Life, Loves and Loaves – A Girlie Lunch!

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Whether it’s a quick lunch with your girlfriends from work at that new cafe in your office block, or a lazy chit-chat over wine and fondues with school friends reuniting after many years, girlie lunches are always something special. Why? Well, would you offer your tin of lip balm, point out a bleeding eyeliner in a hushed whisper, agree that the girl at the next table is wearing a fuchsia (not pink!) dress, or go to the loo together to finish that story with your GUY date? That’s what I’m talking about!😉

IMG_2324My last week’s girlie lunch was not exactly a planned one, but like most unplanned things, it turned out to be even more fun because of the way it came about. I was all tripped up to go chat with Kainaz Messman, the ‘Bakery Queen’ of the city, who I admire and love, so much so that I spend almost half my week at her Theobroma outpost in Bandra, and my ‘usual’ of one Chicken Cheese Patties and a cup of extra-hot Cappuccino is something the boys there jump to as soon as they see me! It was an exclusive preview of a new baby that Kainaz has lovingly patted, prodded and moulded into shape called Three Chicks and a Bear (Kainaz tells a lovely little story on this cute name!). Predominantly a burger joint, it shares space with the first Theobroma in Lower Parel, next to Todi Mills. As I settled down to my nice dark wooden table, cracking my knuckles to get started on the menu, in walks another good friend, food consultant Rushina Munshaw Ghildiyal, who has been doing stellar work in keeping the city excited about all things food through workshops, demos, pop-ups and what-nots at her lovely, homely cooking studio, A Perfect Bite.

Soon we three ‘chicks’ were deep in conversation about all things food, from Kenyan curries to hill-station bakeries to the French way of making Lemon Tarts back to the job at hand… the job of ploughing through the mountain of food that Kainaz had ordered for us. Crisp Tapioca Chips with assorted house sauces, cheesy saucy Meatballs, crunchy Squid Rings (dusted with a lovely Seeni Sambal spice), super-spicy Chicken Wings, and a griddle full of Mac and Cheese were just some of the dishes from the menu she insisted we try. I know what you must be thinking… ‘These girls can EAT!‘ But never underestimate the power of women’s gossip, because almost everything disappeared into our tummies while we chatted on about life, loves and loaves.

 

Then arrived the towering Israeli Salted Burger, pastrami-style, piled high with home-cured slices of meat, and the piquant Korean Fish Burger that sat pretty in its sauces glinting wickedly back at you. Kainaz revealed the secret behind the really soft and delicious burger buns – a special Brioche bread baked in-house – and carefully noted our helpful little suggestions, while gently nudging us towards her mountainous Freak Shakes. While Rushina settled for the Lemon one which is a glorious jar of pure, liquid lemon tart, I made serious in-roads into my Red Velvet jar, rimmed with cookie crumbs and topped with a slice of cake that threatened to topple over any second.

So did we finish it all? Food, pretty much. Chat, no way! That’s ‘cos we girls don’t know the meaning of the word ‘enough’, definitely not after that happy moment of discovering we are all Virgos with birthdays within a week of each other!

And that’s what’s great about this place. The food is plentiful, hearty and comforting, the ambience bright and easy with plenty of natural light, and the conversations as long and interesting as you want them to be. And it looks like Kaniaz’s new baby is already a favourite, going by the big crowds on my recent brownie run there. For me, I have my eyes, and heart, set on the Thai Pork Belly and French Blue Cheese Burger next.

So who’s up for a long, chatty, food-packed girlie lunch? 

 

 

It’s Time to Pause, and Smell the Tea…

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There are many reasons why Bandra is such a loved and adored suburb in Mumbai. Expansive sea promenades, trendy cafes and restaurants in every corner and in-between, and cobbled streets with quaintly-named houses are just some things off the top of my head. But instead of counting all of Bandra’s blessings here, I will pick just one, and leave you who hold her close to your hearts to tot up her charms, because, as Bandra’s iconic St. Peter’s Church message board says, ‘Listen to your heart. It may be on your left, but it is always right!’

croppedimage530370-church530The one thing that continues to fascinate visitors, tourists, and even people like me who live in the area and see them day in and day out, are the charming old bungalows of Bandra (see here), some of which have been restored into cafes, restaurants, home stores and even lifestyle hubs. These bungalows are amongst the last remnants of the glory days when Bandra was a collection of 25 small but distinctive and flourishing villages.

One such bungalow is in Bandra Reclamation, housing the Taj Mahal Tea House. The inky blue Sanatan Pereira Bungalow is perhaps the best example of the charm and proud heritage of Bandra. Quite fittingly, it has been beautifully restored by Bandra boys Ayaz and Zameer Basrai for Taj Mahal Tea (yes, the same Wah! Taj brand), continuing the amazing work they have previously done for Smokehouse Deli with it’s intricately patterned walls, and Cafe Zoe with its delightful skylight and exposed walls, amongst others.11849969_1645128699038447_2066123284_nbrooke-bond-taj-mahal-tea-house_12596e3b-59e3-11e5-ac8c-005056b4648eJust yesterday, the Taj Mahal Tea House with its comfortable drawing-room setup, colonial furniture, gold patterned walls, and delicate Persian motifs completed its first year, and in this one year, it has slowly worked its way into the hearts of not just Bandra-ites but anyone who loves tea, and likes to enjoy their cuppa in an unhurried, relaxed atmosphere. Mind you, it’s not just for those who consider tea drinking a religion, and enjoy the ritualistic activity as a part of their daily routine. It’s also home to the health-aware, on-the-go metrozens of the maximum city, who are increasingly finding tea ‘hip to sip’!

