Tag Archives: Indian

Monsoon in Moira #nofilter

Our trips to Goa began in the early 80s. Summer holidays were spent driving from Hyderabad to Goa with Papa in his Maruti van. We went to the same hotel, stayed in the same rooms, and spent our weeks between the pool and the beach with several coconut waters to break up the day. Post-childhood trips didn’t stray much from this formula, until now.

My last trip to Goa, a few weeks ago, involved a cursory walk on the beach and only one dip in a pool. A Goa of monsoon and the Mandovi, and villages lush with lazy; it was a Goa I never imagined I would experience. And now, the only kind of Goa I want to visit.

IMG_3401

My generous host left no King’s bottle unopened to make sure we experienced the real susegad life. When we could bear to tear ourselves away from rain-watching on his verandah, there were Friday nights at Cavala, breakfast at Baba au Rhum, Saturday dancing at Cohiba, fish thalis at Anand Restaurant & Bar, and an explosive lunch at Gunpowder.

Located on a meandering street in the picturesque village of Assagao, Gunpowder’s kitchen serves coastal food from Goa, Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, in a stately Portuguese home saved from ugly redevelopment. A Delhi restauranteur gave up the city in favour of laid back living; and the result is most delicious. Sharing the home with an ethical and fair trade boutique (People Tree) and several dogs, Gunpowder’s food is often fiery, partial to coconut, and always excellent. Unlike most Goan restaurants the vegetarian options are plentiful and not restricted to mushroom and paneer.

We ate for hours, then sat around for a few more, intoxicated by the breeze blowing through the open courtyard, or perhaps it was just the Goan spirit…

The superhit dish of the day was surprisingly, potatoes and generous chef Jaan Gohain didn’t hesitate a moment before sharing the recipe with me!

IMG_3433


IMG_3426

Having just rid myself of a shell fish allergy, I enjoyed the juicy prawn masala immensely.

IMG_3413

When in Goa, eat choriz.

IMG_3417

I Instagrammed these photos a few weeks ago and as always was surprised at how easily smart phones and their never ending supply of apps have made a Henri Cartier-Bresson of the most undeserving of us. A moody choice between Amaro and Lo-Fi, depth of field inserted with a tap on the screen, and I can turn the most ordinary bowl of bhel into a 100-like worthy piece of envy. I’ve learnt to drench my world in filters to alter every mood, drowning out reality with the push of a button. Filters have become my friend and I wonder, are photographs all I use them on?

Then comes along a near-full moon to save me from myself. The night arrives unannounced, at the end of a spectacularly ordinary day, and burns away with the next morning’s sunrise. I rush to shoot the moon, only to have him look back at me, untouched.

These nights are reminders – of midnight kisses real and imagined, of promises never made. But mostly they are a reminder that its time to experience life without the filter of expectations. Its time to love life #nofilter.

-p

P.S. Shruti stayed on for a few more adventures on her own. Have a read through Shruti’s blog for fantastic off the beaten path ideas for Goa.

2 Comments

Filed under Beach, Cafe, Goa, India, Indian

Bombay, a canteen & a pop up

I had several reasons to leave Bombay when I did nine years ago. None of which however were to get away from the city. I come back often, desperate for a breath of Bombay, and over the years have witnessed a vehement disillusionment with the city amongst my friends. I don’t judge them, nor the city. How can I? I come for a few weeks, starry eyed and still completely in love with the Bombay that gave me the confidence to walk away. It just hasn’t been possible for me to hate the weather, traffic, corruption, noise. At this very moment a few bats are practicing for Indian Idol right outside my window… what can you do?!

I’m not all tolerance and Om though. Take me to the new crop of Bombay restaurants and watch my zen disappear into menus still fascinated with Indianising international cuisines. I’m sorry but Mamagoto is more masala than maki, Starbucks is not coffee, and anything that is remotely authentic is wildly out of reach of most pockets. And don’t get me started on the likes of Monkey Bar.

Then I dined at The Bombay Canteen. And again at Le Kitchen’s pop up. I love Indian food best. So to come home to two gloriously Indian menus has been such a win.

Food at The Bombay Canteen tastes like its coming from the heart of an old relative’s kitchen. The menu is generously sprinkled with influences from across India – a melting pot of regional flavours, much like the city the restaurant calls home. It was a relief to see that the dashing executive chef Thomas Zacharias has left behind any bad habits he may have been forced to adopt at Olive. And this is what I ate:

Kejriwal toast – while nobody does it like The Willingdon Club, this clever take on a Bombay classic (and addition of a green chilli chutney) with melted cheese makes it a luscious starter.

image

Crispy mandeli fry – I’ve never had this outside a home kitchen before and polished off the bowl in no time.

image

Pulled pork vindaloo on theplas – courtesy of the restaurant. I’d love a taste of the feni in this fab dish! The theplas, though delicious on their own were too dense as a combination. I would love to taste the pork with a steamed poi instead.

Bhavnagri chillies stuffed with good old Amul cheese – disappointed that I didn’t get a single hot one.

Brown butter and green chilli dosa – now my second favourite dosa in the city (still looking for No. 1 if you must know).

image

Shrimp and kairi biryani – subtle flavours and a generous portion. Totally loved the corny banana leaf thali.

image

Gulab jamun – an Old Monk drenched, boozy doughnut shaped dessert spread with pistachio cream. Heaven for any sugar lover.

image

I was very disappointed with the cocktails. The three I tried all tasted of fruit juice and/or artificial concentrate and flavours and it seems that my quest for a great cocktail in Bombay must continue.

