Sharmi on the Trot

Travelling, Exploring, Eating…

Archive for the month “October, 2016”

Review: Twist, Cyber Hub

Good food makes one feel beautiful!

Good food makes one feel beautiful!

I love Spain. I do. The laid back atmosphere, the vibrant culture and most-importantly – tapas. The small plates shared among friends after a hard day’s work is a wonderful feeling, simply a way of life there. Twist, a new restaurant in Cyber Hub (in Gurgaon), has a very interesting concept. They serve tapas but with Asian flavours. Now, I’m extremely partial to tapas. Gorging on them every time I visit Spain, I do tend to overdo it. And comfort food for me is anything pan Asian. Believe me, my sister often goes insane when we try and pick a restaurant for dinner because I tend to visit pan-Asian places much too often for her liking! With Twist combining two of my favourites, a weekday afternoon lunch was absolutely a win-win situation!
It’s barely been about two months since Twist opened it’s doors but it’s already garnered a fair share of patrons. The casual ambiance makes one feel at ease walking in. While the fine dining area is impeccable, the bar side is more laid back. Plus, the outside seating area, so beautifully decorated with wooden tables and gorgeous greenery, immediately takes one back to European cafes.

To eat...

To eat…

... And to drink

… And to drink

As we were seated, two delicious looking mocktails made their appearance – Lady Twister and Volcano. The former with guava, cranberry and gingerale while the latter with pomegranate and rosemary. Both tasted very well with the appetizers which began making their appearance one after the other. First the Shrimps with a Twist with a mayo dip. Then arrived the Crispy Calamari. Both were delicious and hit the right spot. Let’s not even get started on the chicken wings. The marinade was perfect and every bite left us wanting more. Rarely so have I had good tofu. When the Tofu Crunch in its sesame dressing glory came on the table, our chopsticks almost in sync went forward to grab one. Absolutely melt-in-your-mouth! The Orchid Mushroom, a house specialty, was good but slightly hot for the tastebuds. And lastly, the chicken dumplings rounded up the starters.

Pretty mocktails make for a pretty picture

Pretty mocktails make for a pretty picture

Ok, the Shrimps with a Twist doesn't let you stop at just one!

Ok, the Shrimps with a Twist doesn’t let you stop at just one!

Crispy Calamari is always a crowd pleaser

Crispy Calamari is always a crowd-pleaser

 

For the vegetarians, Orchid Mushroom

For the vegetarians, Orchid Mushroom

Stacks of tofu...

Stacks of tofu…

Wings anyone? Damn delicious I swear!

Wings anyone? Damn delicious I swear!

Lift the lid and the steam escapes! Hot dumplings left behind!

Lift the lid and the steam escapes! Hot dumplings left behind!

With so much already consumed, we barely had space for anything else but hey, never say never to food is the motto isn’t it? So out came the panfried noodles with chicken tossed in black pepper sauce to make us drool even more. Though the menu tells patrons to order 2-3 dishes as the serving sizes are smaller in comparison to other restaurants (the tapas concept), each are perfectly shareable between two!

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Noodles and chicken

Dessert is always needed after a meal. And the perfect chocolate snicker bar with vanilla ice cream was the perfect way to end a great lunch. All in all, I had a wonderful time at Twist. It had great food and that’s what I look for in every restaurant I visit. It’s a great place for working lunches but is more popular for dinners. I would surely be back again!

A whole lot of chocolate to end the meal! Rich and decadent!

A whole lot of chocolate to end the meal! Rich and decadent!

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Review: Food Festival at Rashtriya Sanskriti Mahotsav, IGNCA

Anyone hungry?

Anyone hungry? Just look at the variety!

As you enter the gates of Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, the colourful posters immediately catch your eye. People mill about as traditional music can be heard over the PA system. There are men dressed in traditional outfits beating drums which everyone gathers to hear while men in stilts entertain the young ones. The smell of delicious food wafts through to tickle the nose. Above all, it’s a festive atmosphere and a perfect way to spend a winter afternoon in Delhi.

Indian thalis are an absolute delight!

