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What’s the most scenic train trip in Canada?

We speak from personal experience here: Take VIA Rail’s Jasper-Prince Rupert train (formerly known as the ‘Skeena’).

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The journey was among the most beautiful and memorable we ever took. From the gorgeous views all through to the comfortable seating, it was the stuff a traveller’s fondest dreams are made of.

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This train connects with the Toronto-Vancouver train (the Canadian) at Jasper. The route takes you northwestward, first across the Interior Plateau to Prince George, and then along the Skeena River to the pacific coast and Prince Rupert. You get to see the most picturesque bits of northwestern British Columbia, with historical reminders of the lives led by ancient aboriginal people.

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From the final 3000 kms into Prince Rupert, the train follows the mystic Skeena River, famed for the thick mist that often shrouds it- “Skeena” means “river of mists”. The train winds its way along the forested canyons of the river, with the water below gushing over rapids before widening to a peaceful flow, mirroring the surrounding environment.

It is worth booking “Touring Class” where the dome car provides a perfect perch from which you can view the breathtaking scenery. This is available June to mid September. Economy class travelers get an excellent view from their own seats, too.

The Jasper-Prince Rupert trains depart three times a week year around from Jasper. The journey time is approximate 20 hrs. The schedule allows for daylight viewing of the spectacular scenery, and a chance to view wildlife in their natural surroundings.

With inputs from http://www.buzzviarail.in

 

Review: Rossini’s, Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit

Reviewed by Chhavi Doonga

Sheraton Grande

Located in the majestic Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit, Rossini’s is a Tuscany themed Italian restaurant that is ideal to elope from the chaos of the streets of Bangkok. This is not a stop-over you make by chance. It is a planned visit for conversations reserved in advance. During my visit, I was served by Roonghthip, an ever-smiling host who explained that the restaurant, opened in 1996, has its major contributions by Michelin starred Chef Alfredo Russo. It is now headed by Chef Luca Cesarini, who brings in the North Italian influence in the cuisine. As I heard about the hosts of awards it has received year after year, I took a deep breath in high expectations and I cannot say that I was disappointed.

Rossini’s offers a variety of menus ranging from business lunches, vegetarian menu and a Sunday brunch menu. Their best picks, however, are in the a la carte menu and the chef specials. Their range of signature breads echo the overall quality of the restaurant and are served along with a particularly flavorsome eggplant paste. The chef recommendations include seared scallops, beef tartare and deep water snow fish.

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I kicked off with the Russian Salad, which was a mix of mashed potato, tuna and sour cream. The three distinct flavors melt in your mouth and blend well to create a refreshing taste. For starters I ordered Grilled Mediterranean Octopus, Polenta, Salsa Verde; this grilled octopus has a mellow taste and is a perfect mix of chewy and crispy. I especially recommend this for any first timers trying an octopus as this small dish is filled with so many different flavors that it will appeal to any kind of palette. The Deep Water Snow Fish has a delightful smoked flavor, its hard outer layer, surprises you with a melting core. Its buttery surface goes well with the tangy tomato flavor and crunchy mint leaves.

Being true to its Italian essence, Rossini’s boasts of a Primo Vino series with a range of premium and vintage wines. At Rossini’s, your glass of wine is serious business and the servers are trained to suggest what goes best with the dish you are ordering; or the other way around if you really want to do justice to the wines being offered here. I was served Ata Rangi-Sauvignon Blanc 2012, which is a rich wine with a woody texture that is complemented by a fruity flavor. For dessert I recommend crème brulee, a dessert which is ideal for people who don’t like their dessert to be too sweet. The lemon sorbet with the brulee provides a wild tinge to an otherwise mild flavor.

Overall, Rossini’s is a delightfully subtle experience in the midst of the luxury of Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit. A warm wooden ambience with the touch of rural Tuscany is brought out in details like a charming chimney, which only enflames in the dim-lit ambience. The place is ideal for intimate candle lit conversations but the many partitioned dining areas also make it ideal for business meetings. Come here with some time on your hand, sit back and enjoy.

