Friday 24 December 2010

Christmas decorations, goodies, gifts and more... - PART 2

Christmas ornaments

Christmas tree


Christmas stockings

Snow globe

Stuffed toy

 Antler hat

Christmas decorations, goodies, gifts and more... - PART 1

In the spirit of Christmas and a way of curing my Christmas hangover, here are some photographs I shot of beautiful Christmas decorations, yummy decorative cupcakes and cookies, gifting items and 'gifted' items :)
Since I've clicked dozens of pictures, this post is divided into 2 parts.
And Merry Christmas to you all :)

Decorative ornaments

Special Christmas cupcakes and cookies!

Thursday 23 December 2010

Christmas brunches in Mumbai

A time to celebrate, sing, dance and make merry, Christmas brings with it a sack full of joy. It is also a time to forget about diets and low-fat foods and simply gorge on finger-licking Christmas treats. Here’s a round of the yummiest authentic festive brunches in Mumbai city.

COMING UP NEXT: A photo feature on Christmas decorations and goodies!

The Oberoi, Nariman Point
Start this lavish brunch with a selection of salads: salmon, cold cuts/ turkey platters and then move on to traditional roast turkey, Canadian duck breast or dig into an array of sushi. Satiate your sweet tooth with the indulgent platter of desserts that include mince pies, Christmas stollens and pudding. To top it all, sit back and down the free-flowing Bollinger Champagne, or head to their Martini and Cosmopolitan bar.

Relish a decadent Christmas Menu, from December 24-30, with classic Christmas salad from Naples andtrilogy of foie gras, grilled lobster and roast lamb and traditional Christmas pudding.

For reservations, please contact 022-66322011

Address: The Oberoi, Nariman Point, Mumbai – 400021

Trident, Nariman Point
Ever seen a turkey being carved? If not, then this is your chance. Head to Frangipani and watch the gallant chefs carve the Christmas turkey; and make sure you’re sipping on Frangipani’s signature Sangria while doing so. Wine drinkers don’t miss the free pour of wines and sparkling wine cocktails. Strike a sweet note with a sampling of Christmas desserts at the Cappuccino bar. To complete your hearty Christmas meal, Santa Claus will enchant you with his jelly belly and snow-white beard.

Christmas Eve Dinner: 
Timing: 7:30 p.m. onwards
Price: Rs. 2,750* for adults; Rs. 1,500* for children (up to 12 years)

Christmas Day Brunch: 
Timing: 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Price: Rs. 3,000* for adults; Rs. 1,500* for children (up to 12 years)

Verandah promises to bring you sweet desires with live counters and an array of Mediterranean desserts such as Black Forest and Chestnut Jiavara Yule logs all through Christmas and New Year.

* All charges are per person and inclusive of applicable taxes
For reservations, please call 022-66322011

Address: Trident, Nariman Point, Mumbai - 400021

Four Seasons, Worli
Lots more yuletide yummies this year, as the Four Seasons open up across three venues to serve a super-sized family feast! From turkey, with all the trimmings to Brittany oysters and caviar to foie gras and charcuterie; you’ll be spoilt for choice. To soak it all in, wine and dine in CAFÉ PRATO, while our cheery elves throw a party for the little ones in THE PAVILION. And look out for a special visit from the bearded one himself!

Timing: 12:30 p.m. – 4 p.m.
Price: Rs. 3,000 per person (including Louis Roederer Champagne); Rs. 900 + taxes for children (5-12 years)

Looking to turn a good Christmas Day into an incredible Christmas Night? Then climb up 34 floors to Aer—a heady haven of star-lit style. Perched high above the bustling Mumbai metropolis, enjoy the incredible view with champagne cocktails and DJ Dino’s booting-shaking beats.

Timing: 8 p.m. onwards
Price: Rs. 2,500 per couple or Rs. 1,500 (entry only)
Attire: Smart casual

For reservations, please call 022-24818444

Address: 114 Dr. E. Moses Road, Worli, Mumbai - 400018

Intercontinental The Lalit, Andheri
For a grand buffet replete with all your favorite Christmas goodies such as Roasted Turkey with a generous stuffing, Roast Duckling, Honey baked ham and Christmas pudding, head to InterContinental The Lalit. And make sure you take along a hungry stomach to be able to make the best of this buffet!

