Restaurant Review — The White Owl in Lower Parel, Mumbai

The White Owl is Mumbai’s second micro-brewery. That means, they make their own beer. Right there at the restaurant! From fruity flavours to chocolate to caramel, they take pride in being an ‘artisan’ brewery that crafts a new flavor almost every week. True that! Literally! For, other than Diablo, the Irish Ale, and Halcyon, the german hefeweizen, the artisans try to create magic, eer beer, with interesting ingredients all through the time, such that patrons have something new to look forward to every time they come to the White Owl. I especially loved their Torpedo, a citrusy American pale ale, while Jayanta loved Diablo. Mind you, I am not a beer person at all. So Torpedo was a good induction.

Once you take your mind off the beers and look around, you will find White Owl to be just the place where you like to hang out with friends, with a DJ playing his repertoire of music from all over in one corner; people playing Beer Pong and Flip Cup in one side; others, sitting in the high chairs to get the best from the bartender; while most others are happing slumping in the regular chairs after a long day at work, and unwinding over the crafted beer. Look around, and you will find interesting stuff hung on the walls – a cycle in one, another filled with something that looked like those olden day’s fan switches. But the best wall is one where they exhibit art – photographs and paintings – of lesser known artists, thus giving a phillip to the amateurs. An oh, they also screen matches too…

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On the food front, we took fancy to the German-Style Bratwurst – an extremely tasty sausage in a bed of boiled potatoes and apple sauce, Red Snapper Ceviche – red snapper that cooks in the acid of the lemons, Beetroot Gnnochi – which were more like beetroot cutlets in a bed of lettuce and not gnocchi at all. Realised, the food there is fashioned to complement their beers. Best is to go for the day’s special, or have a word with the chef before you place your order. Desserts are awesome – we had Cheescake with Strawberry Compote and an Apple-Pear Crumble with Ice-Cream. Both, perfect!

Their staff is eager to help with your questions and get you the best food-drink combination, but mind you, they are in no hurry. Food can take forever to arrive, even on a weekday late evening. Don’t blame them, they are there to help you unwind, aren’t they? And not rush you through your meal. So in case you have that important pitch/presentation next morning, make sure you tell them that your life hangs on how quick they are with the food! Hehe…

Rates are on the higher side, almost at par with Fine dining restaurants.

Go with your friends and experiment with the beers. You will love them.

Restaurant Review: Barbeque Nation in Andheri West, Mumbai

We used to be a fan of Barbeque Nation when they had just set up shop in Mumbai. We especially loved their Pali Hill joint. Last weekend, it was the turn of the Andheri joint. We went there since they had recently started a desserts section dedicated to Kulfis….ah! Perfect , we thought, in this summer heat!

Located just off the Andheri Link road, near the Fun Republic, Barbeque Nation is easy to find. A sprawling place, by Mumbai standards, it has a separate bar area, the public seating, and also an enclosed place for private parties. On enquiry, they told us that they can sit close to 200 diners at one time….that’s massive in Mumbai!
Food, as is usual with Barbeque Nation, starts with the alluring skewers laid on the little barbeque stove in the centre of the table. We, straight from work that Friday evening, and post that crazy 45minutes in the crazy traffic, were famished. And immediately lunged for the Prawn, Chicken, Mushroom, Tengri and Paneer barbeques. Jayanta had requested for beer, while I really wanted to play it the Friday way – asked for their Masala Guava Margarita. And boy! Was it just the right choice. Absolutely loved the flavor and taste. And was such a perfect match with all those straight-off-the-skewers delicacies.
And as is usual at Barbeque Nation, the starters are more or less our main meal. The barbeques had almost filled us up to the brim. We did, however, settle for little portions of Biryani, Crab Lassoni, Mutton Curry and Roti from the spread of Fish and other veggies. And then, it was time for desserts. They have such a big spread of desserts — it’s a crime! I contained myself with one round of Phirni and one round of the just-launched Mango Kulfi. While Jayanta went bonkers with the Pan Kulfi, the usual Malai, the Fig. I have to admit though that I took a bite from all of them. So much for resisting calories!!!