Rossini’s
Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit
250 Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok, Thailand

Review: Aamod at Dalhousie

“A cluster of cottages on the hills in a quaint little town in Himachal – all I wanted from here was peace and some time for self. Aamod granted my wish without any frowns.” – Says TS writer Rakhi Jerly
aamod resorts
Photos: Rakhi Jerly

 

aamod entranceFirst Impressions: An eco-friendly resort built on virgin forest land, Aamod is perched on a mountain ridge with breathtaking views of the Pir Panjal range and untouched Cedar woods. There was an unparalleled earthiness to the property – the wooden floors, sweet spring water and natural trails. If it rains, the weather could get chilly in summers too and the snow capped mountains could be shrouded in a blanket of snow. Efficient but friendly staff makes you feel at ease from the moment you walk through the doors.

Facilities: 15 Deluxe/Super Deluxe or Family cottages that is a spectacular blend of eco-friendly living and modern comforts. The mud cottages/rooms built without felling a single tree, have clean minimalistic décor with an old world charm. Spacious suites with private sit-outs or balconies offer serene views, any time of the day. The resort does not have a spa but aroma therapy treatments can be enjoyed in the privacy of your room. An adventure zone is available to loosen up those lazy bones and if you find it too easy, forest treks and excursions can be arranged too. A recreation room with indoor games and a mini-library is also available to keep you engaged.

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The Colonial: Aamod’s multi-cuisine restaurant is a cozy space with indoor and outdoor seating for hearty meals. The menu is not extensive and innovative, but it is just enough to put together a wholesome breakfast/lunch/dinner. If you are ready to take the culinary experience a step ahead, pick a spot anywhere around the property and a picnic could be arranged for you on nature’s lap. One meal that stands out for me is their breakfast spread of sausages, omlettes and parathas with the blue sky and green hills for company. Put in a special request to the chef for a traditional himachli meal and soak up all the warmth you need from a homely feast.

 

pir panjal view delux cottageThe experience: A quick getaway from the hot summers in the plains, Aamod at Dalhousie is a little slice of heaven. Unwind, de-stress and breathe-in the fresh Cedar scented air, curl up with a book and a cup of coffee on the sit-out, wake up to the chirping of birds and warm sunshine, star gaze or just get lost in thought – a few days of tranquility is on offer among the hills. Early morning walks into the woods double up as good exercise as well as sightseeing. And when you return, you leave with a lot more than just peace.

Verdict: An ideal summer vacation home for families, senior citizens and creative souls.

www.aamod.in

Resort Review: Chitvan Jungle Lodge, Madhya Pradesh

One of Kanha’s best kept secrets, Chitvan Jungle Lodge lets you soak in the rustic wilderness while keeping you snug. Sarita Santoshini loved it. 

I alight from a local bus at a small village called Mocha in Madhya Pradesh, looking around for the driver who is supposed to take me to the resort from there. Moments later, he greets me with a grin, quickly launching into a charged-up narrative of his tiger spotting efforts. “There’s a tiger lurking close by,” he breathes. His excitement is contagious.

We are more than 50 km away from the core zone of Kanha National Park, yet already seem to be quite close to it, with the concrete world left far behind. I take it as a sign from the wild, inviting me to hurry up and explore its territory.

Chitvan Jungle lodge

I reach Chitvan Jungle Lodge, a sprawling resort that lies nestled between the village of Samnapur and the buffer zone of Kanha, standing out from the wilderness that surrounds it. Spread across 14 acres, the jungle retreat has been thoughtfully conceptualised around the five elements of nature. Prithvi, Akash and Jal are the elements inspiring the design and décor of the 10 suites and 8 standard rooms, the Common Hall is inspired by Vayu, while the huge dining area and kitchen by the fifth element of Agni. I am ushered by the efficient and chirpy Manager, Ashwini Agarwal, into one of the four Prithvi suites, my abode for the next three days. Adorned in shades of green and beige, the walls are lined with framed photographs of predators staring back at me. Vintage mirrors reflect the golden sunbeams streaming in through a glass wall—a perfect space to catch up on both sleep and that half-read novel.