Indian thalis are an absolute delight!

The second edition of the Rashtriya Sanskriti Mahostav is being held at IGNCA near India Gate. Organized by the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, it’s a 10-day extravaganza to celebrate culture, food, heritage and the diversity of the country. “Can anyone walk in?” asked my auto driver as I was paying him. I nodded in affirmation.

Dumplings from the North East

Dumplings from the North East

What drew me to the celebrations was obviously the food! With food stalls from all across the country, the festival stayed true to showcasing diversity. From Kashmir to Tamil Nadu, Nagaland to Rajasthan there was plenty on offer for every taste bud at reasonable prices.

Melt-in-your-mouth Galauti

Melt-in-your-mouth Galauti

I began at the Lucknow food stall where melt-in-your-mouth Galauti Kebabs were on offer. One could also taste biryani, parathas and other kebabs from the Awadhi kitchens. From Lucknow, I moved east towards the Bihar stall to gorge on Litti Chokha. It’s caught up in Delhi with many Bihar-themed restaurants springing up but the wheat and sattu (gram flour) delicacy is best eaten on paper plates from roadside vendors.

Litti Choka from Bihar, a delicacy from the state

Litti Chokha from Bihar, a delicacy from the state

The stalls from Assam caught all eyes with skewers of meat and seafood on display. The roast pork and chicken tossed with onions, cilantro, lime juice and spices was absolutely delicious. “We’ve come from Dibrugarh,” said the smiling lady behind the counter as she chopped up the pieces of meat.

Meat and more meat!

Meat and more meat!

Ready to be devoured!

Ready to be devoured!

From the east, it was time to move towards the west. I’m an avid fan of street food and the kind one gets in Maharashtra has me drooling every time I see them on a menu. I just had to taste the Sabudana khichdi simply because I hadn’t had it in two years! The first bite did justice to the long wait. The crushed peanuts, lime juice, spices complimented the sago (sabudana) perfectly, each bite leaving me wanting more.

Dhabeli from the streets of Bombay

Dhabeli from the streets of Bombay

One of my favourite kind of breakfasts!

One of my favourite kind of breakfasts – Sabudana Khichdi

The Hyderabad stall next door was racking up fast business with people ordering plates and plates of biryani and kebabs. With a tummy ready to burst I couldn’t take another bite but my kind neighbours looked at my forlorn face and asked, “Do you want a picture of this?” I nodded and quickly photographed my favourite kind of biryani before they could rescind the offer!
It had been a delicious afternoon, my favourite kind. I love food and when I get a chance to taste diverse cuisines from my own country, it leaves a big smile on my face. India is so vast and beautiful, each region with its own charm that it will take one a full lifetime to taste everything our country offers. But until that happens, head to IGNCA to get a taste!

Oh Biryani my love!

Oh Biryani my love!

How I Learnt to Balance Travel with Technology in Hungary

The gorgeous Chain Bridge connecting Buda and Pest

The gorgeous Chain Bridge connecting Buda and Pest

I sat in front of the Chain Bridge in Pest and stared at my phone. It was a hot summer day and being a Sunday in the middle of the tourist season, Buda looked at me invitingly from the other side of the Danube. I was sitting on the party side of the Hungarian capital while the historical hilly portion kept telling me ‘come visit’. My phone had blacked out for the second time during my Eastern European sojourns this summer, absolutely refusing to come back on. And instead of soaking in the historically rich city, I was wistfully gazing at the black screen, hoping against hope to see the start up icon pop up just to ease my racing mind.
How did I manage to get to this point? How did I get so dependent on technology that it seemed impossible to function in the initial panic-stricken moments?
In a constantly evolving world where technology and travel go side by side, can we ever imagine doing things the old-fashioned way? The long phone calls to hotels, going to the Tourism bureaus to check out the brochures, standing in line at the railway stations to book a ticket other than in emergencies, gathering paper maps and neatly folding them along the creases, consulting with the weather forecast in newspapers before a journey, deciding on what books to bring along and the selection of cassettes for the fashionable walkman, buying rolls of film for the camera…
Looking back it seems so long ago. Almost ancient isn’t it? As I staunchly tried to resist major technological changes for a rather long time (I wasn’t on WhatsApp till about two years back which friends called a foolish thing to resist) sitting on a bench along the Danube in Budapest, I wondered if I could balance technology and travel today.
When we make travel plans, applications or Apps are our friends. From the route on the map to where to stay and eat, purchasing tickets to packing according to the weather conditions, reading and listening music to pass time, noting down directions to taking pictures which last a lifetime, everything can be done on one device. And when the device fails, we are at a loss. We panic.
Also Read: Loving Amsterdam on a Budget 

