Just few days back a close friend of mine (who is also a chef himself) happened to ask me, now that we have been to tons of places and got personal and up-close with the Pune restaurant scene what is the one thing that Pune is missing? It was a rather unusual question and I had an equally uncommon answer for it. The scene is evolving a lot with new concepts picking up ground, theme restaurants opening up and cuisine form all over the world being put up on to your plate but all this and yet one thing which is missing is brand recall. If you have an almost perfect; your kinda place with best in class service, amazing food will you go every single time to same place? Certainly not. One thing amongst others which is essential to give you the connect to a place – to make it your Adda is an ambiance to unwind, relax, and calm your senses. A place where time stops and you are at your leisure to cherish and enjoy the little joys of life.
Welcome to The Little Next Door – A place which offers a unique experience and give you a perfect place to take a break from the hustle bustle of life. The place has a very quirky ambiance and tons of elements which adore the place. They have lot of games for you to ensure a quality time with friends and family. A mammoth Jenga, a foosball table, chess, cards, a life size tic tac toe and what not. The place is full of elements. The flurry of ideas doesn’t stop there but can also be seen in the food and drinks. How about buying a quarter or a bottle of your favourite drink and saving it for later? You have your personalized drink waiting for you in that stock and that too prepaid. Savvy isn’t it?
The menu is huge and mostly a Mediterranean affair and the dishes see influence from France, Greece, Spain and Italy. The deserts are mostly alcohol based and are referred to as Drunkdesserts.
Me and two of my buddies had a relaxing time on one of the otherwise busy Tuesday evenings at TLND. An excerpt from the evening –
Cosmo Bellini – A vodka martini using cranberry and peach puree; this was a decent start to the evening. #Classic
Frosted Oreo – A drink for the ladies and who can take their drink sweet; using Baileys and chocolate syrup. This was 2nd best oreo drink if not the best, after one you get at double roti.
Next came in a surprise mad island ½ litre ice tea: Now it’s a no brainer that a concoction so amazingly muddled would be an instant hit with the masses. A well balanced mix of vanilla vodka, spiced rum, Cointreau, tequila and some sour agents and the part that it is actually served in a huge half litre glass is cherry on the icing. #HighlyRecommended
Jager Caipiroska – Nice option to the regular jager bombs with use of Mint, lime and some sugar. It was quiet refreshing and priced at a mere 385 it is a must have at this place. #MustHave
Rose Margarita – Yet another drink for the ladies or newbies to say. The drink had the best visual appeal but as the name suggests rose margarita had sweet slush over crushed ice garnished with some rose petals and it wouldn’t be wrong to quickly get the impression that one is having alcohol based rooh-afza. A little too sweet for me I would prefer sticking to the classics.
From the Soil:
Coked Shrooms was an ideal start to the evening; and used cheese, jalapenos and chilli. Baiganvillea happens to be the speciality here which is served in smoked cups of aubergine pickled a bit. The addition of peanuts and the accompanying beatroot dip made it even better #Recommended. Kidneys and Falafel had the new trending pita pockets used to fill up with kidney beans patty, the looks were great but the taste wasn’t equally convincing.
From the land:
Pig in a blanket used minced spicy pork two ways – one served in an olive bread piglet shaped casing and other as outer garnishing spread. It was a bomb of flavors and something which is a must try at the place. #MustHave.
Tequila Drunk Shrimps were served over wedges of grilled pineapple and were able to impress all in one bite. Scope of improvement lies but these are better off than those served at most other places.
Kefta Brochette – the only lamb dish of the night failed to impress as the meat was very dry. The sides made a very good impression with use of toum, cucumber dilli tzaiki and morrocan pickle but the kebabs itself were a let down.
Chicken souvlaki had the greek influence showed up in a very boisterous manner with use of pita, red pepper hummus, olive oil, lime and plenty of greek herbs. The dish was decent if not more but other strong flavors kinda stole the thunder away from this on.
