Milwaukee, also known as the Cream City for its signature cream-colored bricks and Brew City for its rich brewing history, has plenty of activities for tourists visiting the area. But before we get into what you can see and do in this vibrant Wisconsin city, you may like to take a look at these IHG hotels near Milwaukee. They’re conveniently located, just like all IHG hotels, giving you easy access to most of the city’s sights. Once you’ve found the perfect place to stay, take a look at some things you just can’t miss in Milwaukee.

Walkable Milwaukee

They say the best way to feel the essence of a city is to walk. A stroll down the RiverWalk, a 2-mile stretch along the Milwaukee River, is a great place to start. Not only does it have a fine selection of pubs and restaurants, but it’s also home to numerous exhibitions of public art and signs explaining the city’s history.

Milwaukee for Culture Lovers

In Milwaukee, you’re never far from a museum. The Milwaukee Public Museum opened way back in 1884 and welcomes half a million visitors every year. It’s home to over 4.5 million artifacts and several permanent exhibits. You’ll also find an intriguing “Streets of Old Milwaukee” display showing life-size, fully furnished models of shops and houses in the 19th century.

The Harley-Davidson Museum holds over 100 years’ worth of history from the makers of world-famous motorcycles. Much to the delight of biking enthusiasts, the museum also houses the oldest Harley Davidson in existence.

Milwaukee Harley DavidsonPhoto by Andrei Ianovskii on Unsplash

Discovery World focuses on science and technology, while a trip to the Reiman Aquarium will take visitors on a sailing vessel from the Great Lakes to the Caribbean. Those who appreciate art will enjoy spending a day at Grohmann Museum, gazing at masterpieces from as early as 1580.

Kid-Friendly Milwaukee

Need to plan a day out with the kids? They’re bound to enjoy a visit to the Milwaukee County Zoo, which houses over 1,800 animals and the world’s largest group of captive bonobos. Don’t miss the adorable Humboldt penguins as they swim in their 15,000-gallon tank.

Milwaukee Country ZooPhoto by Shireah Ragnar on Unsplash

The Mitchell Park Conservatory is another interesting place for children and has incredible domes that contain their own unique worlds. Explore the Desert Dome’s cacti and shrubs, the Tropical Dome’s rainforest plants, and the Floral Dome’s seasonal floral displays.

Legendary Food and Brewery Scene

If you’ve worked up an appetite, The Blu Bar and Lounge is a must, as this gem offers breathtaking views of Lake Michigan. If you’re looking for something less elegant, take a Food and City Tour to explore the city’s lesser-known eateries. Uber Tap Room was the first to pair Wisconsin’s fabulous cheeses with its brews, and this cheerful, pleasant tavern is a rite of passage for Milwaukee visitors.

To get a taste of Milwaukee’s brews, a visit to the historic Pabst Brewery is a must. A small fee will get you a guided tour and a taste of the beers on tap.

Image Credit – beertrotter.com

Of course, you can also visit one of Milwaukee’s farmers markets or to take a fun cruise downtown and marvel at the city’s skyline. No matter where you are in the city, you’ll always find an IHG hotel nearby.

What’s not to love about the southern state of Kerala? Perhaps India’s prettiest state, it’s tranquil backwaters, endless coconut groves, green-face-painted Kathakali dancers and seafood define the region.

In Chakala (Andheri), a restaurant with an unassuming appearance attempts to bring the flavours of Kerala into Amchi Mumbai. ‘Just Kerala’ is located close to the Bisleri Factory, inside Hotel Samraj and serves delectable, vibrant south Indian fare.

AMBIENCE
just kerala restaurant

While it doesn’t appear so at first glance, the hotel has valet parking with cordial staff out front. Once in the lobby, make your way to the restaurant on the 2nd floor. On entering, you’ll find that the restrained white décor is refreshingly different. Floor to ceiling windows with strategically placed potted palms give the place an instant bright appeal. The décor is coherrent – having a large, polished bar with a textured white finish and matching white chairs, table runners and ivory sofas. A traditional lamp somewhere in the centre is the only stand-alone object you will find.

SERVICE

I was very impressed with the service at Just Kerala. The waiters were knowledgable, courteous and well spoken. They recited complicated dish names like Lobia Ulathiyathu and mezhukkupuratti with ease, as I struggled to get the spelling right on my notepad. Food, not only on my table, but also on tables surrounding mine came promptly and they were attentive to even guests sitting in the corners of the restaurant.

FOOD

For me, an unfamiliar menu is great fun as I love to figure out what’s what. This one was well written and while the names of the dishes are long and complicated, the descriptions are well written providing enough explanation yet leaving a little for guesswork. Also, it is worth mentioning that this is the only restaurant serving Kerala cuisine and possessing a liquor license.

Parippu Vada

There’s nothing sadder than soggy vadas! And this one set the tone absolutely right for the rest of the meal! Super crunchy on the outside and soft + tasty on the inside, they are made with a coarse paste of soaked chana dal, onions, ginger-garlic and spices! These once used to be my morning snack before work, since there used to be a seller just outside my office – and I could never resist that rustic texture and hearty flavour, especially on rainy days!

parippu vada just kerala

Surmai Fish Fry

Being Goan, fried fish is something that swims in my blood. Surmai, being a flavourful fish doesn’t need much added to it to make it a knock-out side-dish. While in Goa, we like it crumb fried, Just Kerala fried it after coating it with some awesome traditional spices and chillies, ginger-garlic and showered it with ground pepper. The red masala infused right through the fish and it was deliciously tangy and delicate!

surmai fish fry just kerala

Chicken Malabar Curry

The thing about the coastal area is that even though all communities use the same ingredients, the style of cooking and spices used give it a while new dimension. This vivacious spicy chicken curry was finger-licking good and had that typical South Indian flavour thanks to the addition of luscious coconut milk and complex spice mix. I enjoyed it with some traditional rice chapatis, called appams!

malabar chicken curry just kerala

Coconut chicken

This was my favourite of the lot. I love coconut in everything and the coconut here was so strong that I just couldn’t stop eating it! It was a semi dry dish packed with spices that were softened with the gentle touch of coconut. It was a little too oily for my liking, and if it wasn’t for that, the dish would have been heavenly!

coconut chicken just kerala

Long pieces of fresh coconut was amply added in with small chunks of chicken. The meat was so juicy and coconut flavour was so intense, it made me feel like I was on a tropical vacation to Kerala! And the best part is that it wasn’t sweet – like most coconut based dishes are – but had the powerful backing of ground spices. Don’t miss this addictive dish for sure!