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Awesome food, very attentive staff and live music, made it a fantastic experience at Barbeque Nation that evening.

Stop by Shri Dutt Vada Pav while driving to Kashid in Maharashtra

Vada Pav is synonymous with Mumbai/Maharashtra. It is the most easily available breakfast, snack, filler in the state, irrespective of the day and time. Here’s the BEST Vada Pav guy in case you are driving to Alibagh or Kashid or on the old Goa Highway — Shri Dutt Vada Pav!

Set up in 1982, Shri Dutt’s Vada Pav is the most popular joint on the highway and a BIG hit with office-goers and holiday-makers alike. While their Vada Pav is the most sought after, they have a decent demand for the other variants like Misal Pav, Samosa Pav as well.

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I found the Vada Pav at Shri Dutt’s a little smaller than some of the Mumbai joints that I am regular at, but what taste!!! Absolutely heavenly! Served piping hot between the pavs (the buns) with nothing else but the red powder (garlic and chilly based), Shri Dutt’s is probably one of the best I have had in a long time. All my colleagues loved and devoured theirs too,  and we ensured that we stop there on our way back.

Coupled with a ‘cutting chai’, you’d be satiated like you have attained Nirvana. Believe me.

Next time, stop by Shri Dutt’s!

Best Pondicherry Itinerary & Blogs

 Pondicherry, or to be politically correct, Puducherry, is a beach town in the east coast of India. Not big enough to be a state, but distinct enough to have its own identity, Pondicherry is a Union Territory of India. Long known for being a settlement of the Dutch, Portuguese, English and the French colonial powers, it is the French that have left an indelible mark on the coastal town. And you get a taste of it in most of the things you see at Pondicherry or in what you eat there.

One of India’s favourite tourist destination, we were in Pondicherry last Diwali over a 3night/4day holiday. Here is a compilation of all my posts that I wrote post the trip, covering details of the stay, sight-seeing, shopping and food escapades.

Simply click on to the links below to read a review of the restaurants or get information on places to see….

How to reach Pondicherry? Driving or taking a train is the only option, for Pondicherry does not have its own airport. The closest airport is the Chennai airport in Tamil Nadu. We flew down to Chennai from Mumbai and took a cab to Pondicherry. Here are the details.

Drive from Chennai to Pondicherry via East Coast Road 

Where to stay in Pondicherry? We stayed at the Sea-Side Guest House that is run by the Aurobindo Ashram. Clean, basic, reasonably priced with a comfortable stay, here are the details should you be keen to stay there too:

Review of Sea-Side Guest House 

Sight-Seeing and Shopping in Pondicherry

  1. Sight-Seeing in Pondicherry 
  2. Discovering Pondicherry Beach
  3. Shopping in Pondicherry
  4. Sight-Seeing around Pondicherry:
    1. Touring the temple town of Mahabalipuram
    2. Tour of the Madras Crocodile Park 

Best Restaurants of Pondicherry: Other than breakfast at the Sea-Side Resort, we had our lunch and dinner at numerous popular restaurants in Pondicherry. Here is a feedback on all of them:

  1. Baker Street for the best breakfast in Pondicherry 
  2. Le Dupleix, the best place for lunch 
  3. Carte Blanche, for a stylish dinner
  4. Satsanga, another option for lunch/dinner 
  5. Madame Shante – the restaurant that you should not go to
  6. 3 Best Restaurants in Pondicherry 
  7. Farm Fresh Café for a light meal 

 

#StartANewLife – I Did That With Travel Blogging

Burnt the midnight oil, studied my brains out, qualified as a Finance professional, worked at one of India’s best, career path was well charted, identified as a high-potential employee, prospects were looking rosy – that’s when I decided to quit the corporate world and #StartANewLife. Reason? My 15-month old daughter would cling on to me the moment I’d get back home from work every evening. She wouldn’t let go of me even when I had to go to the washroom to wash my hands. Hanging from one side, she would hold me tight while I freshened up. She couldn’t speak. But I knew how much she would have missed me during the day. I wanted to be with her twenty-four hours.

