Restaurant Review: Peshawri at ITC Maratha, Mumbai

Peshawri, in Mumbai, has to make do with a lot of baggage. I mean, expectations. To live up to the name and pedigree of Bukhara, the iconic restaurant in Delhi. It trips along the way. Sadly.

The ambience and experience is consistent with Bukhara, but the difference in kitchen nails it. So does the service levels. We went there for a team dinner – about 25 of us and the restaurant staff struggled.

We opted for a meals package of Rs. 3000 which had unlimited 3 each veg and non-veg Starters, Mains and Deserts. Not a bad option if you are one with a big appetite.

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Reshmi Kebabs were the first to be served. Extremely mediocre. Then came the Chicken Sheekhs, thankfully, soft and succulent. This was followed by another Chicken Kebab which was the best of the evening. Last, was the Raan which was perfectly cooked, but very low on spice, and hence, quite bland. It was supposed to be the spicier than Burra Kebab, which is my favourite, but was substituted with this signature dish – that frankly disappointed. We ordered ala carte the Tandoori Jhinga – excellent, perfectly cooked, with a good dose of charcoal flavor and spices. Papad and green chutney came as sides.

For Mains, we got Paneer Makhani and Butter Chicken – same gravy, quite nice with the small portion of Nans served. The biggest disappointment was the Dal Bukhara. Remember, it’s the Dal Bukhara that has made this chain world famous. I have had it at the Kebabs and Curries at ITC Grand Central which is awesome, but the one here was BAD. It completely lacked the texture and flavor, the strong aftertaste and the amazing taste that makes you forget everything else you had untill then. Huge disappointment

Deserts came with three options – Gulab Jamuns, Kulfi with Falooda and Ras Malai. All three up to the mark, although the Gulab Jamuns were served floating in a sea of sugar syrup along with the Kulfi.

The drinks menu is exhaustive and expensive with most scotch pegs at 1800++ going all the way to Rs. 50000 / 60 ml for a special Highland brand.

Overall, left us a little dissatisfied with the choice of starters and the Dal. There was one person to serve our group and he was struggling as the restaurant was quite full otherwise, even on a weekday. The bill would have been easily 7K+ per head. Nice place for dinner but I hope they improve on the quality of food to match their big brother.

Restaurant Review: Lunch at Carnivore in Nairobi, Kenya

Carnivore Restaurant topped Jayanta’s list of must-visits in Nairobi. We had reached in the morning (Read: How is the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport) and would leave Nairobi for Naivasha early next day. That meant, we had scope for only one lunch and one dinner in Nairobi. And Jayanta was almost jumping around in excitement – Lunch at Carnivore, he said.

They were back from the tour of the David Sheldrick Elephant Centre and the Giraffe Centre, and I was done with my 2 hour nap at the hotel. So off we went to Carnivore, about a 30-minute drive from the Serena Hotel. Reaching around 2pm, Carnivore was packed to the brim.

A sprawling restaurant, Carnivore can apparently seat close to 500 guests. As we walked in, we were amused by its size and spread. Smoke-filled massive barbeques with a line of chefs busy marinating meat of all types, skewers the size of tree branches being used to barbeque the meat, aroma that made Jayanta jump even more.

By now, we were starving, since we had eaten nothing since breakfast, and the sight and smell of food all around us made it worse. Jayanta didn’t lose seconds to request for the famous buffet meal at Carnivore – Meat all you can eat at KES 3100 per person. Despite my hunger, I knew I couldn’t do justice to the buffet. And so, settled for a Mutton with Breads meal, which was, umm, not very great. Guess, not many people order ala carte at Carnivore…

