Before K, I never gave tea much thought. It was a beverage my parents counted on, which was sometimes had three times a day. For me, my daily beverage was cold coffee, and in the winter months I switched to a hotter version. Tea was always had when I had a splitting headache.
With K, there seems to be chai everywhere. This ‘chai connoisseur’ has brought more tea into my life, and while we were walking aimlessly down Bandra’s twisted streets, we came upon the Taj Mahal Tea House. That evening we crossed the road and took a look at the menu, and decided to come the next day for breakfast.
Sitting snug in Sanatan Pereira Bungalow on St John Baptist Road in Bandra West, the Taj Mahal Tea House is a charming place. It’s got a beautiful blue and white exterior, with white shuttered door while the interiors are a shade of light biscuit coloured with tinges of blue and white highlights all over. I fell for the decor. The French windows, the vintage side tables with an all-white upcycled look, possible a Ming vase, books placed along the windows with white, lacy curtains… ah! This place is a dream.
Being a tea house, the chai menu was quite exhaustive, and there were some familiar ones and other not-so-familiar combinations. Like Guava Karipatta Chai, Malabari Vanilla Coconut Chai or even the Matcha Rose Chai. The Kashmir Saffron Chai (INR 220), with its delicate aroma laced with the hint of saffron was quite loved, as was the Calcutta Chai. This Bombay trip last year was quite an amazing one, and the Taj Mahal Tea House was one of the highlights of the vacation.
The food here is as wonderful as the tea, and there are quite a few options, including tea pairings with food items. House-made Eggs Benedict (INR 390) home-made English muffin topped with tomato concasse, spinach and poached egg, and slathered with hollandaise sauce and House Style Kejriwal Eggs on Toast (INR 350), a house special with the chef’s take on this delectable classic dish.
I really enjoyed the ambience in this place. Perfect spot to take oneself out on a date for a cup of tea and armed with a book. Even on a hot and humid day, this is a perfect spot to beat the heat.
At home for what feels like an eternity, I cannot help but look back at some of the trips I took earlier this year. In January, K and I were in Jaipur for the literature festival. One wonders what would have happened had the coronavirus pandemic hit India closer to this date? The festival would have been cancelled, no doubt. Who knows if they’ll organise it next year? There’s no knowing when the outbreak will ease.
But, coming back to the Pink City, of which I have much to explore, today I shall talk about the Bar Palladio Jaipur. One of the perfect spots for date night. This fine-dining Italiant restaurant took my breath away. Located in Narayan Singh Circle, as we approached the establishment we could spot shimmering hues of golden royal blue. It looked ethereal. The sandy front had quite a few mini tents put up where many groups were seated under the starry sky and faint candle light. These were good spots for groups, and the setting looked dreamy.
At one point in time, I thought I could never succumb to eating out healthy. If I am spending money and time on eating out, I should get the bang for my buck, right? I was also the kind of person who would never pick a salad. Now, that I have migrated to eating healthier and trying to change my lifestyle one morsel at a time, I still don’t go for salads. At least, not that easily. But eating healthy does not mean opting for salads alone. Neither does it always mean vegan. It’s a whole new world out there, and it’s time to explore. :)
It’s the third of April as I write this post and right now the Coronavirus situation seems quite precarious here in India. Since we’re mostly relegated to staying indoors and trying not to order food from outside, all I can think of are my top comfort food spots in Delhi NCR, places I shall definitely head over to once the situation normalises. 1. Triveni Terrace Cafe: Tucked away at a stone’s throw distance from Mandi House metro station, Triveni Terrace Café is a cute, little spot to get away from the hubbub of the city. Ensconced behind a hanging garden, with both indoor and outdoor seating, this place dishes out not just delicious food but it’s quite affordable. The cooking here is simple, not over the top, and clean.
