Friday, December 19, 2014


When I saw PK trailers, I rated it a 4 on 10 in my mind. I was really not too inclined to watch it.Yet, I went with some hope generated by the intelligent, perfectionist Khan's earlier movies. After watching it I felt I could perhaps rate it even lower for all its pretentiousness.
The movie is based on the premises that religion divides. Amir Khan's character, PK, is an alien. He comes to Earth naked, both in body and mind but returns fully clothed.The movie's genuine moments of hilarity come from Aamir Khan's Chaplinesque behavior when he flees from different situations created due to a lacuna between the naivety of an alien and the human behavior. PK's seemingly utter disregard for fashion and wearing whatever he could lay his hands on was quite heartening to watch. How he acquires those clothes is truly funny. For a change, the hero doesn't mind showing the disparity in height between himself and the female lead. For all the simplicity of the character, Aamir couldn't resist jumping on to the bandwagon by going shirtless and showing off his abs
Anushka Sharma's character is a TV news reporter in search of a great story. She follows PK when he displays weird mannerisms but later sides with him to take the resposibilty of finding the stolen  'remote' that can beckon the space ship to take PK back to his own planet. Boman Irani (Anushka's boss), Sushant Singh shine in their brief appearances. The pairing of Sushant and Anushka Sharma  looks fresh, young and energetic. Unlike all other roles that he has been playing trying to pass himself as a hero, Sanjay Dutt fits in his brief role as a good-hearted rustic very well.
But where the movie seriously fails is in  its preachy tone in addressing this issue. The movie was so yawningly preachy that I found myself nodding off towards interval. Post interval it picks up some momentum, but then it does stretch. Of the 2 hours and 33 minutes, I believe, it is a good 2 hours too long.
The supposedly less intelligent hero Akshay Kumar's movie Oh My God did more justice to the topic than PK does. While OMG talked to the audience, PK talks down to them belittling their intelligence. It constantly rubs in the message that religion divides. Like OMG, this doesn't dare deny the existence of God. On the downside, this movie again shows the tolerance of Hindu religion as it gets picked on.Watch out for a surprise cameo at the end.
The movie lacks in content and ends up as a mix of Comedy Circus(weak humor) + Satyamev Jayathe stirred in the OMG bottle and served. Comparing to another movie from the AK stable, I'd rather watch a Peepli Live which was brilliant in its satire and intelligent humor.
The Khan name might attract the audience to the theaters, corroborated by the number of screens it is showing on, but I am not sure this will be sustained after the weekend.
PK reminds us of the moral science lessons of our school. Go watch if you miss those lessons.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Eagle Boys Pizza

When I heard of a new pizza outlet which opened not too far from my home at Begumpet, I was excited. Not only because of the proximity to my home, the chance of tasting something new but also for the lucrative 1+1 offer. Usually I am apprehensive of trying any restaurant in the beginning weeks, but these three factors swayed my decision in favor of visiting the place.
I walked in to quite a spacious place to order my pizzas. I ordered one Mexicana and a much less priced Hawaiin one. I requested the lady at the counter to replace one topping from the Mexicana with another one. She asked me to pay 479/ for the two pizzas and a coke. When I asked for bill, she said that it would be given along with my order. Therefore you actually end up blindly paying without being able to have a look at the components of the bill.
After a wait of about 10-12 minutes, my orders were delivered. I dug into the Hawaiin one first as I like that and what hit my taste buds strongly was the taste of salt. It was salt all the way. I did something sacrilegious...adding sauce to my pizza. With every bite, I tried adding all the sauces they had including KETCHUP! But nothing toned down the saltiness of the pizza. I ate away, hungry as I was around 4 in the afternoon, wondering how soft the bread was. Only after the hunger pangs had subsided, did I notice the very frugal toppings. They were hardly 2-3 pieces per slice. Most of the time, I was chewing only bread. 

Hawaiin Pizza
The next I started on was the Mexicana pizza. Thankfully, this didn't have the kind of salt that the previous one had. When delivered to my table, I asked why the toppings were all confined to the centre and about an inch and half of space left all around with neither topping nor cheese. He says,"I dont know ma'm. I am only the cutter here." Sigh!

Veg Mexicana

As I chewed through, I realized slowly that I was chewing at a bread which tasted like, well, a bread! There was no fermentation/resting that seemed to have happened. I am no baker but it felt like freshly kneaded dough was used to make the pizza base. This perhaps ensured that the pizza didn't stiffen up even when frozen and re-heated. 

Once I was home, I had a look at the bill and found I was charged extra 25/- for the replaced topping! A first time for me, as all my previous experiences have told me that I'd be charged extra only if a topping was added and not replaced. And if this was the policy of the outlet, why was the customer not informed of it even before being billed for it?