On the bridge

On the bridge

Technology has definitely helped us to be better travelers. We know exactly how long it will take us to reach the destination. Instead of folding sheets of paper, navigation can be done in real time. The best hostel/hotel deals on websites and apps help us fix a budget as do notifications of airfare sales. All it takes is a bit of research to find amazing deals. In fact, I found a lovely hotel absolutely last-minute at a steal near the bus terminal. I wanted to stay around the area thanks to an early morning journey. In money matters, a credit or debit card with net-banking helps with instant transactions instead of cashing in travelers cheques. There’s so much of travel advice on the internet (which also helped finding the hotel in Budapest near Népliget) that helps one decide and focus on how to go about a holiday or even giving everything up for some years to see the world. Careers have been made out of travel blogging and I too had thought would join the bandwagon and live a nomadic life. It is fun I assure you because I’ve met so many of them on my travels around the world. But then there are problems too, like any other profession.
Also Read: 5 Ways to Plan Your First Europe Trip on a Budget

The cars drive on the bridge

A car drives on to the other side

I was in London this summer and to my utter surprise, I found people depending on their phone to navigate the city much more than anywhere else I’ve visited. I was standing at the edge of the Jubilee Walkway at Trafalgar Square and wanted to walk to Hyde Park because the weather was sunny. If you’ve ever visited the UK, you know how rare that is. I deliberately refused to use Google Maps and just asked a passerby if I was on the right path. She took out her phone and of course, Googled it. “Better yet, take the tube,” she exclaimed, giving me directions as to which station to get off at. Do people not notice anything on the streets if it’s not online? I was in London for a week and managed to give correct directions because I was looking up and taking mental images where to turn left or right!
Also read:  Living it up in Paris on a Budget

A view of the Danube

A view of the Danube

But while technology definitely helps, I sometimes wonder if we’ve lost our sense of adventure.
Do we need to know every single detail of a holiday? Do we need maps to tell us the shortest route? Must be depend on food apps to find the best places to eat? Must we note everything down in our phones or tablets and not on paper?
Also Read: Stumbling upon the Royal Cemetery in Bangkok

I can see Pest!

I can see Pest!

Personally, I think it’s wonderful to have so much information at our fingertips. It’s time-saving and very useful when on the go. But on the other hand, I love getting lost in walkways on cobblestone streets, I enjoy stumbling upon little eateries where locals gather and stories are exchanged, I look forward to sitting and reading a paperback somewhere on a park bench, dozing on the green grass, finding a local pool and jumping in, meeting and talking to people from different cultures to share ideas. Nothing ever beats human contact. No amount of using technology can ever replace that.
It’s all about balance at the end of the day. I still use my trusty notebook to jot down addresses and names in case I don’t have wifi to check my phone on travels, I still sit and write down adventures with a cup of coffee by my side and not worry about my laptop crashing and losing all memories. I do use a digital camera and make sure I back up pictures immediately. While I carry mostly cards, I ensure there’s enough cash in hand in case an ATM refuses to dispense. I firmly believe in walking, asking around and checking actual paper maps to locate places rather than use online ones. But when it comes to scoring cheap tickets, I don’t think I’ve been to an agent or tourism bureau in years.
So I stopped panicking. I looked over to Buda across the Chain Bridge. It was a long walk to the other side. I put my switched-off phone into my backpack, took out a paper map I had brought along from the hostel, brushed the dust of the back of the jeans and set off. I was going to enjoy my day without the help of my state-of-the-art phone! It was time to get to know Budapest better.

