Monday, 16 August 2010

Unusual restaurants in Mumbai

An ice lounge or a shikara? Read on as I list some of Mumbai’s funky out-of-the-box dining places...

KongPoush - Flavour of Kashmir, Goregaon
Experience: Sitting in a shikara
Why: Inspired by one of the most romantic destinations in India, Kashmir, the owners of KongPoush have set up a mini-Kashmir amid the obscurity of Mumbai’s Goregaon area.
Some of the tables are shaped like shikaras and some have the feel of a houseboat offering a feel of what it is to be at Dal Lake in Srinagar. And with a chef flown down from Jammu and Kashmir, equipped with authentic ingredients available only in this snow-clad valley, the restaurant promises lip-smacking Kashmiri fare. 
Must try: Goshtaba (pounded meatballs in yoghurt-rich curry) for non-vegetarian, Jammu’s special rajma for vegetarian, shufta (a sweet dish made with dry coconut, raisins, dates and khus khus cooked in a sweet syrup) and the ever-popular kahwa (a refreshing tea flavoured with cinnamon, cardamom and saffron).

Aer Bar and Lounge, Four Seasons Hotel, Worli
Experience: An aerial view of the city from the 34th floor
Why: Simple because Aer, the whopping 34th floor rooftop bar and lounge at the Four Seasons, offers a refreshing view of the city that never sleeps. The well laid-out edgy, futuristic furniture lends a cosy, lounge feel, while its al fresco nature lets you watch the sunset and the rare aerial view of Mumbai city’s skyline. All this while sipping on exotic cocktails served alongside mezze platters. A reasonable (especially for a 5-star hotel) entry fee of Rs. 1500 is now levied.
Must try: Horizon (vodka, coconut water) and Vyoo. 

Picture courtesy: Aer

21 Fahrenheit, Andheri
Experience: Chilling in a lounge where the temperature is -6 degrees
Why: Mumbai’s static humid weather is reason enough to try this one-of-a-kind ice lounge in Mumbai’s suburbia. To enjoy the -6 degrees temperature, you’re given a thick jacket, warm boots and a pair of gloves. As you enter, the memory of being in Mumbai soon evaporates in the vapour emanating from your mouth. Everything inside the lounge is made of ice; the seats, the walls, the stringed curtains, the décor and even the glasses you drink your favourite cocktail/mocktail in. Like I said—everything’s made of ice. What makes it super spectacular though is the fact that you can eat hot starters while enjoying the chilly weather.
Must try: House on fire (a fiery mix of vodka, jalapeno, pepper, gherkins, lime and black olives) is the house favourite. The chicken gilawati kebab and the tofiya-amin are yummy starters for non-vegetarian and vegetarian, respectively. 

Firangi Dhaba, Andheri
Experience: Eating in a rickshaw
Why:  To some, sitting and eating inside a rickshaw may not sound exciting. But with film posters, old lanterns, kites, glass patchwork walls and other such kitschy pieces forming a backdrop, it’s quite an exciting experience. The cuisine is a fusion of authentic dhaba da khana (authentic Punjabi-style) and continental fare. Check out the sewing-machine converted table, the cart-converted table and funky cut-outs of Salman and Aishwarya that are kept apart, of course!
Must try: Murg-dil-e-bahar (tandoori chicken cooked in raw mango gravy), sabzi-diwane-khas (vegetables cooked in a special sauce prepared in-house) and lassi in the typical tall, brass tumbler.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

The coffee express - Part 2

In the second part of the 2-part series, my buddy Alisha Fernandes ventured to the east and the south of India to get you some of the best caffeine fixes available there.

Where: Cacao Bakery and Café, Gangtok
Why: For a frothy cappuccino and mouth watering donut.
What: This cute little café in Gangtok’s MG Marg denotes the changing trend of the city from primarily being tea drinkers to an upcoming coffee culture. They serve cupcakes, savoury treats and cookies to satisfy your every craving. Their message to all: ‘Come as a guest and leave as a friend’, speaks volumes of the friendliness of the place.