As far as service is concerned, there were no welcoming smiles of a newly opened outlet, no one bothered to find out if I was ok with the tastes. The table was cleaned only on request. When the lady came to clean the table, she holds the glass I was using by inserting her fingers in it. Also, there was a heap of tissues lying beneath my table along with its holder. 
Already extremely uncomfortable with the whole experience, I was readying to go when the owner , who was casually passing by, paused to ask how the pizzas were. Upon my saying that they didnt meet my expectation and one of them was salty, he sat himself down opposite me and spoke about the issues he is having in running the place. That was a long-winded chat. My sympathies are with him but, I, as a customer, still left the place unhappy.
Doling out low quality pizzas, not going the extra mile to take care of and wrongly billing the customer will surely not help the pizza chain retain itself. I had thought that it had the courage to open beside three other pizza outlets but then my one-line conclusion for Eagle Boys is that it is no different. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Olive Bistro

Three of us planned to avail the Groupon offer which we considered a steal for a three-course veg lunch + a mock-tail at Olive Bistro for Rs.700/- each.
First... to reach the place. I think it would be interesting to see how many reach the restaurant in their very first attempt without losing their way at least once. You go through wide roads, narrow roads, no roads, through slum-like areas to finally reach this place which has no signages to guide you. Even after reaching there, the restaurant name is not too prominently displayed.
Park your vehicle and be prepared to walk quite a few steps through a winding way to the restaurant. But while doing so, pause, look around and breathe the fresh air, look at the tall trees and the surrounding woods. The scene will make you forget the frustration of the time and effort taken to find your way.
After confirming your reservation, you walk into the cool interiors and what further sets the mood and brings a happy smile to your face is your name sitting on the table indicating your reservation :)
That was an impressive beginning!
The environment inside with all the wood, emulates old-world Europe; the warm sunlight flooding through the wide green slatted windows lighting up the room with natural light. How I wished wistfully, I could also smell wood polish like I used to when a child!

Upon being seated, the set menu was placed before us. Of the five options, we skipped the soup and falafel and opted for the salad, the rice balls and skewered cheese.

First to be placed on the table were these bread balls along with  the salsa. We were at it till our salad arrived. The warm bread and the salsa made a good beginning.

I am a big big fan of salads and this one didnt let me down at all. It had all the delicateness required of a salad: the freshness of the greens, the crunch, the balanceof acidity, sweetness, salt, a hint of chili , all tossed in an olive oil base. I could easily have skipped the rest of the meal and just gorge on this one item. For me, a hands-down winner and a 10/10.

Apple, Feta, Pine nut salad
The next on the table were the Arancini or the rice balls served with red pepper mayonnaise. They were quite crunchy with a soft centre filled with mozzarella cheese. Not oily, soggy or chewy but perfectly crunchy even after they had cooled.

The third entree was the cottage cheese skewer. A very reluctant order from me as I do not fancy paneer in an Italian restaurant. Well, even before the taste, the presentation caught my eye.The paneer was soft and marinated to have a mildly chilli flavor. I am not sure whether the roast garlic aioli was a good combination as we needed a more assertive sauce to offset the taste of that cheese, (not that it was bland).

Cottage Cheese Skewer
For the main course, we skipped the pasta and the tart from the menu and instead went for, first, a 12-inch pizza. The wood-fired, thin crust pizza was delicious, roll-able and served with ample toppings consisting of spinach, olives, sun dried tomatoes and corn.

The highlight of the lunch was this ravioli. Four of them tossed in Parmesan cream sauce accompanied with tomato salsa and sprinkled with pine nuts. I went bonkers with all these delicately balanced tastes. The creaminess of the sauce complemented the ravioli so well .The contrasting taste of the salsa and the crunch from the pine nuts completed the dish.

Lemon, Broccoli and Ricotta Ravioli 
The risotto which came with crumbled goat cheese was quite decent in taste but I thought that the rice could be a little more sticky and cohesive.

Green Pea, Zucchini and Mint Risotto 
Sweets are strictly not my forte. But my friends who had accompanied me were delirious over the taste of this. I loved this bread pudding which came with  peaches accompanied by Crème Anglaise. Slightly rich but definitely not heavy. 

Bread and Butter pudding
Next was this coconut and white chocolate pannacota which was well set and surrounded with perfectly crunchy  hazelnut nougats. The flavor of the coconut was mild and not sharp but this was not creamy enough for me.

Coconut and white chocolate Pannacota
The hot chocolate fondant was eagerly awaited by my friends and probably, to their delight, I dont eat chocolate and they had this all to themselves. I was reveling in their expressions when a small scoop of the chocolate brought the hot chocolate gushing out. I managed just a bite of this but was happy tasting the blueberry compote surrounding the fondant. 

Hot Chocolate Fondant with Blueberry  Compote

Though the setting created an environment of a lazy, relaxed, warm, winter afternoon, for me, this came the closest to a fine dining experience, in terms of the delicate balancing of tastes, the textures, or the presentation of food.
I have been to restaurants which hugely compromise on quality on offers with Groupon deal coupons. Glad that this one didn't.
On the minuses, the portion size wasn't really filling and left me yearning for a bite more. Also, the pricing for those portions are rather steep and I haven't actually tried to figure out how much this fare would have cost us had we gone for a la carte offer.The service was quick and good.
The advantage of the three of us going there was that each of us could order one item from each section of entrees, mains, desserts and mock tails and actually end up tasting everything on the vegetarian menu. And if you are wondering at my skipping mentioning the mock-tails, it is because of the extremely forgettable experience. They paled horribly in comparison to the rest of the menu. Diluted versions of the actual taste.
Olive Bistro is definitely on the list of must-visit places in Hyderabad.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Happy New Year

