While we are thankfully at the wee end of the “theme” trend, restaurants and watering holes around the country are concentrating on amalgamating interesting ingredients, creating never-drunk-before cocktails with an overall attention to detail, flavour and fresh produce. Here are the class toppers across cities, and not in any particular order.

SLY GRANNY, Bengaluru

What’s it about?

Here’s to taking “grandma chic” seriously. I was quite bored of the whole country being swept by the “laidback” trend in hospitality (which started to feel more like “lazy” and “cost-cutting” after a while), but here is a resto-bar that has the vibe of a lazy evening without going the IDGAF route. With simple and clean décor, Sly Granny is a restored colonial bungalow with spacious interiors, a smashing menu, great cocktails and, most importantly, a sprawling terrace — which, given the Bengaluru weather, should be the highlight of the property.

What do we like?

Sample some granny-style cooking with a classic shepherd’s pie, the mushroom risotto, a soulful massaman curry and pancakes and apple pie for dessert — simple cooking, done right. From the alcohol menu, we pick the Chase and Status, Brixton Punch and the wickedly delicious Salad In A Glass.

Special mention: The wonderfully spacious terrace, ideal for late-night hanging out with booze and old buddies

SRIRACHA, Bengaluru

What’s it about?

Pan Asian does not seem to go out of vogue, with chefs discovering some flavoursome nugget from this culinary treasure trove that is good enough to inspire a whole menu. From Thailand to Hong Kong, Indonesia to Singapore, Sriracha brings uncommon dishes from these regions to your table, for one of the most memorable meals ever.

What do we like?

The jaw-dropping, hand painted walls will draw all the Instagrammers, although one must mention that the food is no less colourful. The wild mushroom purple dumplings look (and taste) like something out of fairy tales, while we were bowled over by the coffee — rubbed pork riblets with green apple slaw, the juicy Cantonese roast chicken and the near-perfect khow suey.

Special mention: Do not walk out without a bite — or several — of the Sumatra dark chocolate mousse. You’re welcome.

SANCHEZ RESTAURANTE AND CANTINA, Bengaluru

What’s it about?

For an authentic slice of Mexico, head to Sanchez. Their offerings include Mexican and Tex Mex delights, along with a bar dedicated to tequila and Margaritas (now doesn’t that sound like the perfect party?). More importantly, the focus of this new resto-pub has been to introduce flavours and dishes that have never made it past the Mexican border.

What do we like?

While the live guacamole station at the table is quite unique, we love the ceviche with the ‘catch of the day’ fish and the habanero tequila jumbo prawns — that’s like mariachi on a plate.

Special mention: The absolutely devine (no, not a spelling error) tres leches in the dessert course, that you can’t have too much of.

KUBE, Mumbai

What’s it about?

Arguably one of Mumbai’s biggest resto-pub-clubs (yeah, it has everything), Kube has a spacious open air resto-pub and lounge, terrace cabanas, private saloons, the longest active bar in the city AND a big enough discotheque to house the city’s noisiest. Designed by the very talented Mayur Gujare, Kube is a fine marriage of architecture, restoration and interior design. Grunge meets symmetry, creating a balance between brick, concrete, raw wood and metal as seen in the fixtures, construction and furniture.

What do we like?

The club’s ceiling is a fluid grid of lights, while everything else is reflecting surfaces — yes, it is as trippy as it sounds. You can pass on the mains and stick to some flavoursome appetizers, like the chicken cigars, citrus prawns, kasundi fish and the lamb ragu flat bread. Definitely try all the whisky cocktails, especially the Saffron Sour.

Special mention: The restored shipping containers, ship wood, antique panels and a police station’s swinging door, which have all made their way into the décor.

HENPECKED, Mumbai

What’s it about?

I have no idea. While the chalk board outside the restaurant had some mild sexism scribbled on it the day I walked in (the name of the restaurant refers to an imbalanced marriage), the interiors had a jumbled up farm-to-table vibe. But what won me over was the food. With fresh produce, balanced and astutely paired flavours and some smashing dishes, you can ignore almost everything when the food is this good.

What do we like?

The eggs decker, the in-house poppy bagels, excellent salads, the bacon and chicken clams, the pulled lamb mezze with black hummus and baba ganoush and the city’s most interesting gourmet pizza menu.

Special mention: A kickass tenderloin and the Molleux – 100 per cent chocolate sable served with the smoothest vanilla ice cream.