Overlooking a green amphitheatre, which on most days is home to exhibitions,the café at Triveni Art Gallery is perfect for that date or catch-up with a friend. One of the must-try dishes here would be the Palak Patta Chaat (INR 155). It first sounded unappetising to me, palak patta, eww. But it turned out to be so good, and it’s quite filling also. Other go-to favourites here are the Gunpowder Ragi Idli (INR 135) and the Bangla Scotch Eggs (INR 190). The former is such a healthy and filling option. You’ll get over a dozen baby idlis covered in gunpowder and a pudina chutney on the side. The dish as such can be a little dry, so take a generous helping of the chutney.
2. Greenr Cafe: At one point in time, I would have been very sceptical of plant protein-based meals, but it is so delicious! Greenr Cafe at 32nd Milestone in Gurgaon has lip-smackingly delicious offerings in its vegetarian kitchen. I have come to love this place so much that there are days I crave for a comforting bowl of gnocchi or even their fizzy drinks.
Greenr, which refers to itself as India’s first modern eatery to be inspired by California Vegan Cuisine, focusses on plant-based proteins and replaces the nutrients and textures of animal meat with vegetarian options. The concept of their complex plant-based proteins or #PlantPro takes some getting used to. One such example would be the Shroom Balls, which are essentially a mix of mushrooms, spinach, olives and brown rice. This isn’t something you can order off the menu, but is integrated with other food items, such as the Tuscan Shroom Balls (INR 430). Now, I am not always gung ho for burgers, but this was just something else. Served with a side of sweet potatoes (which I love) and mixed bean salad, it has shroom balls patty, basil pesto, buffalo mozzarella cheese, mesclun greens and neapolitan sauce in a wholewheat bun.
The Shroom Balls Spaghetti (INR 435) is another insanely delicious item that I love. It has wholewheat spaghetti, shroom balls, neapolitan sauce with basil and topped with parmesan. Thankfully, not every item on the menu is vegan. There is some level of cheesy goodness. And, my all-time favourite would be Blue Cheese Buckwheat Gnocchi (INR 375) with green peas, broccoli, yellow squash and almond flakes.
I’ve written a whole post on this place. You can check it out here.
3. The Pasta Bowl Company: For when I crave Italian goodness, I must run over to The Pasta Bowl Company in Gurgaon’s Crosspoint Mall. I’ve come here ever so often, it truly feels like home. It’s cozy interiors, warm service, and delish food has me hooked for a long time now.
Also, apart from the food, another reason why I love this place is because I have such great memories here. This is not one of those kind of places where you will say ‘Oh, maybe you didn’t pick the right thing on the menu’, cause till date everything I’ve had, I’ve loved. Unless there is a particular preparation that doesn’t agree with you. I am not a big fan of risottos. And I’ve never had it here. But there are tonnes of things to choose from. You can pick crostinis topped with mushrooms and artichokes, tomato and basil, or even minced chicken.
It’s been a while since I’ve been there, so I am not sure if the menu has changed in the interim. I do remember the Tortellini Puttanesca, fresh pasta stuffed with chicken ragout cooked with tomato sauce, olives and capers, was delicious. The humble Carbonara with fettucine in creamy Parmesan sauce and topped with smoked bacon was so satisfying. Truth be told, I am salivating as I write this, stuck at home. There was one time with M, when we probably sat here for over three hours, just sitting idly and munching, ordering one thing after the other. We ended our feast with a walnut pasta. Even though the name is on the tip of my tongue, you can always ask the servers if they still serve it.
4. Zambar: Adding some South Indian fanfare to this list, Zambar in Gurgaon’s Ambience Mall is another place that is close to my heart. I’ve been here umpteen number of times. Do try the SriLankan Kotthu Roti. The typical flaky paratha stir fried with vegetables is a tad spicy for my taste but the gravy accompaniment helps temper the flames a bit.
But my absolute favourite here would be the fluffy appams and their many accompaniments. They’re out of this world. I haven’t come across too many south Indian eateries in Delhi NCR that serve appams. Malabar in Saket does, as far as I remember.
A sure shot comforting dish is the traditional Syrian Christian mushroom preparation, best had with hot appams or even the delectable flaky Malabar paratha or parotta. The Malabar vegetable stew is another one that is bound to uplift your spirits. You can check the link here for my post.