Thali /Sadhya

You can’t go to a Kerala restaurant and not order a traditional thali served on a banana leaf! The amount of food on these always leaves me overwhelmed – but it’s more to do with the variety than than the quantity. Just Kerala is the only restaurant to serve Sadhya and it is interesting to note that they even deliver Sadhya to offices nearby for lunch – however, not with all 13-15 items – but with 5.

Just kerala chakala andheri

You can opt for an unlimited vegetarian Sadhya or go for the non-veg one, which is basically the same thing substituted with chicken or fish curry instead of veg curry. A jaw-dropping amount of Kerala boiled rice was served with Sambar Rasam, a watery, tangy-sour curry of sorts made using tamarind, tomato and pieces of drumsticks.

sadhya thali just kerala

A Sadhya isn’t complete without the quintessential Kerala classic, avial, or mixed vegetable seasoned with coconut oil and curry leaves. And apart from that, it also featured a veg dish made of suran (yams), Thoran (vegetable stir-fry), mezhukkupuratti (long beans), travancore chicken curry, a dish made of roasted black beans (lobia ulathiyathu), a delicious raw banana-curd side dish, ghee, banana chips, papad, pickle and buttermilk. A small bowl of vermicelli sevaiyan was served too. Like normal thalis, the items served differ everyday, however, the plethora of items, each with its own distinct taste, keeps it interesting.

To say this was filling would be an understatement. But Sadhya is an all-round healthy meal and although it leaves you stuffed at first, it gets digested pretty quickly and doesn’t leave you feeling sluggish.

Asda Payassam

The dessert menu comprised of a fair amount of Indian desserts such as Rasgulla and Gulab Jamun. In terms of authentic Kerala desserts, there were only Seviyan Payassam and Ada Payassam. I had already tried the former when it came as a part of the thali, so I ordered for the Ada Payassam – comprised of jaggery and flat rice in sweetened milk. I’m not a fan of jaggery so I wasn’t raving about this. I wish the menu had a bit more variety like maybe Unniyapam, Chatti Pathiri and Bonda.

asda payassam

Just Kerala so far hasn’t got the attention it deserves and except from the office-goes around it and the mallu community. If you’re wondering whether they serve the meat that must not be named, not exactly, but they do serve meat from other members of the bovine family.

Here’s where you can find them:

Address – Hotel Samraj, Chakala Road, Chakala, Mumbai

Cost for 2 – Rs. 900 for 2 (excluding drinks)

Get a true taste of God’s Own Country at Just Kerala and if you do happen to go, let me know what you think by dropping me a line on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Bye!

While Ratnagiri is not someone’s first choice for a vacation spot, it has a lot of what makes it a good one. Delectable seafood, proximity to Goa and Mumbai, more greenery than you can imagine and virgin beaches. Probably the one thing that sorely lacks here are resorts – and all that comes with one – a swimming pool, spa, lounge and the like.

The district does have a handful of budget hotels that provide a good pit-stop for bikers, family road-trippers and those looking for a quick weekend getaway. Among the best hotels in Ratnagiri, I came across this budget hotel, Sangam Regency that provided a peaceful interlude on a tiresome journey. It was so far above my expectations that I decided to share it with you.

GETTING THERE

Possibly the best part about Sangam Regency is its proximity to Ratnagiri Station. On exiting the station, it is a mere 2-3 minute walk, or 30 second drive. While it is so close to the station, it is absolutely silent from the minute you enter the spacious, air-conditioned lobby.

THE HOTEL

Pleasant and understated, Hotel  Sangam Regency offers travelers two things that they are seeking the most – comfort and cleanliness. The hotel’s large lobby has sofas on either side and a reception desk at the end.  A door leads to the hotel’s in-house restaurant, Soul Curry.

On standing in the reception and looking up, you’ll see all the 26 rooms around the periphery of each floor, with a glass barricade from where you can stand and look down at the lobby.  The hotel also has wi-fi, which wasn’t working when I visited. Apart from that it has a banquet hall and conference centre.

hotel sangam residency room

Among the main attractions, Thiba Point is 7kms away, Black Sea, Suru Ban Bhatye Beach and Patitpawan are at 9kms, and Ratnadurg Fort is at 11kms away.

THE ROOM

I didn’t expect to find a hotel of this standard and was quite thrilled with the find. The room has a huge cmofortable bed to sink into and also comes with cable TV, refrigerator, dining area, electric kettle and private bathroom with toiletries.

sangam residency ratnagiri

The view from the window is nothing to speak of and faces one of the lanes around the hotel.  The washroom was extremely clean as well with a large sink, Western toilet, strong shower and hot and cold water. Like many hotels, it didn’t have a partition door or shower curtain between the shower area and rest of the room, so as always, once you’re done with a 10 minute shower, you walk on the wet floor for hours. Oh, well.

hotel in ratnagiri

hotel sangam

The hotel has a choice of Rooms ranging from Deluxe (Rs. 2200), Supreme (Rs. 2700) and Suite (Rs. 3500). An extra person can be accommodated on a matteress that is placed on a sturdy cot.

THE FOOD

The a-la carte menu is vast and features an array of veg, non veg and seafood items. I had the Mutton Rogan Josh and naan for dinner which was delicious!  In contrast, the buffet breakfast the next morning was absolutely atroctious. It featured south Indian staples of idli-sambar, uttapam, and others, none of which looked good, let alone taste good. I settled for coffee and buttered toast. The boiled eggs at the next table looked so over-boiled that I didn’t bother ordering eggs either. On the plus side, the service is quite quick and prompt!

That wraps up my short review of this budget hotel in Ratnagiri. Don’t forget to check out all the details of my road trip from Mumbai to Goa and back as well as of Mandvi Beach in Ratnagiri.