I went to see the movie Happy New Year with a near-zero expectation. I haven't really watched the movie trailers but then the promos on every TV channel including a news channel  piqued my curiosity.
Yet, that itself should have acted as a warning. You need not sell something so feverishly when you know there is something substantial to pull in the audience. Ra.One, all its marketing and its failure at box-office is still fresh in mind. According to Boman's admission, the team spent as much time marketing this film as they did shooting it.
Well, my heart sank when I saw that the movie was 180 minutes long! And, for the first one hour of the movie that the heroine doesn't appear, you are stuck watching a group of aging men acting like teenagers.
Shah Rukh Khan as the producer and Farah Khan as the director  have failed to create the magic they did in their last venture together, Om Shanti Om. Shah Rukh's last one, Chennai Express was, at least, entertaining and funny and had you engaged. But 180 minutes of  the movie of which about an hour is wasted in establishing the backgrounds of each character puts you to sleep.
Shah Rukh Khan, despite his ten-pack, is visibly aging. Deepika Padukone has not much to do except flaunt her hot body in the role of a dancer. Her role carries shades of Rakhi Sawant... "I spik Englis" , "Go slip" kind of English. Abhishekh Bachan is good at what he does best...the oafish character. Sonu Sood was funny and a surprise factor as I have only seen  him play villainish roles in Telugu. Boman looks positively bored.
Among all these, comes Vivaan Shah as a breath of fresh air. He is a kid, has abundant energy and carries all the naivety and freshness of a new-comer. If he carries even half the artistry in his parents' genes, he will make it.
The movie is about planning and pulling off a heist. Wait a minute! And that's all there is to it. Stretching this wafer-thin story to three hours makes it a thoroughly exhausting viewing.  The movie has none of the suspense expected of a heist. It only checks each element thought necessary for a successful movie: dance, check;  fights, check;  hero baring chest/abs, check;  comedy, check.
Fortunately for the audience, the last 45 minutes pick up pace and entertain. The comedy is good in bits and pieces. Like the team's attempts at learning dancing. Oh now don't ask me what dance has to do in a suspense movie? Logic goes for a toss with the plot's mulitiple contrivances. Some dialogs from earlier Shah Rukh Khan movies fail to make the intended impact.

The roles:
Shah Rukh: The leader who has to avenge for  'tera baap chor hai'
Jackie Shroff: The villian from whom the diamonds are to be wrested
Abhishekh Bacahan: Brought in as he resembles Jackie Shroff's son. Yes, a double role
Boman Irani: An expert safe-cracker
Sonu Sood: The strong man
Vivaan Shah: The computer hacker
Anupam Kher: Shah Rukh's father, wasted in a blink-and-miss role
Sajid Khan: Doing what, Farah?
Deepika Padukone: Dance teacher who helps the team learn dance so that they can successfully pull off the heist. Huh?
Brief comic appearances by Vishal Dadlani and Anurag Kashyap...not funny and end up as caricatures.

I will go with one and a half on five for Happy New Year.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Food in Gujarat

When I went to Gujarat, I wanted to partake of the typical Gujarati food. And also check how the restaurants' food compared to the ones experienced at Hyderabad. As I am a vegetarian, here are the different vegetarian options I tried there.
My plans aside, what I happened to start with was this charming place called Cheval Cafe and Lounge with few indoor games laid out on different tables, casual low seating, a huge screen...generally a place where youngsters could let their hair down. And the food? Was simply awesome!

             Russian Salad at Cheval Cafe & Lounge, Ahmedabad 

Pasta stuffed Pizza at Cheval Cafe & Lounge, Ahmedabad 

A mocktail at Cheval Cafe & Lounge, Ahmedabad

Khichu and Dhokla, Gujarati steamed delights at Alpha Mall, Ahmedabad
When I visited the Law Garden area for the street food and shopping, I visited the only stall selling Gujarati and Kutchi food and tasted this.

Bajri no Rotlo and Thota at Law Garden, Ahmedabad

Kathod at Law Garden, Ahmedabad

I made it a point to go to Swati Snacks, a Mumbai based eatery, and highly recommended by friends. A look at the menu below would confirm this place to be slightly on the expensive side. Ordered for their famous Panki Chatni. The taste was similar to our rava dosa, steamed in layers of banana leaf and had a hot and sour flavor to it. Very heavy for one person as it had about five layers.

The Mumbai famous Swati Snacks at Ahmedabad

Panki Chatni at Swati Snacks, Ahmedabad

Panki Chatni at Swati Snacks, Ahmedabad

This humble breakfast of poori, aloo deserves a special mention as the aloo jeera was awesome in taste with a  pinch of sugar added to the curry to spike its flavors. Awesome breakfast served in my room at Hotel Oasis.

Poori, Aloo Jeera at Oasis Hotel, Bhuj

On way to Mandvi beach, I requested my cab driver to show me a typical Kuthci food outlet as we were in the Kutch region. He made a few queries with his friends around Mandvi and drove down to this Aadesh Dhaba & Restaurant. The two of us ate for a grand total of 213/- for Rotis, two curries, and butter milk. The curries came with very unique and sharp taste.