More reason? I had not read a book in more than a year. I had not sketched, as I used to when in school and college, in almost forever. I had always knitted sweaters for my sister’s dolls when we were kids; now that I had a lovely doll of my own, I had no time to knit her a sweater, or even a bonnet. Green are your fingers, so said my neighbours in Shillong – I have had no time to nurture a garden in 2 years. No time to watch a movie, or go for a play. That’s when I decided, enough!

My family wasn’t sure I’d be happy with my decision, and would soon itch to get back to the corporate world. They’d say, I was made for it. Had the passion and the killer instinct. But I had reasoned out with myself. In the fight over great career and a fat pay-check versus raising my little angel, the latter won. And I happily settled to another beautiful world – that of giving her everything dear to me, teaching her how to sing, helping her discover the joys of drawing, showing her little mind exciting things such as birds and butterflies.

And soon, I found an old love. The love of writing. Why, I hadn’t written in years. And, in these years that had gone by, so many tales had piled up in my mind. I realized, I wanted to write. And not in my diary. No, diaries had been relegated to the past. I wanted to blog. And that’s when a personal space – deepathinkingaloud – was born. Soon, I realized that it was too personal a space to take it to the world. Somewhere along the way, discontinued it. By now, another desire had planted itself strong in my head. To write about our travel escapades. Why! That was the most natural thing to do. We were, after all, such travel maniacs.

And so was born WheelsOnOurFeet – our travel blog. It gave me a new life. It gave me the life I always wanted to live.

When will you live the life of your dreams? When will you #StartANewLife?

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Simple Things That Bring BIG #Happiness While Travelling

Jayanta and I have been married for close to 11 years now. In our first year of marriage, we visited 13 different places within India. Friends and colleagues who accuse us of taking honeymoon breaks one after the other, but, no, for us, we merely wanted to explore…newer lands, hills, beaches, monuments, deserts. And so, ran off if there was an extended weekend, or stole a day from work to add to a Saturday-Sunday in order to run off yet again. Travel was happiness for us!

And the hunger only increased over the next few years. Small town, big city, royal gardens, ancient temples…we wandered. Together with a taste of local food, we blended into different cultures and traditions, making it a habit and a must. How can you claim to have seen new lands if you didn’t partake in their lifestyle, we’d reason. No no, food and shopping were equally important…they were happiness too.

During the 9 months when I was carrying our daughter, we were somewhat cautious though and travelled to just one place, Shillong. But no sooner did she arrive, and we somehow crossed her 3-month milestone, we set out again. Testing the waters with short drives and leisurely stays at getaways around Mumbai, we soon graduated to the usual destinations with her pram and baby food in tow.

Guess Hridi was born to our travelling ways. She’d never cry if we woke her up at odd hours to catch a flight. All that we had to tell her was, “Berate jabo” (That’s Bengali for Let’s go travelling), and her eyes would glean. Her pram gave way to strollers, and we went around just about any place in the world. Clearly, she loved travelling too. Her little eyes would look for butterflies and cats and ducks and squirrels, while we’d gape at the gardens and monuments around the world. And we would humor her by saving some bread from our breakfast and giving them to her when she wanted to feed the ducks or the squirrels. We still do that.

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Happiness, then for us, is in being together, in exploring together and in discovering together. Simple things such as collecting pinecones from the hills; or different shaped and hued stones from riverbanks; or shells from the sea shores; or barks of trees from the woods; stuffing them in the suitcases and then carefully placing them in our garden back home, only so that they serve as remembrances of faraway lands, bring us bigger joys. And then the happiness of trekking beautiful hills and walking in meadows, looking out and admiring the diversity of flora and fauna — addictions whose grip is getting stronger with time.

