Sunday, September 29, 2013


Gödöllő is a town that preserves its past values and embraces the future and a day trip from Budapest would mean a combination of History and tradition come alive….

Only 30 km east of Budapest, Gödöllő is easily accessible from the capital by most means of transport. As I entered the impressive former summer residence of Queen Elizabeth, the beloved Queen of the Hungarians, I was mesmerized by the interior at once. Originally the 18th-century central estate of the Grassalkovich counts, the castle is an outstanding example of Central European Baroque architecture and happens to be the second largest in the world. The estate was transferred to the ownership of the Hapsburg kings in 1867. After this historical highlight I took a leisurely stroll through the vast park area gardens surrounding the castle.

Next the group moved on to the horse-ranch of the Lazar brothers, the complex was developed by the Lazar brothers, Vilmos and Zoltan, two former multiple world champion four-hand carriage drivers. It is a truly bucolic location on gently rolling hills, with horses grazing in the distance… a sheer delight. A glass of Palinka, a traditional Hungarian drink, welcomed us and I was absolutely ready to resume imbibing a delectable Hungarian alcoholic beverage along with delicious savoury scones.


After the warm welcome we proceeded to watch a superb show of remarkable horsemanship held by the staff. Four-hand carriage drivers in full gallop regaled the visitors, thrilled as well by masterly nomad bow and arrow demonstrations, where the rider aimed and found targets in full gallop. Our visit was highlighted by a demonstration of various riding feats like archery at gallop, standing on horseback, racing teams, etc. The riders were masterful, including a lady riding side-saddle. The show also had its lighter moments, especially when a hapless rider tries to convince a donkey to replicate the horses tricks, Far from complying, the donkey has some tricks of his own, it’ hilarious! 

As for me I was bowled over by the ‘puszta-five’, a stunt devised by the csikos (chi-kos), the cowboys. This involved a team of five horses, three in front, two following. A single rider stood upright with one foot on each rump of the last two horses, driving the entire entourage at breakneck gallop. The star of the show however was when I was invited to participate in a contest to mimic the skills of the Hungarians with the bullwhip. With a few training shots at the bottle, I managed the perfect whip and manage to tumble the bottle off its pedestal, and yes I was rewarded with the same bottle which was indeed a fine Hungarian wine.

After all this excitement a carriage ride through the property took us to the stables and the Lazar Brothers trophy room. 

A typical Hungarian meal of goulash, roast chicken, veal schnitzel, sausages and vegetables with paprika, downed with a constant flow of Hungarian wine and a decadent apricot pastry ended the trip. All along entertainment was in full swing with vibrant gypsy music and folkloric dances. For a taste of the countryside without getting too far from Budapest, this attraction is highly recommended. And I would like to applaud the Lazar brothers for taking on such an ambitious project to highlight Hungary’s rich past.

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Published in Food & wine

Monday, September 23, 2013


Firstly I would like wish my dear friend GG aka Gaurav Gera A very Happy Birthday as he gets a year older today. For those who do not know Gaurav is the Hero of ‘Jhumroo’ the biggest Bollywood musical played at the kingdom of Dreams which also happens to be our country’s first and largest live entertainment destination and I am so glad it is located in Gurgaon and very near to where I live for whenever I have guests over, I take them to dine at ‘Culture Gully’ which is quite like a mini India set on its own and then later leave them there to watch the show ( though I love the show and my friend GG is one of the most talented actors but sometimes watching the show with every guest can get a bit expensive)

That said, this time round I had my cousin sister over and I took her for ‘Jhumroo’ (and watched it myself as well).

One of the reasons was also that owing to its third anniversary celebrations from 17th September - 29th September one gets a complimentary ticket on purchase of 3 tickets of Jhumroo…isn’t that a good deal? What was more, the IIFA Buzz Café was alive with Bollywood music where the DJ kept spinning the disk on popular retro music and yes we also availed a complimentary drink on purchase of 2 drinks (read on select beverages). All in all we had tons of fun!

