Thursday, January 26, 2017


Experiencing the local way of hanging out anywhere in the world is not only the best way to enjoy but it’s also a cultural glimpse into the drinking and social scene of any culture.
‘Lime’ is not just a garnish to your rum and cola here, but refers to an spur-of-the-moment ‘chilling out’ session. The country’s kinship for ‘liming’, is basically hanging with friends, food, music and rum or beer. The expression comes from the notion of having nothing to do except squeeze limes.
Locals love to invite friends to chill out with where each person brings their preferred rum and just chill or lime. For locals, the after-work, Friday-night lime is one of the most standard aims to visit a rum shop. Whether you and your friends ease on one of Tobago’s white sandy beaches or enjoy with food and drinks in Port of Spain in Trinidad you are liming true local style.

Melbourne is tantamount with coffee. Every district is inevitably oozing with cafes. Behind uncluttered décor and beneath industrial lighting that looks like it’s been enlightened straight from the good old 1950’s apron-clad baristas tier their trade and serve up magic, pour-overs and cold brews.For every cafe or hole-in-the-wall coffee shop hidden down an alley there is a que of eager customers waiting for their single-origin, Ethiopian, fittingly obtained caffeine fix. The roots are as humble as anywhere else, and the demand for well-made coffee from small, free cafes is growing day by day and is a world of delight, as cafes source new beans from glamorous locations and experiment with fresh and unusual coffee-based beverages.

A typical American backyard barbecue goes something like this: grill meat, eat meat, and repeat and get into a food coma. The menu is usually classic and unfussy including Hamburgers, hot dogs and corn on the cob. There are usually two tables one for dining and one for food and drinks and everyone serve themselves and the food is placed where the action is. The home bar is replete with glasses, bottle openers, napkins and of course the drinks.
Traditional Izakaya is a Japanese tavern that offers food that savours good with Japanese beer ‘Asahi’ being most popular. Sample this; delicious petite plates of food, relaxing from a sombre day at work, and fun mingling with friends!  Finding an Izakaya is easy in Tokyo and can be everything from a small little dive that’s dim and smoky with a limited bar seats, to an enormous bar with plenty of seating. They open their doors early evening, outfitting mainly to office goers who head straight to an Izakaya post work for a few drinks, pre-dinner snacks, and a casual relaxing time with friends. Hence you would find most guests still wearing business suits. They love their yakitori and gyoza.  Best Izakaya bars are underneath the railroad tracks, near Shinjuku, and within Ameya-Yokocho market.
Hanging out with celebrity chef Ferran Adria at a tapas bar in Barcelona
Neither quite an appetizer not a full meal, the tapa is all about socializing whether that encompasses ordering a procession of little dishes to share over refreshing chilled wine or cider and an extended conversation or maybe just on a pub crawl. The whole idea of tapas is envisioned to lubricate the helms for an evening of chatter, sparkle and amity with friends. The best tapas are often served standing in a crowded and smoky bar. The server helps find a small table or a space on the bar top where one places the food. One is likely to be standing in a teeming space all night, but this is chunk of the fun. Interestingly the bar staff work out the bill by counting the toothpicks on the plate!

