When people ask me about Bangalore, I often tell them that it’s not really a tourist city in the traditional sense, but I wouldn’t change my 6 months in that huge maze of madness and all it’s hidden gems. As an English football coach, I’d just left working for my hometown club, Nottingham Forest, to go and explore the world again, which led me to Bangalore with a new role for local company Gameday Academy for the second half of 2016.
What makes it one of the happiest memories of my life is the people I met, and the tight bonds we built. Although I would recommend everyone to go and explore the architecture and palaces, take a walk around one of the botanical gardens, and definitely go and see Bangalore Football Club (BFC) play, but what bonded us together, and defined my experience of the city was its FOOD. Not always the best food, but the ones I have the best memories of.
- Freshmenu – So, my living situation was an interesting one. My work provided me accommodation in an apartment they owned – so far so good. However, despite the bedrooms housing Ryesh from Pune, Amber from America, and myself, the communal areas were the company office full of admin staff hard at work. So having arrived in India in the early hours, been introduced to my roommates and fallen asleep, I woke up and crawled out my bedroom to a house full of new faces. First question… “where do i get food around here?”.
Turns out that if you have the money, you just get food delivered. If you have a few people working together you probably have several deliveries a day. So this is how I was introduced to Swiggy, usually the team choice was Freshmenu – and it was good – but sometimes we got to be adventurous and see what else the city had to offer.
This, I think, is also what got me through my first lockdown experience, back in the days I’d never heard of a ‘Bandh’ yet was being told in a panic by my local colleagues “DO NOT GO OUTSIDE!!!”. Obviously I’d never done any shopping because eating out and getting delivery is so easy, so the scramble was on to find anywhere that would deliver me food.
- Konark – I was lucky to have lots of free time to explore Bangalore, and was in a good place to do it, living centrally on Richmond Road. Usually work started early afternoon, so generally mornings were spent wandering the city finding somewhere to have a lazy breakfast. My first meal out in bangalore was when my housemate took me to a local dosa place and showed me how to eat it properly so I didn’t get mocked the same way she did. My subsequent dosa addiction led me to Konark, just a few minutes walk away from home. However, it’s not the well known restaurants on Residency road that won my heart, but the tiny Konark coffee shop, halfway between Richmond and Residency road, where having sampled all of bangalore’s breakfasts, i settled on daily Idly, Vada and filter coffee from here. Well, except in the mornings I felt fancy and went to the egg factory.
- Kebab Magic – It’s fair to say I had it easy in the week and its when I did most of my exploring, but the weekends more than made up for it. Criss crossing the city’s traffic jams to deliver as many football sessions as possible, usually ending up at Play Arena in Sarjapur. I’m not sure how this routine started, but it somehow became the highlight of my week. Usually we would finish the day super hungry and spend the drive back looking for somewhere to eat at around 9pm. We must have stopped at Kebab magic once, and it turned out to be utterly delicious. Over time we didn’t even need to ask where we were stopping, and then we didn’t need to discuss our order. Rotisserie chicken – spicy, chicken shawarma, and grape juice. Now I know there is kebab magic all over the city, but somehow that one next to Agara lake, with friends, after work, became the standard. No other location or visit felt the same, somehow a meal just tastes better when you feel you’ve earned it. If I could go back and have one meal, it would probably be this, despite part of me being sure it was about slowing down and spending time with friends rather than the food itself.
- Lazeez – I wasn’t always lucky enough to travel with friends and have the freedom to stop where we want. Often in the early days my company had a driver to help me get places I couldn’t get to myself. Unfortunately, we had very few words in common, and learnt to communicate using very simple words and gestures. Whenever we left for a new location he always asked me the same thing – which still remains one of 2 sentences I know in hindi – “are you hungry?”. A nod or shake of the head was good enough to tell him to choose a place on the way to grab something quickly. He may be the best tour guide I’ve had, as his choices were always incredible, yet always in places I never knew how to get back to. But as someone who loves fast, convenient food I was in love the first time he took me to Lazeez. Thankfully, they are helpfully scattered around the city and whenever he asked me about stopping for food again, I could ask “Lazeez?” to see if there was one on the way. Not to mention the absolute game changer when I discovered one 10 minutes walk from home, in a hut off Brigade road.
- Onesta – Now, it wasn’t all deliveries and convenience food, as I said, food bonding our friendship group together, and the locals loved showing us all their favourite restaurants across the city, or spent time seeking new places out. We had Thanksgiving dinner at the Only Place, local food at Nagarjuna Andhra, Ice cream from cornerhouse, steak from Millers 46… but standing head and shoulders above the rest is Onesta. I mean, when you go out as a group of 4, it’s rare you all agree what the best idea is. On this occasion though, I don’t remember anyone arguing with ‘all you can eat pizza’. We were definitely a ‘quantity over quality’ group of eaters and it didn’t disappoint, we went back a couple more times and i still miss it to this day.
The writer of this Guest Blog is Chris Smith who I had the pleasure of crossing paths with while he was coaching footbal in Bangalore. Chris is from Nottingham, United Kingdom and is a 33 year old who has visited 34 countries (England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, France, Monaco, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Vatican City, Finland, Sweden, Greece, Norway, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, to name a few) and might I add he is quite the travel bug who plans on keeping the second number higher than the first JThe thing that matters the most about travellng for Chris is definately trying the different cuisines and getting lost in big cities only to rediscover something that adds to the lessons he has learnt along the way. Travelling has also turned him into a minimalist and he barely owns more than a suitcase of belongings as he is always ready for his next adventure.
Chris is a professional football coach who has lived in 3 countries (India, Vietnam and Micronesia) & worked in 4 countries for pro clubs like PSG, Aresenal and Nottingham Forest. Currently based in the UK as he studies football and pursues his Master’s, Chris is passionate about using sports for social development around the world.
- Be adaptable to the culture of where you are – Enjoying a new destination is about finding that meeting point between what’s unique about you, and what’s great about your location. You may need to be open to changing yourself a little to make the most of your trip.
- Listen to those that know best – My favourite thing about new destinations is exploring and figuring things out, but… by listening to those that knew the city best I was able to adapt quicker and find things I loved sooner. Not to mention sharing it all with great people.
- Have a purpose – For me what always makes travel more meaningful is knowing your reason, for me it was about testing myself in my career in different cultures and exchanging ideas. But sometimes you simply need a break or to develop your self, or learn something new.