KAAMA, Mumbai

What’s it about?

Classical India on a menu, Kaama is doing fusion right. While the décor might be simple and unassuming, this young pub has enough muscle to regularly pack in crowds. Kaama also has the most creative cocktail menu in the city right now — and, surprisingly, some kickass mocktails too.

What do we like?

The galouti kebabs, haleem shots and stuffed masala crabs are to die for. From the bar menu, we could drink vats of the gold dusted Daiquiri, the beet and basil Caipiroska, the opulent sandalwood and cardamom Martini and the wickedly delicious saffron, sandalwood and gulkand shots with vodka and gin. It’s like drinking a Raja Ravi Verma painting, guys.

Special mention: Definitely the galouti kebabs and the entire cocktail menu.

XICO, Mumbai

What’s it about?

We are hot on authenticity this year, and by the looks of it, “back to the roots” might just be the new trend in the making. Take Xico, for example. This Mexican joint is all about serving the real Mexican deal, so no burritos and nachos, no sour cream and guac with every dish, no constant addition of refried beans. Everything does not taste like fajitas. Bare walls with colourful murals, eclectic couches, gigantic pitchers of Margarita and a fine slice of Mexico — this is the perfect place to let your hair down after a boisterous week.

What do we like?

While it is quite an alien menu for Indians, the vermicelli pasta with toasted garlic, chipotle salsa, requeson and cotija are a treat, as is the confit of pork belly with shaved cabbage. Don’t forget to order a lot of mezcal.

Special mention: The décor. And the guac is divine.

SLINK AND BARDOT, Mumbai

What’s it about?

Authenticity part deux — here’s to Mumbai’s only French restaurant. Nestled inside a pretty Worli village cottage, it is the perfect spot for a romantic date night, with suburban French interiors, cheerful music and elegant cocktails. Also, the restaurant has an expansive small plates menu, which allows you to try out more dishes without filling up. What S&B promises is a non-fussy and non-fusion experience of a cuisine that is a heavyweight on its own accord. It would have been quite disappointing to see someone goof around with my bourguignon.

What do we like?

The buffalo cheek bourguignon in its red wine jus is a delight, as is the steak au poivre. Another big high is the meltin-the-mouth-and-warmyour-soul 36-hour Belgian pork belly. Skip desserts and order the poached pear Daiquiri for a sweet ending.

Special mention: Sitting in an English garden for the Sun — that’s a cocktail, by the way.

TOWN HALL, New Delhi

What’s it about?

I miss old school fine dining, and it is such a delight when a space opens that knows how to balance class and cool, giving you an option to dress up for an elaborate dinner and also unwind afterwards at the rooftop bar. The twostorey design works brilliantly for Town Hall, and the terrace should definitely be Delhi’s new hotspot (yes, I have a thing for terraces, back off). We must also not forget that the expansive menu is delectable, with influences from all over south-east Asia, Japan and Italy.

What do we like?

The Asian sampling plate with fish taichi, lotus honey, seafood tempura, chicken steamed in pandan leaves and vegetables tossed in a sesame dressing is like a road trip on a table. The cocktail menu is quite impressive too.

Special mention: The mocktails. Ask for the Southern Spice, the Asian Roadies and the Virgin Toddy. You can always make these drinks pop their cherries with vodka. Just saying.

WHISKY SAMBA, Gurugram

What’s it about?

Well, if you are ready to explore the world of whisky, welcome to your chocolate factory, Drunk Charlie. Dressed up like an old boy’s club, Whisky Samba is definitely targeting the older crowd who have tasted the good things in life — and would love some more. So, there’s a lot of wood and leather and a 50-foot long bar, offering 140 varieties of whisky, with more than 3000 bottles on display. Walking up to the bar is almost a religious experience. It is a massive property, and while the young ones might be busy dancing and drinking cocktails, for really discerning patrons, Whisky Samba has curated a variety of trails to go through the whisky menu — the honey trap trail (to only taste different notes of honey), aperitifs, wood finished whiskies, vintages and limited editions, to name a few.

What do we like?

The menu is an attraction too. The tiger prawn ceviche with a litchi reduction and berry compote is a kickass start. The buffalo ribs and the Samba-style baby backs are winners too.

Special mention: This wicked cocktail called a Whiff of Him — Laphraoig 10 years, strawberry marmalade, white chocolate, clove and a plum soaked in whisky for two weeks.