Sunday, March 20, 2016


I tend to get a little kid like excited when it comes to Regional Indian cuisine. All that history and food culture…It’s the ideal setting to pretend I am in that city, with all accompanying affectations and theatrics. So I was delighted when I got an invite to try ‘Banaras ka Khaana’ curated by Sangeeta Khanna who hails from the divine city of Banaras and along with Chef Ravitej Nath , Chef Manish Sharma and the team of threesixtyone at The Oberoi Gurgaon showcases this vibrant cuisine in its purest form!
As I gallop up the slightly hilly entrance to the hotel, it looms above me in an appropriately intimidating fashion. On my table I was in Banaras, cut away from the world, and all its trappings….elusively thrilling; like realizing a clandestine garden in your backyard. The Tasting menu opens with the purest drink of the holy world: refreshing Panchamrit garnished with holy basil, followed by interesting chutneys and aloo papad, Thandai and khus sherbet…and yes this is not regular stuff…fancy a wadi chutney? The khus sherbet here too is not the synthetic ‘green’ one…this is different….delicious and free from dubious additives. The difference is in the quality of the produce being used, most of it from Banaras to give it that authentic taste. ‘To give back to the community whenever and wherever we can, and to think globally and act locally’, shares Sangeeta.
Though this cuisine is known across the globe, thanks to the Banaras Diaspora, very few people really know its specifics. There are astoundingly few books available, especially when equated to other prevalent Indian cuisines.

The food festival uses a host of ingredients available in Banaras like the Thandai mix to make the Thandai. Also khus roots from the forests. These ingredients might be a tad bit difficult to source, but the recipes certainly make for a delicious appetite, especially when they are convoyed by Sangeeta’s explanations on their cultural significance.

The festival brings together brilliant and delicious dishes from Banaras, demonstrating how incredible simple food can be, translated into so many interesting and relevant dishes….the ‘Chivda Matar’ or ‘Tamatar ki chaat’ for example. Crisp ‘Harey chane ka bhabra’ (Green chick pea fritters) and ‘Bajka’ (bottle gourd fritters) , in case you are wondering , intensely satisfying in the way only comfort food can be when you are craving for soul food! 

The main course incorporates a range of vegetables, unusual varieties, ‘Besan katli ki subzi’ and ‘Matar ka nimona’ (crushed green peas cooked with coriander and ginger) for instance and innovative ideas, though the food is unfailingly simple. The urbane merger of flavours, consistency and colour is fascinating. Local, vegetarian and planet-friendly, this food spurts with equivalent quantities of colour, asset and nutrition. ‘Not many homes eat non-vegetarian food in Banaras, and if they have to they go out’, explains Sangeeta. That said, if you are a non-vegetarian you would love the ‘Mutton kaliya with sadi litti’ on the menu here.

This brings us to dessert…. Shri Ram bhandar ka Laal peda, Malaiyyo, sankatmochan waala ladoo, Biranji kheer, Gujia, Harey chane ki burfi!!!! This is really the most exhilarating thing about food cultures, when you come to think of it….it is history that you can actually taste.
The festival is on till the 26th March and the tasting menu at 2950 plus taxes is an absolute steal deal!

Monday, March 14, 2016

MOOLOOLABA.... a picture-perfect break destination

Mooloolaba offers a tranquil lifestyle, a picture-perfect break destination, ideal for just about anyone to relax and unwind. Nearby to the Sunshine Coast’s prize winning attractions, such as ‘Australia Zoo’ and ‘Underwater World’, the stunning beaches are fully guarded every day and just a small walk away…. 
Mooloolaba is just a hop, skip and a jump away from Brisbane so make sure to book a day or two if you happen to be in Queensland!
I would highly recommend stopping by the Australia zoo enroute, especially if you would to cuddle a koala, walk beside a mischievous cheetah, get up close to a beautiful lemur, and wrap a Burmese Python around your shoulders…for the perfect wildlife adventure, post that wonderful break and a lunch there you could move on to your beachy destination. Envisage awakening beside magnificent sun bathed seashores each morning, taking a wander along the white sandy shores, sipping an Espresso at a beachfront cafe and later pampering in one the tantalizing dining choices along the Esplanade. On the beach you would also find the naturally formed pools just pleading you to jump in. Sit a bit nearer to the ocean brink and you might even get an enjoyable head spray too! The Mantra has the best location on the strip as you are intermediate between Mooloolaba Beach and Alex Headland. The units are undeniably massive! Impeccable for families or groups of friends alike, have amply of space to share with most including your own private balcony and a view overlooking the sea that you won’t ever exhaust of. My Mantra, Mooloolaba Beach unit was picture perfect with awe-inspiring views from the balcony.
The surf club at Mooloolaba is a vibrant place and a great spot for a hearty breakfast after a walk or a swim. Your cuppa, some delicious food and a panorama that is hard to beat no matter where in the world you are travelling.
I relished watching from the deck over breakfast- surfers, children paddling and playing in the sands and people swimming or lying on towels basking in the sun. Talk about The sunshine coast Vibe! In the afternoon a small stroll down from the Surf Club, Taps features just that, taps, beer taps. Claiming themselves as the self-service beer revolution the place is all about novelty. Propose how much you would like to spend first and get your beer refills flowing. The chefs can help select the right brew to go with your food order. Not beers tap kind of person? No sweat there is a normal, regular bar with to suit all your needs and a barman to help too.
Moolaalaba has always been prevalent for its sun and surf and sports activities. But outside the beaches, it is a food forecourt with its vicinity full of organic produce, farmers markets and dairy pastures. For a quintessential Mooloolaba dining experience, head to Spice Bar set right near the beach with stunning views. This trendy place on the Boulevard with a red and black colour scheme, a pronounced ambiance replete with dim sum baskets that dual up as streamers on the ceiling offers views of the sparkling Pacific from each table. Spice bar offers an open kitchen, a tasting menu of its Asian blend cuisine as well as a la carte selection. The food is a memorable experience offering a top class dining that is pleasurable and proficient for the area making it potential to relax and enjoy a world class package without wandering to the city or further afield.
Best way to Reach: Fly Air India to Sydney and take a connecting flight onto Brisbane. Air India’s Dreamliner is spacious and the shortest way to reach Australia comfortably replete with Indian hospitality. From Brisbane you could even hire a car and drive down to Mooloolaba.
Best Place to stay: Mantra Mooloolaba beach, Cnr Esplanade and Venning St
Mooloolaba Qld 4557, Tel: 07 5452 2600.

Visa & Currency: Indians need a visa to enter Australia. 1 Australian Dollar equals to approx. 50 INR.