Chitvan Jungle lodge

 

Chitvan Jungle lodge

I am informed that I can have lunch either in the high ceiling dining room or in the garden area outside it. I, of course, choose the outdoors. The head chef, Aashish Kumar, spreads out a scrumptious meal made from fresh vegetables that grow in the organic farm surrounding my make-shift dining area. As I quickly indulge in the homely food, Ashwini fills me in about life in Kanha. He set up the resort in 2007, and it was not an easy go—the remote location presented quite a challenge! Today, that is a USP. Guests enjoy the technology-free experience that the resort offers. It helps that the 40 staff members belong to nearby villages, and bring with them a natural friendliness, which keeps guests happy.

Chitvan Jungle lodge

It is relaxing enough to spend all your time wandering around the lush property or playing with the resident German Shepherd puppies. But push sleep aside at 5:30 am, brave the cold and get yourself on a jeep. You will be too enticed by the green meadows and clear lakes to want to ride away from the enchanting Kanha National Park. I still feel a thrill running down my spine as I share stories about driving from dawn to dusk across narrow forest roads in search of tigers and leopards, and the moment of complete awe at finally having spotted these predators. If luck, however, keeps you from spotting one, you will still have generous sprinklings of the once-endangered Barasingha, Spotted Deer, Langur, Jungle Babbler and Spotted Dove to capture on your lens.

Chitvan Jungle lodge

Do go on a morning nature walk with the naturalist, Sanjay Thakre, pushing your way through dense forest cover, learning about spider webs and animal pug marks on your way. Cycling or walking across the neighbouring village of Samnapur, all the way to Bandha Tola, the main source of water in the area, is another interesting option. The village visit gives you glimpses into the life of the many tribes that reside together in the vicinity of the forest, relying on agriculture and wildlife tourism as their main source of income. These villagers willingly share gripping stories of close tiger encounters but brush away my concerns about safety. The forest has been their lifeline for generations, they say.

In the company of the locals and unspoilt nature in Chitvan, it is easy to lose track of time. Just don’t get too attached to the healing routine there—the one that involves waking up to the sound of bird songs and gazing at the stars before turning off the bed lamps at night. But the memories of the wild that you carry back, will definitely keep you whistling at your desk for a long time.

Chitvan Jungle lodge

Chitvan Jungle Lodge, Kanha National Park, Madhya Pradesh

www.chitvan.com

Help me find a good getaway resort near Kanyakumari.

Your question got here just in time! Leading Bollywood cinematographer Sachin Krishn spent a weekend at  ANANTYA RESORTS in Tamil Nadu. Reading his review, we said to ourselves, “It doesn’t get more filmy, fun and fab than this!” By the time this story ends, I bet you would be reaching for the phone to make a reservation at Anantaya.

Five kilometres off the Trivandrum-Kanyakumari highway, and we are beginning to get restless. Forget the smooth, lush road to El Dorado that would lead us to the southernmost tip of the subcontinent and then on to the resort where waters from three oceans join…this potholed nightmare is getting more and more akin to the surface of the moon.

“Anantya Resort, Anantya resort…!” I ask a wizened, geriatric local who stares vacantly at me with his fading eyes. No response. Nada. Zilch.Three more kilometres down, and the heart begins to sink. The terrain is getting more and more desolate, bumpy, cut off. The last rays of the fast sinking winter sun are a metaphor for my heart at that precise point.

“Anantya Resort, uncle…ANANTYA RESORT….! CHITTAR LAKE…!,’ I plead one last time before I decide to throw in the towel and turn back. This time, after processing my desperate plea in his head for a pregnant half minute…this angel of mercy raises his hand..and points his gnarled finger slowly in a particular direction; like Steve Bucknor playing third umpire. “You mean…there…?!,” I ask, choking with emotion. This is how Dharmender must have felt during his Yaadon ki Baraat reunion moments. Faarsht righttaa…then ooorr kilomettraa”’ the grainy voice professes. The lungi clad figure recedes, the car moves on, I turn back and am sure I see a halo behind his head.

