It’s 7:37 a.m., you’ve just opened your eyes and plan to laze some more, but the crackling and popping of the tadka that your mother just splashed into the sambhar drags you out of bed to the kitchen, all within a second! Now, as you pick up the lid to take in the aroma of the curry, you think, “This sambhar deserves to go places. I’m going to turn this into a million-dollar idea.” Well, we cannot say for sure but this is probably what the childhoods of Abhishek Joshi and Chirag Jadhav, founders of We Idliwale Barroom, must have looked like. Their groundbreaking venture promises to put a whole lot of nostalgia and South Indian delicacies on your plate.
Large windows, accents of grey on the walls, stainless steel cutlery, banana saplings in the background serving as a reminder of the founders' cultural roots, rustic terrazzo and Athangudi tiles that you’re likely to see in the heritage homes of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, a bar decked up with vibrant wooden beads from Channapatna, and classic '80s rock music playing in the background—the space gives you a glimpse of to the heritage of South India at one glance.
While We Idliwale, with its ‘only-idlis menu’, has been a crowd favourite for quite some time in Pune, it has successfully expanded its offerings to include an array of South Indian dishes that includes everything from a cosy bowl of chicken curry and fun cocktails, to a sausage cooked like a regular ghee roast.
We started our food marathon (it surely qualified to be called so) with a platter of four pickles—chicken, chilli, mango, and tomato. It's like a warm-up for the tummy and familiarises your taste buds with the tangy yet spicy flavours. It was followed by a plate of Podi Bacon (yes, you read it right), which, if it were a person, would look like an English man dressed in kaili muṇṭŭ (lungi). The flavours were true to the age-old authentic podi recipe of Joshi's family's kitchen, and it was just the beginning.
As we paired our nibbles with the Haldi Highball cocktail—a blend of Greater Than Gin and homemade turmeric liqueur topped with a cloud of lime air—Jadhav regaled us with anecdotes about the pub culture of Bengaluru during his college days. "In Bengaluru, assorted papads and dosas are more popular as chakhna with beer than the usual chakli and channa." We Idliwale Barroom is a nod to this largely loved culture. The restaurant also pays homage to the toddy shop culture in Kerala by coupling its classics like Pepper Fry with alcoholic beverages.
We Idliwale Barroom's bar menu is ingredient-driven and food menu, wholesome. “For me, food is all about context and memory. That's always been the inspiration behind the food I have curated at We Idliwale,” says Joshi, the chef and co-founder of the restaurant. The bar boasts a selection of whiskies, rums, vodkas, and beers. However, it's their signature cocktails that you should not miss; it promises a taste of the South in every sip. Take the Raw Mango Picante, for instance; you will instantly be reminded of the Kacchi Keri Candy and amchur on the rim will refresh you. Pairing this delightful concoction with the Nagarjuna-inspired Andhra Chilli Chicken is probably the best decision you will ever make (no, we are not exaggerating).
The restaurant’s mantra is simple, to combine the comfort of homely South Indian food with a parade of refreshing cocktails. As we resisted the urge to lick the leftovers of their Kundapur-style Curry (with their classic idlis), Coconut-infused Drumstick Stew, Slow-cooked Pandi Curry, and the lip-smacking Kerala-style Pork Rib Vindaloo, we realised that the restaurant has truly been successful to bring the streets and households of South India to a larger audience.
To conclude the delicious affair, we dove into the chocolate sauce-infused Filter Coffee Eclair, specially crafted with Pulni Hills filter coffee and tender coconut payasam. It melts in your mouth like you are eating a piece of cloud.
There's so much to adore about We Idliwale Barroom, from their inviting ambiance and heartwarming food and cocktails, to the nostalgic vibes served on the side. It's the ideal recipe for a fantastic weekend with friends and family. In its true sense, the venture is a millennial Bangalorean-who-happened-to-move-to-Pune’s dream come true.