Sharmi on the Trot

Travelling, Exploring, Eating…

Archive for the month “March, 2016”

Review: Chaayos – Experiments with Tea

The humble masala chai with a lot of twists at Chaayos!

The humble masala chai with a lot of twists at Chaayos!

Bengalis are very particular about tea. Forget wanting to conquer territories, if the morning cup is not hot enough, the quantity of milk and sugar are off by a minuscule or the right blend hasn’t been used in the process, Bengalis are ready to go to war. Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration but being a Bengali myself, if I don’t have my morning cup the way I like it (let’s just keep it in the singular. I won’t scare you with my daily intake!) the day starts off wrong and my colleagues know it’s better to keep away.

Recently invited to review Chaayos, I jumped at the opportunity. How could I not go to a place which is literally, all about tea!

Hauz Khas Village is always busy. Shoppers, eaters, artists, groups of friends, couples… everyone finds something to do. Making my way up to the first floor, what struck me first was the quiet. The music playing in the background is not too loud, perfect to be able to have a conversation while the rustic décor keeps with the theme of tea-lovers coming into a place specially made for them. Add free wifi to the mix and you’ve sold it to chai-holics.

Combinations and Permutations

As established, I’m willing to run a mile for good tea, Chaayos is my kind of place. It brings out the absurd love I have for tea to the surface. Every tea is made fresh from scratch and can be suited to your taste buds. For example, the simple ‘chai’ can have less/more milk, less/more/no sugar, enhancers like ginger, tulsi, cinnamon, cardamom etc can be added and discarded as per taste. 25 varieties of tea can be customized in over 12000 ways. Yes, you read it right! The added attraction of unusual flavours such as Hari Mirch (Chilly), Rose-Cardamom and Aam-Papad make this chain a must-try.

Hari Mirch chai packs a punch.

Hari Mirch chai packs a punch.

Outlets Can Be Found…

Currently, Chaayos has 22 outlets in Delhi NCR and Mumbai. There are plans to open 100 by the end of the year across India. The cities in mind are Hyderabad, Pune and Bangalore. Opening overseas is also in their expansion plans. From high-end stores to to-go outlets, Chaayos is successfully catching the 21-40 age-group customers. Many I met later told me they’ve become regulars! (There is a high possibility that I too will join that club).

Fresh Food and Pocket Pinch

Not only did I enjoy the different types of chai but fresh and tasty food was also on the mark. The Sicilian Chicken sandwich and the Mutton Lazeez Kebab wrap are delish. But what I enjoyed most was the bun maska, a chai essential. They not only serve the normal sorts but also flavoured bun maskas! And the best part about all of this is the affordable pricing. An average cost for 2 would be around Rs 500.

Yum food to munch on. Chicken and mutton

Yum food to munch on. Chicken and mutton

So, what are you waiting for? Go alone with a book or laptop for work, with a group of friends or with that special person. Chaayos is definitely worth your time if you live, breath, think tea!

Bun Maska with Honey Ginger Lemon tea

Bun Maska with Honey Ginger Lemon tea

Rose Cardamom anyone?

Rose Cardamom anyone?

Ambiance: 4/5
Food and beverage: 5/5
Service: 5/5
Value for Money: 5/5
Where: Across Delhi NCR and Mumbai

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Review: Republiq In (Mobile App)

Apps make lives less troublesome and when someone comes up with one that locates the nearest drinking establishments for you, it’s perfect isn’t it? Republiq In does just that! And personally I love it!
There are five categories of drinking joints and each icon differentiates them. The options are Beer Bar, Wine Bar, Cocktail Lounge, Tapas Bar and Bar/Tavern. Placed alongside five other colour-coded options like ‘Bar Opening’, ‘Bar open’, ‘Happy Hours On’, ‘Bar closing’ and ‘Bar closed’ options, the App gives you the exact location of your choice of establishment on the map.
What I found useful, is that when you zero in on your choice of establishment, the App provides you with a feedback option and rating system, the exact distance to the pub/bar from your location, the contact number and timings of the place along with the most important bit – happy hour timings!
Another useful aspect of the app is the average price per drink rating. From 1-5, each place is given a number which gives you an average of what you’re expected to shell out. The higher the number, on an average, more expensive is the cost of drinks.
Let me give you an example. My office is near Connaught Place. My colleagues and I often head out for a drink after work but the problem is most places shut before we can finish the first beer. With this App, we can check out what’s open and if we are lucky, if Happy Hours are still on! (Check picture for clarification) Indulging in happiness indeed!