 On that note…here is my review of Jhumroo
Produced By: Wiz craft International Entertainment (Viraf Sarkari, Andre Timmins, Sabbas Joseph); Apra Group (Anumod Gagan Sharma);  Anil Raghbeer Group of Companies (Anil Raghbeer)
Story and Direction: Vikranth Pawar
Starring: Bhola - Gaurav Gera, Meena - Shweta Gulati & Anoop Da – Devendra Bisht
After the success of Zangoora, the Great Indian Nautanki Company has come up with another promising musical production at the Kingdom of Dreams named, Jhumroo. This musical comedy packed with 19 Bollywood retro songs, is a celebration of the spirit of Kishore Kumar, a legend who continues to charm the young and old alike. Audience who have once been bedazzled by the charming Zangoora are sure to fall in love with the adorable Bhola from Jhumroo.

I found Jhumroo to be a total true blue entertainer for the whole family.  You will fall in love with the young and innocent boy Bhola, who leads a simple life in Mumbai, living with his father. He is very fond of singing and is a huge fan of Kishore Da; unfortunately he has the voice of a crow. He keeps dreaming of himself as a singing sensation and obviously the dreams are broken when he wakes up.  He works at an ad agency and is more busy having fun with his friends rather than concentrating on work. He is madly in love with Meena, a co-worker at the ad agency, but doesn’t know how to go about professing his love to her. Circumstances and events follow and Bhola finds himself in the finals of a singing reality show.  What sets him apart however is his innocence, a virtue difficult to find in young men these days. A virtue much closer to Kishore Kumar and the characters he played in the golden years of Indian Cinema. How the music and spirit of Kishore da makes this possible is an enchanting tale in true sense of the word. Gaurav Gera proves that six packs etc. can never overrule talent. He is brilliant and has carried the show amazingly well; I don’t think anyone else could have done it better. Shweta Gulati too compliments him well and Devendra Bisht….hats off for his superb performance. All in all it’s a must watch show and as for me I will surely be going for a dekho again with my friends and family as in today’s hectic life…an entertainer like this just makes you feel chilled out! 

Sunday, September 22, 2013


When I had my first night market experience in Bangkok, it was rather overwhelming because I hadn’t quite expected what I saw. Clothing stores filled the criss-crosses of narrow streets, there was an entire section dedicated to food that was separate from the clothing stores. A point to note is that night markets are not exclusively open at night; some are open in the day as well. That said they are a whole lot of fun, so I talk here of some of my favourite night markets. So carry with you lots of change, don’t get excited at the first food vendor you come across, first look around and don’t shy away from bargaining, but surely not at the food stalls or where you feel that the price is already reasonable! Happy shopping on that note…

Street after street of clothing stores, food stands, all light up brightly every night, at the Shilin Night market, which opens every evening at 6pm. The lights, the sounds, the smells will enchant you no end. It is very popular and divided into two parts. I loved the food court that housed countless of hawkers selling yummy snacks and local delights. I suggest one should stroll along the Yang-Ming section first for some retail therapy before hitting the food court where one can rest one’s legs and tuck in cheap food in comfort. It is the perfect place to fill up on a variety of Xiao chi alias small eats! The long queue of locals flow with swift ease and stand as a testament to these tasty and simple treats, Sample this…I was sipping a huge glass of fresh pineapple juice from one hand and nibbling on a hot grilled sausages from the other…I sure was in my element. For dessert I tried silky, custardy, and decadent tofu. This smooth tofu is ladled into a bowl and drowned in a rock sugar soup, and topped with your choice of peanuts, almond agar, tapioca, and other goodies, far from putting off, I was a convert! The best thing is, in the Taiwanese street market, everything is made right in the open on grills and portable stoves, so all you have to do is stroll, gorge, point, and devour!

White Beach which is the main beach is stunning, probably the nicest beach that I have been to on my travels and it goes on forever stretching around three km long. The main area is entirely along one long stretch of white beach and that is where all the action is i.e. restaurants, shops and bars. The sand is beautiful and soft and the sea is crystal clear, a great place to spend a week or two. What caught my fancy here was that it’s not man made, apart from a few places on the far end of the beach, so there is no developed resort feel and the beach is so big that even when it’s quite busy at the weekends it still feels quite empty. I did get to do some shopping, one of my favourite past-times; at the longest shopping beach in South East Asia … I was sold! It houses numerous shops selling trinkets, souvenirs and clothes, a supermarket, local vendors and best of all they also sell every name brand knock off under the sun! Great quality products which you couldn’t even tell were knock-offs at all!