Heading back to the food in my next post! Until then, let’s keep in touch on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

A great thing about living in Mumbai is the fact that you’re 600 kms away from Goa, which means you can get there in 10-11 hours, depending on how many stops you take. The bad news is that the horrendous state of roads in our country make driving as pleasant as getting a root canal.

MUMBAI TO GOA

Sukhjeet and I departed from Mumbai by road at around 5:30 am one rainy morning on our maiden roadtrip from Mumbai to Goa. Our goal was to take advantage of the open roads in our otherwise choc-a-bloc city traffic and get out of Mumbai by 7 am. We had the option of two routes:

NH 4 – This route takes you through Pune and Kolhapur

NH 66 – Formerly known as NH 17, this route takes you through Ratnagiri and the Western Ghats.

For our drive from Mumbai to Goa, we opted for the NH4 Route for 2-3 reasons. The roads are wide and straight, fit for fast driving. Until you reach the border of Goa, the highway has 3-4 lanes. They have proper dividers and lane markings, making it more comfortable for the driver.

And thirdly, but most importantly, this route allowed us to skip the winding roads of the Western Ghats. The Western Ghat roads are steep, narrow and at a high altitude with no barricades on the sides in most places. As it was our first drive and we weren’t a 100% confident we could tackle it, we decided not to risk it. However, most Volvo buses take this route.

road goa to mumbai

The downside of this route though, are the numerous toll booths you will come across, 1 in almost every 100 km stretch. You will need to shell out at least Rs. 500-600, but it is still better than other options, as you will see later in this post.

We zipped through the city while it was still dark and reached Lonavala just as the sun began to rise. At 7 am, we were already in Pune and made our first stop for a breakfast of pancakes and coffee at McDonalds, just off the highway. I always prefer stopping at McDonalds because the food is safe and restrooms, clean, both important aspects to consider on a road trip. We were thrilled at having covered so much distance in just two hours and hoped that this head start would see us in Goa by 5 pm.

roadtrip mumbai to goa

Once we crossed Pune, we clocked in our kms with no hassles whatsoever. The surroundings were scenic and there was very little traffic.  At one point, we saw the road in front of us gently slope upwards and on looking up, saw cars winding their way around a hill ahead. That did cause a little panic, but turns out, we shouldn’t have worried because on climbing that hill, the road sloped back down again and it wasn’t the dreaded ghats we feared.

We stuck to NH4 and zipped passed Satara, Kolhapur and finally, Belgaum at around 1 pm quite uneventfully. It was here that we took one wrong turn that caused us to drive nearly 2 hours more. While we should have taken a left and stayed on the Belgaum Highway, we saw a giant board saying ‘Welcome to Goa’ right in front of us. Naturally, we carried on straight and into that narrow, but very scenic lane. A couple of kms in, we saw a darling little restaurant with seating in the verandah and a lawn out in front and that was where we took our second stop for lunch.

An hour later, we got back into the car and carried on straight. The scenic beauty here was absolutely stunning and I definitely want to go back and explore. On following the road further, it led up, higher and higher until – you guessed it, GHATS!  Thankfully, it was a short stretch, but thick with fog and rain pouring down. We were caught between two trucks for over half an hour and didn’t dare overtake as there was no barricade and a sheer drop down.  On finally finding our way back at ground level, the road worsened and GPS led us through the most narrow pathways. Some stretches were mud-roads riddled with potholes. At 5 pm, we emerged on a decent road somewhere in Pernem but were so exhausted and disheartened that our incredible roadtrip turned into a disaster. Not to mention, Sukhjeet’s knees began to hurt terribly with the constant brake-clutch-accelerator pedal-pushing on these terrible roads. An hour later, we entered Mapusa and by 6:30, I was home.

The bottom line is: Blindly opt to drive on NH4 on a roadtrip from Mumbai to Goa  and carry on the Belgaum Highway until you find yourself at Panjim. It is quite a painless journey if done right. You will need two tanks of petrol for the entire journey (and there are ample fuel pumps to fill up). I won’t mention the cost of fuel because we all know how uncertain that is.

GOA TO MUMBAI

For the way back, I decided to try out Route 66. From my home in Saligao, I headed towards Pernem and further on towards Sawantwadi – Kudal – Kankavli – Rajapur – Ratnagiri. If you’ve travelled by train, you’ll probably realize that all these are Konkan Kanya train stops! It was a two-sided road, 4 lanes and beautiful scenery. There were minor slopes and the journey took me around 5 hours. It would have been shorter, but this time, I was on a motorcycle and the freqent rain spells made me seek shelter every now and again.

roadtrip goa to mumbai

I spent the evening at Ratnagiri and checked out the beautiful Mandvi Beach. I stayed at a very comfortable 3-star hotel, Sangam Residency, just minutes away from Ratnagiri Station (more on that in my next post)

We left Ratnagiri at 10 am the next morning and continued on NH66, passing through Hathkamba, Navadi, Dhamani, Khamathe, Chiplun and Khed. On craving some of my morning caffeine, we stopped for some fabulous coffee (about the best I’ve had on the road) at this little restaurant in Chiplun at around noon. Sadly, I don’t remember its name.

coffee road trip goa to mumbai

Lunch was above average as well, and I relished some dal, tandoori roti and bhindi fry (ladyfingers) at Hotel Annapurna in Poladpur. Both places had lovely views and were extremely hygienic. I was able to work for about half an hour on my laptop as network was strong. Sigh.. the life of a digital nomad!

hotel annapurna NH66

hotel annapurna poladpur

Until here, we were driving in the wilderness amongst hills and fields, but in about an hour, we passed through dozens of villages. These busy, narrow roads, traffic and pedestrians slowed us down to a great extent. While that was completely manageable for the next 3-4 hours, at around 7:30 pm, it all went downhill! The last 100 kms, the roads were nothing short of a nightmare. The road was unpaved, there were trucks crawling along by the dozen and the dust in the air was so thick, it was difficult to see 100 meters in front of us. In fact, we could taste the dust at the back of our mouths and the journey was nowhere near complete.

