Wednesday, April 24, 2013



Having spent a part of my childhood in ‘Calcutta’, eating Bengali Cuisine for me is always an opportunity to experience a refreshingly unique and delicious approach to food. It seemed like an enticing invitation to indulgence where one is spoilt for choice with the aroma of nostalgia wafting through the menu, I simply couldn’t resist, and so off I set with my mother.

A tribute to the flavours of Kolkata, the New Town cafe @ Park Plaza Hotel, Gurgaon dishes out Bengali and a wee bit of ‘Kolkata continental cuisine’ to food lovers in the city. The Bengali cuisine has loads to offer and at NTC the menu changes every day during this festival. Contrary to popular belief Bengali cuisine also has much to offer to vegetarians, so out here, luckily my mother got enough choice. There are ambrosial dishes out of the often times rejected peels, stalks and leaves of vegetables! The ‘Mocha Dhokar Dalna’ dumplings made with banana flower florets, ‘Echorer Kofta’ made with raw jackfruit dumplings simmered in a tomato gravy, and ‘Doi Potol’  wax gourd in a yoghurt gravy are a must try. The  ‘Mochar Chop’ a preparation of cooked florets of the banana flower, crumb fried and served with mustard sauce and the traditional ‘Mulo Bhaja’ marinated radish fried with a rice flour batter were superlative. Favourites from the desi sahib’s anglicised menu add a firangi flavour to the offering like the ‘Roast Leg of Lamb’. Vegetarians could sample the ‘Corn and Mushroom Pie’.  Recommendations go all out for the ‘Shukto’ a mixed vegetable preparation flavoured delicately with randhuni, ‘Phulkopir Bora’ deep fried cauliflower in a lentil batter, or ‘Postor Bora’ - poppy seed balls pan roasted, to go with ‘Bhaja Moong Dal’, Moong dal cooked with green peas and tempered with ghee.

A true Bengali menu will be considered a meal incomplete without fish and celebrations are never done without a fish preparation in mustard oil. I hogged on the  East Bengal’s pride- the Hilsa in mustard gravy aka ‘Sorshe Elish’  as if there was no tomorrow. Yes, the famed ‘Kosha Mangsho’ traditional Bengali mutton curry cooked on a slow flame which allows the spices to combine with the meat was simply divine and to go with all this the restaurant offers the aromatic rice of Bengal- Gobindo bhog as an accompaniment with the dishes on the menu.  We ended our meal on a sweet note by gorging on ‘Misti Doi’. The piece de résistance however is the café’s tribute to the quintessential king of sweets- the Rosogolla. 

L-R Chef Dinesh Kapri, Chef Prabir Haldar, Rohini
Chef Prabir Haldar who has been flown in from Park Plaza, Kolkata for curating this Menu shares, ‘My mother was always my inspiration to Bengali food and my family cuisine inspired me to create dishes of my own; I have worked in speciality Bengali food restaurants as 6th ballygunge place and Bhojohori manna’
New Town Cafe & Lounge, Park Plaza, B Block, Sushant Lok, Phase I,
Tel: 91 124 415 0000
Timings: Lunch and Dinner
Price: Meal for Two - Rs. 2198 plus taxes
Festival Dates: 22nd April until 5th May 2013

Tuesday, April 23, 2013




A blend of Renaissance splendour and contemporary élan, this palatial marvel caters to the beau monde from around the globe.

Ever wanted to live like royalty? Nestled in the stunning Wyve Valley amidst seventeen acres of Garden and parkland in the heart of Wales, formally known as Llangoed Castle, this beautiful retreat offers the splendour of a traditional Country House design and the luxury of a world class hotel. From my arrival in the sweeping driveway, until the Jacobean Manor house I was swept into another world.

The hotel offers 29 rooms and suites which are appointed with classical elegance, to provide exceptional comfort. Each room has been thoughtfully designed and has its own character to provide guests with a calm, intimate retreat right in the centre of one of the world’s most exciting Valley’s. Fine fabrics, textures and colours, gorgeously designed furniture, linen and fragrances replete the ultimate lifestyle experience. In the tranquil surroundings of my four poster bedroom, a rich colour palette contrasted with the cool creams of the living area and lighting was subdued, giving my rooms a warm, seductive and relaxing atmosphere at night. My bathroom was spacious with a cast iron bath, luxurious toiletries and fluffy towels. The best part is that there is no Tea/Coffee making facility in the room, but one can call for it as and when one wants and hey presto, it comes on a tray in perfect style with house made cookies. And yes one can also benefit from free wireless connection throughout the hotel, but in a place like this who wants to be connected with the outside world... Not me!!!

