Bangalore at midnight. The Empire Hotel, Church Street

I am on a flight back to Mumbai. A Gujarati lady on my flight told me that her husband is going to pick her up and they are going to head to Amar Juice Centre for a post midnight Pav Bhaji dinner. 

Mumbai spoils us.

A couple of nights back I was at Gurgaon and met up with a friend at Sector 29 for dinner. It was past 10 pm and the place seemed quite dead. It has probably lost its sheen after Cyber Hub has come up.

We went to Gung, the Korean place, for dinner. We sat down. We begun chatting when the waitress came and reminded us that the last order was at 1030 pm and that we should order quickly. We were the only customers still there.

Later in the night, 3 successive Taxi For Sure cabs cancelled after my friend booked them. We had to spend some time in the open while she tried to arrange for a car for her to get back. I suggested going to the nearby Starbucks to escape the chill. We reached the door of Starbucks and I was about to step in spurred by visions of hot chocolate.

'Ka-losed sir' said the watchman. It was 11.15 pm.

The same scene played out the next night in Bangalore. We finished work post 10 pm. I wanted to try out an Andhra Biryani. My dinner mate for the night wanted a drink. A quick online search showed that Nandhini in MG Road was the answer and we got into an auto and headed there.

We reached Nandhini and went up the first floor. We entered the dimly lit restaurant and a musty smell hit us. The place didn't seem too clean and there was food on the floor and water on our table. Quite the dampener.

I chose a Guntur chicken from the Andhra menu to go with our drinks. A bit later, our not very articulate young waiter, came to us and said none of the Andhra speciality dishes were available as it was late. Just boneless kebabs and chicken 65.

It was 10.30 pm. 

We went for a spicy chicken 65. The manager came to us for last orders. I requested for a Biryani. 

He said it was 1045 and that they were out of chicken and mutton Biyrani. He could at the most offer an egg or a veg Biryani.

I chose an egg one.

When he got the Biryani it was obvious that they had got a veg Biryani with a boiled egg on top. We were both disgusted.

Neither of us were too keen on the makeshift Biryani when suddenly inspiration struck. My dinner mate said he remembered a  place called Empire Hotel which stayed open late.

I had also tweeted about the Biryani fiasco. Most people responded saying we should have gone to Meghna for Andhra Biryani. Two people responded with a practical suggestion. They too said we should go to Empire for dinner.

So we headed to the Empire branch at Church Street in an auto. The moment we reached there we were welcomed by a sight very different from the earlier half of our evening.

While Nandhini was dull, dreary and dank, Empire turned out to be a two storied restaurant that was bright and vibrant. There were loads of people there waiting to get in. The crowd seemed younger and a bit more with it than that in Nandhini.

We were shown to a table upstairs. It was 1130 and we saw that people were queuing up to get in.

Before going up I asked the folks at the counter what the speciality was and they replied 'Keralite and North East Indian". I think he meant North Indian Moghlai as there was nothing from the North East here.

Later I was told that Empire is Bangalore's go to after party place. One of the few places that manages to stay late in a city where the law mandates restaurants to shut early.

A steward came to take our order. Apparently we could not order from the menu at this time of the night. We had to choose from the Keralite chicken masala and porota, tandoori chicken, Biryani and something that sounded like 'chicken Afzahan'. I also saw some folks have dosas and chicken curry. Fresh juices were available too and Shwarmas. 

We started with a chicken masala and porotas. The chicken was fairly tender and the coconut milk and curry leaf based curry tasted pretty good. It was creamy and had loads of flavour and was not too spicy.

Emboldened I decided to try the chicken Afzaha which the steward told me was an Arabic styled barbecue chicken.

This order, unlike the earlier chicken masala, took a while to come. When it finally arrived I saw that the chicken was served with pita bread and some mayo. I took a bite of the chicken and did a little happy dance in my head. The chicken was supremely juicy and had a slight tangy taste. Though we were full by then, we both relished each bite of the succulent chicken.

I then mopped up a bit of the remaining chicken masala with the porota.

It was midnight. My friend picked up a paan from a nearby shop that was open.

The evening which begun on a desultory note ended on a high.

(Posting this from my mobile so the pictures appear at the end and in no order.

 I am about to land in Mumbai where Banu's kebabs and parathas await me while my fellow traveller heads to Amar Juice Centre with her husband for a late night dinner)

PS I did have the Biryani at Nandhini the next morning. This was at the Gandhinagar branch. The rice was moist. No overt masala. Lots of curry leaves and green chillies in it. 1 piece of chicken was tender while the breast piece was like cardboard 
The Buzzy and bright Emire Hotel

The juicy chicken Afzaha

The very creamy Keralite chicken masala

Veg biryani masquerading as egg biryani in Nandhini

Empire, Bangalore's after party stop

Chicken biryani in Nandhini, Gandhinahar