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Jayanta, though, had a different story to tell. Tall African staff welcomed him with broad smiles and came over to serve salad, soup and breads, to which Jayanta said a polite ‘No’ and requested, Only meat for me. The staff looked happy and eager and soon came back with skewers of meats of every type. In no particular order, the meats are served one after the other — after a few minutes you lose count completely. The large skewers from which they cut portions smell as heavenly as they look. It is difficult for some to distinguish the meats — the Pork, Turkey & Beef Roasts, Pork Chops and Sausages are to die for. The exotic meats are a must have! Jayanta toppled over for the Ostricth’s Mince Meat Balls – had seconds & thirds; the Ox Balls, Roast Rabbit & Alligator Meat were just okay, he said. Will strongly recommend meat lovers to skip chicken and regular stuffs and go in first for the specials. A problem is that since you don’t remember the exhaustive menu, you will be full even before every item is served. Towards the end, Jayanta could not remember having 3-4 items from their list – a couple of them his favorites.

Our daughter’s meal was free and she picked pieces of meat from Jayanta’s plate, had a bowl of soup and some bread from me.

The meal at Carnivore took us a good 2 hours, and when it got over, we were sure that dinner wouldn’t be necessary that evening. It’s just too much to eat … take your time and drown it a little with local beer.

If you are a meat lover, and in Nairobi even for half a day, pay a visit to Carnivore. Awesome food is obvious. It’s an awesome experience. One that you wouldn’t forget in a long long time.

Why You Must Eat At Bachelorr’s in Mumbai!

Bachelorr’s is synonymous with Mumbai, much like Bade Miyan or Vada pav or Prithvi. Yes, Bachelorr’s is an institution. You cannot be a Mumbaikar if you have not snacked or dined at Bachelorr’s. And in case you were a visitor in Mumbai, remember very clearly, that your Mumbai visit was grossly incomplete if had not done a Bachelorr’s sortie. Period.

Just in case you want to write me off as another of those strong-worded food lover, ask the next Mumbaikar you meet about Bachelorr’s and see what he/she has to say about the place.

All you have to do for your baptism is, pull up your car at this small street-joint opposite Chowpatty in Marine Drive, and order for their Mumbaiya Sandwiches or Fresh Juices or seasonal Fruits in Cream or Ice-creams or all. We prefer the local sandwich followed by the sinful fruits in cream. The Mumbaiya Sandwich is for around Rs 150 and can fill you up for 2 meals together! What’s more? One plate sandwich comes with one small bottle of water and two small packets of potato and banana chips!

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Jayanta swears by their Green Chilli Ice-Cream, but I go for Strawberries in Cream or Mangoes in Cream. Their Sitaphal (Custard Apple) in Cream isn’t all that great – prefer the Custard Apple Cream at Haji Ali Juice Centre any day.

I told you right at the beginning that all you need to do is pull up your car in front of the joint. The staff will come to your car to take your order and deliver in the car too, along with tissues and ketchup bottles. That’s the Mumbai style of street dining! Make sure you enjoy it once at least!!!

Tour of the Giraffe Centre in Nairobi, Kenya

From the David Sheldrick Elephant Centre, we headed towards the Giraffe Centre. All right we were scheduled for Naivasha the next day, where there would be many giraffes, but both Ridi and I didn’t want to give away the opportunity to feed them. We reasoned, The Giraffes at Naivasha and Masai Mara would be in the wild. We can’t go up to them to feed them. Let’s do that at the Giraffe Centre in Nairobi. And anyway, both of us are incorrigible animal lovers….we can do the same thing every day and not be bored….

And we found out that at the Giraffe Centre, you can get a kiss too from the giraffes. Hold food in your mouth and see how they slurp it off …..giggle and squeal as much as you want, but this is quite a kiss!

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Quick facts about the Giraffe Centre in Nairobi, Kenya:

  •  Distance: About a 20 minute drive from Nairobi downtown.
  • Timing: Open on all days from 9am to 5 pm
  • Rates: 1000 Kenyan Shilling for adult foreigners and 500 KES for children foreigners.
  • Booking: You do not need prior booking
  • Information Centre: Offers to educate visitors on how the centre works for the conservation and care of the giraffes.
  • Café & Curio Shop: The proceeds from the café and the curio shop go for the care of the giraffes.
  • Tortoises: Yup, tortoises! They have them too in a small enclosure. Which means, you can actually see the ‘tall and short’ of the animal world here at the Giraffe Centre!