A sweeping marble staircase took me graciously towards the various eating options of the Hotel. For breakfast my favourite venue was the ‘The Dining Room’ with a garden view. The buffet ran the gamut from Prosciutto di Parma, Ham and tomato omelettes to the best Bircher muesli this side of the Matterhorn. This also couldn’t have been a more peaceful retreat than for an evening drink or champagne whose inviting garden provided me with a sort of tranquillity within the heart of the city, yet away from its hustle and bustle. ‘The Whistler Restaurant’ taking its name from the original collection of Whistler drawings is renowned for its unique cuisine that is both authentic and innovative. As for me I gorged on the ‘Radnorshire Lamb’ and ‘Foie gras’, which was decadent to the core. The food is a perfect alliance between a cuisine that is light and traditional, or inventive and refined. And if you are looking for a celebration or a larger event of some sort, then the ‘Orangery room’ it is!

The Hotel offers a uniquely British kind of luxury hotel service. Aware that guests at the world’s grand hotels not only expect exquisite and impeccable service, Llangoed Hall has created an exceptional cultural identity. I felt like a ‘queen’ as I experienced such luxurious hospitality, Friendliness, discretion and attention to detail.

Is: 21st Century luxury with a uniquely Country house flair.
Best Way to Reach: By air 63 miles from Cardiff Airport and just less than two hours from Bristol International Airport; Heli-pad on site. By Rail it is three from Cardiff Central to Builth road station, 12 miles from Builth Road station and 24 miles from Abergavenny station.
Where: Llangoed Hall, Llyswen, Brecon, Powys, LD3 0YP, Wales, U.K.
Tel: + 44 (0) 1874 754525
Price: Minimum £150/ INR 12,000 (Double Room) to maximum £500 /INR 40,000 (Master suite) per night with Breakfast.
USP Facility: An exceptional venue for one’s wedding, and on offer is also civil partnership ceremonies. The experienced and friendly staff also helps co-ordinate your plans, recommend excellent suppliers and assists with all sorts of queries.
Must know: Make your stay even more exhilarating with a classic car from the Van Essen fleet, including Asian Martins, Ferraris, Range Rovers and Bentleys…
Did you know? According to the late Sir Clough William Ellis, the celebrated Welsh Architect, there appears to have been a house on this site since 560 AD. It is said that the first Welsh Parliament was held here.

Published in Food & Wine Magazine

Sunday, April 21, 2013



The Lowdown – For those who do not know Antonio & Alberto were the founders of Pizza Metro Pizza in Battersea, back in 1993. They were the 1st real Neapolitan people to embark an authentic family run Neapolitan restaurant. They launched the meter long pizzas which browned in a wood burning oven. In 2003 Pizza Metro was acquired by Diego Palladino and Brian Witcomb who has flown down his chefs all the way from Italy to Mumbai now. Coming to the food, the USP of course is the metre long pizza! And I loved the fact that the food is served in traditional style aka pots & pans, which gives a warm and a homely feel. What sets this pizzeria apart is also the of chilli oil as a seasoning, and of course there are other Italian dishes on the menu as well.
Ambience- What caught my fancy was a mural sketch on the wall of a classic Neapolitan food market hand painted by Geoff Gough and I simply loved the auto rickshaw element in it. The walls adorn lively and entertaining posters and the various antiques placed all around add to the rustic charm.

Lip-smacking- ‘Tagliolini Bombay’ which is prepared in a parmesan wheel, flambéed with cognac and the pasta tossed into all of it….absolutely decadent! ‘Scialatielli Pesciosa’ comprising of a rich combination of seafood in a tangy sauce, and the ‘Metro Penne’ is a diving indulgence for meat lovers. To end on a sweet note, Chef Diego surprises with the dessert of the day!
Don't even go there –If you think parking is a hassle and if you have a small appetite and want to especially go for the metre long pizza.

‘Man’ Speak All meats and no chicken make for an authentic Italian pizza & Chef Diego makes no exceptions to the rule. That said there are other items on the menu with chicken in order to suit the Indian palate. Needless to add on offer is a great selection of premium wines & spirits which marry the food very well.
How to get there – Jharna Apartments, Dr B R Ambedkar Road, Bandra West, Mumbai-400050. Next to Barbeque Nation, the nearest station is Khar.
Tel-022 6599 3333/022 6599 3334
Timings- 12.00 pm to 3.00 pm and 6.00 pm to 11.30 pm (closed on Mondays).
Cost – A meal for two would cost around 1,500 INR without Alcohol.

