Gusto is a wonderfully relaxed establishment that combines an emphasis on great ingredients from the area with local charm, style and panache. Located just off the maddening Candolim main road and tucked into a quiet lane, the restaurant is refreshing in every sense of the word! It doesn’t seek attention with flashy lights and live music. They focus on what they do, and trust that those with a good taste in food and looking for a quiet evening and will find their way there.

Jennifer and Bilal, the husband-wife duo running the restaurant are a charming pair, and give you the insider feel that you don’t get at more formal restaurants. I, for one, and I think most of us, love that homely touch when we dine out. The foodie-enthusiasm that they show wouldn’t be exuded quite as joyfully as in a larger enterprise.

AMBIANCE

On turning into a lane off the main road, Gusto is located a few hundred meters down, right next to the Literatti Book Shop. It was once called Tamarin, but a change of name and location has brought it where it is today.

gusto tamarin goa

Once you’ve arrived at this outdoor restaurant, take a seat under bright orange canopies. It makes a pleasant, breezy space for an afternoon lunch, and as the sun begins to set, you’ll notice that each canopy has a light bulb shielded with a basket for a rustic appeal. Bug spray on each table is effective enough to let you enjoy your meal, pest-free.  A little distance away, the magic happens in an indoor kitchen tucked out of sight behind a wall of bamboo.

SERVICE

While the staff is attentive and capable enough to answer questions, Jennifer is the force behind running the floor seamlessly. I couldn’t help but notice her cheery hellos and goodbyes to diners. She suggested a great mix of dishes that allowed me to sample a bit of the Kashmiri and Mediterranean menus, ensuring each course wouldn’t fill me up before the next.

Bilal, from Kashmir, manages the kitchen behind-the-scenes. In the brief conversation I had with him, I was amazed to learn about how he scoured the state to find the international-level produce – mozzarella, mutton and what have you, from suppliers in Goa, that I, being a local, haven’t ever heard of! He said he hadn’t studied cooking formally, yet his love for food was apparent in his words and shone through in the food he prepared.

FOOD

At first, the half-Kashmiri, half-Mediterranean menu can be a bit strange. But hey, if you do both equally well, it would be a shame to hide it.

Gazpacho + Beetroot and Mint Soup

I preferred the gazpacho to the beetroot and mint soup. Both were served chilled in little shot glasses but the gazpacho was delicious and not like watered-down salsa you get in many places. Made with chilled tomatoes, spring onions, olive oil and garlic, it’s great to get the appetite going before ordering mains.

gusto goa

Lebanese Beef Kibbeh

Kibbeh is the epitome of Middle Eastern comfort food. These were rounder, firmer and slightly drier than croquettes. The exterior was deliciously crispy, and surprisingly, there was not a drop of oil on it at all! So easy to fill up on these since they can be quite heavy!

lebanese beef kibbeh

Mushroom Kebabs

I could not get enough of these, they were SO GOOD! Gorgeous juicy mushrooms stuffed with parmesan, homemade pesto and pine nuts, roasted or sautéed and skewered on a stick. These were absolutely melt-in-your-mouth and the presentation turned the delicious outdoor appetizer into a classier version. Must Try!

gusto candolim mushroom pesto kebab

Israeli Sauteed Chicken

This chicken was divine, and is understandably Gusto’s bestseller. Every bite of the well-cooked, succulent chicken absorbed sweet and savoury orange sauce that really hits all the senses and taste buds. Just enough jus in the bowl lended flavour to the Mujadarra rice with black lentils. The dish was complete with cucumber cut into paper thin slices, pomegranate for a pop of flavour and mint for freshness. This dish was sheer poetry!

israeli chicken gusto goa

Mutton Biryani

Faultless! Before even tasting biryani, I look for the caramelized onions on top! Was instantly pleased with this one and it just kept getting better from there. Fragrant rice, scrumptious chunks of meltingly-tender mutton, ghee, saffron and the taste of fresh herbs and spices cooked together. Another winning dish from Gusto and we polished off every last grain of it.

mutton biryani gusto goa

Rogan Josh

The aromatic lamb dish of Persian origin, is one of the signature recipes of Kashmiri cuisine. This was yet another sensory striking dish – it’s thick gravy marked with its vibrant red hue, brimming with flavour. Again, the lamb chunks were ultra soft and came apart at the slightest insistence. Mutton lovers will recognize the premium cuts of lamb used by the lack of sinew and presence of a delicious layer of fatty goodness. First timers, don’t be alarmed by all the red you see, it’s not fiery hot at all!

Wangun Ruwangan

I’m a huge fan of brinjal/aubergine, especially when paired with a tomato based gravy. This dish with a funny name had fried baby aubergines cooked with tamarind and spice-spiked tomato sauce. Zingy gravy and deliciously mushy brinjal! This is one of those wonderful dishes created with minimalistic ingredients but packing a ton of flavour.

wangun ruwangun gusto goa

Phirni

I overdosed on Phirni this year and swore to stay off it because it was getting boring and monotonous. But when Bilal said he gave it his own spin, I decided to give it a shot, seeing as how he hit the ball out of the park with every other dish. While it was much better in terms of looks and texture, what put me off was the cardamom. I’m not a fan of evil little elaichi when its presence is overly felt.

phirni gusto goa

Coconut Ice Cream

Move over, Naturals Ice Cream! This handmade ice cream has to be tried to be believed. Ultra creamy, smooth and satisfying and surpassing other coconut ice creams by miles!

Overall, the chef-owners have developed a harmonious menu that is thoughtful, aestically well presented and stripped of any pretentions. Both types of cuisine are filled with expertise and sophistication and its worth visiting, not just to eat, but to relish an extraordinary dining experience in the most casual atmosphere.

Meal for 2 – Rs. 1500- Rs. 1800

Address – Literati Bookshop, Gaura Vaddo, Calangute, Goa 403515, India

Check out my post featuring Mustard, which serves French and Bengali cuisine, bound together by a common ingredient! Also, don’t miss some authentic Goan fare at Goan Stories at Vivanta by Taj!

Catch up with you soon! Till then, you can find me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Hey Guys!

I know I’ve been MIA for around 2 weeks, but you know how hectic trips home are! Seriously!

When I was studying, going home to Goa meant lazing around, sleeping, eating my fave dishes that Mum cooked and sleeping some more.

Now, before I even reach home, I have a list of restaurants to visit and I eat out more than I eat in. I love it because that means I get to tell YOU GUYS where to find the BEST when you go on a short trip to Goa. Because who has time for mediocre food, right?

This November, I went to surprise my uncle who came home to Goa from the US after 9 whole years. Imagine his craving for authentic Goan food after that long a time. At every restaurant we went, we scanned the menu for some Goan sausage, vindaloo and xacuti because when you’re home for a week, you can’t waste an opportunity to eat that! Of course, most restaurants do it all wrong.