5. Delhi Club House: Basking in its vintage, colonial appeal, Delhi Club House is a relatively new favourite. I wish it was an old favourite like Peter Cat in Calcutta or Peiping’s (how many remember this Chinese restaurant on Park Street?), but it definitely brings a lot of the British club ambience with its plush leather seats, dark interiors, and dim lighting.
For a person who misses fish ‘n’ chips Calcutta style, I always make a beeline for the Fish finger orly (INR 445). The menu also mentions which particular city club the dishes have been recreated from, and this one, no doubt, comes from Bengal Club. Usually, when I would visit Dalhousie Club in Calcutta, I would enjoy my Cordon Blue and other such continential delights.
But here, I crave the vegetable biryani, which as far as I remember, is served only for lunch. It’s served in a pretty handi along with raita and salan, and yes, I am indeed salivating just a smidge right now. Even the Amritsari kulcha and channa from Amritsar Club (INR 445) is divine. The last time I visited this place, in Delhi’s RK Puram, I got my mum along for lunch. And boy, did she leave with a smile on her face. We left Calcutta back in 2006, and there are quie a few things we miss. Mum misses the Bengali bhadralok etiquette, the city, her friends and colleagues, while I miss the food the most. They have another outlet at Gurgaon’s One Horizon Center on Golf Course Road.
Currently, as I sit in my living room staring outside onto the playground, all I can dream of are beaches. Sunny beaches, crowded beaches, desolate beaches, beaches where the waves lash against the rocks, the frothy foam bubbling away till they disappear, and even the gentle waves that lap quietly against a sandy edge.
I miss the beaches, I miss Goa, and with it, I miss the wonderful restaurants and shacks that line up one after the other, from where music can be heard from a stone’s throw distance, sandy steps and wooden decks, and the crew busy serving the people. Oh, what I would’ve done for some cheesy fries and ketchup, a pint of cold beer (Budweiser, if you ask me), and delectable goodness.
And when it comes to restaurants along the Konkan coastline, Britto’s comes instantly to mind. One of Baga’s most famous restaurants, Britto’s Bar and Restaurant. I’ve been here a few times, always with a different crowd, and that’s the thing about this place, it can cater to all ages. My first was in college, back in 2010. Gosh, ten years ago! It was a long weekend, and almost half of my batch was found to be idling in some corner of Goa, mostly the north since we kept bumping into someone or the other.
The second time was with K, definitely a romantic dinner on the beach, in quite a crowded enclosure, with tables quite close to each other. Neverthless, the experience was otherworldly. We were literally on the beach, the sand beneath our feet, the waves a stone’s throw distance from us. We could hear the waves lapping against the beach, and the starry sky. Breathtaking. If you’re in need of a stiff drink, pick Devil’s Touch, it’s is a pretty strong one.
And for good measure, if you want to enjoy a bit more after stuffing your face, head to the shack next door, I forget the name, and get yourself a hookah. I kid you not. After a stiff drink, pick Devil’s Touch, which is a pretty strong one, puffing away on a hookah on the beach is euphoric.
One of the most popular dishes here is the Seafood Platter. This sinful feast includes a prawn cocktail, baked crab, mussels in white wine, butter garlic calamari, grilled fish and served with a side of chips and salad. Other great options here would be the Fried prawns, again served with chips and salad. It is better to order this if you’re going to share with someone. As a single meal for myself, it got a bit overwhelming. Also, trust me, it was difficult to pop in those crumb-covered, deep-fried prawns one after the other. And for those wanting to try something traditional, the humble Goan fish curry will set you off real nice.
Britto’s is quite an iconic spot on Baga Beach, but for those who want a little less fanfare, less crowd, and more of traditional food, head over to the Kokni Canteen in Panjim. You will thank me. It’s a tiny establishment, but you will not regret this, even if you have to wait in a line for this. Probably note this one down too for post-coronavirus days. I’ve written a whole post on this. You can check it right here.