Wednesday, November 30, 2016


It’s enthralling to get a close up look at numerous of the struts and enchanted articles that were used in the film, the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London located about 32 kilometres north-west of London is a must visit incredible experience even for the spontaneous fan of the film sequence who would like to learn more about how movies are made. For grave Harry Potter fans, there purely cannot be a more dreamlike way to spend the day…

Fortunately for me I happened to fly from Delhi with Virgin Atlantic at a time when it is celebrating 25 years of entertainment and for those who do not know Virgin is the first airline to introduce inflight entertainment, hence this year they are celebrating it with a season of film themed activity! In the build up to being the official airline of the new ‘Harry Potter’ film aka Fantastic Beasts and where to find them obviously there were some Harry potter films to watch and I certainly made the most of it in my premium economy seat. I was equally charged up and excited to be attending a red carpet premiere at the London Film Festival of ‘Queen of Katwe’, a new Disney movie and attending the Festival’s Gala ball. I have been to London several times before but never to the Harry potter had studio…this time my mind was made…I simply to check it out!
Most general way to reach the studio is by a taxi, but I would recommend taking the bus transport with Warner Bros which needs to be booked in advance. On reaching of course you will find a queue, because it wouldn’t be a Harry Potter attraction without a line up (this being one of the world’s most famous film franchises after all). Time spent in the entry queue passes very quickly as there is plenty to look at counting the flying car from Chamber of Secrets which is suspended from the ceiling and the ‘cupboard under the stairs’ where Harry was at the Dursley’s in Philosopher’s Stone.

Then came the fun part, once we had watched a quick film, we were led into a screening area for another, longer film featuring the key cast members aka Harry, Ron and Hermione as we all know them. This just builds your anticipation even further and I felt like a little child all excited!! Soon thereafter, we were in the Great Hall. Here I could see where they squeezed four hundred cast members in to film the Great Hall scenes; I loved looking at the original costumes, and even found out some fun trivia like the fact that they had to sew the children’s pockets to avert them from niggling in sweets when filming scenes….cutely adorable isn’t it?
Next, I walked around a diversity of dissimilar interactive displays and information in abundance. I don’t want to give too much away because you’ll be more excited to discover it for yourself, but let me just say there is almost nothing you won’t know about Harry Potter when you walk away from the experience.

Of course you will see concoctions class, the Triwizard cup, the Philosopher’s Stone, and lots more. The green screen rooms are great to experience, where one can get a fun picture snapped on a broomstick or in the flying car. Of course, you need to hand over some pounds to essentially walk away with the picture, else if you could try casting a spell over the cashier attendant. Then, there’s a well-deserved break in ‘The Back Lot’ where I stood at Privet Drive, saw the Night Bus, and the Hogwarts Bridge. Here I also found a large cafe and an opportunity to sit down with my Butter beer (one of only two places in the world where it can be purchased).
Refreshed I continued my exploration of round two. The rest of the tour features more of the sets and costumes.
At the end of the tour, we were treated to a 360 degree view of the star of the show i.e. the model of Hogwarts crafted by talented hands was built on 1:24 scale by a large team of artists and squad members and was captured and heightened with digital special effects to generate accurate images of the school for the movies. At this point I got a little bit emotional; trust me walking around the model can be an overwhelming experience for diehard Harry Potter fans.
I was at the Studio Shop located in the lobby as I exited. Every conceivable Harry Potter souvenir was available in the shop including sweet treats like Chocolate Frogs and Bernie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, replica wands, robes, glasses, souvenir t-shirts and lots more. An interactive green screen experience in the shop also allowed me the opportunity to appear on pages of The Quibbler and the Daily Prophet or as a suspect on an Azkaban Prison wanted poster. As for me I was all ready to buy all the Gryffindor goodies my pounds could buy and live out of my fantasy of receiving a letter of acceptance by the owl.
Best way to Reach: Fly Virgin Atlantic premium economy which can give any Business class a run for its money with world class amenities and service at affordable rates and terrific timings and yes a great baggage allowance.
Log on to
Best Place to stay: Sheltered by an eight storey vertical garden, The Athenaeum is a family owned luxury hotel in an art deco building is a few minutes’ walk from Buckingham Palace and bang opposite Green Park. 

