Restaurant Review | Soda Bottle Openerwala, Cyberhub, Gurgaon … quaint, vibrant, delightful Parsi cuisine & culture

“With Sodabottleopenerwala, we give to you something unique to India; the dying legacy of the wonderful, chaotic, crowded, bustling, colourful, quirky, eccentric and real world Irani café. Our way of reviving the love for the edu and the disappearing race behind the cafés.”
AD, Sabina & Rustom Sodabottleopenerwala

Soda Bottle Openerwala, Cyberhub, GurgaonSoda Bottle Openerwala. It was love at first sight! Nostalgia embraces you the minute you walk in through the doors, rather a wave of nostalgia! The cheerful, café like exteriors already beckon curious eyes … wrought iron, relaxed seating, red Coca Cola chairs, 70′s-80′s jukebox music offering a heady mix of energetic english and Bollywood music, galvanised iron flower pots with cheerful winter chrysanthemums, attention to rustic detail in every little thing.

Soda Bottle Openerwala, Cyberhub, Gurgaon Then the trademark signage … the bottle opener from our childhood that every household had back then. My first impression of Soda Bottle Openerwala, a wonderful one! It’s the first ever Parsi food destination in Delhi {possibly North India}, and my first in-depth Parsi food exposure. Needless to say, I LOVED it!

Soda Bottle Openerwala, Cyberhub, Gurgaon 5Homey, comforting, flavourful, colourful, noisy and busy, you can’t but help notice the constant stream of patrons walking in! Great great experience. Well located in the very impressive CyberHub in Gurgaon, Soda Bottle Openerwala is like the cherry on the cake.

Irani cafes or Iranian  cafés are Iranian or Persian style cafés in India. They were originally opened by Persian immigrants to India in the 19th century. Today, Mumbai boasts the largest number of Irani cafés, which are very popular for Irani chai (tea). Iranian cafés used to be numerous and popular but competition from modern cafés and fast food restaurants have left them behind. In the 1950s, there were 350 Irani cafés and today, only 25. One of the most popular eating places is the 102-year-old Kyani Café, a heritage landmark in south Mumbai.

Soda Bottle Openerwala, Cyberhub, Gurgaon SBO blew me away. It’s been a long-delayed visit, one I longed to experience ever since I saw the FB update announcing it’s ‘birth‘! I fell in love with the name and knew it was going to be magic! Past the doors and nostalgia flooded my senses. The interiors are captivating in a ‘packed’ way! Lots of everything. Everything I love, everything I want to own, everything embraces you with a strange energy.

Soda Bottle Openerwala, Cyberhub, Gurgaon AD Singh’s very talented wife Sabrina has done the interiors and my word, what a fab job! It’s an instant walk down memory lane … huge glass jars  filled with home-baked cookies, chipped stained glass, typical chai wala glasses adorning ever table, red checked table cloths with the lace like the nuns used to make, a caddy on every table, old metal tin boxes, the cuckoo clock, kettles galore, chalkboard menus. I could go on forever but you have to be there to experience it.

Soda Bottle Openerwala, Cyberhub, Gurgaon 4My photographs cannot do justice to a place so graphic and vibrant. Did I mention the TV playing Parsi news and programmes in the background, or the old Kelvinator fridge in the door? Then all of a sudden you hear a barely audible ‘chugging’ of sorts… and Ruchira excitedly shouts, “Look, a train”!! We bought one like that from Canada when my daughter was 6 months old; still proudly have it almost 18 years later!

Soda Bottle Openerwala, Cyberhub, Gurgaon The menu layout, content and graphics is great; something you feel like framing to hang from your wall! The choice on offer isn’t too complicated, yet there’s loads of choice. Interesting Parsi trivia salt and pepper it, keeping you in splits and giving you loads of food for thought.

Soda Bottle Openerwala, Cyberhub, Gurgaon The manager Arnab looked after us and was a wonderful host. Well informed about Parsi cuisine, the history and culture, he took it upon himself to make sure we got a bite of everything. Even though the menu seems fairly simple, there is LOTS to savour.