Prawioli– Green chilli olive oil used in most efficient way in this prawn ravioli dish. It also had a hint of champagne which gave it a contrasting flavour. #HighlyRecommended
Kheema Borek – Cripy phyllo rolls stuffed with kheema. This one failed to impress us as much as other dishes.
Chicken bastilla – For the mains we had recommendations coming in from the TLND team and it clicked really well I must say. Chicken bastilla used a baked pie stuffed with spicy chicken tikka. As sides it had an arugula and fig salad along with a gravy. The gravy again was slightly different then the tikka marinade and as such when had together there were explosion of flavours. The salad is obviously a classic one but its pairing with this kinda dish was the masterstroke. Totally loved it #MustHave #HighlyRecommended
Champagne spaghetti – Pune has few places that can serve you droolicious spaghetti and now I can say for sure that TLND is added to the list. The dish brought in multiple elements in their strong avatars together and voila !! a brilliant spaghetti is what you get to relish. A gravy that was made by blending mushrooms and parsley puree with some fresh chives and crispy kale to garnish was just what you could ask for. I little moisture would be appreciated even more as I found I dry. #HighlyRecommended
Pizza made your way – How come TLND remain behind when the rest of the Pune is experimenting and going crazy over pizzas. The simple no non sense and no fancy named pizza from TLND is called ‘Pizza made your way’. You get to design it your way and the one we feasted on had mushrooms, bell peppers, grilled chicken, onions and some broccoli for toppings. Another point scored.
Drunk Desserts (Alcohol based)
Rose winesciles – Frozen ice tea popsicles along with a wine rose syrup dip, they take you to your childhood memory lanes. The dessert failed to impress me for the rose flavour and the wine didn’t pair well for me.
Mini donuts and churros – Soft mini donuts and crispy churros served with a chocolate fondue that used Jack Daniels. We got two of these and both batches were slightly differently prepared as per our request. Customize JD a bit in the fondue and you should love this dessert.
Apple Cinnamon Cigar rolls – The regular pie rolled into a cigar. The rolls were upto the mark. The dish was served along with a burnt caramel bailey ice cream and this is where it missed a few points. The burnt caramel bailey along with rolls pairing wasn’t convincing enough. We discussed a few options with the management on what could pair up better.
8 textured chocolate cake – An absolute must have at TLND. You won’t be wrong in calling this their signature dish; as we had patrons coming in for having just the cake after a heavy meal. You can make out the 8 different types of chocolate forms and the alcohol part is yet again in the hot chocolate sauce which has Old monk infused. #MustHave #Brilliant #SignatureDish
What one thing impressed me at the TLND was consistency that came out from each of the dishes being served. You could actually expect a dish in a particular way and it would turn out exactly the same way. The team showed their respect as much to the side accompaniments or the sauce as much to the main dish itself. They have clearly been experimenting a lot with different combinations and what can pair well with what; and while it will certainly take some time to come out with perfect recipes for everything on the menu they have certainly got the hang of what Pune will like to be served. Keep up the good work guys.
So for all you readers out there, when you want to unwind, relax and get away from all the madness of the city while still being in the city look no further as you have a wonderland right here in the heart of the city.
A special mention to Team Carpe Diem – Carina who made it even in extremely sick condition, Ashutosh Joshi for playing a wonderful host, the Chef, bar-ternder and team TLND who ensured a good evening for us.
(Disclaimer: The views expressed are my own and from the single or multiple experiences that I have had with the food joint. While you are free to disagree with the opinion below; please respect the originality and fairness of the content. The taste and experience might differ from the one portrayed for varied reasons like the Chef and staff that serves you, Ingredients used and other factors that change from time to time. The opinion/ review is purely based on my experience and there is no biased, favoured or commercial angle to it. At times, I might have used a few references from the freely available information on the internet to draw a correct more accurate picture but the sole intent of the is review is to give back a piece of my experience to the foodie community.)