When it comes to food, Pune is a paradise. The city offers different kinds of cuisines, and, more importantly, entrepreneurs or restaurant owners aren’t scared to experiment. So, when someone suggested Monks and Blues at Baner which serves awesome European and Italian food, we decided to give it a shot. The special instruction was to not miss their Steaks on Stone!
Couple and business partners, Afreen Khan and Pratim Gujjar, who own Monks and Blues, are both foodies and therefore wanted to start something of their own. Their passion and hard work has paid off.
We dropped in at Monks and Blues, which is located on the first floor of Deron Heights, on a weeknight. Parking wasn’t a problem. As we entered the restaurant, the first thing we spotted was an old scooter, which, we were later told, belonged to Gujjar’s father and he had placed it there for emotional reasons.
The place is beautifully done and spacious. Divided into two sections, you can either choose to sit inside or enjoy a view of the busy Baner Road if you prefer the outdoors. Inside, the interior is a combination of modern industrial style decor and a lot of classic woodwork. At one corner, is the bar and billing counter. Two comfortable sofas are placed at another corner. Manager Asif Khan, who is Afreen’s younger brother, says that the sofas will be used during special occasions. The terrace seating area was simply done with comfortable chairs and tables. We chose to sit outside to enjoy the rains and the music playing in the background.
As we went through the menu, Asif informed us that they serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. “We launched the place early this year. Afreen had been working as a hair stylist in Mumbai. However, both she and Pratim are foodies, so they decided to launch the restaurant,” he informs. If you are wondering why they decided to call it Monks and Blues, Khan shares the story, “Their nicknames — Afreen calls Pratim Monks and he calls her Blues.”
Khan says that they specialise in Steak on Stone, a concept which one will not find anywhere else in the city. “We serve vegetables, meat or fish on salt stone, which is specially ordered from the Himalayas. Because the stone already has inbuilt salt, we do not add salt to the dishes,” says Khan.
The menu has been designed by chef John, who has worked with reputed hotels and restaurants across the country. “I have tried incorporating different kinds of menus from modern India, Italy and Europe,” says John, adding, “Not just Steak on Stone, every item is my signature dish because if people are coming, they should try something new.” The biggest challenge, however, is getting the salt stone from the Himalayas.
Helping us with the menu, the chef suggested Prawn Ajillo. Six large steamed prawns were served in a coriander and lemon sauce. They serve each prawn on a spoon and you have to finish it in one go. The taste of the prawn, and garlic, coriander and lemon blended beautifully. We found it simply irresistible.
Harissa Chicken Cilantro with Green Onion Pizza was next. The minced chicken tossed in Harissa — a North African hot chilli pepper paste, was expectedly super spicy. The pizza base was thin crust and Khan says that it is hard to find such thin crust base at other restaurants. In spite of the spicy flavours, it was tasty. We relished every bite. Those who love spicy flavours must try this pizza.
As the evening went by, our food sojourn became more exciting. Have you heard of Mutton Pani Puri? Nope? Then try it here. Filled with dry kheema curry (cooked in Indian spices), the pani puri was served on top of small glasses and the imli pani was replaced with mutton broth. Served piping hot, the chef suggested us to instantly pop it into our mouth as soon as we filled the puri with the broth. The burst of flavours was unusually good. Truly, a unique experience.
Another innovative dish was Crispy Quinoa Cake served with cherry tomato sauce. Fitness enthusiasts will enjoy this dish because not only it is made with quinoa but is also baked. The tangy flavour of the sauce complemented the melting cheese and veggies with which the quinoa cake is made.
Finally, the moment we were waiting for arrived. Cajun Marinated Chicken Breast on Hot Stone was a delight to see, smell and taste. As soon the dish was served, we could get the smoky smell of salt. Chicken breast was served on the stone with lots of veggies, and brown sauce and truffle cream sauce. The subtle taste of chicken and veggies beautifully mixed with the sauces. We dipped each piece in the sauces and savoured it.
With this array of exotic dishes we were done, but the chef insisted on serving us dessert — Deep Fried Ice Cream, which is one of their specialities. If we didn’t try this, we would have cursed ourselves. The homemade ice cream served with caramel was heavenly. The crispy shell around the cold ice cream just added to the taste and every bite was worth it.
Our visit to Monks and Blues was memorable and we are looking forward to visiting it again soon to try the other exotic dishes.
On a concluding note, Khan tell us that they are also pet friendly because everyone associated with the restaurant is a pet lover.