A view from Buda

A view from Buda

Review: Bagrry’s — Nutritious, Healthy and Tasty

Healthy products from Bagrry's

Healthy products from Bagrry’s

I had never been fond of oats growing up. My grandfather would take porridge every morning for breakfast and tried to inculcate the habit in me. My mother would use oats creatively to get me to eat it. I refused every single time and eventually everyone gave up. I don’t know why I disliked it so much really because I can’t pin point a reason. But then, something miraculous happened. I grew up!
As we grow older, our tastes and habits change. Often we find ourselves enjoying things we had never dreamed we could during our childhood. There was a time when my dress code used to be jeans and a tee with sneakers. Never in my wildest imagination could I even think of dressing up in skirts and dresses. 15 years down the line, I can imagine my younger self having a good laugh to the point when tears roll down her cheeks!
Similarly my eating habits have undergone changes and believe it or not, my day starts with a bowl of oats and sometimes, even ends with it when I feel lazy to cook dinner. If the laziness reaches extreme levels then it’s about pouring muesli into a bowl, adding milk or flavoured yoghurt and maybe some additional berries to give it an extra kick! As you can make out, I don’t tend to follow the breakfast rules!

Cornflakes with almond and honey

Cornflakes with almond and honey

Oats, the old fashioned kind

Oats, the old fashioned kind

Masala Oats, very very delicious

Masala Oats, very very delicious

Crunchy Muesli with nuts and cranberries

Crunchy Muesli with nuts and cranberries

Last but not the least, White Oats

Last but not the least, White Oats

Bagrry’s have been around in the Indian market for over two decades. I recently had the honour to review some of their products and everything I tasted put a genuine smile on my face. While their Muesli (my absolute favourite) is filled with dried cranberries and nuts which you can taste with every bite, the Masala Oats are delicious and have the perfect balance of spice and mild. Don’t even get me started on the Cornflakes. They make one with almond and honey and the taste is heavenly when doused with milk. It’s sweet, yet not the sickening kind, and there is no scrimping on the almond flakes. The Old Fashioned Steel Cut Oats make one of the best breakfast bowls. Cook with milk or hot water, load up with fruits and nuts, even maybe a bit of jam or jelly for guilty pleasure and voila, a healthy well-balanced breakfast awaits you to power start a day. Oats are so versatile that one doesn’t need to have it the way it’s advertised usually. Use it to make cutlets or even chops, they are beneficial and so much healthier than loading up on empty carbs.

Cornflakes go so well with milk!

Cornflakes go so well with milk!

Another view of the cornflakes

Another view of the cornflakes

Muesli served with milk and flowers. It makes any breakfast special!

Muesli served with milk and flowers. It makes any breakfast special!

For muesli on the go, mason jars are perfect.

For muesli on the go, mason jars are perfect.

My favourite way to eat masala oats -in bed with coffee!

My favourite way to eat Masala oats – in bed with coffee!

Bagrry’s tagline reads ‘Let’s put health first’. I couldn’t agree more. The pace at which one consumes junk food on a regular basis is scary. Bad eating habits not only affect one’s health but make one lazy and unproductive. Bagrry’s offers consumers all-natural, innovative and extremely healthy products with no compromise in quality. One can choose from 12 different varieties of Muesli ranging from chocolate to dried fruits and nuts. There’s also a wide range of oats on offer. If you don’t like masala, pick up the usual old-fashioned kind. From high-fibre bran to three kinds of cornflakes to the ‘Oats for India’ range that offers oats for atta, suji and poha; Bagrry’s even offers green tea for the health conscious.
Personally, I would definitely choose Bagrry’s during my grocery shopping trips. I’ve enjoyed each and every product I’ve used and would recommend it to every health-conscious eater out there.

For more information check out Bagrry’s. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram

Review: 38 Barracks – A Twist on Traditional Navratra Celebrations

The interiors of 38 Barracks

The interiors of 38 Barracks

I had heard a lot about 38 Barracks but I visited the restaurant, situated in Connaught Place, thanks to a bloggers meet. Like most places, this eatery too was catering to the Navratra celebrations but unlike most restaurants which prefer to serve a set thali, 38 Barracks put a twist on it. “We are serving a four-course menu. One can either order each course separately, or the whole meal together,” says Ankur Agarwal, out host for the afternoon.