Repibliq In in use

Republiq In in use

Pros: Very useful for people who enjoy a drink or two! 
Cons: App only available on Android
My Rating: 4/5

Review: Amreli, Hotel Diplomat

Welcome to Amreli

Welcome to Amreli

There’s something charming and gorgeous when you walk into an old building. Maybe it has something to do with nostalgia because the moment I walked into Hotel Diplomat, I was transported to a grandmother’s ancestral home back in Calcutta. The old-fashioned styled house with verandahs and railings nestled amidst greenery makes one feel welcome, makes one feel refreshed. What is so fabulous about Amreli, their restaurant, is that one can choose to sit indoors or outdoors amidst the luscious greenery. I would have loved to sit outdoors but rain played spoilsport. Well, there’s always a next time isn’t it.

The pretty menu

The pretty menu

Interesting concept
Amreli is an interesting concept which has been started by Sidhant Lamba. A cross between a diner and bistro, the 105-seating capacity upscale restaurant is perfect for families, friends or/and a perfect date. From the art hanging on the walls to the chequered flooring, the use of purple and gold on paper table mats with elephant-shaped side plates, Amreli offers a nice sobering ambiance, perfect for an elegant evening. The service was really good as everyone made me feel welcome, right from the time I entered till the time I left.

The restaurant

The restaurant

Comfortable seating

Comfortable seating

Delicious Starters

Peek-a-boo with the vegetarian dimsums

Peek-a-boo with the vegetarian dimsums

Amreli offers North Indian, South Indian and Pan Asian cuisines. I decided to try Pan Asian simply because I was craving it the past couple of days. And Chef Neelam made sure I wasn’t disappointed. The Chilli Prawns with coconut, scallion, pepper and onion were perfect as were the platter of vegetarian dim sums. Steamed perfectly, each bite was a delight. The prawns were cooked fine and the hints of chilli absolutely didn’t overpower. The size of the prawns and quantity left me impressed.

Hello there prawns

Hello there prawns

View from the top

View from the top (see the pretty flooring!)

Mains & Sweets
With two starters consumed along with a glass of Old Fashioned (did I mention they have a fabulous cocktail menu? Well, check it out for yourself when you visit!) I asked Chef Neelam for a tasting platter for the mains. The wait for a bit long-ish but when the food came, I wished I had more space in my stomach to eat more. For the vegetarian tasting platter there was Tofu in Sambal Sauce, Mushroom in Black Bean Sauce along with rice and noodles. The non-vegetarian platter had Red Thai Chicken Curry and Balinese Prawn Curry with sticky rice and fried rice. I like vegetarian food but the tofu blew me away. Given a choice I wouldn’t have ordered for it but I’m glad Chef Neelam made it. The softness of the Tofu was perfect with the spicy Sambal sauce. The Red Thai Chicken Curry was perfectly balanced with sticky rice and the prawns stood out on their own. I know what to eat when I go back next!
For dessert, Chef brought out a Flourless Chocolate Fudge Cake and Tiramisu. I would surely recommend the Tiramisu because the taste was great and it was light. The fudge cake tasted nice but it was too heavy for me personally to enjoy after such a decadent meal.