Somebody has rightly said, simple joys of life are the most extraordinary. We couldn’t agree more! :-)

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Review: Dukes Retreat in Khandala, India

Dukes Retreat in Khandala is fantastic … Didn’t realise it till I landed up there!

Khandala is a 2-hour drive from Mumbai and lies in the beautiful, verdant Western Ghats. Go past the second Lonavala exit and drive a short bit more to reach Dukes Retreat. Sprawling and very well maintained, you are at the seating area next to the poolside upon entry and even as you check in, you get a peek of the stunning view of the Ghats.

The Ghats are almost everywhere, when you are at the Retreat. Better still, you like to stay glued to them, their beauty. Rains magnify them. The clouds, the magic they wreathe in the hills, the green blush of the valley upon being touched by the rains – your city parched soul gets its balm. And you itch to loosen the strings that city life tie so tight around you – you itch to play, sing or simply breathe into the crisp air. The more effervescent around you call for barbecue delights, drinks, group singing, and dancing too. As I said, you itch to unrestrain yourself.

Needless to say, the stay at the Dukes Retreat, is reinvigorating. I was there as part of my organisation’s offsite program, along with a team of 25 colleagues. And between short meetings and interesting outdoor team-building sessions, we filled our lungs with fresh air with a vengeance. The rooms have the usual amenities and are well maintained. The air-conditioning is poor though, and you need to keep the windows open.

They have a gym that, weirdly, opens late. And have provisions for games such as badminton, carom, table tennis too. There were 2 other corporate groups, but owing to the Retreat’s size, we didn’t bump into any other soul. Even during meals, there was no rush..

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Food at the Dukes Retreat is fairly good. They have a café, called the Panorama Café, and a restaurant, called the Duchess Restaurant. The cafe offers, as the name suggests, a lovely panoramic view of the hills. The best seats are in the open, if the weather permits. The verandah behind the café is actually the best place for panoramic shots of the Ghats. The service at the Café, though, is pathetic. Would recommend you to eat your meals only at the main restaurant, Duchess.

Overall, it was lovely experience at the Dukes Retreat, and I missed my family when there. My wife would have loved the hills and the clouds and my daughter would have squealed at the green snake I saw in the dead of night, and the beautiful rainbow in the morning. :-)

Udaipur Itinerary & Guide to Best Hotel & Restaurants (India)

We were in Udaipur for 4 nights and 3 days over an extended Diwali weekend. India’s city of lakes turns into a dreamland during Diwali, what with every house, neighbourhood and monument lit up with the Diwali lamps and lights; and all of them getting reflected in the lakes….dreamland, as I said…

You will find an exhaustive series of posts on our Udaipur travel in my blog under the category, Rajasthan. But just as I did with my Bhutan travel, am giving you links to all my Udaipur posts here, so that you get to ‘see’ them all at once….

Reaching Udaipur – We took the flight from Mumbai

Where to stay in Udaipur – We stayed at Hotel Trident

Review of Hotel Trident, Udaipur

Best Restaurants of Udaipur – We dined at most of the must-eat restaurants there. Check out our reviews here:

  1. Review of Restaurant Savage Garden in Udaipur – a great place for non-Indian food
  2. Review of Jag Niwas Palace Restaurant in Udaipur – that offers style and royalty
  3. Review of Hotel Ambrai in Udaipur – for a meal by the lakeside
  4. Review of Hotel Roopam in Ranakpur (Udaipur) — the best place when touring Kumbhalgarh and Ranakpur

Must-See in Udaipur – Here are few of the must-go to monuments and shows when in Udaipur

  1. Dharohar Dance Show @Bagore Ki Haveli for a taste of Rajasthan’s music and dance
  2. Kumbhalgarh Fort for its sheer majesticity
  3. Temples in Kumbhalgarh Fort for the history they carry
  4. Eklinji Temple 
  5. Ranakpur Temple since it is one of the best Jain temples in India
  6. City Palace for its grandior
  7. Sajjan Garh Palace for a wonderful sunset

 Shopping & Food in Udaipur

Hotel Review: Hotel Trident in Udaipur, India

 Hotel Trident in Udaipur is all about class and luxury. We were there in the Lake city of India over the Diwali holidays, and Trident scored over the other hotels/boutiques owing to the sheer indulgence it offers.

