Before I entered the blogosphere, I used to dine out for various reasons – sometimes I lacked the motivation to cook, at other times it was to catch up with a friend, and mainly, for the pure joy of trying something new. But then as ThatGoanGirl grew and restaurant invites started pouring in, my desire to eat out for these reasons started to diminish. Why look for an interesting place when I have 3 lined up?

And one Sunday, I decided to do just that – dine somewhere I hadn’t been before without having being invited, with the sole purpose of doing a full-fledged post about it. (Not mini guides like the one I did for eateries in Lower Parel.) I’m not sure what I was looking for, but Candy and Green popped up and after quickly browsing through the pictures, I hopped on a train and in 2 hours, I was being shown a table. Yes, I traveled 2 hours for food, haha.

candy and green

AMBIANCE

The rooftop was closed, and with the Mumbai heat at an all time high, I wouldn’t have opted for it, even if it wasn’t. Inside the high-roofed dining area, tall, glass stained windows allowed sunlight to pour in, and brightly coloured chairs added to the cheerful and welcoming feels. I absolutely adored the marble table tops with gold accents for a touch of stylish modernity. And the patch of green behind the bar for a nice summery touch made the place look so tropical! It’s a mix of a lot of things, really, but boy, do they work in harmony!

candy and green review

SERVICE

The restaurant was at 50% capacity and the staff was attendant and articulate. They suggested popular sellers, refilled water glasses before they went dry and explained the offers on wine in length. Most importantly, the food came out quickly!

candy and green interiors

FOOD

Candy and Green is all about eating healthy and eating well. What sets them apart is that not only is their menu completely devoid of meat and eggs, a fact I found out after I went there, but the restaurant grows its own herbs and vegetables and uses them across cuisines – Continental, Italian and Asian. As a non-veggie and someone who leans towards the unhealthy items on menus, I was blown away at how every dish was healthier than the next, yet, so colourful and presented with finesse. They even have Jain edits of a variety of items.

Hearty soups, guilt-free salads, cold pressed juices, cheese boards and flatbreads feature on the menu alongside a long enough list of ‘small plates’ and ‘sharing plates,’ teas and coffees. They have a generous offering of wines and spirits too!

Items like dosa waffles, spicy mango mousse crostini, kale chip chaat and satay paneer skewers sounded like interesting starters. So did mains like cottage cheese steak, chickpea and feta cutlets, tie dye nachos and ‘black is back.’ But here are my picks from that Sunday brunch.

Activated Charcoal Lemonade – Activated charcoal is a big deal nowadays. Should I be embarrassed for not trying it until now? My ink black slushie was the perfect antidote for a hot day. Delicious, not too sweet thanks to the activated charcoal and it didn’t dilute until the very end. Just PERFECT for a summer day – you’ll love it!

Zucchini Parcels – Bland zucchini ribbons were delicately wrapped around ricotta cheese, little pieces of apricot and toasted nuts on a bed of chilli aioli for gentle spice. The little crunch of zucchini married well with creamy cheese and those little bursts of sweetness from the apricots were a delight! If you’re sharing the plate and have only a couple to yourself, you’ll literally feel yourself craving more.

zucchini parcels candy and green

Spaghetti in Marinara with Vegan Meatballs– Tofu and mushroom meatballs emboldened by a rich marinara sauce with a generous portion of thick noodles. Protein rich, so filling and the texture of those meatballs was almost like chicken! This came to my table right at the very end, and though I was stuffed already, it was too good to waste. This is the yummy reason I skipped dessert. On a side note, how good do those plates make everything look!!spaghetti and meatballs candy and green

Smoked Sweet Potato Burger – A healthy diner like this one has to have avocado toast on the menu. OBVIOUSLY! But among the interesting sandwiches (like the lotus root slider), the sweet potato burger caught my eye. A patty made of sweet potato in a bun was surprisingly not as dense as I would have thought, but thankfully, it was a small burger so it wasn’t too tedious to finish. Charred onions, jalapenos, feta yogurt and homemade chipotle sauce added enough interest to break the monotony.

sweet potato burger candy and green

Truffle Mushroom Flatbread – Think about the earthy flavour of juicy mushrooms combined with the umami richness and intoxicating aroma of truffle oil. Add the nutty, smoky flavour of gouda cheese and voila! The rustic truffle mushroom flatbread with a nice crispy-soft base. It’s not exactly ‘clean and green’ eating, but if you’re a little indulgent like I am, you will enjoy it!

mushroom truffle flatbread candy and green

The fact that their all-vegetarian menu doesn’t have an overdose of paneer itself is as praiseworthy as their fun-meets-fit menu. So vegetarians, the next time someone tells you that vegetarian dishes can’t be as good as meaty ones, take my advice, and send them to Candy and Green, you may just convert them!