It is for this reason that I’d advise you to completely stay clear of this route. There were no toll booths whatsoever, which is probably why the roads are neglected and can’t even be compared to the roads in Rural India, let alone be fit enough to lead to the financial capital of the country. Entering Mumbai saw us amidst insane traffic and in order to dodge it, we took every in-road we could find. Our long, looong journey finally ended at 11:30 pm.

Hope you enjoyed this post! Got questions or comments, leave me a line below and follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram! Bye!

If someone says ‘Konkan Coast,’ it is almost certain that your mind will jump to Goa or Kerala. You wouldn’t think of Alibaug or Ratnagiri unless you’re in Mumbai, looking for a quick weekend getaway. However, just a hop away from the border of Goa, or 270 kms to be exact, the welcoming beaches of Ratnagiri are a sight to behold.

ratnagiri konkan kanya

Until recently, I’d only had a glimpse of Ratnagiri as the train from Mumbai to Goa chugged past its railway station. Even while peering out through the rusty window grills of the Konkan Kanya express, the district looked pristine, down below. Winding narrow lanes, emerald paddy fields and a multi-hued landscape permeated with red earth.

For those who love wandering to lesser known spots, the coastal shoreline of Ratnagiri is truly astounding in terms of natural beauty. With the Sahyadri ranges on one side and the Arabian Sea on the other, it’s fair distance from Goa and Mumbai have allowed it to keep its scenic beauty intact. There are little pockets of ‘town’ between the greenery and it is here that you will find yourself amidst honking traffic, busy marketplaces and commercial centres for a few minutes.

ratnagiri mandvi beach

But the beaches! Unlike Goa, where the beaches are teeming with tourists, those in Ratnagiri offer undisturbed views of the sea. No shacks blaring loud music, no hawkers coaxing you into getting a henna tattoo, no shouts of joy from tourists as they ride off on their jet-skis. Just plenty of shady trees, the sound of the crashing waves and the opportunity to do absolutely nothing.

Ganpatiphule, Malgund, Arre Waare and Bhandarpule are a few of the blissfully secluded beaches in the area. I wish I could have explored them all, but I was only in Ratnagiri for one evening and Mandvi Beach was the closest to where I was put up for the night. (More on that lovely hotel, Sangam Residency, in my next post).

that goan girl mandvi beach

This particular beach, Mandvi, did have a handful of tourists in places but it wasn’t hard to find quiet spots to sit and relax. There are no food options around, save for a couple of vendors selling chaat off their carts. Don’t expect to find white sand here. While it is lustrously powder-like, the colour is as black as coal, darker than even the monsoon clouds overhead.

If you’re looking for a beach to spend the entire day at, and maybe have a picnic, it is best to overlook this one. An hour or so here would be plenty.

Ratnagiri is home to some popular ancient temples and has some marvelous Konkan cuisine as well and maybe I can stop by on another road-trip to check it out. Let me know if you’ve ever explored this area or this beach! Would love to know what you think.

I visited another gorgeous beach in my home-state of Goa recently. You may like to check out my post on it – Grandmother’s Hole Beach. Also, stay tuned for all the details on my road-trip from Mumbai to Goa.

Until then, follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram! Ciao!

If you’re a man who understands and respects the value of time, wearing a watch is an inherent part of your daily routine. Just like the rest of your outfit, your watch is a great way to leave a lasting first impression. A sophisticated timepiece holds the power to narrate your life story, ironically, without uttering a word. Of all types of watches and what they say about you, chronograph watches are undoubtedly one of the most sought-after timekeeping devices of today’s day and age; safely positioning you in the category of men who are sure of where they are and where they want to be.

Luxury watches for men, that can be found at Ethos Watch Boutiques, come in various shapes and sizes, boasting of multiple functionalities – be it date, seconds hand, chronometer, tachymeter and the like. Of all these, the chronograph functionality has found a loyal base amongst influential men across generations. Literally translating to ‘time writer’, the chronograph coupled with date functionality makes your wristwatch the most important accessory in your wardrobe – one you wouldn’t be willing to step out of the house without. It is more than just a fancy aesthetic addition to your watch. With its ability to accurately record time with precision, your watch is made all the more powerful and indispensable. Going beyond their traditional use for timing races, contemporary chronograph watches have found practical use in the modern man’s everyday life – you can track your evening run, fitness routine, cooking time and the list goes on.

Owning a luxurious timepiece with the functionality of a chronograph is an invaluable addition to your trunk of accessories, one that’ll successfully stand the test of time. Here’s looking at 3 Chronograph Must-Have Watches this season:

Rado – Diamaster Collection

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No matter your personal definition of style, you’ll find your match in the . Popular for its easily legible dial, the range of timepieces boasts of a chronograph, small seconds totalizer and a date display. The collection is a flawless amalgamation of durability, class, elegance and functionality; an ideal fit for any man willing to go the extra mile to leave a lasting first impression. For a practical yet ultra polished look, go for a clean white dial strapped in with a perforated leather strap (fascinatingly inspired by driving gloves).

  1. Longines – Watchmaking Tradition Collection

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The Longines Watchmaking Tradition Collection of timepieces is an exemplification of immaculate craftsmanship, premium technology and elegant aesthetics. Living up to the high standards set by Longines in the world of time keeping, the collection is proof why the brand name is used synonymously with trust, credibility and timeless style. Keeping durability as a top priority, every model from the collection is encased with sapphire crystal glass to ensure scratch resistance and endurance. In terms of shape, the cases range from timeless tonneau to classic circular designs, made from materials such as 18k gold and polished stainless steel. The collection is made extra special with its advanced chronographic models, boasting of secondary tracks and varied sub-dials.

  1. TAG Heuer – Carrera Collection

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If you enjoy the thrill of high speed, the Carrera collection by Tag Heuer is bound to be a favorite. Initially designed exclusively for drivers and racers, today the collection has evolved to find mass appeal in the world of timekeeping. With cutting edge technology and awe-inspiring design – characteristic to five decades of its existence – the Carrera collection truly serves as an inspiration for other watchmakers. It has emerged as a flag bearer of chronograph watches, setting high standards in terms of aesthetics, practicality and precision. The Carrera dial is known for its easy readability, complimented by noteworthy features such as waterproof, shockproof and anti-magnetic qualities.

https://www.ethoswatches.com/brands/tag-heuer/carrera.html

For a man who realizes the value of design, practicality and luxury packed in one strong piece of timekeeping machinery, any of the above mentioned chronograph watches are a must-have this season. Find yourself a watch that perfectly encapsulates your unique sense of style and fashion.

