Sunday, December 11, 2011

Goa Diaries: Arambol

It was a Bhatia birthday last week and using that as an excuse we decided to visit the birthday girl in Goa. 

Happy Birthday Pooj! 

Arambol beach is in North Goa, and an hour's drive from the airport. The view is postcard pretty, the crowd is largely Israeli and Russian and the vibe is very laid back. Thankfully, the beach is not yet over-commercialized and both crowds & prices remain manageable. There are no fancy resorts or hotels and you will have to stay in a minimalist beach shack. The lack of internet and phone connectivity made this a true vacation.

Arambol at sunset

Arambol Beach

I embraced the life of beach bum with much enthusiasm. I donned electric blue kaftans and bright red sunglasses, lazed by the beach all day and even got crazy hair braids. 

Me in my beach bum avatar

Unsurprisingly, we spent a lot of time indulging our stomachs. The food at Armabol is uniformly average. Nothing mindblowing, nothing too bad either.

Don't be fooled by the pictures, the food was just average

The one stand out was Fellinis and the food here was fabulous. Wonderful wood-fire pizzas, great ingredients and some mouth-watering cheese had us dining here everyday. I highly recommend the pizzas and pastas. The desserts are a little bit of a let down but even I am willing to forgive that. The German bakery across the street is pretty decent. 

Must visit: Fellini's
Thanks to CNN for the picture

Arambol also has a number of shops stocking an assortment of clothes, accessories, musical instruments and anything else you may need. Interestingly, a lot of the shops have Russian signage. 

Street Stalls

Be sure to take a walk down by the beach at night when the sea and the many restaurants with their candle lights offer a gorgeous view.

Arambol by night: The picture doesn't do it justice

I had a fantabulous time in Arambol. I rode the waves, played frisbee, watched dolphins, star gazed, watched sunsets and just enjoyed my vacation. I partook in nothing more taxing than reading a book. If this appeals to you, then Arambol is your place.


A huge shout out to Bhaps, Nammu, Mattu, Delvan, Fred and Mal, without whom this trip wouldn't have been as much fun.

L to R: Fred, Mal, Bhaps, Me, Nammu and Mattu
And Delvan in the back

As always, I cannot over-emphasize the importance of long bathing suits for men. The sight of ungainly, middle-aged men frolicking in their tight undies is disturbing, to say the least.

P.S: If you are in Arambol on a Saturday night, be sure to catch DJ Rani at Sporting Heroes (Its open till 4 am!)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Vintage Bank

Wine & Cheese: 4.5
Food: 3.25
Service: 4.5
Ambiance: 4.5
Overall: 4.5

The blog is becoming a little fancy these days and in keeping with that tone, I paid a visit to the wine and cheese bar in the newly opened Hilton. The theme of Vintage Bank is elegant, old-world luxury and the decor amply reflects that. Lush, cushioned chairs, wooden ceilings and a heavy air of opulence dominate this place.

They have a wide selection of wines and if you are undecided on which ones to order, I suggest you ask their super helpful sommeliers or take the wine flight option (At Rs. 1000, I think the wine flight is a great VFM option). The wine flight option comes with three wines and a selection of cheeses. I chose the red wine option while YJ and Nipsy picked the white wine. I started off with a light and sweet Beaujolais, transitioned into a medium bodied and smoother Riscal and ended with a dry Terrazas. Of the three my favourite was the Beaujolais. The red wine was complemented with some hard cheeses: Provolone, Emmental and Manchego. 

The white wine flight kicked off with the light and fruity Sauvignon Blanc, transitioned to the more mineral and refreshing Gavi and ended with the dry and sophisticated Pinot Grigio. 

Personally, I preferred the cheese pairing in this selection (Bree, Borsalino and Camembert) . The lively, herb-infused Borsalino was my favourite. Both red and white wine flights start light and fruity, move on to a medium body with more mineral notes, and ends on a more sombre and dry note. Those preferring a drier start and sweeter finish might want to reverse the order of tasting. Outside of the wine flight option, most wines are served by the bottle.

So much cheese

Of course, we had to try the food there too. The sauteed prawns was unanimously elected as the favourite. The fresh, tender prawns had a wonderful texture and were cooked in a well-spiced, red sauce. 

Sauteed Prawns

The grilled provolone was a fine choice too. It was interesting to contrast the flavours of the raw and the grilled provolone. It was a little cumbersome to handle though. The mezze platter was only so-so. The smoky flavour of the babaganoush was the highlight of the dish and YJ loved the addition of the green chilli.

Mezze Platter

The desserts were a bit of a let down. The creme brulee tasted a lot like lemon meringue and the overwhelming citrus taste is all I remember of it. The curd-cheese flan tasted more like cheesecake and the refreshing raspberry sorbet didn't do much to salvage the dish. 

Creme Brulee

Curd Cheese Flan with Raspeberry Sorbet

They did have this lovely pear jam that we all drooled over. It was fresh and rooomba good. 

Service was excellent and a huge shoutout to Ashlin for being such a great host. 