my story first published in HT City

Wednesday, January 25, 2017


It’s not every day that you have your worst eating out experience ever. Mine happened yesterday.
In It's better Days
In the mood for some basic Dosas we zeroed in on Sagar Ratna, so off I set with my mom and a friend in tow; Now when I picked up this friend of mine from her office, she looked rather elegant and too well dressed in a gorgeous saree and high heels that I at once decided to change the Venue….she looked quite exotic…so I thought Culture Gully at Kingdom of Dreams would probably make the perfect and befitting venue.
So often when you have dined out a place, you anticipate the meal experience and get excited just thinking about it. So we entered Culture Gully the kind of food Space I NOW DREAD a tourist might stumble into, so offensive is its representation of India’s dining scene. For starters it was a bit too dark and I could see many lovelorn couples who probably mistook this for a hideaway for romance. Then I noticed that most of the places that did service had actually shut shop, Kerela and Chennai ( I am only talking of South India here) and it was more like a food court where you could order in expensive food. Anyways, now that we were here and in the mood for Dosas, settled in at ‘Karnataka’ where after a special request to keep the oil slightly less; My Utthapam looked as if it had spent time in the fryer rather than the griddle but stopped short of becoming fried Malabar Parantha. It lived in a greasy no-man’s land — and no man I know would love it. So of Course, I politely told the Chef to do it again….He blatantly refused, giving me a look that, ‘Why do customers even come here, when it’s my rest time’!! On my insistence he finally made it again but refused to give me fresh hot sambar which had gone rather cold by then. After finally making him understand my point of view, I sat down to eat. Trust me I can do a good job of eating because I know what it takes to make food. I can even clear the plate of food I find distinctly lacking. But this was uneatable. It was like the Rohypnol of the basic Dosa/Utthapam/Idli a dish with the latent to smack you into a coma!
I go to the Mumbai counter next and try to order myself some ‘Dahi Puri’….trust me it was a Herculean task as the order taker Jerry could not understand Hindi at all, nor English very properly
ME: How long will it take to get the Dahi puri? (In Hindi)
HE: Yes Dahi Puri and?
ME: How long will it take to get the Dahi puri? (In English?)
HE: Yes Dahi Puri and?
ME: Forget it, how big is the water bottle? (In Hindi and English)
HE: 40 Rs
I finally give up and order Dahi Puri and water (after conveying it through one of the cooks in the background) as they have no other drink available except water and Coca Cola.
If you are thinking of venturing into Culture Gully anyway and ordering something relatively simple and straightforward, like a Dahi Puri; It was the most unpalatable thing I have tasted in some years, provoking from my dining companions a string of diatribe that cannot be printed in a people newspaper.
The ‘Bhapa Dahi’ has a slight chemical taste that I was grateful for because it inclined to keep my own sweet intake to near-mormon levels! And trust me when we got out of this so called ‘Culture Gully’…it felt more like getting out of hiding in bunkers as if a World War was taking place outside!
In fact, when thinking ‘where should we eat tonight’, the reminiscence of your last meal is perhaps the first thing that comes to mind, and has you quickly moving on to the next suggestion! This place just lost a great customer and will never know why!!  But I do have a question for them, When you hung that sign by the entrance that says, ‘KINGDOM OF DREAMS’, were you just messing with our MINDS?

P.S I did not take any pictures…and am sure you will thank me for that!!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017


