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.

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

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

GETTING THERE

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

THE HOTEL

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

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

hotel sangam residency room

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

THE ROOM

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

sangam residency ratnagiri

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

hotel in ratnagiri

hotel sangam

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

THE FOOD

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

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

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

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

MUMBAI TO GOA

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

NH 4 – This route takes you through Pune and Kolhapur

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

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

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

road goa to mumbai

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

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

roadtrip mumbai to goa

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

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

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

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

GOA TO MUMBAI

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

roadtrip goa to mumbai

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

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

coffee road trip goa to mumbai

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

hotel annapurna NH66

hotel annapurna poladpur

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

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

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

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

ratnagiri konkan kanya

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

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

ratnagiri mandvi beach

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

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

that goan girl mandvi beach

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

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

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

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

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

How are you doing, guys?

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

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

pa pa ya ambience

AMBIENCE

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

pa pa ya ambience colaba

SERVICE

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

FOOD

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

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

crispy lotus roots

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

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

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

sushi tree pa pa ya colaba

sushi tree pa pa ya

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

lamb mandarin bee hun

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

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

beet infused dimsum pa pa ya

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

pla samrot gung pa pa ya

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

pork skewers papaya

pork skewers pa pa ya

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

wasabi rice pa pa ya

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

lamb rendang pa pa ya

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

pad thai noodles pa pa ya

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

chicken chilly sauce pa pa ya

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

flaming chocolate ball pa pa ya

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

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

Cost for 2: Rs. 3000/-

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

xoxo

P.S.- I was invited to review Pa Pa Ya, and my meal was sponsored. However, views, as always, are my own.