COST – Rs. 1600 for two people

Address –  Hubtown Skybay, Bhulabhai Desai Marg, Breach Candy, Cumballa Hill, Mumbai

Check out some previous restaurant reviews – The Black Sheep Bistro in Goa and Poush in Mumbai

Till next time!

The fascination that the city has with microbreweries doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon. Kaitlyn’s Beer Garden is a comparatively newer one, however, a lot of things set it apart from the handful of microbreweries in Mumbai. For one, it’s location on a prime stretch of Bandra real estate – Hill Road, and two, its ambiance.

AMBIANCE

Until I did some research prior to visiting it, I was under the impression that the restaurant is ACTUALLY in a garden. But no, it’s on the second floor and a tiny lift at the side of the building will take you there. The tables are large, and wooden chairs, well cushioned, but what makes the place stand out among the sea of pubs in Bandra are the eerie looking artificial tree barks placed throughout the restaurant. At night, the trees light up, giving the place an outdoorsy feel, but during the day, the leaves add a little greenery, balancing out the dark furniture and floor. The naked grey cement walls look humble and a lot could be done to them to enhance the space.

kaitlyns beer garden bandra

Pick a table near the French window and watch the rickshaws move like black and yellow beetles on the road below. I did, as always, with the intention of good lighting for my pictures.

SERVICE

The welcoming staff are quite attentive and prompt, and they spared a lot of time at the table due to the fact that the restaurant was empty, save for one other table, that weekday afternoon. Apart from the dessert, the other dishes they recommended were decent.

FOOD

The menu is huge (literally) and opens up to the length of a newspaper, however, the options verge on being limited. While the nibbles are pretty good, there’s nothing too dazzling about the mains. What patrons go here for are the drinks – a large selection of bottled beers, classic and signature cocktails, innovative beer cocktails, malts, whiskeys, vodkas and more. It’s clear that this place is all about the beer, so ordering a few of their crafted brews should be on the agenda. People rave about the Belgian Wit, so give it a try and move on the Kolsch, the Midwestern Pale Ale, the Stout and the Saison.

Here’s what I tried:

Butterfly Pea Beer And Black Pearl – To be honest, we ordered the Butterfly Pea Beer because we was told by the staff that it changes colour. And it certainly did – rapidly, from blue to pink, on addition of lime juice. Pretty neat! This complex beer based cocktail was made using Bira Blonde and butterfly pea. Black Pearl, on the other hand was a concoction of Jack Daniels, sweet and sour, diablo and chocolate sauce. I don’t drink, as you know, and so, my +1 for the day did. His verdict? It was TOO chocolate-y at the bottom but until then, it was just “okay.”

Spinach and Burnt Garlic Fritters with Chilli Honey Drizzle – A generous portion of bite sized, sticky, spicy fritters was served (what you see in the image is half of the actual quantity). Just the right amount of heat, and a unique, rustic texture with a hearty flavour. Makes for some great ‘chakna’ with beer.

spinach and burnt garlic fritters kaitlyns beer garden

Beer battered prawns with wasabi mayonnaise – Fantastic! An irresistibly-crispy batter coated the prawns, and the pungent wasabi mayo – drizzled with a sweet tomato-mayo gave it a nice kick. Loved how light and non-greasy the batter was over the delicate, perfectly cooked prawns. Biting into it was blissful and we loved the wasabi mayo so much that we dipped everything in it. I’d definitely recommend this.

beer battered prawns kaitlyns beer garden

Charmoula Chicken – Chunks of chicken marinated in a flavorful coriander-yogurt paste, still steaming hot from the tandoor came to the table still tender and juicy. A decent starter if you don’t want to binge on deep fried or cheesy mains, and if full-flavoured fare is more up your alley, you’d enjoy this. The presentation of the food, in fact, of all the starters, on long black dishes added to the visual appeal.