Aadesh Dhaba, Mandvi, Kutch

Aadesh Dhaba, Mandvi, Kutch
Ringana Msala, Rajwadi Dhokri , Tawa roti, Lasan ki Chutney at Aadesh Dhaba, Mandvi, Kutch

Khichidi loaded with ghee, Lasan ki chutney and Achaar at Oasis Hotel, Bhuj

Oasis had attached to it, a South Indian restaurant famous in Gujarat, the Sankalp. It emulates the chutneys that we find in our own Chutneys' restaurant but I found no match in taste. I avoided South Indian food throughout my tour but gave in to this as a last and quick snack before I boarded my train back.

Sankalp, a South Indian restaurant at Oasis Hotel, Bhuj
This is definitely among the hidden jewels across India. In my quest for handicrafts and other priceless work from deep rural pockets of Gujarat, I happened to visit Bhirandiyara with a total population of less than 2500 and here is what I found.
The only place in Gujarat where Mawa is sold in its purest form. No maida, no dry nothing...only milk boiled and boiled till its reduced to this form with sugar. And the price? Unbelievable at 200 per kg!

The famous Mawa at Bhirandiyara


Pakwaan vs Gordhan vs Agashiye. 200 vs 250 vs 670. 
The bigger the restaurant the smaller the thali size. For those going to Ahmedabad, the good old Gordhan is the answer if you do not have the time to try all of them.

Gordhan Thaal, Ahmedabad

Accompaniments at Gordhan Thaal, Ahmedabad

Gordhan Thaal, Ahmedabad

Agashiye Thali at The House of MG, Ahmedabad

Pakwan Thali, Ahmedabad

Pakwan Thali, Ahmedabad
After days of Gujarati food, finally Punjabi fare at an unbelievable price of 210/- for this whole platter of 5 kinds of kababs, four each! Can never imagine this quantity for the price in mana Hyderabad!

Sumptuous Paneer Platter from the kitchen of Hotel Atithi, Ahmedabad
And finally, the bring-home snacks from the most famous snack house in Ahmedabad

Induben Khakrawala, CG Road, Ahmedabad
To sum up

  • I found the Gujaratis as much of foodies as our Hyderabadis are. My conclusion is drawn from the huge number of restaurants found there
  • The vegetarian options outnumber the non-vegetarian ones. 
  • What I also liked is the quantities per serve. Huge! And therefore truly VFM as the prices were almost half those of Hyderabad. 
  • The not so good thing about Gujarat is the price of tea. A place which is known for its milk production, has its tea priced so high, it is amazing. They have not heard of  Rs.5/- tea at all. The mimimum price for tea even in a road side stall is 10/. And if one were to ask for a special tea which, in our case, was nothing but tea with slightly less sugar, the price can go up to even 20/- . So my usual tea drinking option when I travel came down drastically. 
  • What I found common with Hyderabad is the paan...a mind boggling array of paan leaves and flavors starting from 10/...and all of them wonderfully flavored. 
I hope this post of mine, is helpful to guide tourists to Gujarat to some extent.

Saturday, October 4, 2014


Had been impatiently waiting for the release of this movie for long and finally! Haider, it was today!
In a scenario where very often the Indian movies and the actors these days urge you to leave your brains behind when you come to watch their movie, we have a breather in the form of Haider which leaves you spellbound for the  two and half hours of the movie's running time. This movie requires you to apply your intelligence, listen to every word spoken, understand, analyze and absorb it.
There are such complex human emotions involved...elements of poetry, romance, comedy, pathos...How the director Vishal Bhardwaj balances so many emotions and shades of character so dexterously is amazing. People have been speaking of Tabu's acting in this movie but my eyes were on K. K. Menon, the evil and slimy character of Khurram, uncle to Haider (Shahid Kapoor). I was missing seeing him in recent movies and then bang, he makes this appearance and what an appearance! His repulsive and slimy ways make you loathe him to the core.
Shahid has aced in every nuance of the character, crying, laughing, dancing, romancing as a troubled college student, as a lunatic, as a revengeful young guy...He has finally come of age with this one.
Irfan shines as usual in his brief role. Tabu's character portrays the body language of the old and young woman equally effortlessly as the plot keeps swinging between the present and past.
Brief but brilliant cameos by Ashish Vidyarthi and Kulbhushan Kharbanda add the necessary subtle elements to complement the story.
Among all such strong portrayals, newbie Shraddha Kapoor manages to hold her fort, though she doesn't have a lot to do.
The movie is an adaption of Hamlet. Set in troubled Kashmir of the 90s, it shows how lives are effected in the strife between Pak-India-Kashmir. The director has chosen to tell the story of one such family that is caught in this milieu.
The story is that of a young man in search of his father who was taken away years ago as he was suspected to be siding with the militants and of all such half widows in Kashmir. Bhardwaj has been very cautious, treading the line carefully, not siding with any of the parties nor adapting a preachy tone.
Plenty of discerning subtleties in the movie need rapt attention. After 'Lunch Box,' this was a movie where I uttered not a word and never realized how that 2 hours and 42 minutes of the time flew.
For those seeking pot boilers and mere mindless entertainment, please keep away. But for those seeking a story, passion, an intensity and acting, que up, buy the tickets and rush to the theaters. Don't know when again Hindi cinema would dare make its footfalls on this untrodden path.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Vegetarian Biryani preparation

Step by step Veg Biryani made by me at home with (kheera raitha).