Goans, I know you’ll agree with me here. Our food is complex. Preparing it takes ages. I’ve never seen my grandmother use powders and pastes for as long as she lived. She’d sit out in the balcony and grind masalas on stone, scrape fresh coconut, tap into her stores for vinegar and toddy every single day – and the results showed in every last drop that we’d lick up. The quick, half-hearted ways that many restaurants cook these days is a sham! And sadly, most tourists will never know true Goan food, if they don’t step away from the beach belt.

AMBIANCE

I was invited by Vivanta by Taj, Panjim to check out their new restaurant, Goan Stories. The hotel is located right in the middle of Panjim and isn’t surrounded with acres of greenery and a view of the sea. On entering a small, but well spaced-out lobby, Goan Stories is located on the left of it. At first glance, it does appear quite bare and not as opulent as you’d expect a restaurant in the Taj to be. The tables and chairs are well spaced out and a wooden bar stretches along one end.

At one point, this restaurant, called Tease, was solely a bar. It has now been converted into a restaurant-cum-bar so that it sees footfall all day long, and not just during the evening hours. Goan Stories is relatively new. Still, you can’t help but notice the thought that’s gone behind every touch point.

goan stories taj vivanta goa

Starting with the music! Thankfully, it wasn’t one of those dreary old Konkani playlists but upbeat and super fun songs that are apt for a tiatr. In one of the songs, the singer enthusiastically sung about how he ate a green chilly and his rear-end was now on fire. Totally had us in splits!!

Even the napkins that were neatly placed like a bow on the plates was a Kunbi weave, a craft that is slowly dying out. The kunbis are the aboriginal settlers of Goa and I’m told that to get this particular fabric and pattern, the team hunted the length and breadth of Goa, in the end, finding an old man who was still in the trade, with thoughts of closing down his business. Luckily, Goan Stories now has cloth napkins in the original Kunbi weave style.

kunbi weave taj vivanta goan stories

SERVICE

Well-informed, smartly dressed boys managed the floor with no hitches. If you’ve been reading my reviews, you’ll know I don’t give shout-outs unless really warranted! Thank you, Marvin D’costa, for the apt suggestions and pleasant conversation.

The bartender makes a pretty good martini!

vivanta taj goan stories

FOOD

Let’s not waste any time beating around the bush here! The food was epic from start to finish! Chef Rego, a renowned name in the food industry for preserving Goan cuisine worldwide, has supervised the entire process of putting together the menu at Goan Stories. Most dishes was flawless. I only wished my appetite allowed me to sample it all!

The menu was another element I loved about the restaurant – it came in a huge shell and on opening it, the booklet was stuck to the shell’s hinges. Lovely!!

Flavoured butter!

OMG this was to-die-for! The bread basket had tiny poees, the katro pao (shaped like a butterly) and the much-loved-but-rarely-seen-anymore, kakonn, shaped like a hard bangle. Three flavours of butters arrived too – xacuti, piri piri and cafreal. While it may sound off-putting at first, these were INSANELY yum. It was against our better judgement to fill ourselves up on bread, but we just couldn’t resist those butters. I hope they bottle it up and sell some soon! Oh, and four types of pickles came with the bread, too.

flavoured butter goan stories taj vivanta

thatgoangirl goan stories

Beef and Fish Potato Chops

Goan snacks are incomplete without chops! While the beef chop was pretty great, the fish one wasn’t fishy-enough. Possibly because there was potato mixed in with the fish. It would have been great with some great fusion-sauce, like the butter. I ordered sample portions of these, hence there are only a few on each plate.

snacks goan stories taj vivanta

Rissois

One of my favourite Goan snacks, the rissois usually comes with minced prawn inside. However, in order to keep the veg-non veg balance, these were filled with spinach and corn. LOVED it! The delicious outer shells were beautifully coated with breadcrumbs and so crispy, and the inside had that delicious silky smooth texture, just like prawn rissois are. Must try!

potato chops goan stories vivanta taj

Goan Sausage Chilly Fry

Most Goans know how good these sausages are by the smell alone. For me, just the thought of the heady aroma of spiced, tangy, smoked and sundried goan choriz is something that makes me drool. My rule of thumb is if you can smell it from 500 meters away, it’s gotta be delish! The choriz here ticked all the boxes – robust, packed with rich flavour, and all the delicious juices intact, soaked up in the onions. Gosh, I’m salivating just writing about it!

goan sausages chorizo goan

Crab Xec Xec

Huge red rock crabs cooked in delicious spiced coconut gravy tastes like the coast! When crab xec xec is made from scratch like this was, you’ll taste the complexity of the spice mix and feel the flavours unfold in every bite.  I’ll let the picture do the talking here, but I’ll say this – we had runny noses while eating it. And that = gooooood!

crab xec xec goan stories

Chicken Xacuti

An absolute Goan favourite, and you can’t leave without trying it! The chicken xacuti is much milder than the crab xec xec and we ordered 2 sannas to go with it as rice came along with the dish! Absolutely yum and we mopped up the thick, fragrant curry with deliciously sweet sannas!

chicken xacuti goa goan stories

Sera Durra

The last time I was in Goa, I went to 6-8 restaurants in the hope of tasting Sera Durra, a dessert my family reserves for special occasions. It features layers of biscuit crumbs and whipped cream and the trick to getting it right is whipping the cream just enough, not more – not less, to achieve the right consistency. Many places use sweeteners and gelatin, thereby affecting the taste. The Sera Durra here ended our meal on the perfect note. We were so stuffed, that this light, not-too-sweet dessert topped with berries was just what we needed.

serra durra goa goan stories

This was definitely one of the finest Goan meals I’ve had. Tourists, foodies, everyone, put this on your map the next time around! It will set the bar in terms of authentic Goan food.

I’m sharing pictures and stories of my recent trip to sunny Goa, and current trip to freeezing Canada on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Come along!

Hey! Welcome back!

Can you believe we’re in December already? I’ve been in Goa for the last 10 days or so, and I hoped to catch up on my posts, but as usual, there’s so much to do here, in my home-state, that I have EVEN MORE to fill you in on!

In case you missed it, check out the highlight of my November – the World Fair Trade Week in New Delhi, where I spent 7 days learning about the fair trade movement.

No, it’s not one of those boring history-economics type of ‘movements.’ It has something to do with how we live every day, the products we use and the clothes we wear. It’s hard to fathom that if everyone made a conscious decision to support poverty-stricken farmers, weavers and artisans rather than already-rich MNCs, the world would be so much richer in terms or art, and fairer, by providing a decent living to everyone.