This, and many such quips came ‘twixt the cup and the lip’ at the recent Tea Appreciation Session organized by Taj Tea House. A quick, easy session on the plantations, processing, regions, types and quirks followed by tastings of some gorgeous teas was helmed by Kurush Bharucha, (Tea Expertise Director, Hindustan Unilever) whose journey from Calcutta, via many local tea estates around the world, to London where he is currently stationed, is almost as interesting as the journey of tea leaves from bush to cup. Here’s a taster… Kurush sips as many as a thousand cups of tea a day, and is still able to tell the difference between each one! Surely that counts as a superpower, eh, Marvel?

Being born in Assam, spending my early childhood amongst the pristine rolling greens of tea estates, and coming from a family of tea drinkers so loyal that they will lug around their bag of special Makaibari Darjeeling tea mix wherever they travel meant I was already well-versed with the culture and aura around tea drinking. But this tea session reminded me of, reinforced even, the beautiful social bond that tea seems to bring naturally into a group of complete strangers, making them connect warmly, and feel like a part of something special instantly (and I don’t mean just a Whatsapp group!).

So just over a week after the session, the ‘tea-totallers’ group (sorry, just couldn’t resist that one!) have already met for a recital of reputed sitarist Sahana Banerjee last Sunday, gone out for a group lunch, and are planning to actively participate in the first anniversary celebrations that kick off with a rare-instrument recital of Surbahar on 15th Aug, our Independence Day holiday (what better way to spend a Monday morning!!) I’ll be there with the others, gobbling down a plateful of their surprisingly tangy House Eggs Benedict, with a cup of Curry Patta Tea for warm company. And then maybe a slice or two of the light tea cakes being served for the birthday celebrations!

Oolong, see you there!  ;)

Match Point: Good Food and Great Wines!

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It’s always a tricky proposition to pair Indian food with wine. Matching and complementing the heavy spices and rich curries is not everyone’s cup of tea, or glass of wine for that matter. But at the Royal Dinner at Jamawar, The Leela organised by Fratelli Vineyards, such serious matters of pairing and balancing and complementing were left in the able hands of Wine Master Craig Wedge, a familiar face in wine soirees of the city and that Aussie bloke who everyone loves.IMG_1924

Given that the number of wines to pair were nine of Fratelli’s best, with a long and lavish dinner of 7 courses each in veg and non veg, and two long tables of us wine enthusiasts, food writers and lifestyle columnists to juggle with, Craig held centrestage with aplomb. And what started out as a quiet exploration soon turned into a fun journey through the complex world of wines, thanks to Craig’s trivia, story-telling capabilities, and infectious energy.IMG_1927

Mind you, he did have plenty of help from the excellent dishes cooked up by Corporate Chef Surender Mohan and his team. The very first course of Tulsi Jheenga (Baked Basil Prawn) and Guchhi Dilnasheen (Stuffed Morels) paired with a light and easy Vitae Tre white wine was not just impressive, but dazzling! Even though we knew there were 6 more courses to follow, we were clamouring for repeats of the bold and juicy Prawn and the meaty, heady umame of the Kashmiri Morels… that’s how good these dishes were!

As dinner progressed with a melting-on-the-tongue Gilawati Kebab, a hot Tomato Shorba served in a cute earthen pot, a beautifully-spiced Fish Curry in a Coconut broth, and a somewhat uncharacteristically sweet Murgh Badami Korma, the wines got bolder and more complex with a Chardonnay and a Sangiovese Bianco complementing the flavours. But the dramatic arrival of the Gosht ki Nihari (Slow-Cooked Lamb Shanks) at the table turned out to be a conversation stopper, and with good reason too! Each succulent shank was served in a half-open mini Dutch Oven, the curls of smoke escaping out of its dark interiors giving you a whiff of the juices still bubbling inside, creating a beautiful aura of intrigue. Little wonder then that this would be paired with one of the most celebrated wines from Fratelli’s, and perhaps the country’s, eclectic cellar – the barrel-aged Sette.

All doubts of whether the dessert that followed would live up to this kind of a high were dispelled with the Chef’s take on the Sindhi honeycomb sweet, the Malai Ghevar. It came jam-packed with thick Rabdi and assorted nuts, and provided the perfect finish to the evening, paired with a daintily-fluted glass of the dessert wine, Santo.IMG_1869

It’s exciting times right now, riding the wave of the new food revolution that has taken a renewed interest in and zeal for traditional Indian dishes, elaborate centuries-old recipes, and slow-cooking to eke out maximum flavours. Favourites like the age-old Gilawati Kebab or Nalli Nihari that were pretty much in the ‘boring’ and ‘passe’ category have made a comeback to many restaurant menus globally as well as here, and are often the shining stars of the menu. And pairing such dishes with the right wine just helps further the cause of Indian cuisine, giving it the ‘new cool’ dressing that it well deserves. So here’s raising my glass to more such stimulating sessions of great food paired with fine wines, and good company too!

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