The recipe followed is by VahChef Sanjay Thumma:

Thursday, September 18, 2014


Had been hearing of the Burger Feast at Deli9. Two things spurred  me to go try the burgers. One, the amazingly tempting pictures. Two, the fact that I never had an occasion to go to Deli9, unsure as I was about the cuisine and the ambiance.
I have given up on KFCs and Macs for a long time now and been searching for places that serve a good burger. Went to HRC (Hard Rock Cafe) after hearing great reviews of the burger there and found the burger good but not outstanding. This might be because I eat only vegetarian. Perhaps the meat ones are good.
Coming to Deli9, it is an outlet in the White House building on the SP Road at Begumpet. They have a couple of outlets more but I am not aware of their location. Moreover, this one is closer to my place. This is not too big, perhaps just a 50-seater. The ambiance inside is air-conditioned and good.
I had a look at the two menus, that of the feast and the regular one. The burgers on the feast menu were priced much higher than the ones on their regular one. The regular one costs 115/- but the one offered in feast costs 195/ . No discounts because of the feast either.
The feast menu had three offerings for the vegetarians and I ordered the one shown below. The picture is from their brochure as I didn't take any.
What I got was quite similar to the one in picture except that I also got some shredded greens and just three potato wedges unlike the six  shown in picture.
I am off-sugar and therefore didn't go for a dessert but asked for a salad. There were none that appealed to me on the menu and when I was pondering on what to order, I was suggested a Caesar salad, not on the menu. I agreed to it. The salad was priced at 125/- and came with a good portion size. The lettuce was crisp and had all the right condiments. Instead of containing the croutons within, it came with a side of dry bread. But the steward was quickly on my side asking if I would prefer a soft one. When I said a yes to it, the dry bread was replaced with a soft garlic bread which went excellently with the salad. But yeah, one slice isn't enough for the entire plate. I wish I had asked for a slice more.While the salad was great, it was a tad too sour for me. Perhaps the lemon juice or vinegar could be toned down? I had gobbled it down as I was hungry but then it left a sour taste on the teeth.
The next to come was the eagerly-awaited burger. I had requested the multi-grained bun to be replaced with the regular one as I didn't fancy going healthy while indulging myself.
After all those burgers from big chains, this was heaven! Loved to sink my teeth into this deliciously balanced burger. Right proportions of soft bun, crisp patty (made of potato and different vegetables), the tomato, lettuces and the sauces in every bite.
The downside? None. Perfect taste which didn't require adding anything. It was nicely complemented by the potato wedges and the shredded veggies. When they weren't enough to last the burger, I asked for more and was served immediately.
The salad together with the burger made a sufficient meal for one person.

Veggie 9 Burger
Th pluses are the ambiance, attention to the customer and great taste.
The sole minus was a slight delay in service but it was worth the wait so I didn't mind it.

The total of 320/- for a salad and a burger with taxes came to 423/- Was it value for money? Hmm, a yes and no. Considering that 200/ may not be too much to pay for one's meal but a burger costing 200, and was it like outstanding? Something that's really, really special? Not really. Maybe, I need to have a go at burgers on their regular menu to compare.
The place holds a lot of promise and I will definitely visit it again to taste the other fare on their menu.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Gujarat tour : the hotels: Hotel Accolade, Hotel Atithi, Hotel Oasis

As mentioned in my earlier post about the sudden plans of going to Gujarat, the obvious thing to do was to first find a place to stay and my reference was the TripAdvisor. I also had a look at discounts available through Make MyTrip to check how much I could negotiate the room rates for.I shortlisted a few based on the reviews and my budget.
My selection criteria was as below:

1. Buffet Breakfast available: Would be good to set out with stomach full as you spend the day outside with no surety of when you get the next meal. Also saves time in finding one in the morning. Whether the buffet contained limited or unlimited items? Some of them had set menus of three items to be selected from their menu.
2. Has an airport pick up? Saves time in all those odd hours searching for the hotel
3. Check-in Check out timings
4. Centrally Located
5. Availability of Wi-fi
6. Opt for a no-smoking room
7. Opt for a room with no sound...the higher the floor, the better
8. And of course, the rates and the discounts

My big advantage is that by going during off-season, I not only got rooms easily but also availed flexible check in/check out timings.

Searched for hotels in mid-range and found few, of which the ones that fit my requirement were the Krios and the Accolade. During both stints of my stay in Ahmedabad, Krios promised a room but backed out in my call for confirmation saying that they have an earlier booking extended. Found that strange.