Sloppy Chicken Burger – Comprising of a chicken patty, cheddar cheese, fried onions and an omelette, this one was just like your average cookie-cutter burger, and I felt a lot more could be done to make it a winner. Perhaps some more ingredients such as BBQ sauce or bacon would make it more appealing. Thumbs up to the fries!

loppy burger kaitlyns beer garden

Our Famous Black Pepper Chicken – I always gravitate to dishes that restaurants claim are their speciality, because I’d assume they are ordered frequently, and therefore, perfected. But if this was the level of perfection, then it just about hits the ‘average’ mark. This continental dish featured two chicken fillets, mildly spiced, with a peppery sauce, which had the texture of the Indo-Chinese chicken Manchurian gravy. Again, here the potatoes (mash) was the dish’s saving grace, with its smooth texture and subtle seasoning.

pepper chicken kaitlyns beer garden

Triple Chocolate Explosion – Double disappointment, because not only does the dessert section of the menu have ONLY two items (who wants the ice cream sundae, anyway?), but this dessert had an identity crisis of some sort. Weirdly crumbly cake that wasn’t rich or indulgent had cocktail fruit chunks inside which made it even more confusing. Three scoops of vanilla ice cream at the crown, drizzled over with chocolate sauce, and two wafers sticking out on top, doesn’t really need a genius to put it together. I’m surprised that despite the dissatisfaction expressed over this dessert by innumerable patrons on review platforms, no attempt has been made to change it or remove it from the menu.

My advice? Go for the drinks and starters. It is an affordable watering hole to hang out at with a pleasant ambiance and music, meaning Mumbai can definitely quench its insatiable thirst for microbreweries here. The ones at Andheri are getting a bit too ho-hum (and way to crowded.)

Cost for 2 – Rs. 1800 with alcohol

Address –  Khan House, Hill Road, Above McDonald’s, Bandra West, Mumbai.

I have one more place to tell you about, before I move to the Pondicherry travelogues you guys are waiting for! Stay hooked, and catch me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram until then!

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

Being one of Mumbai’s corporate hubs, Lower Parel has a mind-boggling amount of restaurants to feed tens of thousands of hungry employees in its many sky rises. Tiny udupi joints, swanky pubs, chain outlets and even restaurants by celeb chefs like Jamie Oliver and Sarah Todd – you’ll find all kinds of restaurants in Lower Parel. Being located conveniently, between SoBo and Bandra, it is a meet-up spot for those in the suburbs and in town.

One would need a lot of time and moolah to properly experience the food in Lower Parel, however, here’s my humble attempt to list down the places I’ve tried.

PRONTO, Kamala Mills Compound

A relaxed, unfussy little place you can head to when you want some good, old-fashioned  pizza! Apart from Lower Parel, they are also located in Bandra and Churchgate. The menu has Italian inspired items- salads, soups and starters, sandwiches, pastas and pizzas along with mains like Pollo Arasto, pan seared kingfish and red thai curry. I tried the BBQ chicken pizza and added corn. (Fact – I don’t like pizza without corn.) Overall, good portions, tasty, value-for money and a quiet, hang-out spot when you don’t want to head to a mall or a CCD.

pronto-pizza

212 ALL GOOD, Phoenix Mall

Homegrown, organic, pesticide free… 212 All Good is an intriguing cafe that encompasses the essence of healthy eating because, well dieting is passe! The restaurant promotes healthy eating, but they aren’t talking about Chia seed pudding and acai bowls here. I tried the Himalayan Trout with pea mash and sweet potato – subtly seasoned and excellent. I also sampled the lean tenderloin chilli corn carne came with bread that was weirdly crumbly. And the dessert, bread pudding with coconut milk, wasn’t overly sweet so no pangs of guilt! Win! Everything, including their mayo and ketchup is made in house. Do try their version of cola which is caffeine free, made with palm jaggery, sugar caramel and herbs.

212-all-good

FRANCESCO’S PIZZERIA, Phoenix Mall

After eating at Francesco’s Pizzeria, every other pizza I’ve had has failed in comparison. This tiny little white-washed Italian restaurant at Palladium is QUALITY ALL-THE-WAY! The length of their menu will have you agonizing over what to order, but take my advice and choose the Pollo Bianca and Piri Piri Chicken, the best I’ve tried on the menu so far. Their Nutella Cheescake is fantastic, too! You won’t want to share!

francescos pizzeria

PUNJAB GRILL, Palladium Mall

Order anything here, you won’t regret it! Visit Punjab Grill for top-notch ambience, service and an extraordinary meal. I visited to try out their special winter heirloom menu and was blown away by their Murgh Dalcha Tikka and Tamarind Tandoori Chicken wings. The starters and tikka itself make for a filling meal, but don’t miss out on the biryani and curries. Punjab Grill is a foodie’s delight!