Kanyakumari hotels

I crane my neck out of the window to witness the emergence of the almost mythical destination, first hand. And sure enough… within minutes, the weary eyes are treated to a blink-and-miss board by the narrow, tree-lined road that reads…”Anantya Resorts…Infinite Experiences.” The mood in the chilled Innova is suddenly upbeat. The driver sits up, the wife straightens up, I close my eyes with relief.

One step down the car and on to the gravel path before the Thai-villa style reception, and we are suddenly barraged by a bevy of Hawaiian-shirt-clad staff…front office manager, bell boys, et al. I’m still trying to get over the fact that I have managed to find this tucked away resort.

Know before you Go: The resort is in Kanyakumari district, not in the city proper. The city is around 55 kilometres away. It’s a comfortable day trip, loaded with sights to see and savour en route.

The beaming staff does not let us take even our water bottles ourselves. As the friendly front office manager leads us to our villa, the reality of where I am begins to slowly sink in. The resort is a sprawling vista of countless rubber trees, tall, firm, dark…that whisper to each other conspiratorially as the soft wind caresses their branches.  Somewhere amidst these rubber trees are clusters of rooms, villas, and restaurants that make up the resort. It is a full moon night, and the aesthetically subdued, soft, warm lights all around the endless acres do little to destroy the intensity and magic of that pale yellow light from the sky above.

Anantaya Resort Kanyakumari hotel

The staff leads us to one of the 21 villas on the property. Ours is going to be a Veda Villa, complete with its private garden, a little lily pool by a gazebo that overlooks an endless sheet of glass reflecting the scattered clouds of this magical full moon night. The glass, I realise, is the still waters of the sprawling Chittar Lake. Majestic. Silent. Deep. Just like me, I say to myself, tongue firmly in cheek. But the connect has already happened. So much so that I stand frozen at the villa door, gaping at the lake before me. Upon being goaded softly by the bell boy to enter the room, I come to, and take a step inside the ‘room’ which could well ingest the whole of my Mumbai apartment, as well as half that of my neighbour.

This room in the middle of nowhere is replete with luxuries…two split air cons, coffee maker, mini bar… heck…even a private jacuzzi outside the loo that overlooks the lake. What next..! There I was, just about 15 minutes back, preparing to head to the fields with a Bisleri bottle in hand if I did not find my destination in the next half hour, and here I am…deciding whether to jump into the jacuzzi, or occupy the inviting, disinfected throne and begin the download.

Anantaya Resort Kanyakumari hotel

Size is one thing. This room has good vibes. And that matters to me the most. “Yes, I’ll take it,” I tell the staff. The wife sighs with relief. She knows how finicky I am when entering hotel rooms for the first time. The luggage is deposited promptly, and we are set for the next two days.

A quick round of ablutions, and I am set for my evening walk. I put on my keds, and head out to survey the resort. Five minutes later. I am a changed man. What I stare at now is a sight only a blessed few will savour in their entire lifetimes. Crystal clear, softly lit, gurgling blue waters of the infinity pool, merging into the pale yellow, silent waters of the stunningly fabulous lake. Like a nubile, ebullient girl, falling into the lap of her strong, silent lover.

Know before you go: Do NOT miss the sunrise at the Veda villa side of the resort. You will witness not one but two balls of fire. One rising up the sky from behind the hills, and the other, sinking deeper into the still waters of the lake. And yes, for posterity (read Facebook) do carry that full frame camera in your kit.

Behind the lakes is an island of rubber trees. Behind the island, the silhouettes of the last vestiges of the Western Ghats. And somewhere beyond them, the full moon, staring at my stunned visage. “Ghar, ghar ke aage garden, garden ke aage…,” Sridevi’s cult dialogue reverberates in my filmy brain. This cannot be happening. This is probably green screen, where these images have been computer generated to make it all seem perfect.