While the World Fair Trade Conference fed me all the info, it was the Fair Utsav and Fashion Show that drove the point home.

fair utsav dlf place

indian handicrafts

The Fair Utsav was held in the courtyard of DLF Place, a mall in Saket. Over 100 stalls saw craftsmen from around the country sell their wares – accessories, clothes, trinkets, jams, pickles, cloth, shoes, and artifacts made of cane. These items were made by hand through trade secrets passed down from generation to generation and many were symbolic of the area from where these craftsmen came.

indian artisan

artisan fron india

The sheer variety was outstanding and in many cases, you would never have guessed it was handmade at all! The attention to detail and perfection in many items could fool someone into thinking it was bought at a luxury market. And in fact, many ARE sold in luxury markets at quadruple the price, while these artists struggle for their next meal. They don’t have the means or knowledge to open an e-store and as their reach is limited, NGOs step in to help them sell to a wider audience.

handicraft shoes delhi

DLF Place fair utsav

I could think of a dozen friends who’d love bags and accessories like these, and I’m sure you do, too. Sadly, as is our nature and habit, the next time a birthday is around the corner, we’ll all rush to the mall to pick out a gift instead. That’s probably why we need to turn into fair trade consumers – the items are gorgeous and unique, the cause is worth it and all it takes is a little extra effort and will to support local craftsmen by buying local.

artisan jewelry

artisan bags

fair utsav delhi

The Fair Trade Fashion show was probably the highlight of the event! I always thought sustainable, fair fashion was restricted to khadi items. You know – those loose dresses and kurtas! I first got a real glimpse into it when I checked out Ninoshka’s workshop. But nothing could have prepared me for all this fair-trade glam! <3

The Fashion show conducted in collaboration with the  Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region, North East. It was held at NIFT in Delhi and 7 brands showcased their collections and amazed the crowd with the ingenuity of their designs coupled with social responsibility.

Upasana from Auroville focuses on ‘design for change,’ and the brand showcased its Indigo Collection made using khadi (handspun cloth), organic cotton grown by local farmers and Khadi Jamdani, a traditional weaving technique.

upasana artisans

The brand Sasha from Kolkata is engaged with over 5000 artisans, 100 craft enterprises and 16 craft lines, connecting craftsmen to new audiences. The collection showcased ensembles primarily for women in woven textiles and Kantha embroidery.

sasha fair trade

Mahila Umang was next, a collective of women farmer-producer members and is located in Uttarakhand. Through a consolidated network of 1500 members involved in various viable business activities, small, yet significant income is made and every business activity is directly controlled by the producer group. All the garments were hand knitted by the women of Uttarakhand.

mahila umang

Rangsutra, the next brand is a community owned craft company comprising of artisans from remote regions of India. Rangsutra ensures sustainable livelihoods for farmers and artisans by creating top quality handmade products celebrating India’s rich craft heritage.

rangsutra

rangsutra fair trade

GoCoop, an award winning company for hand loom marketing owns a brand, The Good Loom, the designs of which were also showcased. Like all their collections, this menswear line symbolized a thoughtful approach to retail, the environment and Indian arts and crafts.

the good loom

Eco Tasar Silk Pvt Ltd runs a sustainable and commercially competitive textile business to help generate wage opportunity for rural based producers like yarn makers, weavers, dyers etc. Through these activities, small artisans and producers do not need to migrate in search of work.

eco tasar

Lastly, the AagorWeavers from Assam showcased a vibrant collection and even had a weaver walk the ramp, much to the delight of the audience.

aagor weavers assam

I’d also like to give a special mention to the brand  Ethic Attic by Fairkonnect, who help their clients source ethically produced, sustainable and Fair trade products. All the ambassadors and hosts were presented with an Ethic Attic stole during the course of the conference.

ethic attic

Models walked the ramp to the mesmerizing voice of Sunita Bhuyan, a leading violinist and singer who blew the crowd away with her breathtaking performance. Finally, the event was brought to a close by Fashion designer Jay Ramrakiani who created some gorgeous designs especially for the occasion.

jai ramrakhiani

Hope you enjoyed reading about my experience at the World Fair Trade Conference, organized by World Fair Trade Organization and Fair Trade Forum – India. Do try and visit one of these exhibitions and buy fair trade products when you can. We’re in dire need of protecting age old crafts in this age of technology, and a little support goes a long way.

Next up, all the adventures here in Goa! See you soon!

As most of you know from my barrage of posts on social media, I recently attended the World Fair Trade Conference at Crowne Plaza, Delhi from 9-14th November 2017. It took me until now to actually sit down and write about it, because over the course of that one week, I was exposed to so many new things, met delegates from all over the world and was bombarded with information. I needed to sort out my thoughts before actually blogging about it in order to do justice to the experience.

A lot of you asked me how I landed up at a fair trade conference, when it has little to do with my areas of interest – food and travel. Well, opportunities like these don’t come along everyday and I was privileged to the only blogger invited by Escape To. Secondly, a lot of us, including me, are experts in our own field of work but there’s a mind-boggling amount of things we don’t know and may never know.

So I decided that even if my experiences and learning is just the tip of the iceberg in the field of Fair Trade, it’s better than knowing nothing at all.

Until I visited the Fair Trade Week organized by WFTO and FTFI, the terms ‘fair trade,’ ‘sustainable fashion,’ and ‘marginalized artisans’ were just words I read on labels. It was eye-opening to witness how many NGOs and organizations around the world work to uplift farmers, weavers and craftsmen, helping them to prevent being exploited by the middleman.

While a lot of these artisans live in poverty, practicing age-old crafts and keeping tradition alive, their wares are sold in luxury markets around the world. Yet, due to poverty, they’re forced to abandon their craft which slowly dies out. Fair trade helps them get fair wages for their labour, have a decent lifestyle and carry on their legacy by connecting them to fair trade consumers.

delegates wfto

The experience was intense, with a good mix of fun, networking, workshops and talks. Delegates would assemble at the Crowne Plaza at 9 am everyday for a keynote address by renowned name in the Fair Trade industry, followed by workshops, lunch-break, workshops again and then dinner. There was a Fair Utsav at DLF Saket and Fair Fashion Show at NIFT Delhi, followed by an outdoor dinner at a restaurant called Junction. A day would typically start at 9 am and end at around 9 pm or later.

On Day 1, Rudy Dalvai, the very charismatic President of WFTO aptly said, “As we’re in the peak of global economic changes, farmers struggle to survive, shops close and new sales channels emerge. It is a responsibility to ensure that these changes are positive and don’t create new poverty, Fair trade needs to be discovered in small things and needs to be rediscovered every day.”

rudi dalvai president wfto

Panchaksharam, member of the the Fair Trade Forum India who co-organized the event gave participants glimpses of the WFTO conferences through the past 14 years in all parts of the world, also sharing fun anecdotes. This was followed by Mallikarjuna Iytha, President of Fair Trade Forum India thanking participants for choosing India as the venue for the event as it will build credibility among policy circles. He expressed that fair trade can eliminate poverty and each case strengthens his belief that inclusion is possible and is the means to sustainable development.

keynote speaker wfto

Tomasz Kozlowski, European Union Ambassador to India also delivered an enlightening speech, stressing that Fair Trade is high on the EU agenda and there is a need to make manufacturers aware that Fair Trade is not a burden but an opportunity. “There is a need for clear governance in favour of Fair Trade,” he said.

keynote speakers wfto

While all the keynote speakers were brilliant, Devinder Sharma and Vandana Shiva had the most impact on me, personally.