Christmas Eve Dinner: 
Timing: 7:00 p.m. – 11:30 p.m.

Christmas Day Lunch: 
Timing: 12:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.

Address: InterContinental The Lalit, Sahar Airport, Andheri (East), Mumbai – 400059

Courtyard, Marriott, Andheri
Cakes and bakes, gourmet gifts, turkey on the menu, carols galore, Santa giving out gifts and silver bells—all this and much more awaits you at Courtyard by Marriott.

Not only will the chefs ensure you have a lip-smacking feast, but the hotel will woo you with their gorgeous décor. Halls will be decked with red and silver festive balls, snowflakes and a lovely 11-feet-high Gingerbread house—a scintillating visual treat.

MOMO CAFÉ offers the perfect place for families to come together and celebrate Christmas while singing along with the caroling team and meet Santa Claus himself! The brunch is an elaborate brunch spread of delicacies like Christmas Turkey Roast, Honey Glazed Pork Leg, Herb-roasted Lemon Peppercorn Feed Chicken, Hot and Sour Crab Soup, together with usual suspects like pastas, risottos and pizzas. Pamper yourself with sinful desserts such as the Chocolate Yule Log, New York Cheesecake and Hazelnut Panacotta with a berry compote, among many other delightful selections.

Price: Rs. 1,100 + taxes, per person

Alternatively, you can also pick up delectable festive treats from MOMO TO GO! And gift your loved ones baked goodies like plum cake, stollen bread, linzer torte, dundee cake, florentine cookies, coconut macaroons, etc.

Address: Courtyard, Marriott, 215 Mathuradas Vasanji Road (Andheri-Kurla Road), Andheri East, Mumbai – 400059

Renaissance Hotel, Powai
Aside from a festive feast comprises of Roast Turkey and Cranberry Sauce, Barbecue, spread of appetizing salads and mouth-watering desserts, the hotel will reverberate with a line-up of lively activities for the children like storytelling and puppet shows, to name a few. A two-piece band and colourful décor will further accentuate the festive feel for the day.

Price: Rs. 1,800 (alcoholic); Rs. 1,450 (non-alcoholic)
For reservations, please call 022-66927550

A live band performance for the adults and a special kids’ corner for the kids will ensure plenty of family-bonding time. In addition, there will be carol singing galore and a cheery Santa Claus walking around distributing gifts to children and adults alike.

The spread includes roast counters of Turkey, Lamb of Leg, Pork Roulade, Lamb Stew, and more, along with delicious desserts like Christmas logs. Pour on some sparkling wine and Moet & Chandon with your preferred authentic Italian delicacies.

Christmas Day Brunch: 
Price: Rs. 1,500 (non-alcoholic); Rs. 1,800 (alcoholic); Rs. 2,500 (champagne brunch)
For reservations, please call 022-66927540

Address: Renaissance Hotel, 2 & 3B, Near Chinmayanand Ashram. Powai, Mumbai - 400087

Monday 22 November 2010

Honeymoon destinations

The wedding season has graciously arrived once again and people are coming together for lifelong bliss. So while romance is in the air, I offer you some common and some uncommon honeymoon destinations. I compiled this list for a very atypical bridal issue of a lifestyle supplement, where the reigning theme asked women: What kind of bride are you? We put together 4 different kinds of brides: The rock chick bride (the adventurous one), the Indian bride (traditional and conventional), the austere bride (simple, no frills) and the glamorous bride (the ultimate luxurious kind). Read on as I list the down the destinations that suite them best.

The rock chick bride
At the outset, Kenya seems like an unlikely honeymoon destination. But its rustic landscape and abundant wildlife coupled with endless white tree-lined beaches are reason enough to lure anyone. Kenyan safaris are most popular on honeymooners’ lists. There are plenty of safari lodges and camps across Kenya that include activities such as guided bush walks, balloon safaris and romantic meals prepared al fresco. You can cosy up in luxury tents at one of Kenya’s nature reserves while gaping at spectacular wildlife or take a hot air balloon ride amid the wondrous view of the snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro. 
Places to visit: Masai Mara National Reserve and Amboseli National Park.

Photo courtesy: Collin J.