Anantaya Resort Kanyakumari hotel

Know before you go: The resort is a part of the sprawling Vaikundam rubber plantations where you can enjoy, understand and witness the process of tapping latex from trees first hand. What’s more, the efficient and enthusiastic resort staff is more than willing to arrange private dos at the helipad situated at a vantage point right in the middle of the plantation. It does NOT get more exotic than this. Period.

My reverie is broken as I hear human voices in the vicinity. ‘Unnnnbeliavable….. this is just so…..’. I realise the voice belongs to a familiar person. Me. I gape at the sight until I realise I have two cameras with me in the room. Forget permanence. Just savour this moment. Forget trying to capture this, just let it be, and find your own release. I nod my head in amazement at God’s capacity to create and man’s genius to tap his creations. Yes. It is in tandem with nature that all life thrives. It takes me a good bit of eternity to take it all in, after which, I head back to the villa to find the wife struggling with TV channels. Now, why would one come all the way here to watch TV…I ask myself, butI know better than to ask her. To each his own.

Know before you go: Serious tipplers must carry their own bottle of malt. The only available nectars right now at the resort are wine and beer. And yes, the nearest booze shop is around eighty thousand rubber trees away.

Soon, we are sitting at the restaurant by the pool. Or is the pool by the restaurant..? I’m sure inanimate objects and addresses do not have an ego. The aesthetically done up restaurant does not interfere with the pristine surroundings at all. In fact, like the resort itself, it is seamlessly integrated into nature. The first bite of piping hot starters, and I realise that even the underbelly of the beast is well oiled. The food is delectable.The service, with a smile. The view before us, unparalleled.

It is the kind of place where you will be excused for inadvertently holding the hand of a pretty lady sitting next to you. In my case, though, the hand belongs to the lovely wife. No excuses required. “Pch…,” she frets, fiddling with her cell, “No signal…!” Now, why would someone come all the way…well, I remind myself…to each his own.

Know before you go:Make the brochure kept in the villa your bible for any day trip around the resort.

The next day, we head out to Kanyakumari city. I have not had to Google anything to find out how I must plan a day trip from the resort. The extremely well written and informative brochure laid out in a well designed folio in all the villas tells you all that you need to know about the resort, the plantations of which it is a part, and its surroundings. The brochure is so good that I decide to keep it with me for the duration of my trip to the fabled Land’s End.

By the time we are back, it is night, and time to savour the resort again. Yes, it is a place that you want to come back to, after a hard day’s fun.

Food Review: Desi Roots Cafe and Bar, Delhi

G-16, 17, 30 & 31, Ground Floor, Ras Villas Mall, Behind Select Citywalk, Saket

Reviewed by Rakhi Jerly

Cuisine: Traditional Indian cuisine with a new look. Think of it as a super cool grandma in a saree, riding a bullet, winking through her sunglasses.

On the Menu: You will struggle not to smile at this masterpiece of a menu. It will take you on a trip to your childhood, make you yearn for home and marvel at the versatility of age old Indian recipes.

Chipotle Chicken Tikka with Avocado Raita
Chipotle Chicken Tikka with Avocado Raita

Start with the “Sharing plates” – for us it was “Bhatti da Paneer with Eggless Cashew, Mint and Tomato hollandaise” and “Chipotle Chicken Tikka with Avocado Raita” – served on steaming iron boxes! The burning coals send out wisps of flavour that binds the food well. 

Before we could move ahead from the starters page, the chef sent in a dish that we would gladly go back for. Does the name “Biryani Croquettes with Salan Aioli” confuse you? Here’s a simple explanation – shallow fried balls of Biryani. Not only did the thought behind this dish impress us, the flavours were a five minute trip to Hyderabad.

From the city of Nizams to Old Delhi, “Warm Samosa Deconstruct with Aam Pappad Chutney” was mashed and mixed right at the table. Spicy and tangy, this dish was easily the evening’s favourite. My other choice from the salad list would be “Idli, Deviled Prawns, Pinchoes and Cucumber with Roasted Tomato Salsa”.