By the way, did you know that the giraffe’s tongue is blue in colour? You find out at the Giraffe Centre while feeding them :-)

Tour of David Sheldrick Elephant Centre in Nairobi, Kenya

Still little before rush hour, it took us just about 20 minutes to reach our hotel in Nairobi city from the airport (Read: Procedures at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi). Check in at the Hotel Serena was swift, and after quickly dumping our bags in our room and a quick round of freshening up, we were ready for the David Sheldrick Elephant Centre which houses orphan baby elephants. Ridi, our daughter, and I, squealed into the taxi. Deepa was sure she didn’t want to go to an ‘elephant centre’ since we would be seeing elephants, elephants and more elephants when in Masai Mara. And besides, she had to catch up on her sleep.

The David Sheldrick Elephant Centre, located inside the Nairobi National Park, is famous and a delight for kids.  After all, it is here at the centre where they get to see little elephant calves drinking milk from bottles, grabbing the bottles themselves and ask for more, running down to the water cooler and play in the muddy water. And that’s not all – the staff also gets them closer to the audience so that the little visitors can pat them. As I said, an extremely delightful experience for my daughter who wanted to also feed them, and join them in the mud to play football!!!

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Quick facts about the Elephant Centre in Nairobi, Kenya:

  • About the Elephant Centre: An orphanage that takes care of baby elephants, the David Sheldrick Elephant Centre is about 40 years old.  The centre takes care of orphan baby elephants, raise them and leave them in the wild when they grow up.
  •  Distance: The National Park is about 10-12 km from Nairobi downtown and took us approximately 45 minutes to reach. Traffic, at that hour, was light.
  •  Timings: The gates open at 11am every day and shut at 12 noon. Do note, they allow visitors only for that one hour.
  •  Rates: The entrance fee is USD 6 and they didn’t charge for my six and half year old daughter. You can also adopt an elephant by paying USD 50. The money they so collect go for the care of the baby elephants.

 

Why we couldn’t go for a Gorilla Safari in Rwanda

This is my final post on Rwanda, and I simply couldn’t stop myself from writing why we couldn’t make it to the Gorilla Safari. Most people, after all, go to Rwanda to see the Silverback Mountain Gorillas in their natural surroundings at the Volcanoes National Park.

Two months before our trip to Africa last Christmas, our cousin, staying in Kigali, called up for making the bookings for the Gorilla Safari. She said that unless we made the bookings way in advance, we wouldn’t get a seat for us. The authorities control the number of people visiting the Gorillas each day. This ensures that the safaris are almost always sold out. One needs to plan well in advance.

Our cousin also mentioned that our six and half year old daughter couldn’t go for the Gorilla Safari as kids under 15 years are not allowed. It’s a tough 2-3 hours trek through heavy forest both way and hence, you need to be strong and sturdy. Certainly not for the faint-hearted and children or old people. Once you reach the place where the Gorilla family is, you get exactly 1 hr to sit and observe, and take photographs from a fairly close distance. Nothing short of an experience of a lifetime to see these gentle giants playing and eating!

Excited, Jayanta immediately sat down to look at the rates. And was dismayed — the permit alone costs $750 per person. Then there are the transport to and fro charges, and hotel stay in case you want to stay overnight at any of the lodges. So at about $1000 per person, it’s not affordable for most tourists travelling to Rwanda.

And thus, despite our five-day stay in Kigali, we came back to India, without seeing Rwanda’s most famous tourist attraction. Sigh!!!

 

How is the Kigali (Rwanda) International Airport?

We landed at the Kigali International Airport just after dusk. And although it was raining, I could tell, looking out of the aircraft’s window, that it was a small airport. We walked into the airport from the craft, and were first screened for Ebola. Small, yet, the airport was extremely clean and well-maintained. On our way back too, we found the counters to be well manned and systematic.