Devinder Sharma is a food trade policy analyst and was once a leading Indian Express journalist. He said that the problem with mainline economics was that it covers how damaging unfair trade is through fancy words. With over 3,30,000 farmer suicides in 20 years due to income insecurity, globalization has destroyed livelihoods. India boasts of 8% rise in growth but there aren’t enough jobs,” he says. “If a tree is standing, GDP doesn’t change. If the tree is cut down, money changes hands and GDP increases. Don’t believe growth is the path to development. Believe in sustainable development.” Devinder Sharma also stated, “Importing food is importing unemployment. China has reduced its grain prices for the first time in 10 years. Fair trade can bring change to those who never dreamt of it and these changes have to move towards ecological stabilization.”

devinder sharma wfto delhi

Dr. Vandana Shiva, an activist for peace, sustainability and social justice had a message for small fair organizations fighting against giants – “We need to promote skilled entrepreneurship without migration.” Her words were backed by decades of experience and she shared snippets of the work she’s been a part of in various parts of the world. Vandana said that while coffee producers incomes dropped from 9 billion dollars to 5 billion, the profits on coffee jumped from 40% to 70%. Trade by ‘MNC dinosaurs’ is designed to transfer wealth not where it is produced, but where it is stolen, she said. She also educated the crowd about National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme and said that Fairness should take into account ecological sustainability, what is happening to the soil and climate.”

vandana shiva wfto

Other prominent keynote speakers included Nicolette Naumann, VP of Ambiente and Tendence at Messe Frankfurt and Geoff White, CEO of Trade Aid Importers Ltd, New Zealand and Vice President of WFTO, who said ” Fair Trade doesn’t connect with consumers well enough. We can’t be a passive retailers anymore. We need to be an active organisation.” True words, I realized, when I thought about how many fair trade organizations I was even aware of. Negligible!

wfto conference india

Workshops filled the rest of the day, again, held by notable dignitaries to educate and share experience in various countries and organizations. Gender policy, Go coop, Fair Trade Towns, Ethical design and trend forecasting, inclusion of refugees in fair trade, steps to attract new customers, using social media to reach new markets – these were one of many, many topics discussed. While I’d have loved to attend all of them (nerd alert!), there were 5 held at the same time in various conference rooms and I was darting from one room to the other to be a part of them all.

wfto workshops

world fair trade week workhops

The breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets and coffee breaks provided ample time for networking, but still didn’t seem like enough! And of course, like every organization meeting, new members were elected to the board, changes in the constitution were made, and it felt pretty great to be a silent observer in the gathering, watching it all unfold. Over time, just like in a new college, faces became familiar and everyone started talking to each other much more freely.

fair trade forum india

The Fair Trade Week 2017 had activities outside the confines of the conference room, too, like I mentioned – the Fair Utsav at DLF Saket and Fair Trade Fashion Show at NIFT Delhi. But I’ll leave that for another blog post.

rudi dalvai wfto

Catch you on the other side!

xx

If you exclude all the blogs I’ve been stalking and the occasional e-paper, I haven’t had the time to read much this year. And if it wasn’t for Tanya Pinto Dias, it would have probably stayed that way. Although we met only once during a trip to Sikkim – I in the 10th standard, and she, in probably the 8th, I was surprised when she got in touch and asked me to read her debut novel.

tanya pinto dias

Tanya hails from Dona Paula and her book ‘The Secret of the Sea’ makes a wonderful weekend read. What makes it so special is the fact that the book is amusingly ‘Goan’ from the minute you set your eyes on the first line. It begins with Inspector Cajetan, or Caji, pouring himself a glass of whiskey on the rocks before settling himself into his wicker armchair. It was then that he receives a call from his dim-witted, yet lovable subordinate, Joao, informing him of a murder of a young girl in Morjim.

The duo from the Panjim Police Station tries to uncover the mystery as discreetly as possible, owing to the fact that police from one jurisdiction aren’t supposed to meddle in the affairs of another. The plot is peppered with such hilarious Goan-dialogues that you literally began reading them in the same sing-song tone that you’d hear two aunties talking in, in the market.

As you began flipping, rather, scrolling though the pages, you are drawn into a murder mystery reminiscent of an Agatha Christie Novel. The writing is simple, light and the narration is unique. Every scene resembles life in Goa perfectly, since the author has an uncanny knack for bringing everyday mannerisms to the fore.

the secret of the sea goa

The plot moves quickly, but not without offering a huge helping of Goan humour, some tiatr-style mog, and, as many Goans would relate to, a squabble dating back to a couple of generations. That’s just the tip of the iceberg – the book keeps you guessing with every twist and turn until the very end.

Like many mystery novels, the book is unpredictable in many ways, especially the ending. Would I have liked a different ending? Yes. I had grown rather attached to the charming characters and was a tad disappointed when I found out who the perpetrator was. Nevertheless, the Secret of the Sea has an uncommon advantage – it brings out a touch of current environmental issues to the fore, too.

As someone who lives away from Goa for most of the year, I found myself nostalgic on several occasions while reading. I craved a ros omlete, thought of calling a friend just to hear him say “Good one, ah!” and considered making a dish whose recipe Tanya has thoughtfully weaved into the plot.

Grab yourself a copy of The Secret of The Sea on Amazon (Kindle Edition) here: http://amzn.to/2A5Ov1C

Till next time!

Hey guys!

After sampling the limited-time-only Rajasthan Food Festival at Grand Hyatt, Goa in August, I hadn’t visited any short food festivals or special menu events. While these events are few and far between, they’re slowly starting to become a trend. I love attending them for a couple of reasons. These limited-time-only menus give chefs a chance to reinvent and step away from the tried and tested menu that often haven’t been re-looked at in years. The creativity in the new menu speaks volumes every single time!

Often, the menus highlight a certain ingredient, festival or region and chefs from outside the restaurant, or even state and country are brought in. During the ‘Culinary Journey through India’ by Marriott, Goa, the resort honed the skills of their in-house chefs from around the country. The Punjabi chefs took over on the day dedicated to Punjabi cuisine, Goan chefs highlighted Goa fare and every day gave a new chef a chance at the helm. Not something you see everyday, is it?

Without rambling on, I’ll get to the point. The Heirloom Festival by Punjab Grill has been on for around 2 months now and the menu reflects a dedication to using thoughtfully chosen fairly traded ingredients. There’s just about a  week left until the dishes are taken off the menu, so I hope you read this in time. The main ingredient in every dish is chicken!