Ambala Cantt Mutton Curry with Tikone Parathe and Kumquat achaar
Ambala Cantt Mutton Curry with Tikone Parathe and Kumquat achaar

Sweety Saag Chicken from a friend Sweety Singh” and “Brar jee ki Mashoor Rasmalai Makhni” from the main course menu are clearly credited to their creators. My friend who tried “Sarson ka Saag and Makki di Roti with Gur ki Dalli Moti Moti”, wasn’t particularly impressed despite the balls of jaggery trying their best to mellow out the bitterness. But I was drooling over the “Ambala Cantt Mutton Curry – the meat cooked to perfection and soaking in thick gravy, served in a military issue white mug.

For desserts, it was “Badam Halwa Baklava with Shrikhand” and the original “Jamaluddin ki Kheer from Badal Beg Masjid, Old Delhi”. However, we were looking forward to the most interesting name on the menu – Bachpan Platter. Kisme toffees, Phantom Cigarettes and an assortment of other memories from the 90s. Sadly, we never got to lay our eyes on this nostalgic dessert spread, as it it was not available at that time.

The in-house drinks called “Modern Cocktails” deserve a special mention. My picks: Desi by Roots and the Desi Champagne. The former served in a Khullad with bits of lemongrass and the latter in a Champagne flute, with distinct desi flavour.

The experience: Your arrival is announced by a smiling attend with a bell. The cafe we walked into was tastefully decorated with a smattering of vibrant chairs, tables and couches. But what really caught my eye was the wall showcasing icons of the past – vintage cameras, radios and other knickknacks. The head waiter leads you through the “Gali”, which gives you a sneak peek into the tidy kitchen. The main dining area and bar is comfortably spacious with long tables ideal for families and large groups.

Desi Roots

Before you tuck into what you ordered, the staff will offer a tiny mason jar to clear your palate. Open the lid and the aroma of Coconut Chutney, Mint and fried Dal meets your senses. The tiny “Paruppuvada” may be soggy from the chutney, but worth the unique experience. More chutneys, dips and sometimes dishes are served in mason jars – keeping their flavours and aroma intact for your table.

As you leave the restaurant, get your wish locked on the “Jali” – concept borrowed from the “Love Locks”of Paris, I guessed. You can keep the key and use it if the wish comes true on your next visit.

Verdict: Pleasingly unique yet comfortably familiar. Chef Rajiv Sinha and his team did impress us with the flavours and concept. The ambience is ideal for large family get-togethers or meet-ups with friends. The open spaces may not be appealing for a date night. The staff is courteous and attentive. Special appreciation goes to the head waiter, who patiently explained the story behind each dish and carefully instructed us on the right way to get the best out of the flavours.

Meal for Two: Rs. 1,200 plus taxes (without alcohol)

3 Point Impression: Inspiring. Unique. Nostalgic

For more: Desi Roots on Zomato

 

 

How Not to Eat in Florence, Italy

Posted By Travel Secrets Editor Shubhra Krishan

As someone who believes in stumbling upon great places, I decided to ditch the guide books/blogs/local advice, and plunged straight into Florence.

Big mistake.

Stepping out of the magnificent Santa Maria Novella Railway Station…

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I wended my way through the crowded streets of the city…

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asking for directions to  The Gallery Hotel Art

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Along the way, hunger pangs hit. Hard. And since I was in Italy, the fragrance of herbs and the aroma of baked bread was everywhere. Honestly, I could hardly wait to drop my bags at the hotel and get back on the streets for a bite.

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Strung along a pipe-thin lane, I spotted a string of eateries that promised big meals at incredible deals. Smiling restaurant staff stood outside their outlets, handing out colourful pamphlets that promised a free drink with pizza and seemingly endless menus.

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Photo: thepodanys.blogspot.com Used here for representational purposes only

 

I succumbed.

And regretted it minutes later. The pizza was cold and leathery, with about 3 olives that tasted as if they had been glued atop the bread a month ago. Sure, it cost me “just 4 euros” for pizza and coke, but I would rather have spent a few bucks more to get a better bite.