Soda Bottle Openerwala, Cyberhub, Gurgaon It was time to dig in, and we began with the signature drink and starters.  You get transported into the heart of Parsi culture as the soda bottle with a SBO stirrer arrives, followed by a variety of other coolers. Not too sweet, they are good on the side. The starters were fab.

Soda Bottle Opener Wala I enjoyed the Keema pav, Aloo Aunty’s Vegetable Cutlis {or simply panko crumbed veggie cutlets} served with a tangy tamarind chutney, and the Bombay pav. Took us back to a recent trip to Mumbai and the roadside vada pav we had hungrily devoured. If food builds the connect, and hits the right spot, you know it is good!

Starters, Soda Bottle Openerwala, Cyberhub, GurgaonThe way the dishes were served won my heart. Simply plated, rustically served and food from the heart is how I’d put it. The much awaited signature dish, the Berry Pulao {mutton version which was the dish of the day}, blew us away. 

Berry Pulao, Soda Bottle Openerwala, Cyberhub, GurgaonBerries and fried cashews glistening temptingly, it was a matter of seconds before we dug in. A gentle suggestion from Arnab telling us to mix it through to distribute the flavours was spot on! Through the main course, we kept returning to the pulao. It was simple, yet flavourful, mutton cooked to perfection and the cashews and berries adding unbelievable delight. I would go back to SBO only to eat this over and over again!

Patrani Macchi and Salli Boti, Soda Bottle Openerwala, Cyberhub, GurgaonAlso praiseworthy was the Salli Boti. Salli we were told {for the uninitiated like me} are the crisp potato sticks on top of meat curry. This is the only meat dish {I think} which is served on the bone. The curry had delightful subtle flavours, lingering good spices that teased the palette gently. The crisp potatoes were addictive. The Patrani Machchi was gentle, coconut flavoured and moist. I enjoyed it even though I am not very fond of fish.

Kolmi Fry, Soda Bottle Openerwala, Cyberhub, GurgaonThe Kolmi Fry or the Parsi style fried prawns were fab too. Crisp, fun to eat and satisfying bites, these stayed crisp for a long time as we dug into the berry pulao.

Desserts, Soda Bottle Openerwala, Cyberhub, GurgaonEven though we were bursting at the seams, it was unanimously agreed that the Millionaires Brownie was a must. We braced ourselves for more indulgence. Deep, dark chocolate brownie with the trademark Indian 5 star chocolate baked in, this was certainly indulgent. Served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, it was addictive good. The laganu custard wasn’t available that day, and that was just as well.

Chai Bar, Soda Bottle Openerwala, Cyberhub, Gurgaon Chef Anahita was sweet enough to take a little time out of her busy schedule to come talk to us. We finished the meal with the chefs recommendation for tea/ coffee which is an intrinsic part of Parsi culture. The lemongrass and mint hot Parsi Choy was brilliant, as was the Pheteli Coffee Hot {pheteli refers to whipped}. We had fresh home-baked style cookies on the side. The berry nankhatai was full of crisp goodness, and the mawa cake moorish. Everything fell into comfort zone!

Soda Bottle Openerwala, Cyberhub, Gurgaon Candies from the good ole days were a final end to our meal … mango bites, kala khatta and boiled orange candy which evoked strong childhood memories. Stored on the shelf near large well-lit glass windows, were lines of quintessential  ‘martabaans‘ or rustic Indian glass jars. When we were little, each house had a few of these stocked with cookies, nuts or boiled candies. Blissfully, we would stick our dirty fingers in. 

Soda Bottle Openerwala, Cyberhub, Gurgaon It was an afternoon well spent with Sangeeta and Ruchira, connecting to Parsi traditions that have richly contributed to Indian culture and cuisine. The cuisine itself was a refreshing change. Trademark flavours of Parsi food are not commonplace in North India unless they are home cooked. Hats off to SBO for being able to bring alive the warmth and joy of this delightful, quaint and vibrant community.

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Also find me on The Rabid Baker, The Times of India


No Bake | Dark Chocolate Nutella Kumquat Pudding … indulgent, addictive and gluten free. Eggless too!