published in Statesman

Thursday, November 3, 2016


There is a lot more to these destinations than surf, sand and sunshine. These are also some of the best spots overlooking water views to enjoy a terrific meal and these dining suggestions will have you reaching for your knife and fork.
Other parts of coastal Queensland have comparable natural lures but Noosa stands apart because it gets the food right too. After a day well spent surfing, kayaking, boating or bushwalking, and you have worked up a real appetite; Thomas Street Eatery might not be too fancy but has one of the best views in town. Grab a table overlooking the beach and enjoy a cold brew or two. It is perfect for drinks and a nibble to eat when you are not in the mood of getting all dressed up.
Exclusive and diverse spaces, striking water views of the Noosa River assorted with a bar offering vibrant cocktails and a celebrity chef menu makes it a wonderful dining experience for both locals and tourists. Core a meal on the bbq chili marinated half chicken with truss tomatoes, lime, shallot and coriander and you can’t go wrong.
A great place to just chill and also take in the beautiful West Cork seascape View. A blackboard with a menu on it ensures that the menu changes every day depending on the freshness of the produce available. Highly Recommended dishes include fillet of steak with pepper sauce and a seafood platter for starters. The food is superb and there are plenty of side vegetables to go with it. To end on a sweet note go for a slice of Eton Mess basically traditional Irish Dessert consisting of a mixture of strawberries, pieces of meringue and cream… Decadent to the core! People also get invited here to sample the delights and celebrate the Bandon Food Trail, which comes with a free brochure highlighting the best places to visit, eat and stay in and around the gateway to West Cork.
The location is charming in itself, sitting comfortably on an Island, with the only access by a ferry. It gorgeously stands among greenery in a nineteenth century rectory converted into a chic café and patio. Reserve a table in the patio under the pine trees overlooking the Lake more so on a warm sunny afternoon. It is like being as near as you can get to a tropical paradise, balmy breezes at the patio make for a perfect setting. With an endless expanse of blue sky within reach, the restaurant takes its external tropical landscaping and warm interiors to the next level. Really intoxicating food! The menu touches on several cuisines including Turkish, Italian, Greek, Spanish and even Japanese.
Moroccan chickpeas are delightful and paella though not quite a complex as that in Valencia is nonetheless very good eating with lots of seafood, meat and vegetables in grainy rice. Other specialities include the Ontario Chipotle Bison Burger and pulled pork Panini. Good cheeseboard and tantalising desserts ranging from luscious fruits to tiramisu and New York style cheesecake.
Nestled in Prague’s most upscale location on the bank of the Vltava River overlooking the stunning Charles Bridge, this is understatedly elegant and beautifully spaced. The culinary essence of this eatery is traditional and authentic International cuisine with a strong creative element. The menu also features a simplified range of comforting Czech masterpieces using exceptional value elements which changes with the seasons. Antipasti are innovative, such as the ‘Grilled squid’ and ‘Foie gras pizza’ with pear chutney, aged balsamico and mache salad. Several ingredients like sauces and the breads are handmade giving the food a home-made, earthy and fresh feel.
Save a little room for the heavenly ‘New York cheese cake’ with a nut caramel topping and blueberry sorbet…it’s delicious. From carefully engineered dishes, to impeccable service, the ambience is extremely stylish, and it definitely is a cut above the rest. 
Quite the draw for those wishing to find natural landscape backdrop to proceedings as this restaurant sits comfortably on a lake surrounded by paddy fields. The traditional architecture is exhibited through its design inspired by the collision of rustic simplicity and glamour. One can enjoy the beauty of natural daylight and lush greenery even from within the restaurant alongside feeding fish in the lake.

Most unpretentious and has for long been a favourite for those who want good, wholesome food. On offer is Padang food, famed for its spicy and unique service. All the dishes are displayed at a glass counter near the entrance for customers to select. So one has to sit down, and watch the dozens dishes with highly flavoured foods pile up. Eat what you like, and pay only for what you’ve actually consumed, no worries the waiter knows exactly what you have missed.

published in ET panache Travel

Wednesday, November 2, 2016


Standing in que for my Media Accreditation at the Terra Madre press counter in Torino this year, I noticed an Indian looking girl ahead of me, talkative that Iam ( those who know me will vouch for that) , I asked her if she was from India? ‘I am an Indian but live in Canada’, she replied and as we got talking we connected on various levels including the workshops to attend at the Slow Food event to travelling for food etc. We exchanged numbers so to keep in touch and her tips to what to do in Modena came in rather handy for me (we are both huge fans of Chef Massimo Bottura).
Though we couldn’t really meet after that but were constantly in touch through Social media, discussing what we ate, where we travelled etc. No agenda…she didn’t want anything from me and vice versa…we just connected, thanks to Food! Just day before, she shared her new number and that she was back home after her travels and we both discussed many many food travel experiences and how ‘we itch to travel all the time’!
Then I thought of sharing this lovely girl’s story on my blog….Aman Doasanj and her mother ran a restaurant called ‘Poppadoms- Taste of India’ located at Mccurdy road in Kelowna, British Columbia. Interestingly they hired some chefs at their restaurant and when the mother daughter duo got them their permanent residency, they quit, so her mother and Aman went exploring mainly to the South of India for about 5 weeks to learn other regional cooking. ‘As a family business, you have to figure things out; so, when our chefs left, it was sink or swim’, shared Aman.
The menu offered Indian food via the Farm to Table concept and had dishes like ‘Meen Pollichathu’ and ‘Lamb shank Roganjosh’ on the menu.