You can never get enough of London, the buzzing atmosphere and non-stop entertainment put it squarely in any traveller’s itinerary. But sometimes London gives me too much choice. Do I eat or shop? Drink or watch a musical? And above all, where? So here I’m distilling London into a manageable set of places to love.
Luckily for me I occurred to fly from Delhi with Virgin Atlantic at a time when it is rejoicing 25 years of entertainment and for those who do not know Virgin Atlantic is the Virgin airline to familiarize inflight entertainment, hence this year they are revelling it with a period of film themed activity! In the shape up to being the authorized airline of the new Harry Potter movie Fantastic Beasts and where to find them clearly there were a few Harry potter film options on the entertainment system and I definitely 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. All in all, 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 to stuff in all your shopping.
Athenaeum Hotel, 116 Piccadilly, London W1J 7BJ
Nestled in the heart of Mayfair lies this luxurious hotel where design meets elegance, the staff welcome you so warmly as if you are a family member and the cocktails are delightful. A few weeks ago I had the absolute pleasure of staying here while attending the BFI London Film festival and what a treat. On arrival the legendary doorman, made me feel at home and led me to the desk where I checked in. Locate in a good spot as it’s near all the galleries, museums and opposite Buckingham palace. Which means you are close to all these tourist attractions and don’t need to travel far. The hotel has a welcoming bar and restaurant also all the rooms include WIFI which entices many people just like me now a days!
Warner Brothers Studio Tour, Leavesden, Hertfordshire, WD25 7LR
I contemplate one of the things that mark the world of Harry Potter quite so dreamlike is the facet that the whole thing in together the books and the films contain. Every minute thing has been understood out to replicate this unbelievable world! My favourite bit was the Platform 9 3/4, where I posed for the mandatory ‘pushing the trolley through the wall’ photo, and I even stepped inside the Hogwarts Express and saw the tiny compartments where Harry, Ron and Hermione were often filmed in. Needless to add, I browsed the Railway shop. I certainly feel it’s an unquestionably incredible place – since it’s very infrequent you’re able to get up close and individual with movie magic – bringing to life the books and films so many loves. You won’t regret a trip there and whether you’re a diehard fan of Harry Potter or not, a great day is guaranteed.
Food wise, there is a cafe in the main reception offering a variety of hot and cold food, though the core port of call is the atelier cafe which is located in the mid of the tour – providing a picture-perfect place to invigorate for the forthcoming photo opportunities. I enjoyed my sandwich and coffee. Clearly in a place like this, you can’t fine dining, because the emphasis is on the incredible things on display. I also sampled the Wizarding world’s favourite butter beer, which I have to say – be nice but a bit overpoweringly sweet. The liquid part is dairy-free, but the shortbread flavour foam on top isn’t! I did attempt at a butter beer moustache though which could definitely rivals Hermione’s!
24-26 Leicester Square, London WC2H 7JY, United Kingdom
You never know what to presume from a Red Carpet, and I was so apprehensive to see what it would be like this time as Disney premiered the Queen of Katwe in London. Of course I knew would be stars and cameras and all of the attraction and glitziness one would expect from a gala. However, the Queen of Katwe red carpet premiere brought about so much more than can ever be dressed and photographed. Oscar Winner Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo were the only recognized actors in the movie, with the vast mainstream of the cast containing of native Ugandans, many from slighter villages, who could never have imagined being in a film of this magnitude, much less walking a red carpet celebratory their successes.
Queen Of Katwe is the real story of a young girl, Phiona Mutesi vending corn on the roads of rustic Uganda whose realm speedily changes when she is familiarized to the game of chess by Robert Katende a soccer player turned missionary. As a consequence of the backing she obtains from her mother, played by Nyong’o, her domestic and community, Phiona chases her dream of becoming a universal chess champion. All in all, an inspiring story, engaged with revelation and heart by Mira Nair and including performances of great profundity and integrity. After the film there was an after party where of course I ate and drank and made merry with my friends.
Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire OX20 1PP
The advent to the Palace is truly stunning; it’s such a gorgeous building and looks so extraordinary from the outside. The interior is likewise as spectacular! We were taken into the Palace bedrooms where Winston Churchill resided and learnt a lot about the history of the rooms. We then joined The Untold Story which outlined the heritage of the Churchill family and took us back in time to the 1700s. The tour was a walk round event but each room had interactive features including touch screen monitors, audio speakers and screen projectors. The Pleasure Gardens are a few minutes’ walk from the Palace and is home to the exotic butterfly house, model village, family maze and children’s play area. Blenheim Palace has also hosted some of Hollywood’s most famous A-list superstars over the years. Daniel Craig, Jack Black, Sean Connery, Tom Cruise, Kate Winslet, Emily Blunt, and Madonna, are just a few of the stars performing in key motion pictures counting 007 Spectre, Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation, Cinderella, A Little Chaos, Gulliver’s Travels and many more.