Another view of the interiors

Another view of the interiors

It’s a great concept because one often doesn’t like to devour a whole thali. It can be the case of wanting to pick and choose what to eat instead of everything the set thali offers. The four-course meal is priced at Rs 799 only and curated by Michelin-recommended chef Gautam Chaudhry.

The Special Navratra menu

The Special Navratra menu

The food is not the usual fare, trust me. The humble sabudana (Tapioca Sago) which is widely used during the festival, is paired with raisins and the sago risotto was mouth-watering! Even the dips are unusual with coconut chutney taking centre stage with most starters.
A look at what we devoured:

Hello Pina colada!

Hello Pina Colada!

The deep fried Kurkuri Kamal Kakdi

The deep fried Kurkuri Kamal Kakdi with Sabudana papad

Sabudana and Prunes ki Tikki

Sabudana and Prunes ki Tikki

Sweet Potato Chips

Sweet Potato Chips

Singhade aur Aloo ke Tikki

Singhade aur Aloo ke Tikki

Paneer Parcels on Sago Risotto

Paneer Parcels on Sago Risotto

Chironjee ki Daal

Chironjee ki Daal

Harissa Upma with Paneer Steaks (Not in the menu but just as delicious!)

Harissa Upma with Paneer Steaks (Not in the menu but just as delicious!)

Makhana kheer with fruits

Makhana Kheer with fruits

What really works is the ambiance. The old and retired colonel’s house-themed restaurant with nostalgic bric-a-brac on walls and fantastic live music for the visitors should be on the list of must-visit places in Delhi.

Ambiance: 5/5
Food and beverage: 4/5
Service: 4/5
Value for Money: 4/5
Where: Connaught Place, New Delhi
Follow 38 Barracks on Facebook and Instagram

Review: Sattvik – Celebrating Navratra with a Thali

Thirst quenchers

Thirst quenchers

As I walked into the vegetarian fine dining establishment at Select CITIWALK in Saket, I could only wait in anticipation as to what will come my way. I love vegetarian food but I don’t really end up cooking a lot of it or going to eateries which specialize in the theme. It’s only after I shifted to Delhi that I realized how big Navratra is in this part of India. The different foods which are served during this time are cooked sans garlic and onion. While many may balk at such a thought, I think it’s a refreshing challenge. It showcases intuitiveness, creativity and the will to experiment.

Niravan... in a pineapple!

Niravana… in a pineapple!

Sattvik has been around for nine years and is widely regarded as one of the best vegetation eateries in Delhi. I soon understood why. The décor and ambiance is soothing, the staff is extremely nice and goes out of their way to make you comfortable and the quality of food is unmatched. Cooked to perfection, everything I tasted would surely have me going back again.

There are thirst quenchers aplenty but as the restaurant labels them Rasa (divine nectars), the first sips of ‘Nirvana’ and ‘Disha’ were pure bliss on a hot summer day. Nirvana has pineapple, blueberry and orange blended and served in a scooped out pineapple while Disha is a mixture of banana, melon and pineapple juice presented inside a melon.

The best Dahi Kebabs I've had

The best Dahi Kebabs I’ve had

Beetroot Seekh Kebabs, very innovative and healthy

Beetroot Seekh Kebabs, very innovative and healthy

Though I had come for the special Navratra thali, I was served two appetizers – Mehroon Beet ki Sikki Seekh and Dahi Kebab. Let me stop right there. The Dahi Kebabs were the best I’ve ever had. Made with pure cow milk and cooked to perfection, I wasn’t at all surprised being informed they were a bestseller. The beet seekhs were extremely innovative and a healthier option which is usually ordered by an elder crowd.