Where: Indian Coffee House, Kolkata
Why: Experience the inspiring history of the city over a cup of coffee and a chicken omelette.
: The Coffee House on College Street has been bound to Bengal history for decades. This adda has been frequented by the likes of Rabindranath Tagore to Satyajit Ray and is famous for allowing their customers to relax over a cup of coffee for hours discussing political theories and creative ideas. Their prices are reasonable and the atmosphere is nostalgic.

Photo Courtesy - Chopr 

 Photo Courtesy - Mainak Bose

Where: Kashi Art Café, Kochi
Why: For scintillating brews and beautiful art.
What: This café was initially started with the intention of lending exposure to various artists by displaying their works. Their peaceful garden space encourages relaxation and the exchange of thoughts and ideas. Their menu changes everyday and includes breakfast, lunch assorted cakes and pies. Their servings are more than generous and the coffee selection spans the entire globe.

Where: Zha Café, Chennai
Why: For old-school, desi fun!
What: Zha aims to be a coffee shop that sells an experience. They have no imported products and their entire menu, from the coffee to the tasty bites, are all inspired by our country. Their famous Karupatti coffee is a jaggery based black coffee that was made in Chennai from before British time. Zha’s also famous for local treats like the Vazhaipoo vadai (vadais made from banana flower).

 Their famous Karupatti coffee


The coffee express - Part 1

With the cafe culture brewing across the country, a lifestyle supplement I contribute for did a 2-part series on some fun cafes. As part 1 of this series, we started with the north and west. 
Part 2 follows, in the next post...

Where: Pink Floyd Cafe, Pushkar
Why: A must-visit for every Pink Floyd just for the experience.  
What: Pushkar doesn’t cease to surprise the spirited traveller. Conceptualised by a huge fan of the legendary band, The Pink Floyd Café has an open air restaurant on the roof that offers an unparalleled view of this holy city. Aside from serving good coffee and cake, you can also sample the various cuisines it dishes out to appeal to its international clientele. The three-story building resonates with posters of the band along with 1980s memorabilia and other amusing placards featuring anecdotes on beer and marijuana. It also has lodging on offer with each room named after a Pink Floyd album.

The rooms here that are named after Pink Floyd albums.

The funky menu

Where: Moonpeak Espresso, Mcleodganj
Why: It has what every coffee lover wants—huge mugs of coffee at low prices.
What: On plain view, it is the location that entices you. The café has a mid-sized outdoor patio area that complements its narrow indoors. But it’s the view of a string of hills that is the deal clincher. Coming to the coffee. You remember the large mugs used by the cast of popular sitcom Friends at their regular coffee joint Central Perk? Of course you do. Well, the mugs here are that huge, but the prices are meek in comparison. So more coffee, but low prices. See, it IS what every coffee lover wants. The cakes live up to the expectations built by the coffee. Another thing I found striking here were the spectacular photographs hanging on the wall of the indoors, all clicked by foreigners who visited this Buddhist town. 

Where: Indian Coffee House, Shimla
Why: For the perfect filter coffee.
What: Old posters on unkempt walls, faded wallpaper, simple chairs and tables and old sofa sets is what makes it so special. Often packed with local office workers and civil servants, it is the coffee that drove me in. Power-packed in a cutting chai-size cup and saucer, the aromatic coffee is just perfect. One can easily gulp at least 2-3 cups at one visit without being pinched at the pocket. Well, at least I did. As an add-on, try their dosas and uttappas. Don’t miss the vintage-style uniforms the waiters don here. 

Where: Gloria Jeans’ coffee, Mumbai
Why: Simply for a good cup of coffee.
What: The reason I love visiting coffee houses is that it allows me to spend quality time with myself. I grab a book, find a cosy corner and enjoy my coffee—bliss. Gloria Jeans for me is just perfect for it. It’s a small, quaint joint, tucked in a warm corner of Bandra. It has wooden panelling all around, retro patterns on the interior walls, and a patio area for outdoor lovers. For me, it’s sometimes the little things that make a difference. For example, a shelf with sugar sachets, spoons, forks and tissues that is easy to access, instead of having to repeatedly request for them, or the jar of drinking chocolate you can sprinkle on your coffee…yummy! Also, the coffee blend here is one of the best in the city.

Gloria Jeans' pictures by the cafe itself.