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Gone are the days when the word ‘chakna’ used to stand for a simple bowl of boiled peanuts – compliments of the house, of course. Crispy fried papad and cheese garlic naan cut up into small portions would be common variants, while chicken tikka and prawns fry would qualify for generosity beyond imagination. But with bars progressively upping their cocktail game, the humble chakna too is beginning to get a quirky, innovative twist.
Agent Jack’s Bar, for instance, does peanuts, cashews or boiled sweet corn tossed in a mix of desi masalas, besides a range of other delicious snacks such as sautéed vegetables, nachos with spiced chicken and salsa and the delightful ‘baby batata vadas’ which are bite-sized versions of everyone’s favourite potato fritter. Likewise, Adda prepares a right scrumptious bhel by combining ‘cheeslings’ (tiny square puffs of cheese biscuits) with chaat elements. Also, try their disco rings of fried papad with a bowl of masala served on the side and another masala papad with a paneer tikka-kachumber topping. German Bakery Wünderbar, on the other hand, has a long list of meaty gobbles – we would recommend the kheema pattice, mandeli fry, masala chicken chips and tawa kaleji.
At The 1st Brewhouse, you can wash down all sorts of tasty munchies such as curry powder-dusted French fries, creole-crumbed onion rings, egg pakodas, and tiny, honey-glazed chicken ‘winglets’ with a tall glass of cold, hand-crafted apple cider or oatmeal stout; whereas The Beer Café lets you choose from an array of international brews while munching on some ‘tandoori wedges’ or corn bhel, a unique form of chaat made from golden kernels tossed with chopped tomatoes, onion, coriander, green chilli bits, crushed papdi, a smattering of sev and dollops of tamarind chutney.
A few restaurants have gone ahead and done gourmet renditions of the otherwise minimalistic bar snacks, such as The Little Door’s ingenious marriage of desi boiled peanuts and roasted chickpeas with a sophisticated Greek village salad and parmesan shavings. Other offerings here include ‘pao bruschettas’ (crusty garlic toasties laden with olive oil-marinated tomato, basil and melted feta cheese or jalapeños and cheddar melt), ‘crostinis’ (canapés of flaky butter khari dressed with spiced goat cheese mousse, dried tomato compote and mushroom duxelle), among several other lip-smacking nibbles.
Peanuts seem to be a popular item to experiment with – Local Gastro Bar does its own distinct, Thai chilli lemon take on the steamed variety. Also, do not miss their murmura mixed with celery and onions in a spicy schezwan base, eggs stuffed with achari mayo served in multigrain bread pockets, and papadum rolls ensconcing a bizarrely wonderful blend of salsa and thhecha. Honestly, with pub sides like these accompanying your tipples, who even needs main course?