How are you doing, guys?

After a quiet monsoon season of catching up on work and building my marketing agency, I’ve suddenly found myself drowning in blog posts. Just two months ago, things seemed to have stagnated and this blog, That Goan Girl, seemed to have plateaued. But post my trip home to Goa, where I reviewed at least half a dozen restaurants, I’m back in Mumbai and it’s literally raining collaborations and feature requests again. While my pickiness about who I feature here and talk to you about does filter a lot of brands/restaurants out, there are quite a few that are worth talking about.

Pa Pa Ya is one of them! Casual, yet fine-dining, luxurious, yet edgy, Zorawar Kalra’s restaurant has been on my radar for the longest time. His other restaurants, Masala Library and Farzi Cafe are both mighty impressive, and employ the concept of molecular gastronomy, of which, he is the master.

pa pa ya ambience

AMBIENCE

I’ve peeked in at Pa Pa Ya’s Lower Parel outlet as I’ve walked past on many occasions and boy, does it ooze glamour! My review was held at the Colaba outlet and it was just as chic! This dimly lit modern Asian bistro had touches of crimson and an ample amount of their hexagon motifs everywhere. While downstairs is much more spacious, especially with the high ceiling, it is not quite the case upstairs.

pa pa ya ambience colaba

SERVICE

The service was quick, the staff was knowledgeable, but for the life of me, I couldn’t understand a word my waiter said. He literally spoke so fast that after a couple of dishes arrived, whenever I saw him approach with something new, I kept the menu ready for him to simply point out what the dish was. Anyway, I can’t deny that the knowledge was all there, because whenever I asked him what seasoning was used, he would rattle off without any hesitation.

FOOD

What makes Zorawar Kalra’s many restaurants stand out is that for the longest time, he’s been redefining what it means to cook ‘authentic’ food. Not quite traditional, not quite modern, most of the food plays with flavors from other cultures, creating an entirely new take on cuisines that have long remained the same. His brilliant knowledge of molecular gastronomy and one look at the menu confirms that here too, it’s all about experimentation. Here’s what I tried from the long and confusing 16-page menu.

Crispy Lotus Root – We were first brought the Amuse Bouche – a basil compressed watermelon in lemongrass and chilly foam served on a seashell with some smoking dry ice below. It popped like a bubble bursting in my mouth and released all its delicious flavour, making way for the Lotus Root that was brought quickly after.

crispy lotus roots

Sticky, sweet, slightly caramelized and just a slight hint of spice! The crispy lotus root from Pa Pa Ya is so crispy, you can break it with a satisfying *snap*

I’m so addicted to crispy starters, and this one was no exception! It came with a cool, creamy avocado dip for balance.

Sushi Tree – Sushi lovers like myself have often wished that this Japanese staple would grow on trees, and at Pa Pa Ya, they do! Various types of colourful nigiri are placed on the branches of this wooden tree and at the base are pickled ginger and wasabi. Apart from the traditional tuna and salmon sushi with caviar on top, there were two interesting nigiri as well. I particularly liked the ‘carbon sushi with rice balls’ which are coloured jet black with squid ink and had rice-crispy-balls on top for crunch. Another great ‘fruit’ of the tree was spicy tuna roll with seaweed that had a 7 powdered-spice mix coated on the sides. Loved every bite!

sushi tree pa pa ya colaba

sushi tree pa pa ya

Lamb and Mandarin Bee Hun – This looked like a piece of art! Translucent steamed potato and rice wrappers stuffed with mandarin flavoured lamb was cooked to perfection. It was served with a tiny bit of black bean sauce which worked wonders in elevating the dish.

lamb mandarin bee hun

Kale and Pakchoy Gaozi – This may be a hit with the vegetarians, but I wasn’t a fan. The delicate mushroom parcels were served with a crispy-starchy potato shell. Presentation wise it was quite messy – random splotches of sauce on the plate with microgreens strewn around carelessly. The waiter suggested rolling the mushroom in the papad-like coverings and while that added texture, it was pretty strange, I must admit.

Beet Infused Dim Sum – A colourful twist to dimsum, Pa Pa Ya kept it natural with bright pink beet infused wrappers stuffed with sautéed leeks, chestnuts, celery and spring onions. It was served with yuzu soya foam on top as garnish and looked refreshingly different. The flavours here seemed very Indian and it could be the use of spices. It was good, but not wow. What saved it for me was that texture wise, silken wrappers paired with the crispy filling was interesting.

beet infused dimsum pa pa ya

Pla Samrot Gung – I looove sweet-and-sour flavour profiles so the Pla Samrot Gung was a hit in my books. You may find the flavour here overlapping with many of the dishes on the menu though. Plump tiger prawns were coated in piquant Thai sauce, served on a bed of pea sauce with a beautiful dehydrated slice of pineapple for garnish which was dry and chewy at the same time. Ah-mazing!

pla samrot gung pa pa ya

Pork Belly Skewers – Again, mildly sweet but oh, how buttery!! This is Pa Pa Ya’s version of Japanese Pork Belly Skewers and it is glazed with mirin and soy sauce. Chargrilled, slightly sticky and utterly melt-in-your-mouth good, this was simply irresistible. Check out the presentation!

pork skewers papaya

pork skewers pa pa ya

Wasabi Rice – Not something I’d ordinarily order, but I’ve had some good luck going with the staff’s suggestions and once again, this one was a win! Don’t let the name scare you away, this dish won’t set your nostrils aflame. The rice is slightly sticky, fragrant and with an ever-so-slight tinge of wasabi. The tiny diced bell peppers added colour and bite to it.