Vintage Bank is unique in the Chennai food scene. The place is classy, the concept different and the wine & cheese is fabulous. If you feel like an indulgent evening or if you are looking for a special date place head here. 

As Nipsy likes to say, 'Wine and Cheese is a love story'. And this one ended happily ever after. 

Pricing: Rs. 2000 per person (if you don't take the wine flight option)
Location: The Hilton, J.N. Salai, Ekkaduthangal, Chennai (Click here for the Google Maps direction
Phone: 22255555

Thanks to YJ and Nipsy for accompanying me and sharing their considerable knowledge on wine and cheese

L to R: YJ, Ashlin, Nipsy

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Hole in the Wall Cafe, Bangalore

Food: 2.75
Service: 3
Ambiance: 3.5
Overall: 3
Verdict: Only if you live close by.

Family weddings and the GRE  forced me to lie low for the past few weeks but I'm back! I was in Bangalore last week and visited Hole in the Wall Cafe. The place is small and cute. I was a huge fan of the tissue paper testimonials that adorn one wall. They prove that the cafe is visited by some very artistically talented people and some clearly drunk ones (not that the two are mutually exclusive).

Tissue Testimonials

I reluctantly tore my eyes from the tissue art to the menu in front of me. They have a good breakfast menu but they also have a sandwich menu which is produced on request. The lime-ginger juice was refreshing and light but none of the other drinks were particularly good. The milkshakes were too thin, tasted milky and were all too forgettable.

Undaunted we waited for our massive food order to arrive. The Club sandwich was a winner: big, tasty and filling. This is the sort of food I like.

Club Sandwich

The 'Elvis' sandwich was interesting. Grilled peanut better and banana. If you want something spicy, don't go for this but if you have a sweet tooth and want to try something different, I would highly recommend this.

The grilled cheese and the mushroom sandwich were both let downs.  Average and blah, don't waste time or money on these ones.

Mushroom Sandwich

The Sunday Morning consisted of eggs layered with cheese, mushrooms and veggies. It was cheesy, filling and some great comfort food. But is it good dining? I am not entirely sure. Appealing as drowning eggs, meat and veggies in cheese is, anyone could do it.

Sunday Morning

The pancakes and waffles were good. Thick and warm (I think both could have been a little warmer, but, oh well).


 The much touted French Toast was so-so. The one at Egg Factory is infinitely better.

French Toast

In a final moment of gluttony, I ordered the Complete 'Veggie' Affair: omlette topped with cheese, jalapenos and mushrooms. While proudly displayed burrp! testimonials hailed this omlette, I thought that this fell short of the mark (much like most other things at this place). There was nothing wrong with it but nothing great either. Most people could have whipped up something similar.

Hole in the Wall is fun, cute and has character. The food on the other hand is largely average but in all fairness its also quite cheap. If you live in the neighbourhood, then you may consider paying this a visit. But is it worth going all the way there for? No. I would advise you sample the much better food at Cafe Terra (a 3 minute walk from Hole in the Wall). Cafe Terra offers the same small, cute establishment ambiance and will leave your taste buds more satiated. Their loo stinks, avoid it.

Pricing: Rs.100 per perosn
Phone: 080 40949490 
Location: # 61, 1st 'A' Main, S.T. Bed, Koramangala 4th Block, Bangalore (Behind Hotel Maharaja)
View their menu here.

As always, thanks to the pretty peeps for accompanying me.

L to R: Aats, Woogul, Rao and Vat

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Mylai Sri Karpagambal Mess, Chennai

Walk into this place and you will immediately be accosted by a pantheon of well adorned gods and goddesses staring sternly at you. Every single space on the wall sports life sized pictures of the almighty. Now I know that this mess is right behind the temple and all but I found the decor a little disconcerting. 

Quickly I decided to pay my allegiance to the gastronomical gods and placed a rather large breakfast order.

Look at all those pictures! 
 The Special Vadai (Rs.18) was wonderful. Piping hot served with a no-nonsense sambar and chutney and oh so tasty. I especially loved the crunchy exterior. We ended up having 5 of these!

Special Vadai
As great as the vadai was, my favourite dish had to be the pongal (Rs.35). It literally melted in my mouth. This pongal-sambar combo is my current favourite breakfast item in Madras. 

I am not a huge fan of idlis (Rs.9), but the ones here were pretty good. 

We also tried the Poori Masala (Rs.20) which I would recommend you avoid. The Poori was oily and its texture was like papad. The aloo-masala was nothing special. There are way better things to be had here. 

Poori Masala

To indulge our sweet tooth we ordered the Cashew Cake (Rs.25) and the Badam Halwa (Rs.50). Both were OK, neither worth ordering again. 

Cashew Cake

Badam Halwa

The filter coffee was strong, rich and served in a steel tumbler/davra: good South Indian coffee.

Karpagambal Mess is not pretentious or fancy. The ambiance is a little intimidating but not as dingy as some people would lead you to believe (I've eaten at much, much dingier places). But everything from the agrharam style decor to the plantain-leaf plates screams Madras. If you want to taste the flavour of the city, have a bite here.

