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!

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