BENGALURU: Picture this: You are walking down the road in a residential area in Bellandur and all you see are buildings lined up one after the other on either side. Suddenly, you see a huge, pretty house with a tiled roof but when you notice the entrance, it displays a signboard that says ‘We are open. Valet parking available’.
This is exactly how I spotted Maaia, the family cafe-cum-restaurant that sits cozily in one of the lanes in the otherwise congested part of the city. Once you walk in, the place will immediately turn out to be a comfortable zone, with big cushions on every sitting area, colourful decorations hung from the ceiling, and an artificial lake surrounded with greenery. The owners, Navjot Kaur and Shikha Santosh, have tried their best to put in plants of all sorts to keep the place cool and present a homely ambiance.
With cool breeze blowing and melodious ’90s song playing in the background, we chose a seat near the lake and without further ado, I received my first drink of the day – Popcorn Shake. Carefully crushed popcorns along with curd, milk and syrup, topped with a few popcorns is how this refreshingly sweet drink became a popular choice among visitors here. Taking a bite of the Corn Cheese Balls made me grab two more. With melted cheese and the soft corn with the crunchiness outside, pair this with the shake and you will come back for more.
Watermelon, Ginger and Rose will soothe your throat and act as a palate cleanser to move on to the next items. We had Mutton Pepper Fry, which was slow-cooked, giving it a soft, spicy flavour. You can also order this with their non-alcoholic beverages, which makes for a perfect starter combo during family gatherings.
The piping hot Roasted Pumpkin Soup is a great choice for those who love creamy soups, or not. This one is a winner; the aroma is enough to make you finish the entire bowl. With this, we had the Pinwheel Samosa, which are veg samosas in bite-size portions, perfect for children or those who are hosting a party and want quick bites to be on the menu. Also, don’t be surprised if the waiter asks you if you want cutting water – half glass – as it is a way to save water and serve exactly the quantity you would drink.
Too much food at this time, so I needed a break. And as Santosh was taking me around, we came across the play zone for children. Beside it was a diaper-changing station, which is a rare sight in restaurants. “Maaia means ‘maa aaya’, so we wanted to incorporate everything that a mother will look into in her house. As a mother, I know how difficult it gets when your child starts crying when you are at a get-together. That’s why we have kept everything to make the kid feel comfortable,” she said. She added that the food here is prepared, keeping in mind the homely taste, so you will see less oil in all the dishes and carefully prepared spices lined up in the kitchen. On the third floor, they have a separate section for those who want to host parties for 50-70 people, and also a private space that will be customised on request for couples.
Moving on to the main course, their much talked-about Baked Chicken was served -- creamy, rich soft boneless chicken with rice can itself be a dish as it is quite filling. Next, we tried Afghani Paneer with Stuffed Kulcha, a flavourful combination to go for. Lastly, I dug into a tiny portion of Mutton Biryani, which takes the cake. A little on the spicy edge, the mutton was succulent, laden with all kinds of spices in the dish. Reminded me of Sunday lunches back home.
Cost for two:`1,000 (approx)