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I am sure the giant plastic chef standing outside the restaurant, holding that huge menu card, giggled a little when I walked in.

Moral of the story: do your research when you are going to Florence. Read helpful advice such as this. And this.

Bon Appetit!

 

Take me to an Irish cafe that the locals love!

Just a few minutes out of Belfast airport, and you have a fiesta of Irish treats laid out for you. Rhubarb pie with homemade ice-cream, to begin with. At a pretty tucked-away place that overlooks the endless sea, and doubles as a local nursery. Called Harrisons, quite simply. Harrisons-Restaurant-201207280453 DSC00590 That pie. It alone is worth a trip to Northern Ireland. The rhubarb is nice and tart, and the pie crust is perfectly crisp. And the ice-cream, it tastes like the cow was milked a few minutes ago and the hens just laid their eggs and all of it was churned quickly together and frozen swiftly up to create this fresh, fantastic dream in cream. Sorry, it’s easy to get carried away when you’re reminiscing about a treat so delicious. DSC00591 Many days after I arrived back in India and Googled it, I was blown away by the story of Harrison’s! It is owned by a family that lives on 90 lush acres of land. The location is called Ards Peninsula, one of Northern Ireland’s most picturesque locations. (But then, I was there for nearly a week and did not see one spot that would not qualify as that! All of Ireland, Northern or not, is an ode to natural beauty.) And I am not the only one determined to go back for that ice cream. Apparently, 30 per cent of its customers drive more than an hour to come and eat at Harrisons. I suspect that statistic will quickly crawl upward soon. I have to admit I wolfed down the entire pie and ice-cream, and those calories were worth lunch and dinner both. And I was too hungry to take photos of the treat! Shubhra Krishan

A good dhaba in Amritsar, Punjab?

Located a short walk from the Golden Temple, in the Town Hall, is Bharawan da Dhaba, where we ate a hearty meal of chana masala, paneer kulcha, sweet lassi, and have never quite forgotten the taste!

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This divine food is reason enough to go to Amritsar, and no, the dhaba hasn’t paid us to write this for them!

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The name literally means “Restaurant of the brothers,” and whoever they are, they deserve a collective pat on their backs for dishing up such amazing food.

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The dhaba is always crowded, and that is a good sign. It only serves vegetarian food, but even if you are a meat lover, it is hard not to fall in love with the hearty Punjabi flavours here. Those lachcha paranthas topped with big dollops of butter…mmm!

Address: Hall Bazar, Golden Temple Out Road, Town Hall, Katra Ahluwalia, Amritsar, Punjab 143001

Phone:0183 253 2575

 

I love Punjabi cuisine. Can you suggest a good Dhaba-style restaurant in Delhi?

You should check out Dhaba by Claridges at the DLF Place Mall, Saket. Read on to find out what TS writer Harshvardhan thought about the place and its food.

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The zesty ‘Dhaba’ by the iconic Claridges is a welcome addition to the ‘Punjabi restaurant’ family in Delhi, which I always think is surprisingly small. (Besides Punjabi By Nature, Pind Baluchi and Pandara Road, it takes a bit of head scratching to think of other ‘good’ places to go to for a hearty North Indian meal, no?)

I was pleased to see the redoubtable Ravi Saxena heading the Dhaba kitchen—a good chef guarantees good food. Make that great. Once you have feasted your eyes on the very colourful decor of this eatery, focus on the delicacies that arrive, and let your taste buds feel pampered. The black dal rivals the best in the city, and I liked that it had a bit of fire in the form of red chillies. The only mild disappointment was the Kadhi, which felt a bit bland. But then as my companion pointed out, kadhi really is a matter of individual taste, and it’s hard to agree on the ‘right’ flavour. But the rest of the fare from lassi to kababs and everything after—was undoubtedly luscious, filling and satisfying.