Hotel Accolade, Ahmedabad

There was an airport pick up but the service was not free. The hotel had all its basic amenities in place. It was quite clean too.There was no noise to disturb you and you get a fitful sleep.
The breakfast buffet, part of the package had a mix of North and South Indian & Continental. I remember having dosas, sandwiches, parathas, baked vegetables, all about 10 items or so. I thought that the buffet was frugal. Nonetheless, they tasted decent...till I had their Sunday buffet and then found that the breakfast was brilliant. Though the number of items hadn't increased, they had much better tasting food on the weekend. What I thought should have been included is a Gujarati item so that it provides an insight into what Gujarati food is about. On the down side, the dining area was not too great as they dumped the plates right in front of us into a waiting tub. The dirty tub, the wash area, a broken and under-repair part of the hotel didn't make a pleasant sight while eating. The waiters were attentive and helpful though.
On the minuses, the hotel's very business-like approach was a slight put-off. The courtesy was there but the smiles missing. Going out of way to accommodate your requirement was not there. For example, when I couldn't partake of my breakfast as I had to leave at 7 am, I requested them to parcel a little from the breakfast but they only replied that they do not have such system in place. Hence I was forced to delay my leaving to quickly eat what I could. And being a slow eater, that was a tough feat to pull. It was good that I ate because there were no eateries enroute that day.
If I have to come back here, I will because they deliver what they promise and for their decent food. Just wish there were less of the rigid politeness and more of genuine smiles.

The cab driver happened to point out Atithi, another hotel in the vicinity of Accolade and told me that they had a tie up with this hotel too. This was not among the top ranking hotels in TripAdvisor.Yet, curios, I got down and checked the hotel. For a similar tariff as that of Accolade, I was getting a bigger room and with a one-side free airport/railway pick-up/drop. Good enough. The hotel was newer and therefore, again as Krios had turned me down, I opted to stay in Atithi during my next stint in Ahmedabad. The good thing is the room itself, which was vast and comfortable. Bigger bathroom with a secluded bath area. What was not good was the toilet paper being placed behind the seat. To maneuver your self into the position of turning around to pull it down was tough. The seat, even for a short person like me, was too low and on the first day, I found myself plonk down unexpectedly on it.  The wash basin was jammed and I would find myself wait patiently for the water to drain down slowly.
They have excellent facilities at the door like different touch buttons for different signs. You touch one of them to highlight your status. But believe me those statuses are royally ignored. I had pressed the 'do not disturb' button on the day I wanted a break in the travel and just as I hit the bed, I get a call asking me if I wanted to get the laundry done. One, I don't think the services should make a call unless the resident actually asks for something. Second, whats the point in my displaying a do not disturb status? Twice,  I had the boys drop in with things I hadn't even ordered. I feel it is a nuisance to get up from bed to open the door to such unnecessary intrusions.
Coming to their breakfast, I felt that it is a fiasco. Being a slow eater, I take a long time eating and I found one of the guys stand at the end of my long table and not leaving till I had done with my breakfast. Uncomfortable when someone is breathing down your neck as you eat. There were very limited and unappetizing items on the table. But we could order stuff from the restaurant's south Indian menu. Going to Gujarat and ordering South Indian isn't exactly a great idea but then I had to. I don't know how this system works because the meaning of buffet itself is defeated when everyone's busy ordering from your a la carte menu.
On the upside, the wi-fi speed is excellent but then having to log in with a new password every time you log off for long periods can be a bit cumbersome.I was here in two stints having left my luggage in their care for a couple of days and then coming back. All these check-in and check outs were handed smoothly with no hidden costs.
If I come back, it will for the size of the room and its cleanliness. And just because I wasn't uncomfortable there.

Both hotels situated close to Law Garden area, I had good access to the local evening shopping and street food therein.

The hotel in Bhuj was booked just one day before arrival because the booking agent with who I had dealt with was useless and I had to make my own last minute arrangement. This hotel's standards or facilities were not on par with the hotels at Ahmedabad but the tariff was similar and even slightly higher. There was no offer of railway pick up but then I insisted as I was new to the place. Bhuj is a tiny place and they sent a cab to pick me up from the station just about 5-6 minutes away.

Hotel Oasis, Bhuj, Gujarat

The room , not too big really, had the basic amenities and I had no complaints. Except that you need to wait for hot water for a bath in the evenings as it takes time for them to get it to your room or have the geyser centrally switched on and wait for the water to heat up. The wi-fi speed was excellent with no major log in issues. The hotel is three storied and doesn't have a lift facility. Funnily, I found few rooms situated at the back of the hotel and I was allotted the last one in that row. I didn't get a good feel as though I were an outcast. But then when I asked they offered me one on the ground floor so I needn't go up the steps all the time. I turned that down as being so close to the reception and restaurant might create disturbance. One plus of being the last room was that there was no noise.
This was one hotel where I just dropped in going by its No. 1 ranking without bothering to read other hotels' reviews so I cant say if I chose the best one. But 3 star it surely wasn't, though not lacking in terms of tariff.
The room didn't have the required paraphernalia for preparing tea/coffee either.All food had to be ordered from their restaurant Sankalp, which had an exorbitantly priced menu. There was no provision for a buffet breakfast. Well, on the upside, the food was good, the tiffin items and the Gujarati stuff.
The hotel had tie ups with drivers who would drive you to your destination but then ask for drivers who know their way around. I got a good one on day 1 but the one on day 2 made me miss some localities as I found out later that he was one who just drives around Bhuj locally and not too familiar with places outside Bhuj.

Common to all hotels:

Though the room boys aren't all that well trained, there is no hollering in the corridors. The hotel rooms are quiet.
Providing flip flops for indoor use...though a bit too big for my size.
Inability to converse in good and fluent English. They were more comfortable in handling calls and conversation in Hindi. Would be a bit tough with people with no knowledge of Hindi.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Finding Fanny

Finding Fanny's promos promised a  movie different from what the typical Indian cinema doled out.