Located at just a 10-minute drive from the old city, Trident is surrounded by trees and habited by beautiful birds, the most notable of them being peacocks. Simply look out of your room and you get to see them pecking away at the grasses and the lawns. Infact, you hear them before you see them – they wake you up with their calls in the morning.  And then, you will see one on the tree while you are having breakfast, a couple more strolling by when you are at the pool….

We loved the open air breakfast every morning at the Trident. Since winter was just setting in, early mornings were pleasant and made just the right setting for the first meal of the day, under the soft sun, by the beautiful bougainvillea and amongst the myriad chirping birds. Lunch and dinner, were at the famous restaurants in the city, of which we had made a list.

One of the biggest attractions of the Trident in Udaipur, is the Bada Mahal, built by Maharana Fateh Singh as his resting place during hunting expeditions. Located in one corner of the grounds,  maintained extremely well by the hotel and filled with pictorial depictions of the Maharana’s hunts, do visit it once to see the place where the Maharana watched fights between tigers and boars. Looked after by Roop Singh for the past forty years, the nearby woods have been converted into a sanctuary housing deers, boars, monkeys and birds.

Needless to say, the stay at the Trident is luxurious. They have a well-staffed children play section, should your little one wants to play while you take a walk in the grounds and hanker after the birds with your camera lenses. Do not miss a dip in the beautiful pool too.

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The staff is helpful with city-related information and can help you get a guide and taxi. They also help make bookings for you at high-end restaurants.

The stay cost us INR 11,000 per night with breakfast. Steep, yes. What do you expect of a luxury property? They offer a stay in style, after all. :-)

Hotel Review: Lake Naivasha Sopa Resort, Kenya

Lake Naivasha Sopa Resort is every bit a resort! Sprawling and sprawling and sprawling and spacious, it was a pity that we were stationed there for just one night. More so, because, it had its share of little wild animals like the zebras, giraffes, deers and the hippos. The standard instruction at the resort was that you cannot go out unescorted once dark, since there is every chance of bumping into a hippo or some other such wild nocturnal four-legged visitor. We certainly didn’t take any chances, but ensured that we explored the grounds in toto in the daytime.

It’s a cottage stay at the Lake Naivasha Sopa Resort  — cottages are lined up a little away from the main reception and restaurant. Beautiful-looking African huts, the conical roofs and stone walls of the cottages give them a very charming look. Two-floored, every cottage has 4 suites, with separate balconies and a large bedroom cum living room that looks out into the beautiful grounds.

Our’s was the suite in the ground floor, and we could spot giraffes and zebras and deers from even inside the room :-). Extremely well-maintained and close to the lake, the resort has it share of animals and birds as perhaps its permanent residents. The bio-diversity warms your heart and is so enriching for the wanderer cum explorer you —  we wished we could have been longer than our scheduled duration.

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Food at the Lake Naivasha Sopa Resort was lavish. We had lunch there, post our boat ride on Lake Naivasha. Famished, as we were, the restaurant had almost every meal under the sun – veggies, fish, meat, good desserts. Dinner too, had a very good spread, and they had bonfire too with good African live singing. Breakfast, again, was exhaustive with fruits, yoghurt, breads, live stations and oats and corns. No matter which part of the world you are from, they ensure that you have eaten well and have loved it too.

The one-night stay at the Lake Naivasha Sopa Resort was part of our complete Kenya tour package, and hence, can’t tell you the exact rates for the hotel.

Memoirs of a warring couple who agree only on travel and food

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