wasabi rice pa pa ya

Lamb Rendang Curry – Its hard picking a favourite dish here, but this one came out tops. To call the meat ‘tender’ would be an understatement – it literally fell off the bone at the slightest touch. That gravy, guys!! Mind blowing! Infused with strong spices with a dash of coconut cream, it was irresistible I didn’t like the lachha paratha it was served with, but then I like my rotis fully cooked – so it comes down to personal taste on that front. Definitely don’t leave Pa Pa Ya without digging into this one.

lamb rendang pa pa ya

Pad Thai Noodles – Unlike the other items that were either sweet-ish or rich, this one was quite basic in comparison. Tossed noodles with scrambled egg, peanuts and capsicum and slightly on the oily side.

pad thai noodles pa pa ya

Braised Sliced Chicken in Chilly Sauce – As I write this, around a fortnight after visiting Pa Pa Ya, nothing about this dish stands out. I’d definitely skip this on the next visit because there are stellar items on the menu and this one doesn’t quite match up.

chicken chilly sauce pa pa ya

Flaming Chocolate Ball – Pa Pa Ya’s signature dessert has very ordinary elements put together to form a whimsical creation. Scoops of ice cream inside a chocolate ball, some cookie crumble, nuts, whipped cream, orange liqueur, chunks of chocolate brownie and a bit of chocolate ganache. It is set ablaze with 15 mls of alcohol and the blue flames slowly reveal the ice cream within. Taste-wise it wasn’t Pa Pa Ya worthy, but it did add some theatre! The video of its sapphire blue flames are on my Instagram page.

flaming chocolate ball pa pa ya

At Pa Pa Ya, the food speaks, and how! It is a feast for the eyes and the taste buds. The restaurant takes any notions you have of Asian Food and turns it around, giving you an experience you’ll never forget.

Address: Hotel Diplomat, Whitehouse Building, 24-26, B. K. Boman Behram Marg, Apollo, Bund, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400001

Cost for 2: Rs. 3000/-

See you next time! Until then, follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and check out my last posts on The Oak Barrel and Caravela Cafe

xoxo

P.S. My meal was sponsored, however, views, as always, are my own

Remote, outworldly, spellbinding!

The glistening ice-clad peaks and acres upon acres of white have has caused Antartica to be on the bucket list of scores of travellers. I’m sure that Antartica, even in my wildest imagination can’t compare to its actual beauty and the overwhelming power of nature in reality. A landscape dotted with adorable penguins, the sounds of bellowing elephant seals and the ice cracking as the ship sails ahead, the rush of ice-cold wind…

Seems ethereal, doesn’t it?

pexels-photo-258112

Antarctica is a land of inspiration and soul-awakening. In fact, ‘trip-of-a-lifetime’ somehow seems like a lame cliché to describe it, but it’s the closest we’ll ever get. Cruises have made it possible, and even comfortable for visitors to experience the sheer size and grandeur of Antarctica, and while there are many of these, the Q seems to stand out.

Through The Q Experiences a luxury cruise, Le Soleal will be transporting 200 Indians to answer the mysterious call of the South. Departing from Ushuaia, the city at the edge of the world, on the 9th of December, this 11-day cruise will take guests through the Drake Passage, named after the first daring voyager to venture into these waters.

Two days into the journey, visitors will feast their eyes on the South Pole in the distance, growing larger as they approach and on Day 4, they will get to experience Neko Bay. On Day 5 and 6, they venture to land again, in the unforgiving cold. Weather permitting, they will visit Pleneau Island, an ice-covered, desolate place that is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts. Day 7 takes visitors to Deception Island, which is steeped in history, being a port that has served as a base for seal hunters, but is also a whaling station and a research centre.

They begin sailing away on Day 8 and slowly, traces of Antarctica begin to fade on Day 9 and 10. On day 11, the air feels different as they make their way back to Argentina from where, if guests wish, they can stay back and visit other breath-taking sights on their own – Machu Pichu, the Amazon, the Galapagos Islands and the Andes.

All through the journey, a team of chefs will be hard at work to ensure guests dine on food worthy of a luxury cruise. Chef Atul Kochhar, a 2 star Michelin Chef will oversee Indian food alongside his counterparts catering to other cuisines. I recently got the chance to have a chat with him and his excitement was contagious! He is also thrilled to be going to work alongside Chef Allain Ducasse, the godfather of French cuisine.

soya kheema kulcha the q experiences

“For the French,” Chef Atul says, “Indian food is just curry. I want to showcase how extensive our palate is.” He adds, “every journey teaches me something and I want to see what this one teaches me.”

food thewhitecontinent.com

Chef Atul tells me that preparations are already underway for the mammoth journey and his dry ingredients have been dispatched to South America. The fresh produce will be bought before boarding the ship and will last him 3-4 days. Then, as fresh produce stocks deplete, he will be challenged to satisfy the demands of the passengers with dry ingredients. He laughingly says that as produce depletes, that’s when Indian cravings start kicking in – and people crave some dal and rice, vada pao or butter chicken. And he looks forward to meeting these demands in the most creative way possible.

atul kochhar the q antactica

Some of the dishes I sampled included Soya Kheema Kulcha, Lapeth Thoka, Rajma Chawal Tikki, Coronation Chicken, Carrot Baklava and White Chocolate Brownie.
dessert luxury cruise antarctica

While sailing to the white continent with Q Experiences seems unlikely at this time, at least my taste buds got to travel to the white continent!

Oh well, maybe someday!

If you’d like to know more, check out the White Continent website

Bye!!

In a very short span of time, India has taken leaps in terms of development and adoption of online payment systems. For a country that always relied on hard cash to make payments, digital means have not only caught up, but is on-par, and will soon overtake cash dealings. It could be the whole #DigitalIndia movement to drive India into becoming a cashless society, or maybe the horror of having to stand in bank lines for days when one fine morning, the money you hold is no longer legal tender (courtesy PM dearest).

Reasons aside, have you ever wondered what takes place when you make an instant online payment to shop for apparel online? What happens in those few seconds between entering your card details and receiving the “Transaction Successful” SMS on your phone? What happens when you walk into an Axis Bank ATM with your SBI Card and withdraw money? How do these two different communicate internally and give you the cash you need? Or when you enter your CVV number and pay for a ride through your Uber app?