The movie opens with a voice-over by Deepika Padukone. It is a story set in a remote, lazy, lazy village of Goa. About Dimple Kapadia living with her widowed daughter-in-law Deepika. Deepika is friends with Naseeruddin Shah who is the village postmaster. After 46 years, the postmaster has a letter returned undelivered-that letter in which he had sent a proposal to his Fanny. He is deeply depressed about what could have happened but did not happen only because he never had the courage to ask. As he laments over the wasted time, Deepika proposes that they go in search of Fanny.
Arjun Kapoor has returned to the village six years after he had left it miffed that Deepika had chosen to marry someone else. Pankaj Kapoor's character is that of a painter who has trudged the world and is in quest of his muse. And his muse had to be someone who was heavy built. He finds that muse in Dimple and follows her everywhere so that he could create that perfect painting.
Deepika manipulates all these odd-ball characters into getting into the wreck of the car that Pankaj Kapoor owns and they all go in search of Fanny.
Whether they find Fanny and what the climax is forms the rest of the story.
This is a movie where the heroine doesn't wear more than 6-7 sets of dresses throughout. The hero looks like your neighbor who throws on a casual jeans and T shirt.Very restrained acting by most of the characters. For me the surprise packet was Arjun Kapoor, who normally portrays an hyper energetic character but has shown a great restraint in this one. Naseeruddin Shah, again, is indefatigable. He is well-complemented by another power house, Pankaj Kapoor. The movie takes you not through a gamut of emotions but through life, its moments, the regrets, the realization, the celebration of it.
A streak of humor throughout is present. The instances do not elicit loud guffaws but the movie has the power to draw those little smiles and in one or two instances also bring a tear to the eye.
How would I rate it? Difficult to say. The movie has its sluggish moments where you want it to move forward but then given that there isn't a lot happening in the movie, how much faster can it go? Yet, it packs a powerful punch in its 100 odd minutes of running. Every word spoken has to be caught or else you miss out on some wonderful exchange.
Ranveer Singh has a minuscule portion and in the director's words, you bend your head down to pick  that pop corn and he is gone.
I may not rate it as a must-watch but definitely a good movie to watch.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Gujarat tour: the plan and the itinerary

For a long time, I wanted to visit Gujarat. It beckoned the vegetarian in me. I made an impulsive decision and bought my air tickets with the cheapest to and fro fares available, which incidentally left me with just two weeks' time to plan the itinerary, the hotels and the travel agents...

First things first. Find a place to stay. Two days of research and calls resulted in short-listing of a hotel.
My major advantage of traveling in the third week of July was that monsoons are considered an off-season for tourism in India...what with the irksome showers. Therefore, there weren't major hassles of tickets, rooms or check-in and check-out timings.

Next was to plan an itinerary and see how to go about it. Just some ideas from the different forums and websites made me start with a 3-day Ahmedabad visit first. After that I allowed myself to go with the flow.

I found that there were mainly four regions to cover: Ahmedabad and around, the Kutch region, the west (Dwarka), the South (Diu, Somnath, Junagadh, Gir) I could also do Vadodara, Surat and Anand (as I really was keen on visiting the milk factory ( in the areas lying south of Ahmedabad.)

For my planning, I found this website very useful as it gives you a detailed plan of places to visit and also a fair idea of what can be covered in the number of planned days. ( .
My areas of interest were to visit the tribal villages to watch and buy the various handicrafts that they produce & history and architecture of those times. What I knew for sure was I didn't want to cover any wild life and also wasn't too keen on temples unless they happen to hold some historical/architectural value.
What I also was sure of was that I wanted to relax and not rush through a hectic schedule. Only after I happened to wake up, I'd plan to cover places close by. Of course, to visit places far off, I had to get up sooner but then they were interspersed with the lazy days. I ended up doing fewer places and definitely missed on some which I wish I could/should have but then overall it was a very relaxed tour.

This is how I went about my 12 days' travel


  1. 26 July 2014:  Landed in Ahmedabad at 8 am. Slept after breakfast till 3 pm as I had woken up at 3 am to catch the flight. Evening, met an old classmate and had early supper. Went to Law Garden to have a dekho at the clothes. Went to the Alpha mall (the biggest in Ahmedabad) for a quick tour and evening snack.
  2. 27th July: Booked a cab for 7 am to go to Palitana, 250 kms away. Came back to hotel on Law Garden road.
  3. 28th July: Morning checked out from hotel. Booked cab and started for Patan, Sarkhej Roza, Adalaj ki Vav, covering Modhera and on the way back Rani ki Vav, and Patola. Night train to Bhuj.
Based at BHUJ:
  1. 29th  July morning: Reached Bhuj: Covered Amba Mata temple, Vaishno devi, Vijay Palace, Mandvi Beach, Ship Building Yard,
  2. 30th  July:  Kala Dungar, Banni Villages. Hodka, The White Desert
  3. 31st July: Check out from hotel and visit to Bhujodi, Ajrakpur, Local sight seeing.
  1. 1st August:  5 am, back to Ahmedabad and a BREAK. Did nothing but relax.
  2. 2nd  August : Check out from hotel and Start for Mt. Abu by cab. Reached at around 7 pm. Rowing on the lake and shopping for trinkets
  3. 3rd August Morning. Check out from hotel at Mt. Abu and go to Dilwara and Dattatreya (at Guru Shikhar) temples.
  4. 3rd August night: Board train to Veraval from Ahmedabad at 10 pm.
  5. 4th August morning: Reach Veravael. Take cab to Diu. Back at 5.30 pm to Somnath
  6. 4th August night: Board train to Ahmedabad.
  7. 5th August morning: Arrive Ahmedabad. Check in at hotel, sleep and then Ahmedabad local sight seeing: HatheeSingh temple, Shaking minarets, Old city, Lakshminarayan temple, Siddi Syed Mosque, Kangaria lake.
  8. 6th August morning: Check out and local sight seeing and shopping, Dada hari ni vav, Dutch tombs, Shopping,
  9. 6th Evening: Board flight back.