Scroll through all the delish items on the menu (I sampled EVERYTHING!)

MURGH SHORBA WITH GARLIC AND BARLEY

Flaming orange, super fragrant and spicy (but not the tear-inducing kind), the soup had small chunks of chicken and a generous amount of barley for some chewy texture. It was rich and comforting and I could feel the warm spice make its way down as I swallowed. One of those feel-good, scintillating soups for sure!

murgh shorba garlic barley soup punjab grill

MURGH DALCHA TIKKA

Murgh dalcha is a gravy dish where chicken is cooked with lentils. This was the ‘tikka’ variety. Chicken coated in a smooth lentil/dal paste with yogurt and spices and then dipped into the tandoor to cook. Can’t tell you how succulent this was – the texture of the chicken was neither stringy, tough or too soft. In fact, the chicken in every single dish was spot on perfect. I haven’t seen this dish offered in any restaurant so far, which is quite a pity.

murgh dalcha kebab

TAMARIND TANDOORI CHICKEN WINGS

BBQ glazed chicken wings is always a crowd pleaser! This one was a tad different as it was marinated with a yogurt-spice mix, cooked in the tandoor and then glazed with finger-licking good tamarind sauce. Beautifully sweet, tart and sticky.

tamarind tandoori chicken wings punjab grill

CHARGHA KUKKAD

Can’t believe I’ve never heard of Chargha Kukkad before. A delicacy from the streets of Lahore, chicken is marinated in ground spices and deep fried until golden. This would have probably tasted better with the crispy skin left on, but it was delicious without it, nonetheless.

chargha kukkad punjab grill

MURGH CHAAMPEIN 

Don’t be fooled – these aren’t your everyday chicken lollipops. These chicken drumsticks were marinated and slow cooked for hours so that the flavours penetrated to the bone. This dish just cannot be faulted! It was so juicy and flavourful and had was slightly charred for a smokey taste.

murgh ki champein punjab

THE MAINS

After those 4 meaty starters, I was in no position to attempt mains. But since I may never taste these dishes at Punjab Grill again, I went YOLO! and sampled a spoonful of each.

CHUR CHUR NAAN – I’m one to choose rice over flatbread, but this naan was such a guilty pleasure! It’s hot and firm exterior was stuffed with a thick, satin-like paste of cauliflower and apricots. It was so yum, I could have eaten it plain. But it perfectly complimented every gravy offered.

RAW MANGO CHICKEN CURRY – This dish really stood out! I can still distinctly remember the taste of that tangy gravy. If you’ve ever tried Kasundi, a Bengali curry made of raw mango and mustard, you’d find slight similarities to this one.

MURGH ROAST FATEHWAL – This was really the star of the mains. It was punchy, well balanced fragrant and the taste of ground spices roasted in ghee was apparent in every delicious morsel. Highly recommended.

MURGH KOFTA – I didn’t find anything really spectacular about this dish. It was pretty standard – chicken meatballs cooked in generic Indian spices.

ALOO MURGH KI TEHRI – Simplicity at its best! Baby potatoes cooked dum-style along with minimally spiced boneless chicken. The long-grained rice was also cooked in spices and the rich taste of saffron made its presence felt. There was generous caramelized onions, something I can’t do without in biryanis.

heirloom menu punjab grill

PHIRNI

I thought the phirni I had in Delhi was good. But this one was off the charts! After talking so much about the food, I’m sure you’ll believe me when I say it was Ah-Mazing! The custard like texture, nuts, saffron, broken rice – this was harmony!

phirni punjab grill

Expect nothing less than excellence from the house of Kalra – they’re restaurants never fail to deliver time and again. Head over for a ferocious display of chicken dishes from Punjab Grill before they go.

You may also want to check out my review of another mindblowing Kalra restaurant, Pa Pa Ya.

There’s something new coming up on the blog next – so I’ll be taking a sabbatical from food related posts for a week or so. No shortage of it on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram though. Are ya ready?

Ever heard of the tiny coastal town of Dapoli? I hadn’t either! That was until I visited the Fern Samali Resort there to review the property. Ratnagiri is known for being a little, un-touristy Goa away from Goa, and for those adventurous souls in Mumbai, it is a scenic getaway that comes at the end of a 230 km drive. It is more or less the same distance from Goa.

dapoli beach

I learned a lot about the place even as I made my way to the hotel. For starters, it is the home of the biggest Agricultural University in India, Dr. Balasaheb Sawant Konkan Krishi Vidhyapeeth (phew, that name is a mouthful!). Secondly, it is very close to Velas, one of the best places in the country to spot thousands of baby Olive Ridley Turtles make their maiden voyage to the sea after hatching in nests made in the sand.

It was also the place where the British Army set up their camp. And the entire area is dotted with sites like Pankhalekaji Caves, Unhavare hotsprings, the Kanakdurg and Suvarnadurg sea forts and tranquil temples. A couple of my Instagram followers suggested I check out the fish auctions at Harnai that takes place in the early morning.

As always, I was short on time as my stay in Dapoli was only for a day, so I chose to visit two beaches. I’ve read that Ladgarh Beach was known for its red sandy shore, which lends its colour to the water too. However, it didn’t seem that red to me, to be honest. There were patches of small red stones here and there, but the sand seemed absolutely normal. Perhaps I didn’t walk far enough down the beach.

ladgarh beach dapoli

thatgoangirl dapoli

There’s not much to do here in terms of food or water sports, but it is blissfully quiet if one would just like to spend some time doing nothing but watching the waves brush your feet. A stretch of tiny guesthouses across the road are the only signs of commercialization I saw but spotting a person in and around these guesthouses was rare. I could just imagine how this undiscovered gem would look 20 years from now – ugly buildings, parking lots and throngs of tourists.

thatgoangirl dapoli

konkan coast beach

coastal towns ratnagiri

We went back up the road and instead of heading out on to the main road, we turned right and followed the road as it gently led up a cliff. The pathway changed from a badly tarred road with mango tree branches forming a canopy above us, to a red, muddy path that was suddenly devoid of any shade, allowing the sun to beat down mercilessly.

ratnagiri trip

karde beach ratnagiri 1

We kept walking and there, just beside us, in the middle of a grassy patch was a majestic eagle, aware of our presence, but fearlessly drinking from a pool of water in a naturally made rocky bowl. Still further, the last few trees give way to a grassy plain that leads all the way to where the cliff drops.

beach in ratnagiri

trip to ratnagiri

I make my way to the edge amidst blades of calf-high grass, carefully picking each foothold to get a good grip. Yellow butterflies circle around my shoes, awakened by the foreign object, before disappearing again. For a while, this didn’t seem like Dapoli… or Maharashtra, for that matter. I close my eyes and listen, the only sounds are the sea, the birds and the breeze. The air feels different here, cooled by a steady rush as the sea meets the cliff top with a muffled roar, like a crowded stadium.

tgg dapoli ratnagiri

On the surface, Dapoli looks like a sleepy town with absolutely nothing to see and do. But if you have your own vehicle, travel down the narrow winding lanes and I bet you’ll find yourself in the midst of a serene landscape. On my last, equally short trip to Ratnagiri, I did squeeze in a trip to Mandvi Beach, famed for its ash-like black sand.