NPCI

An organization you’ve probably never heard of, the National Payments Corporation of India touches every one of these transactions. The NPCI is an umbrella organization for operating retail payments and settlement systems in India. The world of finance is intriguing and vast and I jumped at the chance to get a first-hand interaction with the company that provides the infrastructure for the entire banking system in India – physical as well as electronic.

National Payments Corp of India

The National Payment Corporation of India has launched a host of digital services since its inception in 2010. Each of these services are aimed at furthering the electronic payment system to make India a financial inclusive economy.

A few of these services include

UPI (United Payment Interface which merges multiple bank accounts of any bank into seamless fund routing and merchant payment through an app)

USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data is an app that works without the internet, enabling transactions to be made by Indians all over the country by dialling a common number, *99#)

IMPS (Immediate Payment Service enabling money transfers through banks around the clock through one’s account number and IFSC, Mobile Number or Aadhar Card.)

Bhim Aadhaar – An app that allows merchants to accept payment for goods and services by authenticating a customer’s biometrics

Aadhar Enabled Payment System – A bank account linked with Aadhaar information lets you turn your Aadhar card into an ATM Card, allowing users holding an account in one bank to transact through another bank.

Bharat QR – Login to your bank’s app, scan the Bharat QR code at an outlet and pay for goods!

…. And a host of others!

kunal kalawatia NPCI

I got an in-depth understanding of two of NPCI’s most popular instruments – RuPay and BHIM

Many of you probably have a RuPay card already. RuPay cards are issued by banks and increase the efficiency of small ticket payments electronically. This is a standardized scheme for all banks in India and currently Rupay accounts for 30% of ATM transactions plus 22% of all shopping transactions. The figures are rising due to some lucrative offers RuPay Card holders can avail of such as deals at dining outlets, shopping, jewellery, lounge access and more.

Deep Sood RuPay NPCI

800+ banks are currently participating with 380 million cards issued already. Within the existing debit card space, Rupay offers different products for different segments and offers payment options across channels – ATMs, POS, E-commerce and Aadhar based transactions on micro ATMS. The switching fees are almost 1/3rd that of International Card Schemes (ICS). RuPay has a strategic tie up with Discover Financial Services and Japan Credit Beaureau to offer international acceptance globally.

BHIM allows you to go cashless anywhere, at any time yet have a simple, secure way to pay. This 24×7 instant money transfer service app allows you to scan and pay, collect and receive oney with a click, instantly. A direct bank to bank transfer is possible using a mobile number/aadhar card/account number and IFSC code. Users can also generate and share a personal QR code and receive instant notifications for every transaction. No more running to ATMs and rendering exact change!

Anubhav Sharma NPCI

The informative session I had with Mr. Kunal Kalawatia (SVP Marketing and Branding), Deep Sood (AVP – Product Development- RuPay) and Anubhav Sharma (AVP – Product Development – BHIM) was intense. I’ve tried to cover the salient points in this blog post, but if you have any questions, comment below and I’ll try my best to answer them.

Hope you enjoyed this change of pace on That Goan Girl. See you next time!

Whew!

I’ve finally come to the end of my string of restaurant reviews in Goa. From Tio Tillys to Yaki Zushi, Marriott to Grand Hyatt, Caravela Cafe to Cluck Tales – this trip sure had me piling on the kilos.

the oak barrel

However, I was certain that I left the best for last when I checked out The Oak Barrel in Miramar with my brother one evening. Situated a few minutes before the Miramar Circle, the restaurant is fairly new and hard to miss as you drive past.

oak barrel goa interiors

The Oak Barrel caters to the older generation. On the day we visited, multiple tables had, what looked like 30-year-classmate-reunions happening. The energy, laughter and merriment was truly contagious.

AMBIENCE

The two-level restaurant has warm, tasteful interiors with a very relaxed ‘lounge’ feel to it. Downstairs the tables have high-stools, whereas upstairs the seating options vary between long couches for large groups and very low chairs for parties of twos and threes. The chairs aren’t the comfiest in the world, especially for tall folks like we are.

oak barrel restaurant

A glitzy bar greets you as you enter and as you make your way upstairs, you’ll find a waist-high glass-paneled cubicle in the center from where one could stand and look down over the bar. This area had beautiful paper lanterns in all shapes and sizes and added some romance and colour to the otherwise earthy space. Lovely!!

the oak barrel panjim goa

There were live crooners, Adrian and Dylan, the day I visited and they belted out one nostalgic hit after the other. Literally every table was singing along to MLTR songs. It almost seemed like one big jam-up session.

oak barrel goa live music

SERVICE

Kudos to the service staff! They were so prompt, attentive and experienced. I have to mention the young restaurant manager, Nathan, who handled the entire restaurant seamlessly, while finding time to mingle with each table and even serve patrons their meals. Complete hands-on attitude.

FOOD

Being a Pan Asian Restaurant, the menu is a mix of Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese food and the like. Nathan tells me that the food here doesn’t promise to be authentic, but it does promise to deliver on taste without compromising on the quality of ingredients. So while you won’t find “bland soupy” South East Asian fare in all its authenticity, you can sample some Indo-style twists that are more suited to the Indian palate.

Go Green + Passion Hunter – The cocktails were turned into mocktails for us teetotallers. I tried the Green Apple, a drink made with cucumber and green apple. Clean flavours, very hydrating and you could feel the coolness with every sip. My brother picked the Passion Hunter which was basically a mojito with passion fruit extract. Again, it was quite refreshing and tropical and we kept sipping each other’s drinks throughout.

Prawn Har Ghao – How good do these look? Prawn Har Gao are also known as crystal shrimp dumplings because the chunks of shrimp can be seen through the translucent wrapping. Being minimally spiced, you can taste all the fresh, juicy flavours. If you like momos, you’ll love these!

prawn hargao oak barrel goa

Exotic Veg Dimsum – Emerald green in colour and with such a gorgeous sheen! These were the first green dimsums I’ve seen and they taste as appetizing as they look. Just like the prawn har ghao, these were super juicy, yet firm. I couldn’t help but notice that even though I picked one up so many times to get that perfect photograph, it didn’t break apart like most do.

exotic veg dimsum oak barrel goa

Got to mention those sauces though – the dimsum was served with three sauces that were just spectacular! It’s hard to choose a favourite but the honey-pepper sauce had just a little more edge. I could drink that bowl of dipping sauce and I’m not even kidding!

