Restaurant Review: Lupa In Bengaluru Is Chef Manu Chandra’s Love Letter To Italy

Chef Manu Chandra is back and brings a slice of la dolce vita to Bengaluru with his new restaurant.

Published On Feb 06, 2023 | Updated On Mar 06, 2024


It is always exciting when a popular chef opens a new restaurant. It causes a buzz. Rumours fly hard and fast. Especially in today’s landscape where chefs are celebrities in their own right. Especially when the chef in question is one of India’s finest — Manu Chandra.
Manu Chandra’s exit as chef-partner from the Olive Group of Restaurants in  2021 came as a surprise to many. In the two years since, the chef has co-created Manu Chandra Ventures (MCV) with business partner Chetan Rampal. Under MCV is the bespoke catering company, Single Thread, which catered for the official India Pavilion at the Festival de Cannes 2022. MCV’s restaurant arm is Savaa Ser, and the new LUPA is its first venture.  

LUPA is Chandra’s flagship restaurant, an 11,000 sq ft, 220-cover space located on Bengaluru’s MG Road. “This is a culmination of years of learning what not to do,” says Chandra. 


I’ve met and interviewed Chandra many times in my career. As a fledgling food writer, he was ‘the’ person to interview because he was good at his job, he was articulate and unafraid to say what he thought. Our last meeting was at the Serendipity Arts Festival in Goa in December. On asking him if we could expect a Manu Chandra restaurant in Goa, he gave a resounding ‘no’. “Goa is too saturated.” It seems fitting that Chandra’s new restaurant will be in Bengaluru, his home for over a decade. 

At first glance, LUPA overwhelms with its sheer volume. Its décor is inspired by Chandra’s travels to Italy, in particular the well-appointed homes in the little villages of Tuscany. A narrow entrance leads into a spacious courtyard. The sound of traffic dies away, replaced by water gushing in a marble fountain. A long verandah, inspired by the ones in Tuscany, meanders around the fountain, offering little nooks of privacy. Chandra has sketched the design of the courtyard, and much of the restaurant “down to the kitchen drains”. There’s an abundance of stone, marble and glass. Chandra is a ‘plant daddy’ and, accordingly, there is abundant foliage peppered around the space.

Everything within LUPA is customised or sourced from flea markets in India or imported from Italy. “Nothing in the restaurant is from China,” he quips.  


The inside space is lush in volume and design, with low-hanging lamps, leather seating, solid crystal lamps, terracotta brick inlaid with stone and marble tiles, moveable Art Deco screens, credenzas with textured glass, and low-hanging red lamps. At the end of the room are two open pantries: a salumeria cum small plates bar with in-house cured meats, pickled vegetables, and Begum Victoria cheese (Chandra is founder-partner of the artisanal cheese brand); and a gelato lab. Nearby is a coffee bar: “With coffee, I am certain about one thing — I don’t want to intellectualise it.”


In one corner of the indoor space is a raised bar — Chandra’s puns on the phrase a few times — with a brass countertop and a facade with ‘antique’ mirrors. The bar has its own private deck with a solid American redwood floor, which leads into a semi-private eating area with its own kitchen, pizzeria, and live grill. Beneath the bar deck sits a stone-clad wine cellar — “a last-minute brain fart that cost us a lot”.

As someone who isn’t a big fan of Instagram, Chandra has certainly designed LUPA to look as pretty as an (Instagram) picture. “Everyone and everything needs to look prettier these days for Instagram, so we facilitated that." LUPA has many such Instagrammable pockets — the bathrooms with their ceramic sinks and long mirrors; the grand staircases leading to the private dining area; a tree at the entrance peppered with orchids; and the mural of the mythical she-wolf (which gives the restaurant its name) holding a flower in her mouth — the design is based off a Chandra sketch.  


LUPA is a culmination of Chandra's visions, from the expansive kitchen — “This is the most scientifically designed standalone kitchen in the country”, to the décor — “I didn’t want the design to be minimalist.”

LUPA’s food is also highly Instagrammable. Broadly, it can be described as European-inspired with contemporary flair. The first course sets the tone for the evening, a plate of food that surprises and delights. A warm bread board comes packed with Lebanese Kaak (sesame-crusted bagels), brioche, sourdough focaccia, and multigrain bread, a jalapeno and lime butter, and a flavourful chilli oil. Next is a Spicy Edamame and Green Pea Pate with crunchy and wafer-thin sweet potato crisps.


A cranberry and green chilli relish adds a bright pop of flavour to a ridiculously smooth chicken, asparagus and mushroom terrine. The citrus-dressed Heart of Palm salad bowl was a mix of colour and crunch with pickled water chestnut, asparagus, strawberry and cherry tomatoes. Panisse Bruschetta is a plate of dainty morsels of chickpea crackers piled with a tangy roasted tomato and basil, and a mushroom pate.


The Hamachi Crudo has beautiful slivers of yellowtail in a piquant ponzu dressing with tiny glutinous rice crackers. The Steak Tartare doesn’t need the table-side mixing and fanfare because it’s a stellar dish on its own: cubes of beef with shallots, capers, anchovies, egg, and Worcestershire sauce. The Pressed Half Brick Chicken is a study on how to cook chicken well.


Through the various courses, the bar sends out one stellar drink after another. A Signature Negroni with cold brew-infused Campari gives a much-needed caffeine hit to wake up the senses. 


A Clementine and Lavender shrub G&T offers refreshment, mid-meal. The pleasantly tart, limoncello-spiked LUPA-tini has a touch of flair with a smoke-infused bubble.  

LUPA’s menu has only six desserts, besides freshly made gelatos. The Floating Island is a song of poached meringue, passionfruit and cherry crème. By the side, I sip on The Notorious F.I.G, a fig jam-infused bourbon with orange juice and coffee bitters. It is a smoky, warming, aromatic drink that ends the meal well.

LUPA is set to be the talk of the town. It ticks off many boxes: good food, exciting drinks, a picturesque and captivating space, rigid attention to detail, private dining zones, and comfortable seating. It unequivocally signals that Manu Chandra is back.  

Details: Located on the ground floor, Spencer’s Towers, No. 86, Mahatma Gandhi Road, Bengaluru. Call: 8792384999/8792385999.

Photo: Lupa/Assad Dadan, Kuber Shah, Nishant Ratnakar