The location is charming in itself, sitting comfortably right outside the palace; it gorgeously stands among greenery, a chic café and patio. It certainly doesn’t fail with its intriguing mix of traditional traveller’s fare and new age cooking. The food is hearty, and is served with the most imaginative skill without negotiating on the palate with emphasis being seasonal produce. My ‘Fennel crusted ocean trout’ served with Jerusalem artichoke mash, balsamic tomatoes, samphire and caper butter sauce on the side was finger looking good!! Desserts such as Warm sticky toffee pudding, toffee sauce and Duke’s ice cream, ‘Rhubarb plus vanilla’ semifreddo with a rhubarb meringue, ‘elderflower sorbet’ and candied lemon Verbena are all so gratifying that they should be shared. Simplicity and balance are the buzzwords of this wonderful space, enriched by honest to goodness flavours and fresh picked produce.
Talli Joe, 152-156 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, WC2H 8HL; Tel: 020-78365400
The culinary essence is traditional and authentic regional Indian cuisine with a strong creative element in cooking and presentations as well as in the cocktails hand crafted by using seasonal Indian flavours and fresh ingredients crafted by the in house mixologist. The buzzy bar spreads its charm to the restaurant creating the perfect setting to relax and indulge in anything from a hearty lunch to a romantic dinner. I started with a ‘Kerry Collins’ (a heady concoction of vodka, raw mango puree, soda and lime) before heading for my food!! A good attempt at proposing Indian food for the twenty first century as it is indeed a unique marriage of beautiful ingredients and techniques with the flavours and traditions of India.
Good examples of recipes with interesting combinations enhanced by spices from Chef Sameer Taneja’s aesthetic creations are the ‘Gol Baari Kosha Mangsho’ and ‘Kochi beef fry’. The crowning glory for me was the ‘Nihari Nalli’; the marrow was cooked fairly melted in waves on the tongue topped on a Kadak roti. Amongst the vegetarian the ‘Kale chaat’ is a highlight. All in all behind every component is an honest process that is used to top dresser the ingredients. There is nothing accidental on any of Taneja’s plates, nothing there that serves to merely look glamorous; everything is on the plate for a reason. The concept with its quarter plates is an inspirational treat for all those who crave for good food with a difference. Chic, elegant and contemporary, this is one of the few bars I feel will hold its own for a long time…and as for me, I will go here each time I happen to be in London.
Our little group was met at the hotel by Mr Dewi Evans, Brit Movie Tour guide, who took us on a two hour tour discovering central London locations that featured in  Bond, Harry Potter, Paddington, Sherlock Holmes and more. Every movie buff knows how important the city of London is in the film industry, being commonly used as both a film setting and location. From bygone versions to starry-eyed amusements to law-breaking thrillers, London has been vital for film directors, frequently being an uppermost terminus for their movie sets. It was simply remarkable to set foot on the London’s iconic streets to check out all of Bond’s assembly points in Skyfall, and to witness landmarks such as Trafalgar Square that sent chills down my spine as it reminded me of all the thrillers filmed there. The flexibility of London as a film location is astounding. The ethnic history of the city reckons it a seamless location for period movies dated amid pre-Victorian times and the post-war era, but the avant-gardism of London also makes it perfect for intersecting plots, such as the narratives of Love Actually. The types of film and TV that use London as the setting is limitless, drawing in anybody and everybody that relishes feature presentations on the silver screen!
Best way to see London is booking a HOHO with Golden tours, 24 hours which comes with an offer including additional 24hrs, walking tour and river cruise. Ascertain all the majestic things, and all the imperative edifices that one would see on a precise touristy trail. Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, various museums, Harrods, Westminster Abbey, the Thames River, Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus (which, by the way, is not a circus), St. James, Chinatown, various theatres, Bloomsbury, the Tower or London, St. Paul’s Cathedral, etc. Later just taka a cruise on the River Thames…delightful! Also go to the lovely Covent Garden market. It will be a great shopping experience. A ride on the London eye would give you a bird’s view of the city. I used my ticket on Day 4 morning as well since it had additional 24 hours for free and my flight back home was in the evening!
Dawaat, 372 Strand, London, WC2R 0JJ, Tel: +44 207 379 4737
Head Chef Asharaf Valappil does an alternative take on the teatime classic, with the full flavoured Daawat Indian Afternoon Tea, which is one of London’s most unique partaking experiences. Chef’s assortment of lightly enlivened canapés includes Bombay Burgers, Lamb Samosas and sweet Indian pastries and the Chocolate samosa. The traditional English scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam are also inclusive…Wash it down with a hot cup of yummy Masala chai and you are sorted! You could come back for a lunch or dinner too; the chef does some of the best South Indian preparations in the city!!
Adelphi Theatre, Strand, London WC2R 0NS
This show is tremendously entertaining, some of the maximum enjoyable time that I have ever had seeing a show. Kinky Boots is stunningly designed. The Picturesque designer forays a significant equilibrium between the elegant gala that is Lola’s nightclub and the dreary shoe factory. The set is extremely mobile and deceivingly simple. If you blink, you could miss a set change. I have never seen a show changeover from scene to scene so swiftly and effortlessly. While wearing a diversity of glamorous costumes, they do splits, cartwheels and even turn up in the Northampton factory to pageant on the conveyor belt as a prologue to their climactic catwalk display. It won me over through the excellence of the principal performances, the vitality of its dramatization and its conviction, in its fetishist worship of thigh-high boots, that there’s no business like SHOE business!!