heirloom-menu-punjab-grill-1440x1080

THE ROLLING PIN, Opposite Phoenix Mall

A patisserie and restaurant serving ‘eggless-vegetarian’ fare, you can’t miss TRP’s bright glass façade when you turn in towards Phoenix Mall. The pastry section is definitely the highlight, showcasing whimsical-looking, indulgent pastries. However, if you just came for dessert and not a meal, you will have to stand by the glass cases and eat it, or pay extra to actually sit in the restaurant. Diners can head to the next section, besides the open kitchen for a variety of English breakfast items, Continental fare, pizza, etc – a few hits and misses, here and there. My go-to dish is the panko crusted mushroom stuffed with cheddar cheese. How good does it look!

rolling pin lower parel

BOMBAY CANTEEN, Kamala Mills

Tacos made of theplas, multi grain khichdi, dhokla chaat, red snapper ceviche, rum-infused gulab jamun… everything at the Bombay Canteen is distinctly Bombay-ish, with a cool firang (foreign) twist. The Bombay Canteen is renowned for using local (and often ignored) ingredients, celebrating regional cuisine and richness of palates with the utmost finesse. The ambience is different – a multitude of floral tiles, stained glass accents and brick walls. Even the little details here are nostalgia –inducing, right from the Kismi toffees at the entrance and the menu that looks like those old registers that teachers used to use.  I’ve tried so many dishes here and loved them all – so if you’re in Mumbai and can only eat ONE meal in the city, this is where it should be at.

bombay canteen lower parel

SHEESHA SKY LOUNGE, Raghuvanshi Mills Compound

I first went to Sheesha Sky Lounge when it was barely a month old, on a week night, and with over 40 tables, it still had a waiting list. Here’s all about my wonderful experience at Sheesha Sky Lounge , one that is bookmarked in my memory for the best Nalli Nihari I’ve ever had! The prices at most rooftop restaurants in Lower Parel are hiiiiiigh, so if you’re looking for an affordable one serving delicious Indian food with a side of hookah, here it is.

sheesha sky lounge

ELEMENTARIA BAKERY CAFÉ, Opposite Phoenix Mall

One of Mumbai’s finest dessert bars, this is a café in Lower Parel you could go to satisfy serious sweet cravings. I loved the red velvet tub cake, although I felt it was priced far higher than necessary. The snacks are limited, ranging from savoury croissants and quiche to puffs. If you plan a visit, indulge in their cupcakes, waffles, chimney cakes and ‘cutting desserts.’ When I went last week (Feb 2018), the place was uncomfortably hot, so I hope they fix their air-conditioning issues.

elementaria cafe lower parel

That’s all for now! I’ll keep updating the list as and when new places open (and shut). Until then, check out my #TGGFinds – Restaurant Guide to Vasai!

Let me know if you enjoyed this post! Bye!

Bombay Bronx encapsulates the spirit of Bombay, its flavour and its quirks. This fun, ultra-modern yet rustic resto-bar is a series of contrasts, just like Amchi Mumbai is. Located in the posh neighbourhood of Breach Candy, I first set foot in it a couple of years ago for a friend’s birthday party. I remember it being SO crowded, and we stood at the bar, screaming to each other over blaring music.

The food then didn’t really lure me enough to travel all the way to SoBo again. But when I did visit last week, I was pleasantly surprised. The place looked brighter, more colourful and with even more ingenious twists, post a renovation that was completed a couple of months ago.

AMBIENCE

Whatever you associate with Mumbai, you’re bound to find here, in a quirkier avatar. It’s so clichéd, in a great way and as they say of Mumbai, you’ll either love it (the attention to detail) or hate it (the over-the-top elements.)

The half-rickshaw that greeted diners at at the entrance was gone and a half vintage-looking car took its place as a photo booth for selfie-addicts. The Mumbai Local train compartment with hanging train handles was done away with as well, making the place look much more spacious. Instead, a wall to wall caricature of the train compartment, with various characters you find in the Mumbai local, featured on the wall.

bombay bronx amitabh Speaking of walls, the larger-than-life painting of Amitabh Bachchan wearing bright, yellow pants and a blue shirt, striking the ‘angry young man’ pose still remains one of the best attractions, and next to it, a new lego character was splashed on the wall. You can’t miss the new addition to the space – the dazzling set-up done along the entire width of the bar – a collage of flashing yellow vehicle headlights and red brake lights added a lot of glimmer to the filmy space, while reminding you that you’re never too far from Mumbai’s traffic-choked streets.

The music? Upbeat and current Bollywood + Bilboard hits to add to the ‘hatke’ vibe.