Pricing: Rs. 35-75 per person
Location: 20, East mada street, Mylapore , Chennai
(Click here for the Google Maps directions)

Thanks to Jayanth and Shweta for accompanying me on a weekend morning.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Fruit Shop on Greams Road, Chennai

For the umpteenth time, I am trying to eat healthy (they do say 37th time is a charm, right?). As part of this venture, I'm going to take you to Fruit Shop on Greams Road. Contrary to it's name, the shop is not (just) on Greams Road. If you have spent any amount of time in the city you must have noticed the bright yellow boards dotting various locations across the city. This review is largely based on my experiences at the Beasant Nagar branch.

The shop itself is a bit bizarre: slightly run down and filled with black & white portraits of little known American celebrities. The purpose of this decor has always eluded me. But I can only tackle one befuddling problem at a time and I quickly concerned myself with their overcrowded menu. There is a mind boggling variety of fruity concoctions to choose from.

In the milkshake section, a personal favourite is the Custard Apple Shake. Rich, creamy and and bound to satisfy your sugar fix. The Sheik Shake is based on dates. While I ordered this with much trepidation, it turned out to be pretty decent. It's definitely not my favourite drink but is worth a try.

I also quite like the Old Boy, a strawberry and mango concoction. The primary taste is mango's with just a sliver of strawberry thrown in. The shake is super heavy and will fill you up considerably.

In the juice section try the Mom's Recipe. This is light, refreshing and surprisingly tasty tomato juice. I never thought I'd say this but it ranks among my favourites here.

Mom's Recipe

The Indian Cocktail is an explosion of six fruits. The overarching taste is of papaya's but you can also discern sweet lime, orange and just a wee bit of pineapple and strawberry. The mystery sixth ingredient we are yet to fathom.

If you are in the mood for a healthy snack or a very light dinner, then I recommend their fresh fruit salad. 

Fresh Fruit Salad

Try their sinuous strawberries and cream if you are feeling decadent. I assure you, you won't be disappointed.

Strawberries and Cream
(Thanks to FooDee for the pic)
I spotted the next table digging into this yummy, but unhealthy, looking falooda. In deference to my expanding waistline I stopped myself from ordering this one, but you should try it and let me know whether its any good. 

Fruit Shop is one of those places that everyone loves. I think their biggest strength is that they use healthy, fresh, high quality ingredients. Thats why I keep coming back.

Pricing: Rs. 35-100 per person. Click to view the menu.
Location: They have branches in Beasant Nagar, Anna Nagar, Kilpauk, Greams Road, Spencer Plaza and even Dubai (opposite Lamcy Plaza).

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Jelly Belly, Chennai: Stay Away

I've been meaning to pay this place a visit due to its proximity, the fact that it serves desserts (duh!) and because I can actually shake my belly like a bowlful of jelly. Bad jokes aside, Jelly Belly has been on my 'list' and last night I finally got around to it.

We walked in and were immediately taken in by the desserts on display. We soon discovered that they have no menu. Your only source of information is the chef/waiter. I found that highly disconcerting. How much effort does it take to take a piece of paper, write down what you are serving and the prices and paste it in a prominent part of the restaurant. 

After grilling the waiter for a good ten minutes, we placed our orders. The strawberry souffle, choco-brownie souffle and cheesecake all tasted similar. The texture was synthetic & mousse-like and the dessert started with an after-taste. Of the three, the choco-brownie souffle was definitely the best but that's not saying much. 

Strawberry Souffle

Choco-Brownie Souffle

The cheesecake tasted like milk. Really. To be fair, the crust was pretty good but the cake itself was wrong. If I had to pick out the worst dessert of the night (and trust me, that was a tough contest) I would choose this. Deeptha recommends their strawberry cheesecake but I doubt if I shall be trying that any time soon. 


We also ordered the apple pie. This was the best dessert of the night and the only one we managed to finish. The pie was dry, the apple pieces too chunky and hard but overall it was OK. I wouldn't recommend it but if you do find yourself forced to eat here, the apple pie might be your best bet. 

Apple Pie

Just as we were about to leave, we discovered that they also serve salads and sandwiches. Since they don't possess a menu we only discovered this courtesy some stellar questioning by Bhaps. Bhaps and I decided to stay back and give this place one more chance. We ordered the chilli-cheese toast. This consisted of toasted bread with a three inch layer of cheese in it and some spring onions. Needless to say, it was terrible. At Rs.120, it was a complete rip off. 

Chilli Cheese Toast

To be fair to Jelly Belly, their interiors are cute. I especially liked their cute napkin holders. If only they had put as much effort into their food and a menu. 

If it isn't clear already, my advise would be to STAY AWAY from this place. If you want to indulge your sweet tooth there are much better places to do it at (stop by Sri Krishna Sweets which is right next door). Only a severe lack of judgment, or the presence of Brad Pitt, will see me at this place again. 

Pricing: Rs. 100 per person
Location: E-37, 2nd avenue, Beasant Nagar, Chennai (Click here to find it on Google Maps)
Landmark: Below Eden, Beasant Nagar
Phone: 24460777

L to R: Sharanya, Koths, Bhaps