Her mom had a heart attack in January 2016, so they had to shut down the restaurant unfortunately; ‘It wasn't a life, when all you do is work. She’s alive and doing well! So, time to re-evaluate, food is how I heal, so that’s why I was learning more and writing about my experiences, starting from scratch again’, shares Aman. ‘So many good things happened to me on this trip to Italy, It was weird. But after so many years of hard times, it was an incredible feeling. Now to make that time count!’…says Aman.
Aman is a go getter, this Friday she’s having a pop up using stories from her travels to create a menu ( coincidentally I am planning do the same as well in the following year !) until she gets a marketing job. Even when Aman gets her job, which she will eventually, she will continue doing her pop ups to save up as Travel Money.
For Aman the idea is to make people smile. ‘Which is the point of my food memory project, and to get people thinking, not just eating’, she says. Her menu has four courses plus an amuse. There’s a meatball story. And she’s doing a kebab on a rice poppadom cracker and doing some tangy beet pearls (because pomegranate doesn’t grow in Canada), mint yoghurt etc. so, not a literal translation. She’s also doing a vegetable Tikki, but not telling anyone what it is all about until they are eating it. (I can’t share the secret too as yet, lest they read it!!). Another course is a fish inspired by a fisherman in Fiji. The finale or the dessert course is her grandma’s green cardamom rice pudding, but a saffron poached local pear, which is her twist. Aman’s grandma was the reason she started her project, to keep her memory alive ‘She used to tell us that ‘if you cook from your heart, people will come’, If I can make just 1 person think, then I can sleep with a smile on my face and know I made a difference’, adds Aman. ‘I soooo want to come for this pop up’, I said… ‘Will do one when you visit Canada’ Aman replied!!! Food connects and how, doesn’t it?

Aman Dosanj can be followed on @paisleynotebook
Today Aman's parents run a little farm to table food trailer in Kelowna plus a farmer's market


Discover the wondrous natural wonders & cuisine of these travel destinations you must visit…symbiotically with Safety! No one country is more unsafe than another…So go on…common sense is enough to see you securely around practically everywhere. 
Promenading through the dappled and meandering streets of the old town to get a feel for the city’s ambiance is one of the first things to do while holidaying in Nice. This district, with its mesh of slender streets and luminously blushed façades, echoes the insignia and panache of Sardinian architecture. Visit the Castel Hill, this park and its botanical garden offer a magnificent vista of the spectacular sea with the old town in the foreground.

The Flowers and vegetable market in the quaintest market in France, offers a feast for the eyes and a glee for the palate.

Indulging in Cours Saleya, the most vibrant neighbourhoods, animated by its lively cafés and restaurants is worth taking the time to appreciate the pulsating colours of splendid flowers and get to know the native producers. 

Do not miss the trying the famous Pan Bagnat, accurately ‘moistened bread’, aka a circle formed white bread around the classic Salad Nicoise. Also try the Pissaladière, onion tart with olives and anchovies, the ‘Socca’, a large crepe of chickpea flour, to be eaten tubing hot and liberally peppered and the ‘Fougasse’, Provencal bread fit to burst with vegetables. Also not to be missed is the ‘Place Garibaldi Area’, the Rue Bonaparte with the news coffees and the stores!

The city straddles the Bosphorous River with one side of the bridge being Europe and the other side Asia it certainly mixes and blends perfectly between the two; and the best way to visually explore the city is to take a cruise down the strait. The Topkapi Palace is grand and the museum pieces sensational; Blue Mosque is a global symbol of Turkey with the beauty emphasized by its gorgeous setting near the Marmara Sea. Just across the street is the Hagias Sophia Museum, which has functioned as a Christian church and an Islamic mosque over the centuries….again unquestionably stunning! A trip to the Grand Bazaar, cited as a shopaholic’s paradise in ‘100 Places to See before You Die’ is a must, stretched over fifty acres with eleven different entry points, and filled with jewelry, spices, carpets and food.
The Spice Bazaar is also a dekho if you are a foodie for your sumac, Zatar etc. Food wise, recommendations go all out from the fresh fish from the Bosphorous, pistachio Turkish delights, Pomegranate juice, local meat balls and olives of all tastes and colors and of course the Turkish coffee!. Interestingly Jam here means rose petal and quince, and when I say honey, there are typically assortments of diverse floral honeys to choose from. Cheeses array from soft feta to hard Kasar. Taksim Square is where the night life begins and has narrow alleys filled with unique bars and restaurants to choose from.
Truly with so much remarkable foodie buzz around the city it is easy to see why Istanbul is the epicurean epicentre of Turkey.

There’s more to Kathmandu than meets the overwhelmed eye, and a whole escapade anticipates you yonder the backpacking area of Thamel. The Kathmandu Valley is a paragon of Nepalese culture, and an imperative side of that ethos is its architectural heritage. Situated on a plateau across the Bagmati River Patan a beautiful little neighbouring city with its well conserved magnificent heritage and the antiquity of premium craftsmanship is a must visit. Don’t miss the momo’s when in Kathmandu, very different from the ones we get in India.
If you want to experience tranquillity and devour indigenous delights within a picturesque courtyard ‘Bhumi’ is the place! The Nepali gourmandise is categorised by its variety; as a cuisine Newari which is on offer here is intended to be shared and therefore, is very much favourable with clan style service. With lungs, bone marrow as well as great sekuwa, and chwoela on offer, Bhumi goes the entire buff; and yes for the less carnivorous, there is plenty on offer too like the Bara and Chatamari.

published in HT City