SERVICE

When I arrived at 8 pm, there was only one table occupied so the staff was just a gesture away. Dishes came to the table one after the other, faster than I could click pictures of them, and it stayed that way even when the restaurant started filling up! The staff could do with a better briefing on the menu – ours seemed like he had 50/50 knowledge of it.

bombay bronx ambience

FOOD

TBB 2.0 has fun new additions on the menu and while many items are twists on classic Mumbai finger food to tease your taste buds, there are some divine finds that I would definitely go back for! Whatever I sampled was so picture-worthy! In terms of drinks, they have quite a number of Indian spirits along with beer and wine cocktails, twisted classics and alcoholic iced teas. For teetotallers like me, a decent amount of mocktails, smoothies and shakes featured too. I tried ‘Simply Magic,’ which was a refreshing strawberry-peach lemonade, but for those who want to go the true-Mumbaikar route, the Imli (tamarind) soda as well as the cucumber-raw mango fizz would be interesting choices.

Let’s show you the food:

OVEN BAKED CORN, CHEESE AND SPINACH SAMOSAS – Big, chunky, soggy samosas are such a put-off so I was glad these were small, deliciously crispy, well stuffed and simply irresistible! The menu said that tamarind chutney would accompany it, but sadly, it didn’t. A pity, since it would have been even more ah-mazing with it!

bombay bronx breach candy

THE BOMBAY BRONX CHILLI CHEESE TOAST WITH MASALA FRIES – Mumbai’s cheese chilli toast isn’t just a toasted slice of bread with cheese! It’s much more elaborate treat to be savoured at any time of day. TBB totally nailed this one. Laden with melted cheese, tiny pieces of bell peppers, onions and chilly, it came with a side of crispy masala fries for those who want a little extra heat.

cheese chilli toast bombay bronx

BOMBAY ISHTYLE CHILLI CHICKEN – Semi-dry chilli chicken pairs well with a mug of beer! This Indo-Chinese street food item thankfully didn’t have any funky twist to it, because it’s already perfect the way it is. Boneless, bite sized pieces of chicken in a soya-ketchup-garlic marinade was tossed with a decent amount of sautéed onions and capsicum that doesn’t let you complain about all-veggies-no-meat. You cant go wrong when you order this crowd-pleaser at TBB!

bombay bronx chilli chicken

CHICKEN MALAI KEBAB – My favourite type of kebab, and one I tend to order whenever I see it on the menu! The malai kebabs here didn’t disappoint. Mild, fragrant and irresistibly tender, I could taste the cream and cheese in every bite. The chicken was ultra-soft and came apart at the slightest insistence. Yum!

malai kebab bombay bronx

TRUFFLE AND PARMESAN CHEESE PASTA – I’m not sure what prompted me to step away from the Bomaiya fare and order pasta, but it was undoubtedly the highlight of my meal. Truffles always add that intoxicating scent and flavour that is simply indescribable. The luscious, earthy and umami-packed flavour in every cheesy bite just did it for me! Highly recommended.

that goan girl bombay bronx

BRONX PAV SLIDERS – The quintessential vada pao has several avatars and appear under the Bronx Pav Slider section of the menu. I sampled the rajma ki galouti (mashed kidney bean) slider with fried onions, roasted garlic, chilli pickle and cream cheese glaze. The addition of salty-sweet cheese is an ingenious touch and it keeps drawing you in to take another bite, however the dish could do with a little fine tuning.

bombay bronx slider

All in all, the Bombay Bronx 2.0 still remains an innovative addition to SoBo’s nightlife scene. Try and get there early to grab a table because as the night progresses, lights dim and DJ-wala-babu turns up the volume, you’ll find the place filling up in no time.

Check out my reviews of other hot places in Mumbai – Pa Pa Ya, The Daily Bar and Kitchen, and Sheesha Sky Lounge, if you haven’t already!

…. also, let’s hang out on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

Until next time!


Cost for 2 – Rs. 1600/- with alcohol

Address – 10, Hub Town, Akriti Sky Bay, Bhulabhai Desai Road, Breach Candy, Mumbai

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!

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!!

The more I live in Mumbai, the more I appreciate escaping its chaos. If you don’t reside in a big, over-populated metro city, it may seem like a head scratcher to you. But to those in Mumbai, it will make sense.

I need to leave in order to recharge, rest and more importantly, reinstate my love for the city that never sleeps. I used to joke that I’d sleep when I was dead because there’s always so much going on. But since I started working for myself, I’m valuing rest and self-care a whole lot more. Moving 100 kmph every single day makes me want to get away as often as I can. That’s probably why my blog is full of weekend getaway ideas and destinations.  This time, I headed to Brightland Resort and Spa – Mahabaleshwar.