“I am starting to think that maybe memories are like this dessert. I eat it, and it becomes a part of me, whether I remember it later or not.”
Erica Bauermeister

Dark Chocolate Nutella Kumquat Pudding {GF Eggless} Dark Chocolate Nutella Kumquat Pudding turned out bowl scraping good. It was just an experiment. The result was deeply, soul satisfying, smooth and beautiful texture; quite delightful for an eggless chocolate pudding. Using oats meant that it was gluten free too! Did I mention I put in some whole kumquats too? They added delightful citrus undertones! Hazelnuts and kumquatsLife has been busy as usual with annual exams on and the kids hungry ALL THE TIME! It’s a wonder they ever get anything else done because IMHO they are always eating! It’s also a wonder I get anything done at all because I am always in the kitchen.

Dark Chocolate Nutella Kumquat Pudding {GF Eggless} Chocolate is one thing that needs to be on hand all the time. Chocolate everyday, and the savoury nibbles too. Store bought anything is a huge NO with the daughter, so I am BUSY!! It’s a double edged sword though. I love being in the kitchen, I get to experiment {read LOTS} …  yet on the other hand  I have time for nothing else!

Whole foodI’ve been diving into bags of oats of late. When it’s not oats, it’s amaranth flour, peanut flour, walnut meal and barley flour. Adds new dimensions to what you can do … and often what you cannot too! In a larger perspective, it helps you push your boundaries, something which I currently enjoy! The failures are there of course.

Hazelnuts & Vintage NutcrackerSo the pudding was meant to be just a chocolate pudding, but then along came Ruchira visiting from Islamabad. Among bagfuls of exciting stuff, she also brought hazelnuts. That was inspiration enough. Suddenly a Dark Chocolate Nutella Kumquat Pudding made more sense! Kumquats because they are in season and hanging heavy on the branches of my tiny tree!

HazelnutsThe rest of the day just went in trying to save the pudding from the ‘forever hungry for dessert at anytime of the day‘ kids, and attempting to shoot the brown in a nice way. Well, brown isn’t easy to shoot! I tried!

Dark Chocolate Nutella Kumquat Pudding {GF Eggless} The Dark Chocolate Nutella Kumquat Pudding turned out heavenly good. Fuss free to make and eggless. I used oats instead of cornflour to thicken it and that paid off well. The texture was smooth yet had some viscosity maybe from the kumquats or possibly cooked oats.

Dark Chocolate Nutella Kumquat Pudding {GF Eggless} Everything about it was delightful. Scraping the bowl {or rather pottery mug} the lad asked several times if he could have more. “I can eat this forever,” he declared … and I rolled up my eyes! Thats how good it was!

Don’t miss a post Also find me on The Rabid Baker, The Times of India

Baking | Savoury Hungarian Kalács, Twisted Buns; Sweet Yeasted Nutella, Marmalade & Almond Praline Skillet Bread… bread art with the Daring Bakers

“In the history of art there are periods when bread seems so beautiful that it nearly gets into museums.”  Janet Flanner

Savoury  Hungarian Kalács, Twisted Buns; Sweet Yeasted  Nutella, Marmalade & Almond Praline Skillet Bread... bread art with the Daring BakersSavoury  Hungarian Kalács, Twisted Buns; Sweet Yeasted  Nutella, Marmalade & Almond Praline Skillet Bread … it was a LOT of bread baking for someone who’s been off all purpose flour for a while now. Yet the Daring Bakers challenge this month made me sit up and take notice. Bread art? Huh? Why had I missed it all along?

Warning: Long post with lots of delicious bread!

Twisted Buns; bread art with the Daring Bakers

Beauty surrounded the Daring Bakers this month as our host, Sawsan, of chef in disguise, challenged us to make beautiful, filled breads. Who knew breads could look as great as they taste?

Savoury  Hungarian Kalács ... bread art with the Daring BakersSo much so for being a baker and being passionate about it. I do love artisan breads and rustic whole grain breads of all sorts, but one look at The pinterest board of Chef in Disguise had me smitten. I dusted the cobwebs off, crawled out from under the rock and entered an area I didn’t know even existed! 