If you’re drawn towards places like these, stop at Grandmother’s Hole Beach on your next visit to Goa. To get there, you’ll need to walk down 200 steps to the seashore.

Hope you enjoyed reading this quick post! Thanks for stopping by!

I’ve had a lot of adventures these past few months – from trips to beachy Ratnagiri to travelling high up in the hills in Mahabaleshwar. I’m trying my best to explore as much as I can and cross off as many places on my bucket list.

woodland 7

I need to talk to you about these newbies on my feet!  Unlike my tomboyish wardrobe, my shoes are girly – strappy sandals, heels, ballerinas and juttis. My sneakers are probably the most masculine looking pair of shoes I own. But none of these were versatile enough to go off exploring in.

woodland 4

tgg woodland

I’ve had a couple of trips that required walking on rocky paths, short hikes and road trips. The next one involves a month in the snow. So I wanted to get some cute ankle boots that would serve a purpose on all my adventures.

thatgoangirl woodland

It was love at first sight with these babies from Woodland’s summer collection! I love a little bling and couldn’t get enough of the gold toe strip. The chocolate brown leather makes it perfect to pair with denim dresses, shorts-and-tees, black and white outfits and they’re light enough to wear with patterns and colours. I tend to be a little (read: very) clumsy and these have protected my ankles from sprains and my feet from all the nasties that the lively jungle brings. woodland 9

thatgoangirl

All that aside, wearing them makes me feel so sporty that I wish they’d come with a six-pack too!

thatgoangirl x woodland

The only downside is that if I pack them in my suitcase, it occupies so much space that I’d need to leave clothes behind. So if I do plan to take them along, I have to wear them on the onward and homebound journeys to solve the space situation.

woodland shoes

I’ll definitely be packing them in a couple of weeks when I hit snowy Canada (brrrr). Make sure you keep an eye on my social media channels to see how I do! Wish me luck in that cold, cold land!

If you’re a regular reader of That Goan Girl, you’d know that fashion-related posts with pictures of me in them are few and far between. Let me know if you enjoyed this one by dropping a line in the comments below. I may just do a few more if you like what you see 🙂

Bye!!

Mahabaleshwar, the queen of hill stations, is known for many things – the enchanting views of the valley, the chilly weather almost all year round, its strawberries, and its evergreen forests. One thing it is not known for is the food.

It’s true that there are restaurants lined up one besides the other offering cheap eats like south Indian fare in traditional udupi restaurants, steaming maggi noodles in little cafes, wraps and rolls – ideal for a budget traveller to grab a bite and head off to explore. But unless you’re staying at a resort like Brightland, the chances of finding a good quality, sit-down restaurant, complete with great ambience and music is almost nil.

grapevine mahabaleshwar

I heard about The Grapevine coincidentally through the grapevine (sorry, I just had to do that!)  It was recommended to me by a friend, Briston, who owns Foxes Fiesta, close to my home in Goa, that too, as a comment on my check-in to Mahabaleshwar on Facebook. When a chef suggests a restaurant to you, you know it HAS to be worthwhile going there and that’s why I did. Obviously, I was not disappointed; on the contrary, I was blown away! And while I wasn’t intending to blog about it initially, after visiting I feel the world should DEFINITELY know about this little jewel.

AMBIENCE

It took a while to find Grapevine, because Google Maps took me to one side of the building, when the entry to the restaurant was on another. But when I did find it, it stood out right away. Unlike the makeshift restaurants I had seen so far, with their offerings printed on large boards at the entrance and their red plastic chairs within, Grapevine had a clean open facade with white, wrought iron furniture outside.

grapevine restaurant

On entering, a variety of liquor and wine in a wall-to-wall set-up at eye level breaks up the seating areas – one, a couple of steps up on the mezzanine floor, and the other, a couple of steps below ground level. The whole place has a warm, rustic feel and the upbeat music really livens it up, making it almost too hip for Mahabaleshwar!

grapevine restaurant mahabaleshwar

the grapevine mahabaleshwar

SERVICE

Apart from a couple of wait-staff who bring food to the table and clear the dishes, the show is almost entirely run by the chef/owner, Raio, a third generation Parsi from Mahabaleshwar. Softspoken and smiling, he greets us with his warm countenance and since Briston has already given him a heads-up that I may visit, he kindly joins us for a chat.

Raio tells me how his grandfather moved here because the clean air helped his asthma troubles. His family then started Imperial stores, a shopping establishment in Mahabaleshwar. Raio always knew that whatever he ended up doing in life, he’d want to do in his hometown. So after studying Hotel Management in Goa and working for the Taj Hotels, he started the Grapevine.

FOOD

It was quite early in the evening when I visited The Grapevine, and my intention was only to stop by for a coffee or mid-evening snack. But seeing Raio talk about his food so passionately, I couldn’t leave without trying something, nor did he let me.

The restaurant has a huuuuge menu – encompassing soups, starters like tempura, prawn cocktail and parsi mutton bheja cutlets and a small spread of veg offerings too. Mains span from hakka noodles to akuri, pastas, thai curries and of course, Parsi staples like Patra Ni Macchi.

Having fresh seafood brought in all the way from Mumbai up to the hills miles away, just to serve in a gourmet restaurant seems like a whole lot of trouble. So trying a seafood dish seemed like a must-do. On Chef Raio’s recommendation, I tried the Prawn Pattiya which is essentially a Parsi gravy that he has turned into a starter by serving it semi-dry. Perfectly cooked, juicy prawns were coated with the richest sweet-sour gravy I’ve ever tried. Absolute winning dish and we weren’t even sorry that we scraped up every last bit of gravy from the plate.

prawn pattiya grapevine

Just when we thought nothing could top the Prawn Pattiya, the lamb shanks arrived! Oh, those lamb shanks!  It cut like soft butter and was so delicate, you’d have a hard time believing it escaped a furious fire just minutes ago. Deliciously smoky-sweet and overwhelmingly tender, the dark gravy penetrated right to the bone! It was served with a generous helping of cheesy mash potato that sent us to seventh heaven!

lamb shanks the grapevine

A Parsi meal without dhansak? No way! Chef Raio sent this delicious quintessential Parsi staple up next. A huge bowl of fragrant brown rice alongside chunky pieces of mutton that had been simmered in a dal based gravy. What was to be a coffee break turned to a full-fledged meal by 8 pm and we could only manage a couple of spoonfuls. I’ve probably said it before, but I’ll say it again – soOoOOooo good!

mutton dhaksak

Lastly, we sampled one of the desserts, the Ferero Rocher terrine, which was a cool slab of dark chocolate Ferrero Rocher, liquid malt syrup, cream and dark chocolate sauce. It is one of Chef Raio’s inventions. Not too sweet, but considering the meal was so indulgent, we were glad the silky smooth dessert wasn’t too decadent.

thatgoangirl the grapevine 2

It’s a pity one has to go all the way to Mahabaleshwar to get a taste of the food at The Grapevine. I wasn’t intending to make another visit to those parts, but there sure is enough incentive now! If you ever visit that gorgeous hill station, do NOT leave without trying this place out!