GETTING THERE

Mahabaleshwar is closer to Pune than it is to Mumbai, making it a much quicker getaway for the former. I left from Mumbai at around 6 am and stopped for a quick breakfast at McD, Kalamboli (it’s tradition) at around 7:30 am. We got on to NH48 past Lonavala and Khandala when the weather changed from rainy to cold and misty. We cut off the highway and took a right turn towards Wai, and from there it was about an hour to Mahabaleshwar via Panchgini.

valley view resorts mahabaleshwar

THE RESORT

One doesn’t really realize how huge Brightland Resort and Spa is from the pictures. It’s only when you check in and walk aalllll the way to your room do you get a glimpse of the 6 acre, 4 star property. Being over 2 decades old, it has a steady flow of new and old guests no matter what season it is.

You can choose from 9 categories of rooms depending on your requirements and while they differ in size and views, they don’t fall short on the warm interiors and luxurious finishes. The Oak Suite for honeymooners features a four poster bed and an outdoor Jacuzzi whereas the Ivy Suite near the pool is ideal for entertaining friends and family with its valley views, 42” TV, dining area and bar. This just scratches the surface of what Brightland offers and you can check out their website for pictures and room tours.

brightland resort mahabaleshwar view

brightland resort and spa

maple wing

MY ROOM

I spent two glorious nights at Brightland Resort and could have stayed a month! My room was one of the Maple suites – 7 luxurious, spacious rooms one besides the other, sharing a semi-common patio outside. All the Maple rooms had their own patio separated by plants, making it ideal for a large group to sit together and chill outside, while having the privacy that a personal room brings.

brightland resort maple wing

brightland mahabaleshwar

brightland maple room

Waking up to the rooster crowing in a village nearby, drawing the wall-to-wall curtains apart, opening the glass door and letting the cool, misty air gently nudge the sleep out of my eyes was a blissful start to my day.  The room is well equipped with tea/coffee making facilities and within minutes, we were out on our patio breathing in the cool air and drinking our steaming cups of tea.

brightland resort thatgoangirl

TGG brightland resort

When in the room, I spent most of my time in the massive king-sized bed, trying to work on my laptop and avoid sinking into its soft pillows. Movies were watched on the large screen TV while sitting on the sofa, eating the sandwiches we had called for from room service. I couldn’t help but compare how massive the wardrobe was to even the most luxurious hotels I’ve had the opportunity to stay at. Another smart amenity present in the room (which I amply made use of) was the little heater that we directed at our dripping wet clothes on returning from sightseeing, unfortunately, in the rain. I was so grateful to have my clothes absolutely dry in a matter of 20 minutes and not having to carry damp/wet clothes back home as was the case many, many times before.

thatgoangirl brightland resort

I loved the bright bathroom the minute I walked in! Entirely encapsulated behind a wall of glass, one needs to draw the white curtain from end to end to cut off from the bedroom. Not one, but two white sinks were laid in beige marble. On the right was the shower and further, the tub with potted plants to add a touch of greenery and freshness. Needless to say, it was spotlessly clean and well stocked in terms of toiletries and essentials.

brightland hotel maple

THE FOOD

What makes me feel spoilt in a hotel is the buffet breakfast. I love seeing options of cornflakes – cornflakes I haven’t eaten since I was probably 8 years old. The range of juices I walk past as I grab my ususal cup of coffee; the jams and cheeses, croissants and muffins! Much can be said about the fabulous breakfast spread, of which, many items changed on my second morning, to my delight! From south Indian staples to an egg-counter, waffles and pancakes (tiny, though) and home made preserves and cheeses, Brightland Resort goes all out for sure! What makes it better is sipping the perfect cup of masala chai as you dine on royal purple chairs, overlooking the view of the sun shining through the mist over the valley below Olive Garden.

brightland restaurant mahabaleshwar

breakfast mahabaleshwar

brightland buffet breakfast

Before I visited, I thought of exploring some nearby eateries around the resort, but enjoyed the food so much that the idea didn’t appeal anymore. We ordered a delicious wood fired pizza from one of the restaurants, Olive Garden, in our room the afternoon we checked in and enjoyed it while watching an action movie on our big screen TV!

brightland pizza

Pavillon is a multi-cuisine restaurant on the property as well as Angaare, an outdoor BBQ restaurant. A lounge, Over the Edge is perched at the very edge of the resort, giving you a view of the dense forest below as you sit snugly on one of the armchairs.

thatgoangirl mahabaleshwar

THE SPA

Prana Spa is one of the highlights of Brightland Resort as it is the oldest and most premium Spa in Mabaleshwar. Open to the public as well as guests, it offers a host of beauty and spa treatments ranging from traditional ayurveda to Oriental and Western Massages. I experienced the spa firsthand with a 40 minute purifying facial to rid myself of all the tan and replenish my skin after a long road trip.