My story first published in TLF 

Monday, January 23, 2017


When it comes to eating out, there’s always something new and unique to try. But if you are looking for something extra special from your dining experience, take a look below at my selection of the unique and wonderful  to try in 2017!!
Excluding one sense amplifies the others, so by turning off the lights DID at the Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit faiths to upsurge diners’ gratitude of palate and aroma. Visually impaired staff leads you to your table in the pitch black where, once seated, you can work your way through several courses of surprise dishes or preselect a cuisine of your choice, all in total darkness. It also takes away your verdict so you cannot presume your meal and entirely changes the way you react. Steered by the blind, they become your eyes. The plus is that you also end up making a contribution to the Foundation for the blind in Thailand as a part of the proceedings are donated for this cause.
You may just go past Nobelhart & Schmutzig, if you haven’t heard of it as it looks as if it’s shut, but ring the bell and Sommelier owner Billy Wagner would welcome you well. What makes this so unique is that in a place like Berlin, they have dared to create a menu which uses only local ingredients and head Chef Micha would agree that it could be quite a Herculean task.For example there is no lemon for acidity and no pepper for seasoning, as both are not locally grown and yes no chocolate for desserts or olive oil for cooking; they do it so well that they already have a Michelin star to their credit.
In their quest for original flavours, the ten course offers seafood, fish, game, dairy and vegetables in rustic preparations served up into masterpieces of precision. A flawlessly cooked piece of Baltic cod served in a carrot soup with dried camomile is just an example of decadence.
Can easily be rated as the best place for Breakfast in the world; ‘Three Bean Espresso’ has an irresistible standing for dependably good coffee and fresh, quality food. Owner Ben Armstrong schedules to make approximately the whole thing from scratch on site, such as smoking salmon, cooking baked beans, creaming corn, culturing butter, buttermilk, cottage cheese and ricotta replete with auxiliary portions of crusty La Tartine organic sourdough toast! Don’t guess to find the same dishes every week. What’s on the menu replicates what Ben has foraged at the weekly Wednesday Newcastle City night market! I still can recollect the taste of those meaty, full flavoured ox heart tomatoes that you will never find in a supermarket.

You would come across the word ‘live’ sprinkled through the menus; live cultures, probiotic yeasts or bacteria, have been prudently cultivated to offer delightfully stimulating drinks, slaws and salads. The ‘life changing’ bread, with its mix of seeds, nuts, psyllium and chia capped with a tap of in-house made live cultured butter is an absolute must try.  Bircher muesli  is gluten free and made with  grated apple, seeds and grains and comes with garden-fresh Angelina plum and poached bliss pears with a spoonful of Greek style bequest yoghurt…I could go on!!

my story first published in HT City

Sunday, January 22, 2017


There’s plenty of culinary drama, thanks to Chef Vivek Singh of The Cinnamon club London Fame and Chef Tejas Sovani who diligently style every dish to grades that would make Jennifer Lopez insecure. The food is almost astonishingly exotic, gathered from regional India. I begin my culinary sojourn with a dish called ‘Dhokla Ya Pakoda’; yes an interesting mix of fried and steamed gram flour, twanging with the gorgeous flavour of tamarind and mint. Chef Vivek’s strength is his decisive pairing of unexpected ingredients, which works best with simple dishes.
So the pressed watermelon crusted with amaranth seeds, date chutney and masala cashewnut is spectacular. A cheer to the fact that they’re being quite fixated about ingredients, every dish has a distinguishing flavour, which is quite an indulgence in these days of ‘one seasoning fits all.’ The highlights are the Pithod and vegetable galouti, with a nice soft and crisp mouth feel in a bite. Also the spicy grilled eggplants with thick salan redolent with sesame peanut crumble, rich and tangy, teamed with labneh and toasted buckwheat. 

By the time I hit the entrée, I am on a food high; the confit of king Mushroom, designed to go beautifully with a curried coconut sauce; the green and black gram is crisp, yet moisty and the mushroom, firm and juicy…decadence indeed! The star of the afternoon, however, is the Mumbai to Jaipur Pink Express, featuring subtly spiced Dabeli, missal, Ker Sangri, Pyaaz papad ki subzi and Kurkuri Bhindi…neat and satisfying. Despite protests on being literally ‘FED UP’, I manage dessert; carrot fudge served with a clove ice cream.

Interestingly, Chef Vivek and Chef Tejas have made the crossover from desi cliché to clever global, drawing locals and expats alike. Perhaps thanks to its nifty presentation and perfect balance. This restaurant will work for you if you like ostentatious gastronomic capers, bold pairing and brazen Opulence.

Amaranta is on Level 3 @ the Oberoi Gurgaon, 443, Udyog Vihar, Phase V, Gurgaon
This Live Performance is on only until tonight…i.e. 22nd January 2017
For a Chef’s table experience, please call Mallika Dasgupta at +919582944202
On offer are a Vegetarian and Non Vegetarian tasting menus, I went in for the former