Address – The Grapevine Restaurant. Mahabaleshwar Jama Masjid Rd, Mahabaleshwar

Cost for 2 – Rs. 1200-Rs. 1500

Check out my other posts on Mahabaleshwar and drop by to my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages for a chat. Bye!

One thing I’ve been hearing from you guys is that you want to hear more travel stories and know more pet-friendly trips you can take. Well, ask and you shall receive! I made my second trip to Ratnagiri, Maharashtra in 2 months and found a spot for all you nature enthusiasts. *happy dance*

A couple of weeks ago, I stayed at the Fern Samali in Dapoli. The Fern is a brand known for its endeavors to be in unison with nature – be it in a bustling metro like Mumbai or off the beaten path in Dapoli. And Ratnagiri district is known for being so tropical – with its sandy beaches, forested ghats and balmy weather. As a vacation spot, it can be quite outlying and relatively unknown as a tourist destination.

GETTING THERE

From Mumbai, The Fern Samali is around 220 kms and you’d have to drive to Panvel and carry on straight until you take a right turn to enter Khopoli. Cross Imagica and head further on until the road divides into two. Turn left to get on to NH66 and follow the road past Kolad, Mangaon, Mandangad and Palgad. Finally, take a right at Sondheghar and after driving 35 kms or so, you’ll have arrived.

thefern samali dapoli

However, I made my way there from Mahabaleshwar, which was a breathtakingly beautiful drive for the most part and I’ll share the travelogue with you shortly. We drove through the flowering ghats on route 72 and turned left at Poladpur to get on NH 66. Once you take a right turn from Khed, its around 30 kms to Dapoli and another 6 to read the entrance of Fern Samali.

fern samali dapoli

THE HOTEL

What I found pretty cool about the Fern Samali is that it dates back to an era when that spot was a British Military Camp. Being on a height, one can see the sea from certain vantage points (one of which is marked with a horse statue.) The resort has 16 luxurious cottages and 22 well furnished rooms.

fern samali entrance

fern samali entry

You get a taste of the lush greenery from the moment you begin heading up the 2 km long driveway to the lobby. Parked outside are a row of cycles which I later learnt you could take and pedal down to the mango plantation the hotel takes care of. The lobby is bright and simple – stairs leading down to a small seating area and a small desk with a receptionist. Got to love these quaint, small-town hotels!

eco friendly fern resort dapoli

fern samali reception

Quite thoughtfully, the hotel has a rack of brochures comprising of things to do in the area. If you’re a long time reader of That Goan Girl, you’d know I love collecting brochures and flipping through them on rainy days! Anyway, I didn’t linger here for long – couldn’t wait to see my room! So I sipped up the welcome drink and headed off, while encountering some lifelike statues of a leopard and deer on the way!

fern samali rooms

fern samali property

Doesn’t this abundance of greenery look refreshing? The botanical names of most plants were mentioned on little boards as an activity for kids to find and cross off these names on a list for a gift.
fern samali resort

fern resort grounds

MY ROOM

Quriky, colourful, fun – what’s not to love! These rooms had character alright – a patterned headboard, cool lamps, colourful pictures hanging on the walls and bright tiles as cupboard handles! The room was spacious and I kid you not, that bed was the softest I’ve ever slept on – it was like sleeping on the clouds! We just lay on it and were out like a light.

aster room fern samali

fern samali dapoli room

All the rooms are named after flowers, and the category I was in was called Aster. One of the characteristics of these rooms was picture-perfect balconies behind sliding glass doors. It was absolutely blissful to sit here on the swing in the morning and look out at the greenery. The hotel has set up little bird feeding stations between two balconies so that you can wake up to the sound of chirping birds. Cool concept, right? Oh, and don’t miss those eclectic tiles

fern resort dapoli

Another smart move to further the eco-friendly nature that the Fern Resorts live by is that the air conditioner automatically switches off through sensors the moment the patio doors open, in an attempt to cut electricity wastage.

The bathroom was pretty small in comparison to the roomy bedroom and could have been bigger. I had an opportunity to check out the rest of the rooms and really loved the one in the Saffron Suite! What was interesting was that the Lilac cottages had open sky bathrooms with real-life gardens having a lotus pond and no glass door separating it. I’d be pretty scared if I was showering and happened to see a lizard or a frog, lol!

Coming back to my room, in terms of amenities, there was a large TV, cupboard, work desk, tea-and-coffee making facilities and toiletries. A little more attention could have been paid here – we had milk sachets, but no sugar – shampoo, but no conditioner.

Overall, I loved the room and it is super comfortable for a long weekend or for the business traveller. Look how huge this sofa was! I loved curling up on it 🙂

thatgoangirl fern samali

THE FOOD

The food at the Fern Samali was lip-smacking! I checked in at around 3pm and hadn’t had lunch so we ordered some noodles and a club sandwich! They arrived pretty quick, which was good since we were ravenous!

fern samali food

Ratnagiri, being a coastal place, I couldn’t leave without trying the seafood and that’s what I sampled for dinner. The butter garlic prawns were juicy and tempting! I tried something different called the Vangyanch Bharit or stuffed brinjal and absolutely loved this saucy new way of eating boring brinjal. I wasn’t a fan of the tandoori sabz, though – the chunks of veggies were roasted with spices in the tandoor but the spices tasted overpowering and hard-hitting on the tastebuds and throat. Murg Malwani or chicken cooked in traditional Malwani spices paired with butter naan really hit the spot and for dessert, I had a cute dessert cup layered with gajar ka halwa and two other sweets that I fail to remember.