As you walk across the Karlov Most (Charles Bridge), one of the most amazing and famous bridges in the world. You will discover that not only does it connect the two parts of the city but the actual structure itself is gorgeous and it comes alive post sunset. Open to foot traffic only, the bridge is full of people who are selling things, playing music or are simply there just to check out the vibe. With the Vltava River underneath, it indeed is a place to capture the stunning views of the city with the Old Town Square on one side and Prague Castle on the other. Its array of 16th century sculptures, the stories of saints drowned and the general ambience is quite unexpected of a bridge. Call it a day by stopping over at one of the many little watering holes across the bridge where you can indulge in one of the great beers of the world whilst refuelling on Czech staples.


The buzzing Gran Via spans from the Calle de Alcala to the Plaza De Espana is a Shopping paradise for the local and tourists alike. Begin your shopping spree from Puerta Del Sol Plaza which is one of the main centres of the Spanish capital and stroll along the busy alleys and streets that sprout from the plaza. Do drop by at El Corte Ingles an acclaimed commercial Centre that offers a variety of clothing lines, shoes, cosmetics and even electronic gadgets. The H & M store is rather quirky here replete with the changing rooms in the galleries of a former theatre. Zara as we all know is a celebrated Galician store famous for turning round catwalk designs at lightning speed, but out here you would find everything at amazing deals. From Calle Mayor head on to Plaza Mayor a beautiful square completely surrounded by old Spanish architecture, it is a place for festivities, and the perfect place to watch street performers and tourists over a cuppa coffee. This area oozes the essence of modern Madrid, serves as a chill zone, and is where you’d like to spend your evening! However it isn’t open until very late at night.

Many of the over hundred stalls stretching at this miles and miles long nightly shopping area open around 4 p.m. though the market picks up only  late evenings, when locals and tourists alike browse the array of goods, and haggle over prices. The vendors sell artisan wares, textiles, teas, and paintings that hew to local traditions. Just a dozen or so handicraft vendors gather around the main square, hoping to catch the late-night revellers who pour out of the neighbourhood’s clubs, bars, or music venues. It’s an ideal place to pick up antiques, fake Rolex watches, and handicrafts, colourful silk and other goodies at bargain prices. Later you can hit up the street food stalls or the fortune-tellers at the end of the Street or probably just go for a nice foot massage after all that shopping.

The Yau Ma Tei aka temple street market stretches a mile long and is the liveliest after its gets dark. Interestingly it’s also termed as ‘Men’s Market’ as it sells many goods for the Male customers. It’s absolutely a great sight to watch Hawkers trying to grab your attention by flinging clothes and other goods. The Air is filled with various kind of music running the gamut from Cantonese opera to pop and the whiff of delicious food from the myriad of food stalls. Vendors calling, shoppers bargaining, fortune tellers, acrobats…it’s all there. Needless to add I spent the entire evening browsing the different duplicate outlets of expensive brands (read Gucci, Burberry etc.) and actually ended up buying some and why not? They were so real and at such amazing rates.

published in Tlf

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


Fun in the kitchen with Chef Rishim Sachdeva & Chef Guy Clark
My friend Bikram Singh who is a restaurant consultant, invited me to one of his new places, soon to be launched  for some fun photography as I bumped into him while clicking some market shots in the vicinity. Being a one to get all the foodie news, I couldn't say no to the tempting offer! This restaurant called 'Uzuri'  in GK, M Block Market will be very soon open to public and offers an interesting take on European cuisine aka it's African influenced. One of the Chefs Rishim Sachdeva ( a real cool dude) has worked at The Fat Duck under Chef Heston Bluementhal and has also worked in a couple of other Michelin Star Restaurants. The Other Chef Guy Clark is a passionate Gourmet and was one of the top 5 contestants in Master Chef South Africa. He left his job as a ranger to pursue cooking! Both the chefs have one more thing in common apart from being absolutely fun to be with which is they both love using the KitchenAid Stand Mixer. 'It makes our job easy you see', they say in Unison. 
As they say, pictures speak louder than words, see below the fun we had!!

Bikram trying to spoil the pic as Amullya walks into the terrace :)
The yummy kiwi cooler, the bar tender specially made for me
The naughty chef Rishim pointing out that 'KitchenAid stand mixer' is the real chef :)

'On a serious note working in the kitchen is my passion and I love having fun as we work....happy team equals to happy customers and yes I love my kitchenAid stand mixer as well' , smiles Chef Guy Clark

The Team posing

Chef Pretending to eat with the chef knife :)

The serious food...the real hero....a la Michelin