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Here is information about the Kigali International Airport which you may find useful:

  •  Queues are shorter compared to other airports
  • Ebola screenings happen just as you enter
  • Immigration procedures are quick and prompt, both during arrival and departure. There are enough officers at the counters, even on the Christmas Eve evening.
  • There’s unlimited free-wifi at the Kigali International Airport. I was so pleasantly surprised!
  • Plastic bags are not allowed at the airport. And we soon found out that plastic bags are banned in all of Rwanda. Kudos!!!
  • Unlike the Nairobi International Airport (read – Procedures at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport), no officer at the Kigali airport approached us for ‘Christmas bribes’.
  • It is just about a 10-15 minute drive from the airport to downtown. Kigali is a small city.
  • Should you need a taxi, book one from the pre-paid taxi counter at the airport. Walking out with bags in the hope of catching a taxi is a bad idea since taxi-bikes ply in Kigali.
  • The coffee-shop, Bourbon, is where you’d go for that coffee or sandwich while waiting for your flight. A tad expensive. Airport rates.

Restaurant Review: Go to Caiman for an East-African Lunch in Kigali, Rwanda

Our ‘last lunch’ at Kigali was in Caiman. Our cousins had raved about it from the time we went to Rwanda, and by the end of it, we couldn’t wait anymore…They had told us that it was almost an open restaurant, with very good African food. And since we had dined at Republika (Read — Review of Republika Restaurant) only the other evening, Caiman, we agreed, would be good for lunch that Sunday noon. And looked up at the skies to tell them to behave – that’s no rain, and not too much sun either…please, we prayed.

The weather Gods were with us. It was just that perfect afternoon, few clouds sailing in the sky and the sun playing hide and seek, making it pleasant for the mortals in Kigali.

Caiman wasn’t far from our cousins’ house. Upon reaching there and parking the car in the clearing that’s the parking lot, we looked towards the restaurant. And all that we saw was part of an enclosure with shrubs and trees that had a stone-bamboo structure on the left, and some smoke billowing from the other end of the open space. Curious, we walked up the stone stairs to find a large lawn dotted with a couple of Acacia trees and Hisbiscus shrubs on our right, and a round open restaurant to our left. At the far end of the lawn was a big play area for children. And ah! There were wooden tables and benches in the lawn. The barbeque station was just across them. That’s where the fire and the smoke was :-)

We were delighted!!! This was like a picnic!!! The owner, a tall Rwandan with a broad smile, came up to us and enquired about our seating preferences. We didn’t take a second to tell him that we wanted to sit under the tree. His boys quickly arranged the table and the chairs in a way that the sun couldn’t bother us, and there we sat, under the sky and under the tree, with almost a 180 degree view of Kigali city. There was a big group celebrating a birthday party on the opposite side. What a perfect place for a lazy Sunday brunch!!!

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We left it to our cousins to place the order, since they were regulars there and knew exactly what to order. That they did and requested for a large serving of barbequed Lamb and Pork, Grilled Chicken, Spicy Potatoes over local Mutzig & Skol beers, Smirnoff Black and soft drinks. The items on the skewers and the smell of the barbeque left us longing for more and more despite having our heart’s and stomach’s fill! Wish we had a few more days to sample everything on the menu.

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Price: That’s the biggest secret — less than a couples dinner bill in some other fancy restaurant

Final word on Caiman in Kigali: Caiman will stay in our hearts as our most favourite restaurant. Such a basic, beautiful, serene and lovely place. If you like beer or wine with great barbequed meat under the sun or the stars, go to Caiman in Kigali!

 

Play Review: Einstein by the Motley Group

In times of peace, you are a scientist of the world. In times of war, you are a scientist for your country.

Motley’s Einstein starts with easy mentions of the theory of relativity; of Einstein’s childhood when his parents worried about his speech failure; how his teacher disliked him for asking questions; how his father wanted him to study for the job of an electrician; of how he hated living in Germany and was happy to move to Switzerland; about his failed marriages.

