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Hungry eye – Black Pepper

Monday, March 28th, 2011

For me, Jhamel arrived not when St. Mary’s Lane was overwhelmed by the attack of the restobar clones. It happened when trendy Black Pepper Cafe & Pub opened shop just around the corner from my phuphu’s dowdy residence, joining the lane hitherto dominated by local stalwarts Greenwich and Summit.

It’s clear Black Pepper is serious about the competition. There’s a nice open courtyard (with retractable roof) framed with carved wooden pillars, though you can choose loungier chairs or an inner sanctum if you don’t fancy the sun.
Mains start from Rs 250 for lunch and Rs 450 for dinner, with some expensive items that tempt then deter. Given that it was lunch, I reluctantly ordered a mocktail – a Tipsy Guava – and was impressed enough by the combo of unReal juice, ginger slices and lemon to want to dunk a shot of vodka into it (I didn’t). With some trepidation, then, we tried the Bruschetta.

The French bread on which it was served could hardly compete with Bu Keba’s corn, olive and buckwheat, but the zucchini, tomato, capsicum, mushroom and onion toppings were superior. What’s more, the Bruschetta was accompanied by a tartly dressed salad mix, with mint, rocket, chives and lettuce supplying a range of flavours and textures.

The Charcoal Jalkapur Fish with lemongrass sauce was generously presented, and the white flesh was firm, tasty, and offset perfectly by the browned crunch of the exterior. The buttery herbed veggies weren’t just an afterthought either, and my only complaint would be that the luridly yellow sauce, while an interesting variation, was a bit too much on the lemony side – less would have been more.

The Grilled Pork Chops (with mash and mixed salad) didn’t disappoint either, with a creamy apple sauce that lent the juicy, savoury meat a sweetish tinge. The measly portion of the Tom Yum soup, on the other hand, was tasty but had little in common with the fiery original. The overly sweet and messy looking Flambe Crepe Suze de Orange, too, didn’t quite come together.

Black Pepper, like many of its compatriots, has a solid line in thalis, momos, fried rice and the like. Now all they need to do is match the music with the consciously cool posters on the walls – a three-hour wifi session with Chris de Burgh, Cliff Richards and The Carpenters on loop just about did my head in.
Nepali Kukur

Head south from the Summit Hotel, pass Greenwich, then a junction, and Black Pepper is on your right.

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