Binita, my masseuse first did an aura cleanse and made me inhale the scent of rose and patchouli oils for energizing and basil and fragrance to rid me of negative energy. Even though I had got the facial just after I woke up at 9 am, after a long nights rest, I was surprised at how the calming music almost sent me into a deep sleep again. One can’t help but notice how luxurious the spa is – the purple satin fabric, soft robes, scented candles and flowers, dry fruits and honey-lemon tea at the end – it all adds to the zen-like vibe.

prana spa brightland

If you’re short on time, you can stop by for a quick foot or back massage or something more relaxed like a dry herb rub – udvartana – followed by a spell in the steamer. 2 hour long clay wraps, bath experiences, back polishes and a unique massage called Escenza Touch are also performed by skilled professionals. I was intrigued to see a Junior Spa too, where kids between 5 and 16 could indulge. Children aging 5-10 are accompanied by parents, of course.

AMENITIES

I’m sure guests who’ve stayed at Brightland will agree with me here – there’s SO much to do in the resort, that you wouldn’t feel the need to step out. A pool with a  jacuzzi, 4 restaurants and a spa is just the tip of the iceberg.

brightland resort pool

brightland pool

Brightland Hotel and Spa also has a health club with separate steam, sauna and showers for men and women, a games room with foosball, carrom, table tennis and board games, a colourful area for toddlers to play in, a kids zone with swings and a merry go round, a library and conference area, a gym, yoga amenities, tennis/volleyball/basketball courts and much more. I was also informed that on some nights, karaoke is organized and treasure hunts for the kids are a much loved activity. While there are innumerable options to keep your family busy on a short holiday, you may find it helpful to know that Brightland Resort is not pet-friendly.

brightland resort library

kids area brightland mahabaleshwar1

I could literally go on and on about my experience over 2 days at Brightland Resort and Spa, Mahabaleshwar. The staff is ever so prompt, polite and pleasing and the place is seriously worth the drive, from Mumbai, too! I’ll let you in on everything I saw in Mahabaleshwar in my next post.

Hope you’ll come along!

-Jade

Ever since I got invited to review Poush, a restaurant serving Kashmiri food and Just Kerala, a south Indian one, I’ve had the song ‘Kashmir Tu Mein Kanyakumari’ stuck in my head. And apart from that one line, I don’t know the words to that song at all. Anyway!

There’s no denying that Mumbai is a mixed bag of cultures, traditions and religions. Naturally, restaurants serving authentic regional cuisine have to find space among new-age fusion restaurants to give people a taste of home, and give foodies a taste of what the country has to offer. Poush is one such place.

AMBIENCE

poush kurla

Comfortably located on the topmost floor of Phoenix Marketcity, Kurla, Poush is anything but inconspiculous. Through its arched wooden windows and intricate patterned curtains, you’ll notice that the interiors aren’t what you’d find in an ordinary restaurant. In fact, it has been designed to resemble a traditional, opulent shikara – or houseboat – on the Dal Lake in Kashmir.

poush mumbai

Both sides of the restauant feature ‘cubicles’ with drawn curtains wherein a thin matteress on which to sit cross legged on either sides of a low table are placed. The center of the restaurant has conventional tables and chairs. I picked the former seating arrangement and stretched my legs out under the table that seemed almost too big for two, but too small for four.

Instrumental sitar and tabla music played on in the background and our tummies began to rumble for a taste of Kashmir’s delectable cuisine.

SERVICE

The staff was quick to attend to patrons and suggest the specials among the vast dozen paged menu. The food came out surprisingly quickly for such lavishly cooked dishes. I couldn’t help but smile when, on requesting for the traditional Kashmiri Thaali comprising of 6-7 meaty dishes, the waiter raised his eyebrows, looked at me and said “madam, zyada padega aapke liye,” (that would be too much food for you). Can’t blame him or his good intentions – he doesn’t know who he’s dealing with 🙂

FOOD

I always read zomato reviews AFTER I visit a restaurant, so that the opinions of others don’t cloud my own judgement. I go without any preconcieved notions and apart from knowing what the menu is like, I don’t read what others have to say. So I was honestly surprised when I came home and read one negative review after another about Poush. My experience was by and large quite positive!