Sights missed: Lothal, Adalaj ki vav, Shreyas Folk museum , Bhuj local sight seeing.

The entire itinerary was built on-the-go. I had plenty of time to do so and second, it being an off-season period, tickets were easily available. What I also tried to do was spend night time on train to minimize spending on hotel accommodations. Second, by not traveling by cabs, I not only saved time, as cabs do day travel, but also traveled the distance for one-third the cost (train vs. cab).
All in all, a very relaxed tour with no hurrying, waking up early or packing the day with loads of activities.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Antha Maya(bazaar)

Heard so much about Maya Bazaar, the restaurant at Karkhana. I always had this regret that something so close on hand has never been visited. The reason being that my visits to restaurants come in combinations with a movie, and movies normally viewed in multiplexes which are far far from my home. And hence Karakhana restaurants were ignored for a long time.
Anyways, did that finally yesterday. When I called them I was assured that food will be served from 12 noon onwards without break and I could go and have a late lunch too. Happy with the news of a possibility of a late lunch, I visited them at around 3 pm. It was a little difficult as I wasn't provided proper directions to it.
When I went there, I was welcomed to a painting of the 'Vivaha Bhojanam' scene of SV Ranga Rao from the movie Maya Bazaar. As you stepped inside, you see a restaurant with high ceiling, seemingly constructed of thatch and bamboos. The environment inside was cooled by huge coolers embedded in the restaurant outer walls. Quite a large place which had tables sunk into enclosures just big enough to hold them. And those enclosures were filled with gravel!  Easy to clean?
I stood there for a few minutes uncertain of where to sit as the place was almost 90% full even at 3 pm. I was the only woman amongst that whole lot of diners. Felt a bit odd.
As I had already browsed their menu on interent, I placed my order after some quick queries about the items. The menu itself was thankfully short and one needn't waste much time in browsing and selecting.
About ten minutes later, my order of Hariyali Paneer Tikka arrived accompanied by the green mint chutney.

Starved by now, I dug into the Paneer Tikka eagerly only to be utterly disappointed with its taste. I blame Reshmi's for letting us know what a paneer tikka actually tastes like and to have this pathetic substitue was a great let-down. The paneer was chewy and almost didn't taste like paneer. The worst part is that the paneer was skewered, cooked in the tandoor and served after some green chutney-like stuff smeared on it. The inside of the paneer was as white and pure as the first snow....absolutely untouched by any spices. Clearly not marinated and completely bland. There was only one steward for the entire restauarnt and he was not adequate to take orders or pay attention to the diners. After some time when I was able to draw his attention and asked him why the paneer tikka was served without marianting, he didnt understand the meaning of marinating. I asked him to call the chef so that I could explain it to him. The steward's weird explanation then was that Paneer Tikka is marinated but not Hariyali Paneer Tikka. Huh! What!? Here is the definition of a Tikka:

Gross ignorance and when I asked for my almost untouched (just one piece eaten) paneer dish be exchanged, they refused to and said that I am the only customer to complain about it and that in their restaurant this is how paneer tikka is made. I sighed, gave up and continued with my lunch.
Next was the turn of Methi Malai Matar. When I saw that, my face fell. A yellow-brown gravy with loads of frozen peas. Where was the methi in it or the malai?  This is made by a house cook like me in contrast to what the restuarant served.

I had by then given up and gulped down the curry with one roti, refused to order anything else and ended with a not-so-filled-stomach. However, I couldnt resist, walked up to the steward asking him why the curry was the way it was and his answer was again,' we make it like this only in our restaurant'. After this, I left quietly after having paid the bill.
The ambiance was neither like that of a dhaba nor a restaurant. It was somewhere mid-way between the two. They had an open kitchen and you can see the cooking going on.The restaurant was filled with pictures of scenes from the film 'Mayabazaar' but nothing in the restaurant was in harmony with the theme.

The bill for a curry, a roti, a starter and a soda came to 325/-

If the restaurant has become famous, I assume it could be for its non veg fare. As a vegetarian, I found nothing worth returning to. Service was pathetic with only one steward to attend to all present. Even water had to be requested for.
The good part? The doggie bag is made of newspaper.

My rating:
Food: 1/5 (1 for the tandoori roti)
Ambiance: 2/5
Service: 1/5
VFM: 1/5