Photo courtesy: Paul Mannix

For the rock chick bride nothing spells unconventional more than crazy adventure sports on a rugged terrain. With a rustic landscape and feisty mountains as a backdrop, Ladakh offers a diversity of mountain climbing, biking, paragliding, trekking and white water rafting. If you chose to give the adventure sports a miss, you can also explore the numerous monasteries and learn more about the Buddhist culture that predominantly envelops this state.
Places to visit: Leh to explore monasteries, Zanskar for river rafting and Markha valley for trekking.

The traditional Indian bride
Switzerland has eternally been a prime attraction for honeymooners; even Bollywood has laid a stamp of approval by featuring it in many a film. Snowy mountain peaks, Swiss chocolate, Swiss cheese, lake cruises and Alpine meadows combine to assure you of an unforgettable honeymoon. Mountain biking, hiking and skiing lure the more adventurous lot, whereas candle-lit dinner with expensive champagne by the fireplace in a chalet makes for an ideal romantic escapade.
Places to visit: A lake cruise in Lucerne, horse-drawn carriage rides in Zermatt and Interlaken for a glimpse at Jungfraujoch, the highest mountain in Europe.

Kerala displays a versatility as no other state in India. Whether it is calm lakes, serene backwaters, lush green tea estates, breezy hill stations or secluded beaches, Kerala truly has it all. Moreso, this resplendent state also extends a gamut of unique staying options such as houseboats, tree houses, luxury cottages, homestays and more. As a couple you can also enjoy relaxing spa therapies together as Kerala is reputed for its effective Ayurvedic treatments. Don’t forget to sample the delectable coastal cuisine that comprises a wide variety of seafood and local favourites like payasam, parboiled rice and aviyal traditionally eaten on a banana leaf.
Places to visit: Munnar, Fort Kochi, Kumarakom and Wayanad.

The glam bride
This archipelago has long been known for its clear turquoise waters and palm-fringed, soft, powdery sand beaches. Seychelles welcomes you to explore its magical marine world filled with sea turtles, reef fish and brightly hued corals. This coastal haven offers a grand gastronomic fare with its exotic seafood. You can stroll along the beaches or dive in and go snorkelling in the deep blue sea. The nightlife here is dotted with music and fanfare amid beach bands, pulsating night clubs and bustling casinos. While you’re miles away from civilisation, bask in the glorious tropical paradise of the island of Mahé set against a backdrop of towering mountains.
Places to visit: Victoria, the capital city, and Praslin and Mahé islands.

Photo courtesy: Tiare Scott

Palace on wheels
An unconventional fusion of luxury accommodation with the thrill of discovering local sights while on the move, the grand Palace on Wheels is a true royal experience. The royal seven-day train journey begins from Delhi and arrives at Jaipur on day two, moving to Jaisalmer on day three and Jodhpur on day four, and there on to Ranthambore Tiger Sanctuary and Chittaurgarh Fort. On day six, it is back in Jaipur and the final leg leads to the eternally romantic city of Agra before concluding at Delhi. The train comprises 14 fully air-conditioned saloons named after former Rajput states. Every saloon is complete with a mini pantry and lounge with elements such as music, intercom, attached toilets, shower, carpets and other amenities. The overall experience is of being in an opulent five-star hotel and pampered like royalty—a perfect honeymoon!

The Austere bride
This ‘saucer’ shaped valley, located in Madhya Pradesh, is the only hill station in Central India. Pachmarhi got its name from the five caves that—according to local beliefs—once sheltered the Pandavas during their exile. Also known as Queen of the Satpura (range) Pachmarhi is also an archaeological treasure-house. With a rare blend of religion, history and nature, Pachmarhi is embellished with tranquil forest glades, groves of wild bamboo and jamun and delicate bamboo thickets. Head to Lord Shiva’s Chauragarh temple, bathe under the beautiful Bee Falls or simply watch a romantic sunset at Dhupgarh.
Places to visit: Bison Lodge, Pandav caves, Apsara Falls.