Alphonse and Love Story –  I wasn’t a fan of Alphonse which was made of mango juice, khus and cream. Since it was a mango-based drink, I thought it would be, well, mango-coloured and not green! True, it isn’t the season for fresh mango, but the overly-sweet, artificial taste of the juice was not just lingering, but strong. Love Story, on the other hand was great! I loved the tart pineapple, sweet mango and delicious flavour and scent of rose!

poush kashmiri restaurant

Poush Special Kebab – Rajma Masala is the quintessential comfort food for North Indians and a few of us in the south, too. I skipped the regular meaty kebabs and tried this vegetarian one simply because the name said it was a Poush special. It was a great start to the meal – crispy edges, soft inside and the taste of sauteed onions and herbs was present in every bite! Different from the creamy, satisfying rajma I’m used to.

poush special kebab

Kokur Seekh Kanti – Boneless chicken in a smoky tomato gravy is always bound to be a crowd pleaser. What would have made it much better was if the chicken wasn’t as hard and chewy as it was. I felt the presentation could have used a little work, too.

kokur seekh kanti poush mumbai

Trami – I had a fabulous introduction to Kashmiri cuisine through the Wazwan, a multi course feast prepared during Kashmiri weddings and served on a copper thali called a Trami. To call it a meal would be an understatement, it is nothing short of a meaty celebration. The ‘half-trami’ comprises of 5 starters and 5 main dishes that serve 2.

I was a little surprised on seeing 5 starter pieces served around a heap of rice. Nadier Palak Tikki was fenugreek cutlet of sorts, sort of like a dal wada or a dry cutlet. It was similar to a dal wada in looks and texture but the strong herbal taste of fenugreek was the prime differentiation.

trami wazwan poush mumbai

Fried chicken was yet another starter – it looked red hot but was mild in taste and, unlike the kokur seekh kanti, quite succulent. Next up, seekh kebab – melt-in-the-mouth minced mutton marinated and grilled on skewers over coal, keeping the delicate crunch of onions in the meat for texture.

The most interesting starter was the kabargah, which I learnt were ribs of a young lamb cooked in a special blend of milk and spices and then fried. It comes absolutely bone-dry and tastes as if it had been dried in the sun for days. I really got down and dirty eating this Kashmiri delicacy, with its crispy edges and sinewy meat that took quite a lot of effort to get off the bone. The best way to eat this is without any inhibitions!

Lastly, we sampled methi maaz which stood out for being the only gravy starter. This aromatic, spicy curry had tiny fatty chunks of mutton and generous amounts of fenugreek. The rice helped balance out the fiery spices here, but made us so full that we didn’t anticipate how to tackle the 5 mains.

that goan girl poush

Among the 5 main dishes I mopped up with tandoori roti, I loved the hearty Rogan Josh best! This signature bright red lamb dish had robust flavours and the softest meat soaked in rich, flavour-packed gravy. Goshtaba was another first for me. It was a dish of tough, tightly formed mutton balls cooked in a mildly tempered curd gravy. A tasty bowl of rajma was the only familiar dish I knew of. Nadier Palak added a whole new taste profile thanks to the lotus stem-spinach gravy and broke up the meat and spice overload. Lastly, Ruwangan Kokur also featured which was a chicken dish cooked in a tomato gravy with ample seasoning with kashmiri chillies.

trami kashmiri food

When we were too stuffed to breathe, the waiter bought out an elaborate spouted copper teapot with water and a vessel called a Tash Naer to wash our hands in and finally, dessert comprised of a simple Phirni in a clay dish.

phirni poush mumbai

No Kashmiri meal is complete without Kahwa, a strong, fragrant, absolutely delicious green tea. While I’m not a fan of green tea, the taste of cardamom, nuts, saffron and apples really cleansed my palate and was soul-warming to say the least. Loved every drop of it!

kahwa poush mumbai

That comes to the end of my elaborate, scrumptious meal at Poush in Kurla. If you’re based in the Western Suburbs or SoBo, it may seem like a tremendous task to travel all the way to Kurla, but for die-hard food lovers, it is worth the trip! Poush also delivers all across Mumbai within 1-4 hours, depending on where you’re based.

Address: S-25, Floor 2, Phoenix Market City, LBS Road, Kurla, Mumbai

Cost for 2 – Rs. 2000/-

Hope you enjoyed reading this! I’ll keep you posted on my latest food discoveries on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, too!

Note – I was invited to review Poush, and my meal was sponsored. However, views, as always, are my own.

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!

Note – I was invited to review Just Kerala, and my meal was sponsored. However, views, as always, are my own.