Published in The Man

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Start your journey from the seaside city of Port Elizabeth, gateway to both the garden route and the Eastern Cape safari Belt. The Eastern Cape goes up to the border with KwaZulu-Natal and Lesotho and contains a number of excellent game reserves. This region is ideally suited to a self-drive trip. You will fall in love with PE if you are looking for a stress free relaxed holiday, and even want to come back as the density and diversity of vegetation and the beauty of tall thick trunked trees followed in the Game drive trail speak of their age and are like a balm for city dwellers.

Check out for more information. Tel: +27 (0) 41 509 3000 to make a booking.
A forty five minute drive from PE will transport you to ‘Shamwari’ which literally means ‘my friend’, is the apogee of private game reserves is perhaps the best known in the Eastern Cape , is one of the largest and if you are looking to spot the Big 5, this is where you go! Sample this, free wildlife in the 25,000 hectares landscapes under the African sun, what more could you ask for?  Under the Shamwari umbrella are five lodges, one villa and one explorer camp; each is unique with a flavour of its own. Once settled in your choice of accommodation and as you enjoy nature in sublime you can plan your time here.

Interactive game drives, lasting up to 3-4 hours, take place in the tranquil moods of sunrise and sunset. The grasslands are dotted with plains game, the thick bush in the mountain valleys and on a game drive you always hope to see at least one of the big cats like lion, cheetah or probably the elusive leopard! If you have a good game ranger who’s been at Shamwari for a while, they may know in which areas to look for the animal you’d like to see. That said it certainly is not an air tight plan because animals live their lives on their own accord and these are genuinely wild animals, and one has to work hard at spotting to catch up with them! The antelope species are well habituated to vehicles and the likes of impala and springbok only move away from the vehicle once you close to within a few metres, which make for a great opportunity to get a good look at these animals, including the large numbers of males sporting superb sets of horns. The best part is the tea break on the 4 X 4 by the gorgeous landscape ….mama mia! As for me my highlight was watching a gorgeous lioness eating her kill aka the giraffe! I was sad for the kill for sure…but then it’s the survival of the fittest, isn’t it?

As you take the morning game drive at the Shamwari Game Reserve and shift to Amakhala, a highlight is the ‘Bush Breakfast’. Of course you need to help, by getting down the pan, the gas burner and folding up the table as you follow your guide up to a small mountain who would hoist the cooler box onto his shoulder. Soon you will found yourself on a rugged kopjie, looking out onto 25 000 hectares of pristine private bushveld, eating cinnamon and syrup pancakes made there and then. What a treat!

Check out for more information.Tel: +27 (0) 41 581 0993 to make a booking
This a stunning internationally renowned conservative initiative in the Eastern Cape, set in the heart of a visionary reclamation area of 18,000 acre. And yes the Big 5 roam freely as ever. Replete with indigenous plant species that reclaim this land with a host of birds, eleven privately owned lodges are on offer at this game reserve. My vote goes all out to the Bush lodge which is aptly positioned in the bush at the top end of an open valley; the tented and thatched en-suites overlook a watering point with sky and jungle views. Each suite has a secluded private viewing deck with intimate plunge pool.

This place has a real history and wasn’t created just for tourists. The landscape is a sheer delight created by the slowly meandering Bushman’s river running through it, and with only a very limited number of vehicles one is not surrounded by a hoard of other cars and a host of animals are easy to spot. And I mean not only the much sought after Big 5, but one can find here antelope species, zebra, giraffe and many more small interesting species. The cheetah sightings are the highlight of one’s stay. In addition to game drives, one can go on a boat cruises when the sun goes down while sipping a glass of red wine or anything else that you may fancy along with light snacks. It is an absolutely wonderful introduction to safari for people who have never been on one before and a very relaxed experience for those who wish to be spoilt. The food is fantastic and the staff just lovely Best of all, there’s something to make everyone happy, no matter what you’re looking for. Only one warning; you will want to go back if you visit here!!

Sun block
Walking boots
Comfortable and casual clothing
Warm jackets for game drives
Camera (300 - 600mm lenses for good photographs)
Medication for allergies

BEST WAY TO REACH- Fly South African Airlines from Mumbai onto Port Elizabeth.
VISA & CURRENCY- Indians need a South African Visa. The currency used is Rand. 1 South African Rand is equal to 6.5 INR.
BEST PLACE TO STAY IN PORT ELIZABETH- Singa Lodge, Every room in this luxurious modern fusion of Eastern and African décor is distinctive, offering returning guests a fresh experience with every visit.

Published in TLF