Tossed Mushroom Trio – Every bite holds something new because this dish has so many textures. I bet I probably had a quizzical expression when I tried the Tossed Mushroom Trio because it just kept me guessing throughout. Succulent, buttery button mushroom, chewy Shittake, jelly-like-yet-crunchy black fungus mushroom, spongy-looking yet unusually crispy white fungus mushroom and smooth straw mushrooms all tossed in mild spices. It’s a party in your mouth!

Home style Pork – This one would pair well with drinks for sure. It was dry and just the right amount of salty to make it a perfect dish for a rainy day! Don’t think too much about ordering this one, it would make a good side dish for just about any rice-curry dish you order.

home style pork the oak barrel goa

Laksa – More like Khao Suey than Laksa, but there is a fine line between the two. This one-pot-wonder will strike every single tastebud with its vibrant flavour. Thick, luscious coconut-milk-based gravy with just a tinge of an elaborate spice mix loaded with noodles, veggies, chicken cubes and egg, garnished with tofu. I’ve always said that if something could be called a bowl of happiness, this would be it!

laksa the oak barrel goa

Massaman Curry and Jasmine Rice – The flavours slightly overlapped with the Laksa, but then again, this was a coconut-milk based gravy dish too. I’ve saved the best for last here and still thank my stars that Nathan recommended the Massaman Curry to us. This one deserves an Oscar! The lamb was meltingly tender, the curry was luxurious, complex, flavourful and we just couldn’t stop eating it, even after being so stuffed. Paired with some sticky jasmine rice, this was divine!

Coconut Caramel Custard – I didn’t think that the quintessential caramel custard could get any better, but the delicious hint and smell of coconut made it downright irresistible. We couldn’t stop digging in!

coconut caranel custard theioakbarrel

Homemade Ice Cream – We tried two flavours, cinnamon and coconut-jaggery and hands-down vote for the coconut! Dense, not too sweet and the taste takes centre stage.

Such a gem, this place! We left so pleased and satisfied! If you’re in Goa, definitely check them out and thank me later!

Address: The Oak Barrel. Near the Times Building. Dayanand Bandodkar Marg, Miramar, Panjim, Goa 

Cost for 2: Rs. 1,200/-

Got any restaurants or hotels you think I should feature on That Goan Girl? Drop me a comment or holla on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and I’ll be glad to drop by!

xoxo

Jade

P.S. My meal was sponsored, however, views, as always, are my own

The beaches closest to my home in North Goa are congested, chaotic and suffer from a serious overdose of people. Luckily, (or unluckily) for me, and in fact, my entire village, when people think of Goa’s sun-kissed beaches, the ones that immediately pop to mind are the ones that are a stones throw away from us.

So when I want to escape Lucifer’s heat, cool off and gaze at the beautiful Arabian Sea, I head away from the commercialized coastline in search of more subdued spots.

grandmothers hole platform

I happened to visit Grandmother’s Hole beach quite by chance. I was headed for a work-related meeting in that part of the state and when it ended, decided to go check it out. I hated the fact that I wasn’t wearing anything remotely close to beach-attire and didn’t click any pictures on the sand or in the water.

Anyways enough about my wardrobe!

To get to Grandmother’s Hole, GPS will guide you through Vasco, past the airport area and onward through Baina. It is quite accurate up to the last 500 meters or so, which is when the straight path suddenly turns into a maze of lanes. Stop and ask someone for directions or wander around and find it yourself – you will get there eventually as there’s no other place the roads can lead you to. They are either connected to each other or are dead-ends so you won’t be led further away.

grandmothers hole cross

By looking at the images, you’d think that this beach in South Goa is located at the end of a long walk through thick vegetation, but it is in fact, quite developed. You’ll pass an incongruous oil/petrol refinery-storage-unit in the sea as you drive past. If you see it, you’re on the right track.

Parking is available on the top of the cliff and on crossing a small park, you’ll have to make your way down 222 steps to get to this picturesque little sandy strip. I actually counted the steps on the calf-strained walk up the steps again. So unfit!

grandmothers hole vasco steps

grandmothers hole stairs

If you have older people amongst you, it’s better to let them enjoy the view from the park on top. Alternatively, the steps down are wide and even, making it a good place to sit up high and look at the palms swaying in the strong breeze down below, without a soul in sight.

grandmothers hole beach vasco goa

On your way down, you’ll come across a fort-wall through which you need to pass a little doorway, or “hole” after which the beach is named.

grandmothers hole south

grandmothers hole fort door

Grandmother’s Hole is a narrow sandy beach with jagged rocks on the shore as well as jutting out of the water. It is beautiful and almost deserted, which is one of the reasons I was tempted to visit and enjoy the tranquillity. I wouldn’t say it is safe to swim here, one, because of the rocks that can hurt you underwater, and two, because should you be in trouble in the water, there isn’t anyone around to help.

Being a refreshingly virgin beach, there are no beach shacks, stalls selling food or beach beds in sight. At max, you can perhaps bring a bed sheet and picnic here or click some amazing photos of the sunset on the beach without tourists in the background.

grandmothers hole south goa

grandmothers hole beach goa People always ask me for the “best beach” to go to in Goa, and honestly, I’m never sure of what to say. Grandmother’s Hole may be boring and lifeless to some, but for those who enjoy seclusion, it is blissful. The cliffs surrounding it, a tiny white cross that’s visible from anywhere on the beach and the sound of the crashing waves and screeching birds makes pretty spectacular. I, for one, love marinating in a new locale, taking in the sights, scents and sounds with zero agenda!

chamelion

Now that I’ve shared this reclusive spot with you, I hope I can count on you to leave it as is – trash-free and refreshingly noncommercial. We need to savour the few last spots we have left!

Stay tuned as I continue with the food adventures in Goa in my next post! Until then, you know where to find me – Twitter, Facebook and Instagram!

Cya!