Dhaba

The bar is alluringly named ‘Theka’ but alas, the restaurant was still awaiting its liquor license when I went. If you haven’t been to the Dhaba yet, now is the time. I am sure they are serving Makka ki Roti and Sarson ka Saag these days. You make your booking, while I make mine!

Meal for two: Rs.1400 plus taxes

They are also at DLF Cyber Hub, Gurgaon and The Claridges on Aurangzeb Road, New Delhi

www.dhababyclaridges.com

Read more reviews here

This review was first published in the January-February 2014 issue of Travel Secrets Magazine.
Digital copies available online at Magzter.com

Can you recommend a good hotel in Venice Beach, California?

Glad you asked. Our US correspondent Kristen Cashman spent a refreshing weekend at this seaside resort town, and could not stop gushing about Hotel Erwin.

Over to her:

venice beach, california

Los Angeles, California, offers visitors a wide assortment of attractions and landmarks to check out—from the Hollywood Walk of Fame to the Sunset Strip to the luxury shopper’s paradise, Rodeo Drive. But for a sprawling ocean view coupled with unparalleled people-watching, the Venice Beach boardwalk is not to be missed. Historically a mecca of surfing, skateboarding, and bodybuilding, and the birthplace of the legendary 1960s rock band The Doors, the boardwalk teems with colorful, oh-so-California sights and sounds, including tattoo parlors, bikini-clad rollerskaters, fortune tellers, and a smorgasbord of shops and vendors.

If you want to spend a night or more perched above all the hubbub of the boardwalk, the Hotel Erwin is the place to stay. Gelling with the neighborhood’s young, hip, laid-back feel, the hotel is decorated in bright colors and modern design details.

Hotel Erwin's half-circle driveway
Hotel Erwin’s half-circle driveway

lobby

The six-storey building has standard rooms as well as suites. My 750-square-foot suite felt enormous, with a kitchenette, dining area, living room, funky bathroom, and bedroom. The minibar featured offbeat options beyond the usual snacks and spirits, such as surfboard wax, sun-protective lip balm, and a portable torch for late-night strolls. The living space had a gas fireplace, a large flat-screen TV, and a desk. WiFi was complimentary throughout the hotel, and the connection was speedy and reliable.

room

suite

The suite’s best feature by far? Its balcony, with a stunning panoramic view of the boardwalk’s happenings as well as the vast Pacific Ocean beyond. I soaked up the varied eye candy below—the skateboarders careening down the slopes of the beach’s skate park, the surfers stacking up along the faces of the waves, and the acrobatics of street performers surrounded by throngs of tourists.

If you’ve been toying with the idea of getting a tattoo and are ready to take the plunge, you’re in luck! The Erwin offers an “Ink n Stay” package that includes overnight accommodations, a $100 voucher for tattoo services from a local acclaimed tattoo and graffiti artist, lotion, an ice pack, and a bottle of tequila. Where else but Venice?

HIGH_SouthView_high1

The hotel’s crowning jewel is its rooftop lounge, High. The only place of its kind in town, it boasts a fabulous vista of the sea, the boardwalk, and the city rooftops. At $11–13 each, the cocktails aren’t cheap, but they are tasty—I sampled a blackberry Collins and a passion fruit mojito, both made with fresh fruit and high-quality spirits. The lounge also features an eclectic but limited snack menu whose offerings include guacamole, chicken skewers, and hot dogs. Although Venice enjoys a warm, Mediterranean climate with over 250 days of sunshine per year, evenings can be cool, so the lounge has propane heaters to keep its clientele cozy.

Barlo

On the ground floor is the hotel’s restaurant, Barlo, which serves breakfast, dinner, and cocktails. The menu showcases local, sustainably grown produce and meats, and I was pleased with my breakfast of eggs from pastured hens with goat cheese, tomatoes, and spinach. Barlo is known for its fabulous burgers, but as a non–beef eater, I didn’t partake.

Everyone at the hotel was extremely accommodating, helpful, and informative, while also exuding the casual, low-key vibe that coastal LA county is known for.

All Photos courtesy of www.hotelerwin.com.

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