This Sunday is Geeth’s birthday, and since we usually like to do something with the family on that day I thought it would be nice to kick-off the weekend with the two of us doing something special to celebrate. We’d heard of Farmlore from a few friends (I of course have been stalking their Instagram page), and it sounded like an experience we’d both enjoy so I went ahead and made a weekday lunch reservation to try their 5-course degustation menu on Friday, 18th Feb.
To put it bluntly, this has been one of the most unique culinary experiences I’ve had the pleasure of having in my home city of Bangalore. I find it so exciting to think of the possibilities in our own backyard, and Farmlore is testament to how critical the right team & mindset is to creating space for experiences like this even in an urban, relatively cosmopolitan city like Bangalore in India.
Unlike a typical “review”, I honestly can’t go into detail about every dish because I intentionally focused more on living in the moment than noting down the actual names. There’s also another reason, which I will go into later. What I am trying to do with this post, however, is to break down what I think are essential factors that the team at Farmlore has paid significant attention to in order to succeed at their endeavour in creating a unique, engaging & sustainable gastronomical journey for their guests.
Setting expectations: an invitation to fully surrender
Since I’ve had about a day to fully think through the whole lunch, I think the most important part for me the is the clear & crisp introduction Chef Johnson Ebenezer gave us when we settled in to wait for our first course. He quickly summarised his own journey (Nadodi, Kuala Lumpur), alongside those of his colleagues Chef Mythrayie Iyer (Noma, Denmark) and Chef Avinnash Vishaal (Frantzen, Sweden). Chef Johnson also emphasised that they don’t follow any particular cuisine, that they predominantly use locally-grown ingredients from their own farm and use wood-fired ovens for cooking. The restaurant itself runs on solar power. No printed menu is shared or available online because they decide the dishes depending on the produce available.
What does this tell me as a guest? It frames expectations – that I can look forward to a meal curated by a world-class team that has mastered their knowledge of ingredients and cooking techniques so acutely that they operate beyond the boundaries of a conventional restaurant. More importantly, I must be open minded about the journey I am about to embark on. Aside from providing the team with dietary restrictions (not to be confused with preferences) during the time of booking, a guest just has to relax, sit back and look forward to being surprised at every turn.
View from the chef’s table: a visual symphony
There are advantages to arriving early! We showed up exactly at 12:30, and so we were able to take our pick of seating. While I first gravitated to a table at the back, Mynah from the Farmlore team gently let us in on a secret: the best seats were at the chef’s table – the pass area. This is a long marble counter directly in front of the kitchen, and where all the magic of assembly happens. Best tip of the afternoon! I was able to go nuts with my phone camera, and watched as the team focused on intently piecing together each element of every course. I observed efficiency but no unnecessary haste or clumsiness that can often occur when a group of people are working quickly together. The comfort and confidence the team has across their dynamic with each other, familiarity with dinnerware and flawless presentation is evident in this space!
After every dish was placed in front of us, Chef Johnson would lean across and explain the origin of each ingredient and any special techniques of note. If you’re planning to document each dish, this is probably when you should hit the record button but I was more focused on just listening!
It’s not just about the food: intimate & seamless dining
As far as I could tell, there is no separate “service” team – almost everyone in the kitchen came out to place dishes in front of us, worked at the pass to plate up dishes, managed clearance and more. It’s also members of this same small team that manage bookings (right from calling to confirm dietary restrictions the evening before) & greet guests to help them with selecting a table. This intimate group of people are responsible for running the whole show, and makes the entire experience pretty much frictionless. Since you pre-pay for meal at the time of booking, you basically walk in, go through each course as fast or as slow as you’d like, and then leave. In between courses, Chef Johnson (and sometimes the others) will stop by to check on how things are going, and I noticed a few guests had questions. Some others were quite obviously here a third or fourth time … and that’s when I realised that one of the up sides of not having a ‘standard’ menu is that your audience can visit you as often as they want to because the ingredient-focussed concept involves working with what’s in season, and that almost never has to be translated into the same ‘form’. And to hold up an experience like this, the consistency quotient will instead come in to all the other factors: the seamlessness of service, the element of surprise and the warmth of interactions.
Local shines without the baggage of “authenticity”
This might be a controversial point, but one that I am beginning to feel passionately about based on the discourse I see online. At one level, there is a space for gastronomic experiences that embrace tradition in the conventional understanding: recipes specific to a community, a region, a social class or some other common denominator that binds. The city is home to some of these, and I have enjoyed the ones I’ve had the privilege of experiencing like Ghiza, Bengaluru Oota Company and more. But given that the pandemic invariably led me to look at cooking as more than ‘just a survival skill’ and more as something that I want to engage with honestly, I am sometimes awe-struck at the manner in which people type out ‘that’s not how this dish is supposed to be made / that’s not how WE make this dish/ that’s not authentic’ on social media networking sites and the cesspool of article comments. Formats like Farmlore are encouraging because they offer you a refreshing alternative (and of course you need to be open to this) – they make you look at pairing of ingredients, textures and flavours without conforming to a pre-conceived idea of what a dish is supposed to be. This gives the concept of using local ingredients a whole different canvas, because they are not bound by a traditional form or recipe.
If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it! If you’ve visited Farmlore, let me know your thoughts. – what did you think about the experience? If you’re interested in trying out the experience yourself, you can make a booking on their website. You can also follow them on Instagram. Farmlore is located at: Survey No:67, Mohan Raju Layout Sathnur Village, Bagalur, Bengaluru, Karnataka 562149
Note: This is my first time dining at Farmlore, and I paid for the entire experience. The weekday 5-course degustation menu costs Rs.3,000 per head.
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