Whole Wheat Bread 3Not sure about the origins, but from the pins shared on the board, bread art appears to have roots in East Europe, Ukraine and Russia, though I might well be wrong. The only downside is that beautiful breads for bread art need smooth dough {read plain flour} as they involve intricate cutwork and folding etc. In the end the bread is a sight to behold!

Savoury  Hungarian Kalács, Twisted Buns; bread art with the Daring BakersThis challenge is just a beginning for me;  I might well try bread art in the near future with part whole grain dough. For a first time, this was fun, although my efforts didn’t result in very stunning ‘bread art’. That said,  making the Savoury  Hungarian Kalács, Twisted Buns; Sweet Yeasted  Nutella, Marmalade & Almond Praline Skillet Bread was very enjoyable. They were extremely delicious too!

Twisted Buns; bread art with the Daring Bakers My love for savoury food meant that Savoury  Hungarian Kalács were going to happen very soon, the recipe adapted minimally from here. It’s a really nice dough to work with, and I flavoured it to add a burst of garlic and cheese. Loads of garlic and some mature cheese later, the dough smelt delicious; it was smooth and supple.

Savoury  Hungarian Kalács ... bread art with the Daring Bakers Every flour absorbs liquid a little differently and my dough wasn’t very firm. It baked fine though! I chose to keep the bread vegetarian, so adjusted fillings accordingly.Savoury  Hungarian Kalács, Twisted Buns; bread art with the Daring Bakers The original recipe for Savoury  Hungarian Kalács is a non vegetarian version and much prettier too. It shines with an almost gold hue due to the egg wash which I skipped.

Twisted Buns; bread art with the Daring Bakers The taste? Excellent! It was a battle to keep the kids off my precious bread! One finger gone, then another, and another… it was addictive good they claimed, the best bread ever! So cheesy and garlicky declared junior. Just one more piece begged senior! 

Twisted Buns; bread art with the Daing Bakers 4The Savoury  Hungarian Kalács were declared winners! And so were the little Twisted Buns … just two of them with leftover dough. Really interesting to make, and just enough for a handy dinner for the kids. Thought I’d serve them with crumb fried chicken and a salad on the side.

Twisted Buns; bread art with the Daring Bakers Time wasn’t my best friend as usual, so I sliced them horizontally and grilled them into chicken sandwiches! Best sandwich ever declared the lad; I’ve never had better flavour! All was good and I was pleased at such an inspired Daring Baker challenge!

Sweet Yeasted  Nutella, Marmalade & Almond Praline Skillet Bread... bread art with the Daring BakersEgged on by the brilliance of experiment number one, I decided to use the same dough for a sweet version, albeit just half the dough. ‘We’ love sweet stuff in the PAB household, so this was fun again! I had ideas for flavours, and they reminded me of an all time favourite bread, the Povitica!Sweet Yeasted  Nutella, Marmalade & Almond Praline Skillet Bread... bread art with the Daring Bakers In went anything and everything on hand…that half tub of Nutella left over from an eggless chocolate pudding experiment, some almond nut praline in the freezer ex a recent recipe development, and some homemade bitter kumquat marmalade! Kumquats are in season {read abundance} and I LOVE using them!

Sweet Yeasted  Nutella, Marmalade & Almond Praline Skillet Bread... bread art with the Daring Bakers Even though the bread didn’t look like a piece of perfect art, it tasted brilliant. Such a great combination of flavours, sweet just right, the crunch from the pralines, the undertones of the bitter kumquat marmaladebrilliant! Sweet Yeasted  Nutella, Marmalade & Almond Praline Skillet Bread... bread art with the Daring Bakers

I was so glad I pushed my limits to try both savoury and sweet versions of bread art this month. Thank you from the bottom of my heart Sawsan. Do stop by here and check out the fab bread art the talented Daring Bakers have drawn up! Thank you too Ivonne of  Cream Puffs in Venice for hosting this fab kitchen!!

Don’t miss a post Also find me on The Rabid Baker, The Times of India

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