difficulty) for around £22 in a UK shop. Stags Leap Merlot 2004 was listed at INR 8,900 (£122) for a wine that costs £25 in a UK shop. At the top of the list you can have wines such as Cheval Blanc 1993 was priced at an excessive INR 69,000 (£946 retail) for a wine that can be bought in the UK for £231 retail. Pricing seems distinctly erratic, since the vastly inferior Cheval Blanc 1984 was priced at INR 85000 (£1,165) for a wine that can be retail in the UK for £169. We drank beer.
On my second stay at the Leela we had several meals at the Jamavar, so were able to try a wide selection of dishes from the extensive menu. You can either sit in the open air on the terrace facing the gardens, or inside in a rather grand, high-ceilinged room that had generously-spaced tables and aggressive air conditioning.
Lobster neeruli (INR 1,800) was served out of its shell in a mild curry sauce of tomatoes, cream, curry leaves and other spices; the lobster was very tender, the gentle sauce not overwhelming the taste of the lobster (15/20). Methi chicken (INR 890) had chicken pieces off the bone cooked with a creamy sauce flavoured with fresh fenugreek leaves, quite a delicate sauce, the chicken itself nicely cooked (14/20). I also tried three varieties of chicken cooked in the tandoor. Murgh chandni (INR 890) was marinated with cheese, cream, green chilli and cardamon, and was very similar to murgh malai. It was very tender, the spices nicely incorporated into the chicken through the marinade (16/20). Murgh tandoori (INR 890) was the classic chicken tikka, a little spicier but with the same delicately cooked chicken (15/20). Murgh tangri mastani ((INR 890) was a chicken drumstick, marinated with coriander, mint, green chilli and raw mango. Again this had tender meat and a nice balance of spices (16/20).
Tiger prawns marinated with yoghurt, coram seed and saffron (INR 1,520) were then finished in the tandoor. The prawns were lovely, cooked carefully through and with delicate taste, the saffron taste restrained (16/20). Another variant was chmeen varuthathu (INR 1,520), tiger prawns marinated with chilli, coconut and curry leaves and then crisp-fried. These were lovely prawns, boldly seasoned, tender and carefully spiced (17/20).
The cooking of seafood was hard to fault with any of the dishes. Tulsi jheenga (INR 1,520) was a half dozen tiger prawns marinated with green chilli, yoghurt and basil, the prawns again very tender, the green chilli marinade controlled but adding a pleasant bite to the dish (16/20). Cubes of king fish (INR 990) were marinated with mustard, cheese and spices flavoured with chilli and cumin; the fish was delicately cooked but was a little too salty (14/20).
Paneer bharwaan (INR 690) was cottage cheese stuffed with spicy nuts and green peas. The texture of the paneer was truly superb, the best I have tasted (easily 16/20). Of the vegetables dishes that we tried, the potato dishes were the least good. Aloo banarsi (INR 700) was baby new potatoes simmered in nutmeg and mace gravy, which was thick and had rather indistinct flavours (12/20). Aloo raseele (INR 700) had diced potatoes cooked in a very buttery tomato sauce flavoured with coriander, cumin and sesame seed, but the butter was the dominant taste (12/20). Kashmiri morels (INR 700) were cooked with green peas in a tomato gravy, and we're better, though these morels did not have the same flavour as good quality morels that you find in France or the UK (14/20).
The breads here are terrific. Romali roti was very thin and delicate (17/20), naan was also soft and had a smoky taste from the tandoor (16/20) but the best of all was the tandoori roti. In the UK I am used to this being hard and dry, but here they were a revelation, the texture soft and delicate (18/20). Paratha was also excellent, layers of whole wheat bread that avoided any greasiness yet was still moist (16/20). Service was very friendly, and generally efficient.
What follows are notes from earlier visits.
The menu ranges widely across both the southern and northern regions of India, and a nice touch is that they will happily do you half portions of dishes if you want to try more menu items. Pomfret and, in particular, kingfish, were beautifully cooked marinated in spices and had lovely taste (15/20). There were three separate styles of chicken tikka: murgh ki chaanp was marinated with chilli, lemon juice, garlic and yoghurt, murgh abeer was marinated with cumin, and murgh chandni was marinate with cheee, cream, chilli and cardomon. All had excellent texture and that lovely hint of charcoal from the tandoors used here (15/20).
Chicken biryani was superb, with excellent moist chicken but in particular fabulously light and fluffy rice, infused with spices. I have not had a better biriani than this (17/20). Prawn curry had tender prawns and a particularly good sauce with an intense flavour from the shellfish stock used, the spicing carefully controlled (15/20). On our second visit the peas pulao was dazzling, the rice extraordinarily well cooked, the grains separate and bursting with the fragrance of the spices used; this was a stunning dish (18/20). An okra side dish was cooked a little longer than ideal tough still good (13/20), while a black dhal had lovely, thick texture, as did a yellow dhal the following night (15/20). The breads tried were lovely, with light, fluffy naans, supple tandoori roti and excellent romali roti (15/20).
Another pleasant surprise here was the dessert course. Halwa was delicate and not too rich (15/20), but even better were the kulfis. The pistachio and the saffron ones were very good (15/20), but the mango kulfi had remarkably intense mango flavour, smooth texture and was served at exactly the right temperature on both nights I tried it; I have never had kulfi even close to this in quality (18/20).
Overall, I think this is the best Indian restaurant that I have eaten in, edging out the Jamavar at the Leela Goa (though the tandoori cooking at the latter is superb). It has to be said that prices here are high by Indian standards, with our food coming to around £45 a head, but it should also be noted that the restaurant was packed out both nights, so there is clearly a clientele happy to sustain this.