Sri Lanka
Sun, sand and surf, it’s all here in Sri Lanka. Besides verdant landscapes and a stunning coastline, Sri Lanka also boasts of stunning underwater coral reefs, cascading waterfalls and golden sandy beaches. Snorkeling, scuba diving, surfing and floating on glass bottom boats are sure to raise your ‘fun’ quotient.  The country is replete with old forts, museums, temples, viharas (monasteries) and churches to satiate your thirst for history and culture. There also are many casinos, discos and clubs that comprise the vibrant nightlife here. But most of all, it is Sri Lanka’s abundance of sparkling gems like sapphires, rubies and other exotic gemstones that will floor your beloved.
Places to visit: Bentota, Hikkaduwa and Colombo.

Photo courtesy: Rahul d Lucca

Photo courtesy: Vincent Teeuwen

Published in iDiva, November 2009 issue. 

Friday 22 October 2010

A Portuguese sojourn - Panjim, Goa

It's funny, even though I've been to Goa umpteen number of times I haven't done a single post on it. So, I'm starting with Panaji (also called Panjim). This subdued capital of Goa rarely gets its due, as most people head to the more popular Calanghute and Bagha beaches.  On your next trip to Goa, take a detour from the party scene and head to  Panaji for a look at Goa’s unexplored culture and heritage.

Goa’s reputation for its sprawling beaches and wild parties often precedes the arrival of its tourists. And in the search for the hippie Goa, its capital city of Panaji is often given a miss. But this quaint colonial town has a personality of its own.  With narrow, shaded streets and colourful heritage homes vying for attention, Panaji reflects the cultural side of Goa. A fairly unexplored city with a serene waterfront, Panaji sprung many a surprise at me on my recent visit. Here’s what I discovered...

Things to see and do
Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church
This surreal white structure has been in existence since 1541. Its magnificence can be judged by the 100 steps you have to walk to get into the church. The interior reflects the architecture of the era it was built in, but it’s simplistic in comparison to the monolithic exterior. The best time to visit is during the three-day celebration of the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, towards the end of May, where people come to witness the sheer splendour of the church. There are also stalls that sell tiny miniatures, souvenirs, sweets, food and drink.

As you walk into Fontainhas, it’ll seem as though someone came with buckets of colours and splashed them over all the houses. Most of the homes here are painted in ochre, brick red, deep blue and soft lavender reminiscent of the Portuguese era, when locals were asked to paint their homes in different colours, as only the churches could be painted white. Take a nostalgic walk down the narrow streets of this beautiful heritage quarter that is located near River Ourem. 

Kala Academy
The Kala Academy not only provides a platform to showcase upcoming talent, but also houses a beautiful large space by the seaside, where you simply immerse in the surroundings. In addition to an art gallery, auditorium, library and performance halls, it has a well-maintained garden facing the sea and a large canteen.

Miramar beach
The Miramar (Portuguese for viewing the sea) beach is just three kilometres from Panaji. It’s more popular with the locals than tourists since it’s not a very clean beach. Although with soft silvery sand and a string of palm trees providing shade, it’s a nice place to come and watch the sunset.

Panaji Jetty
If in Panaji, you must take the sunset cruise on River Mandovi. There are many boats that offer several cruises through the day. The cruise is filled with cultural song and dance performances, true Goan style. If you’re fond of gambling, step abroad India’s only boat casino, the Caravela.

Where to eat
One of the most popular restaurants in Goa, Mum’s Kitchen—located on the Panaji-Miramar road—was essentially a move to save Goan cuisine. Started over 10 years ago, the menu serves authentic Goan cuisine researched from Goan villages. Dishes such as nalachi kodi, which is a traditional Goan-Hindu refreshing drink made of kokum blended with coconut milk, are truly unique. A must-try is the Crepe Mum, a pancake filled with a mixture of coconut and jaggery and served with vanilla ice-cream topped with chocolate sauce and garnished with cashews. The ambiance exudes an earthy feeling, especially a stone wall adorned with pots and urns from another era.

For Goan cuisine desi-style, go to George restaurant (located near Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church) and try the scrumptious chicken xacuti and pork sorpotel. Owned by Eddie, this 55-year-old restaurant is a favourite with the local populace. He specialises in the pork vindaloo, beef cream chops, pork sausages and shark ambiotic.


Don’t leave Panaji without buying local goodies such as bebinca, dodol and pork sausages to name a few. Once in the market area, look for a shop called T-Centre, which is close to the fish market. This is a one-stop shop where you’ll find all local delicacies.