Naseeruddin Shah, through his impeccable and effortless emulation of Einstein, portrayed the human side of Einstein by showing  how Einstein would grapple with issues such as replying to mails that came to deluge him from far and wide; how lecture invites irritated him; how he would be flummoxed when fans and followers would request his autograph and stare at him in adulation; how music affected him and touched his soul.

And then, effortlessly again, Naseeruddin Shah wade to graver issues — how the same knife that cuts vegetables, kills humans too; how the state uses research work of scientists to make weapons; why you can either say ‘yes’ to war or ‘no’ to war; how the Jews were persecuted in Hitler’s Germany; and somewhere in between, warns, “Never be afraid to question”

Motley’s Einstein is an extremely relevant portrayal of what Einstein felt about state, politics and war. And moving too, because, it gives you a sense that the world hasn’t progressed from it turbulent past of the world wars. He laments, towards the end, “No part of the world is safe anymore”, when he talks of the Hiroshima bombing. Leaving the audience to ponder over the fact the world is no better since his times – that it still remains so unsafe everywhere.

Go to see a riveting performance by the Master — Naseeruddin Shah. Motley’s Einstein is 75 minutes of pure mastery of Shah’s craft of evocative story-telling.

Play Review: Einstein by the Motley Group

(Saw it in NCPA’s, Mumbai, Tata Theater. It can seat around 1000 people, and was filled to the brim last evening, watching Shah (who eerily resembles Einstein) in pin-drop silence for 75 minutes and following it up with a fitting and resounding standing ovation)

Restaurant Review: Pizza Metro Pizza in Bandra, Mumbai

You are in Bandra on a Saturday night. You decide to dine at Pizza Metro Pizza. As you enter, all that you hear is loud chattering, loud laughter and loud music. And then you are greeted by this sauntering  Italian staff who gives you a broad smile, almost sings out to you something in Italian and shows you to your table. All right, we are amused!

We look around – hmm…looks like they have tried to give it the informal, careless look. Carefully careless. Quirky posters on the wall, pans and ladles touching the ceiling, the massive pizza oven right in the middle for everyone to see, the chefs jigging with the pizza dough, the warm smell of the wood-fried pizzas, the staff humming the music — and you know they have successfully recreated the happy-go-lucky trattorias of Italy right here in Mumbai’s heart, Bandra!

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We ordered a Prosciutto e Funghi, which was a ‘Pizze’ with mozzarella, mushrooms, ham, tomato and basil. Simple. And a Gnocchi in Pesto Sauce. My favourite. Over a Margarita, White Wine and Coke. The Margarita was a little low on the sugar syrup and/or orange juice. Didn’t bother to point that out to the staff. Have had better Gnocchi elsewhere – they were a little hard. Felt like the ones we had picked up from a store in Rome – the ready-to-cook ones, which never taste as good as the freshly made ones. The pizza though bowled us over. Thin crust, with just those basic ingredients and it tasted like the pizzas we had at Napoli!! Mind-blowing. Absolutely.

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Pizza cleaned off our plates, we were ready for desserts. Asked for the menu. And got one of our biggest surprise in recent times – they get you a plate full of all the desserts for the day; you simply need to choose what you want!!!! Look here. Ain’t that absolutely crazy? Desserts lovers like us were floating in cloud Nine!!!

Restaurant Review Pizza Metro Pizza in Bandra, Mumbai

We requested for the Strawberry Mouse, as the strawberries looked like they had come straight from the garden. One bite and the 3 of us dug into it like savages – what a soft and exquisite taste!!

Restaurant Review Pizza Metro Pizza in Bandra, Mumbai

I will go back to Pizza Metro Pizza for its pizzas and fresh-fruit mouse. A tad too expensive, the total meal cost us about INR 4100. 900 rupees a pizza is a little too high we think for a place that is quite like any other dining in that area. They give a discount of 15% to Citibank Card holders though.

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

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