The next morning, I went out sightseeing and since it was so hot, I headed back to the room to cool down before heading for breakfast. The breakfast buffet was to close at 10 am, and just as I was about to leave for the restaurant at 9:45 or so, I receive a call from the restaurant saying that I could order my breakfast now and come over in 10-15 minutes when it’s ready. Again, the thoughtfulness was noticed here and the small gesture was appreciated. And the breakfast was absolutely yum!! Perfectly made tea with hot and crispy medhu wadas, aloo paratha and cheese omlette.

breakfast fern samali
AMENITIES

Taking a walk around the huge property sure is a work-out and I couldn’t help but notice how much pets would love sniffing curiously around the grassy patches.

fern aster rooms

Honestly, the amenities were a mix between ‘great’ and ‘definite work needed.’ I personally liked the spacious breezy restaurant which can accommodate around 80 people, but in the evening when we dropped by for a coffee, the light did attract all sorts of bugs – a part and parcel of being amidst nature, but definitely wouldn’t like them doing a backstroke in my coffee.

restaurant fern samali

From the restaurant, you can see the amphitheater where folk dances and skits are sometimes organized. A corporate group would definitely love this space for talks and seminars amidst nature. Additionally, there are two meeting venues and a banquet available too.

ampitheatre fern samali

I was disappointed that I couldn’t use the pool since it wasn’t clean on both days and since the weather was so hot, a swim would have been perfect! The also have a spa, Zion, offering a range of massages and therapies and the option to consult with an in-house doctor for guests who are concerned about issues that may interfere with indulging in a treatment. It would have been nice if this was a bit more polished and elegant in terms of the walls and linen. It seemed quite dated, which takes away from the ‘extravagant’ feel that a spa brings.

the pool fern samali

zion spa fern samali

In terms of activities, there is a set up to play court sports like volleyball and badminton. For group sports, if teams are falling short of people, the staff joins in which is quite nice! Table tennis, carom and air hockey set ups are available in the indoor games room along with a kids play area right next to it. The hotel curiously also has several colourful birds and turkeys chirping in roomy cages.  Lastly, a gift shop to take back items to make those who didn’t travel with you, jealous. *wink wink*

kids play area fern samali

Well that wraps up my review. Nature lovers and contentious travelers, take a trip here and let me know what you think. Although I was in Dapoli for just a day, I did manage to squeeze in a couple of tourist spots and I’ll tell you about them in my next post. In the meanwhile, if you have any questions, shoot!

thatgoangirl the fern samali

You can follow The Fern Dapoli on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and you can find me at @thatgoangirl on Facebook + Instagram and @ImGoanCrazy on Twitter.

Bye!

It’s quite unfortunate that I visited the hot-spot for strawberries when it wasn’t strawberry season. But I did have an agenda when I planned my road trip to Mahabaleshwar – a review of Brightland Hotel and Spa.

To be honest, that did make it difficult to explore Maharashtra’s best hillstation, simply because our room was so comfortable that we didn’t feel like going out! Also, it was a rainy couple of days there – which I learnt was the norm in October, when Mumbai is reeling under the heat just 4 hours away. So, why would we carry an umbrella?

strawberry farm

Anyway, I tried to see as much as I could and this list is in no way an exhaustive summary of things to do in Mahabaleshwar, but worth seeing nonetheless!

Kate’s Point – Like Matheran and other hill stations, Mahabaleshwar too has vantage points from where you can have incredible views of the valley below. From Kate’s Point, it’s greenery for as far as your eyes can see with a winding little stream in the middle. The clouds hung low that day and cast shadows over the valley interspersed with spots of sunshine.

ates point mahabaleshwar

kate point mahabaleshwar

kates point

Right besides Kate’s Point is a spot called Needle Hole Point. From here, one can see a cliff, thick with foliage with a hole in the middle. The vegetation was overgrown and the hole wasn’t really visible, though. This point is sometimes called Elephant Head Point because it looks like the shape of an elephant’s head – complete with trunk and ears!

needle point mahabaleshwar

kates point view

There’s ample parking here and you can even get a horse ride (though it isn’t worth it). Alternatively, you may merely sit on one for Rs. 50. While I went off to pet a horse, one of the area’s many monkeys put its muddy hand in my white bag. Beware of those cheeky creatures!

ates point mahabaleshwar

Lodwick Point – Mahabaleshwar isn’t a big place and you can easily drive  from one end to the other in less than half an hour. Lodwick Point is on the opposite end of where Kate’s Point is and is yet another vantage spot. However here, you will need to park your vehicle and walk along a rocky path for around 2 kms to the point. I hadn’t anticipated the walking and wore kolhapuris, but with good walking shoes, this stretch goes by in a jiffy. You can get a horse ride to Lodwick Point, but as someone who hates walking, I can assure you that it’s a relatively short stretch and you’ll be there before you know it.

lodwick point

We walked along, enjoying the crisp, cool weather and when the foliage gave way, we found ourselves right in front of Lodwick Point. Until then, the mist made it impossible to see it rising behind the trees from a distance. This tall pillar is dedicated to Sir Lodwick, who commanded a British Regiment and died at the age of 90 in 1873. A plaque on the pillar with a snippet about him makes an interesting read. The view here is gorgeous too and I got glimpses of it between the thick, rolling mist.

lodwick point mahabaleshwar

lodwick point view

Elephants Head Point –  As you walk towards Lodwick Point, the road diverges into 2 and while one path leads you to Lodwick Point, the other leads you to Elephant Head Point. This second path has a little more walking, but it is absolutely beautiful. Tiny flowers along the path, pale long grass and cool wind! I wish I could have spent more time here! But just as I was about to cross a little pathway that took me to the edge, it began to rain cats and dogs. With a 2 km walk back in my kolhapuris in the rain, it was not pleasant!

thatgoangirl

that goan girl mahabaleshwar

Venna Lake – If you pass by Venna Lake in the night, it’s so silent and dark, you wouldn’t even know it was there. By day, you’l find a line of horses with names like Chulbul Pandey, Shaktiman and Tendulkar on which you can get a ride. A boatride on the water is a popular activity, too. Taking a paddle boat out on the water costs Rs. 440 for an hour for a group of 6, including kids and a row boat is Rs. 500 for an hour and Rs. 250 for half an hour for 7 people. A Rs. 500 deposit is compulsary.

venna veena lake mahabaleshwar

Visit the Grapevine – This is the only restaurant I visited because it was recommended by a friend in Goa and I fell in love with the food. It’s unusual to find a Parsi restaurant in any hillstation and this one would be more suited on the beach strip of Goa for its lively ambience! It definitely stands out among the other very normal veg restaurants around the place. The lamb shanks and prawns I had were exceptional and a review will be up soon!

Walk through the market – Mahabaleshwar has a tiny market along a narrow street with shops and restaurants on both sides. There’s nothing spectacular to see but I did enjoy wandering around in the sweater-weather, eating hot cheese maggi and corn on the cob. I also spotted a few huskies which totally got me squealing! If it is strawberry season, don’t miss grabbing a shake or sundae! I had one but it was made with preserved strawberries – not the real deal but made me feel touristy!

strawberry shake mahabaleshwar

That’s all, folks! I do hope I get to visit Mahabaleshwar again soon and explore it some more. If you’ve been there, tell me a little about your experience – I’d love to know!

Bye!!