The non-veg platter

The non-veg platter – chicken and prawns

The vegetarian platter

The vegetarian platter – tofu and mushrooms

Close ups, smile please :)

Close ups, smile please 🙂

The light as feather Tiramisu

The light as feather Tiramisu

Decadent Fudge

Decadent Fudge

Would I go back?
Whenever visiting a new restaurant, the last question I ask myself after a meal is would I go back. If I say yes, there are three aspects involved in that decision. One, is the food obviously. Second, the price and third, the ambiance. After visiting Amreli, it was an easy decision for me. The food is definitely worth the money and the ambiance is wonderful. If you find yourself in Chanakyapuri, do go visit.

Food: 4/5
Service: 4/5
Ambiance: 4/5
Value for Money: 4/5
Where: Hotel Diplomat, 9 Diplomatic Enclave, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi, #011 46050200

Picnic Pasta Bake with Mini Chicken Meatballs

The much-loved Delhi winters have come and gone but the weather hasn’t turned so warm that one can’t enjoy a picnic. If you ever visit Delhi, make sure Lodhi Gardens is on your go-to list. Green, gorgeous, tranquil and in the heart of the city, the gardens are a perfect picnic spot. I absolutely adore picnics. It’s a time to be silly, play badminton to your heart’s content (a great exercise for the indulge ahead), eat gorgeous food, doze under the shade of a tree, catch up on your reading, gossip with friends and feel like a child in the adult world. This bake is super easy but takes time. So, make sure you are not in a hurry. It is the perfect picnic food to consume on a lazy weekend in the midst of history and greenery with friends from back home.

The gorgeous greenery at Lodhi Gardens

The gorgeous greenery at Lodhi Gardens

Ingredients
For Meatballs (Makes 12-15 depending on size)
500g Minced chicken
1 small onion (finely chopped)
2 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
1 tbs dried oregano
1 tbs chilly flakes
1 tsp cumin
1 egg
250g breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper to season
2 tbs oil

For Sauce
2 large ripe tomatoes (diced)
1 onion (chopped)
1 carrot (peeled and chopped)
2 cloves garlic (smashed)
1 can tomato puree
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp chilly flakes
1 tsp heaped smoked paprika
3 tbs butter (room temperature)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbs olive oil

For Pasta
2 handful Penne
1 lt boiling water
1 tsp oil
Salt to season

For Bake
2 cubes of cheese (grated)
1 tsp butter (to grease baking tin)

The view from our picnic spot

The view from our picnic spot

– Boil the water with oil and salt. Cook the penne according to packet instructions.
– Drain penne and keep aside. But save the water.
– Place the minced chicken, chopped onion and garlic, dried oregano, chilly flakes, cumin, egg, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper in a large bowl.
– Mix well and use your hands to form mini meatballs. Keep aside.
– Heat a pan and add the olive oil. Add the garlic and chilly flakes to sautee well.
– Add the chopped carrot and onion. Let them cook through.
– Add the tomatoes and the can of tomato puree.
– Add oregano, paprika, salt and pepper. Clamp on a lid and let the sauce cook.
– As the sauce cooks, heat another pan with oil.
– Once hot, add the meatballs in small batches and brown.
– Add the meatballs to the sauce and let them cook through. Be patient as this will take some time. You will notice the sauce reduce considerably in quantity. Take off the heat
– Grease a baking tin with butter. Pre-heat the oven to 250 C
– Take out the meatballs and place them in the tin.
– In the sauce, add 1 tbs butter and a ladel of the starch water. Mix well.
– Repeat this twice more untill you see a sheen on the sauce. It will become a thin sauce.
– Add more dried herbs (optional)
– Put the meatballs back in the saucepan along with the penne. Coat pasta and meatballs well.
– Place the mixture in the greased baking tin and cover generously with grated cheese. (I use processed for this)
– Put in oven for 20 minutes.
– Take out once the cheese has melted and cool
– Pack in foil and you’re ready for the picnic!

The pasta bake uncovered!

The pasta bake uncovered!

The view from the top - Pasta bake, biryani, chips and two types of cakes!

The view from the top – Pasta bake, biryani, chips and two types of cakes!

After a soul satisfying day, we saw the sun set at Lodhi Gardens

After a soul satisfying day, we saw the sun set at Lodhi Gardens

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