A few days later I was invited to Ashish Glasswalla’s Le Kitchen pop up at The House of Tales. I first met Ashish two years ago when he catered a lunch at home. We still count his fantastic chaat, kulchas and jalebis amongst some of the best food we’ve ever had catered at home.

On the menu at the pop up – chilli cheese sev puri, tandoori prawns with crackling spinach, chicken keema lifafa, mutton biryani (one of the best I have ever had), jalebi with kulfi and meetha paan truffles. Ashish also gave us a taste of a masala chai chocolate mousse served with a sparkling Parle G. So clever and such fun!

image

I cannot recommend them highly enough. And at Rs. 1,200 for six sensational courses you can’t lose. Their dinner pop up is on at The House of Tales until 13th September. Book online here.

What I love best about The Bombay Canteen & Le Kitchen (in addition to their friendly prices and excellent service) is that they don’t mess about with fusion as we have seen so far. While not every dish is completely traditional, the flavours the chefs have brought together work really well.

Indian fused with India – now this is a trend I could get behind!

-p

2 Comments

Filed under Bar, Bar food, Bombay, Cheese, Cocktails, Dessert, Gymkhana, India, Indian, Open kitchen, Parsi, Pop-up, Restaurant, Small Plates, South Indian, Tasting menu

Soleil by La Plage. The making of a restaurant

I spent the last weekend of my year-long sabbatical at Sula’s vineyards in Nashik; exactly 13 years after my first weekend there, as their first head of sales. It wasn’t until I left them to pursue a career in hotels did I realise that for my entire time at Sula I was always the only woman in the room. The office team, the restaurants we visited, the distributors we negotiated with, and the wine shops we cajoled – all male, everywhere.

Over a decade later, I was thrilled to see a few more women at the helm of Sula’s operations – a winemaker, chief vegetable grower, the brand ambassador, a head chef and most recently, Florence Tarbouriech. Florence is one-third of the trio behind Goa’s La Plage, head designer and inspirer of all things genius at their new restaurant Soleil by La Plage at Sula’s vineyards.

Florence’s partnership with Serge Lozano and Morgan Rainforth goes back nearly two decades. Friends, lovers, parents and gastronomes, the trio clearly love their work, but they love life more. It is probably this that they have most in common with Sula’s Rajeev Samant. “We don’t want to create a fashion story,” said Serge. “If we had opened in Bombay, Delhi or Bangalore it would have been a fashion story.” In an industry where restaurateurs pursue private equity backed mindless expansion and chefs spend more time on television than in their kitchens it is heartening to meet a team that puts passion first.

IMG_8003I visited Soleil a few days before their soft launch and was allowed a peek into the making of the restaurant. Florence spent weeks walking around Chor Bazaar and scrap yards, in search of inspiration as well as scrap she could upcycle in the restaurant – so wine pallets and barrels turned into tables, and wine bottles dress the chandeliers. The restaurant has bold pops of colour, lush greenery, original artwork, and comfortable lounge areas. “I waited for the designs to choose me,” she said. This approach to design has been an eye opener for Sula as well. Rajeev shared, “My team are just loving this! After walking around the winery with Florence and Serge they have seen the potential of recycling. Also, instead of waiting around for the restaurant to open, Florence got the waiters to help with the interiors – they painted and scraped along with the workers and now the team have a sense of ownership for the place they will be working in.

IMG_7997Something else the four have in common is their desire for simple, sustainable living. Sula employs solar power and rainwater harvesting, vermiculture composting, and now with Soleil has ensured one of India’s first true farm to table experiences.

Chef Morgan, aka Guruji, is overjoyed, “I’ve been cooking awful chicken for 17 years and now I finally have the perfect free range gavthi chicken at my doorstep.” In addition to their own free range chicken farm, Sula also rears goats for milk and cheese, makes grapeseed oil and honey, grows its own fruit and vegetable, and fires the Soleil barbeques with wood from its grape cuttings. It’s hard to get more organic than this!

The trio are country kids at heart and it isn’t surprising to see some very hearty dishes at Soleil. Morgan’s menu features French classics as well as, for the first time, his take on Indian food. “I am trying to pare back, get to the heart of the spice in each dish. During my research I was also surprised to see some similarities between Indian food and some dishes from France. For example, you have ‘Gatte ki sabzi’; and I grew up with the French version of this – fried chickpea flour cakes! There is also the Indian version of French creamed spinach, or as we like to call it, palak paneer.

Soleil’s menu will change with the seasons and this monsoon they are serving dishes that include Mango and beetroot carpaccio, coriander and homemade feta cheese (Rs. 280); Crispy organic asparagus and grilled homemade paneer with creamy spinach sauce (Rs. 300); Barbecued Gangapur lake scampi, coral butter, saffron risotto with broccoli (Rs. 690); Free range chicken cooked in Sula Dindori Shiraz, potato puree with olive oil and caramelized baby onions (Rs. 540); and Soleil’s seasonal vegetarian thali (Rs. 310).

Two decades in India have sensitised the La Plage gang to working here – so they may not have beef on their menu, Morgan no longer asks why he cannot buy fish during shravan, and Florence isn’t surprised when the painting of the Pandav Caves is moved out of the loo ten seconds after she placed it there.

Even though Soleil gets the all-important big three right – great chef, great location, great concept – spend a day with Florence, Morgan, Serge and Rajeev and it’s clear that what they are committed to most is preserving their environment. As destination restaurants around the world are slowly making their way up most ‘Best Of’ lists, India can finally be proud to have one of her own.

-p

This article was first written for BURRP! where I am a resident Food Expert.

Leave a comment

Filed under Design, French, India, Indian, Nashik, Restaurant, Seafood, Wine, Wine Bar