The Navratra Thali

The Navratra Thali

As the Navratri celebrations last for nine nights and 10 days, I would definitely suggest heading to Sattvik to devour their Navratra thali. The thali is huge with more than enough to make sure you don’t suffer from hunger pangs. Priced at R595 (+ taxes), the thali has Chach (buttermilk), Paneer Malai Tikka and Tandoori Shakarkandi (sweet potato) as starters. Then are the accompaniments such as Saboodana ke papad, fresh fruit salad and Kheera aur Anar ka raita (cucumber and pomegranate raita). The main course has Paneer Makhani, Malai Kofta and Pudina wala Aloo served with steamed Samak ke Pulao and Kutta aur Singara ki Puri. The deserts offered are Samak ki Kesharia Phirnee and Gud Makhana.

Another view of the Thali

Another view of the Thali

The special Navratra menu

The special Navratra menu

Exteriors of the restaurant

Exteriors of the restaurant

As I tasted one bowl after the other, a smile spread across my face. Everything was absolutely delicious. The kofta was melt-in-your-mouth soft, the potato had the correct spices while the raita was thick. None of the dishes were overtly spicy or salty. All had a mellow flavour and the perfect seasoning. Upon inquiring, I learnt the kitchen will make a dish less or more spicy depending on the customer’s specification. They will also make a dish without onion and garlic if requested on a normal day. The personal favourite was the phirnee. I don’t have a sweet tooth but if I had the space I would have gulped down two more bowls!

Gur

Gud Makhana, sweet and deelish!

If you’re celebrating Navratri and want to eat out, head to Sattvik situated on the top floor of Select CITIWALK in Saket. You won’t be disappointed!

Ambiance: 4/5
Food and Beverage: 5/5
Service: 5/5
Value for Money: 5/5
Where: Select Citiwalk, Saket, New Delhi
Check out the restaurant website and visit Select CITIWALK

 

Review: Scooter On The Wall in SDA Market

The interiors

The interiors, nice isn’t it?

Walking up the steps, colourful walls kept me company till I reached the first floor. A tire which worked as a door knob, a rather large door knob at that, opened up to a lovely yellow light lit room with gorgeous out-of-the-box furniture while David Guetta’s ‘Titanium’ on the music system had me humming along as I was seated.

Photo frames on the wall make a great style statement

Photo frames on the wall make a great style statement

I’ve been to cafes in India before which have an automobile theme, but none I’ve found to be as quaint as Scooter on the Wall. Located in Delhi’s SDA Market near the IIT, it takes a while to locate the first floor eatery but once you reach and eat, you go home satiated. Quirky interiors, funky music and delicious food – these words best sum up an afternoon lunch experience.

Glancing around I found all tables to be full of chatter and banter. From students to professionals, everyone seemed to be enjoying a long lazy lunch. The tables at the centre which has scooters as table stands simply added to the charm.

The Watermelon Kala Khatta and the Antioxidant. perfect to sip on

The Watermelon Kala Khatta (left) and the Antioxidant. perfect to sip on

As whiffs of freshly baked and cooked food filled the area, the ‘Watermelon Kala khatta’ mocktail hit the right spot on a humid day. Glancing across the menu, it was interesting to notice each food and beverage section had automobile-themed headings, from scooter shakes to the top gear, fuel tankers to headlights!

As the mocktail quenched my thirst, the taste made me go down memory lane… those school days when after the last bell to freedom rang out we would often rush to the chuski stand outside the gates. Kala khatta would be devoured with gusto as we exchanged gossip from different classrooms. Its strange how Proustian memory works isn’t it? After all, we all face the Madeleine Moment in our daily lives…

The peanut butter shake, don't let the colour fool you! But it goes well with the background doesn't it?

The peanut butter shake, don’t let the colour fool you! But it goes well with the background doesn’t it?

All the peanut butter lovers out there definitely order the peanut butter shake here. It’s an overload of peanut butter, which one can’t go wrong with, decorated with cream and sprinkles. It’s perfectly accompanied by spicy black pepper chicken.

Then came the ‘Shishtouk’ platter. Succulent kebabs, delicious hummus, pita and turshi all well balanced and complementing each other. I could indulge on this starter as a main by itself and all by myself. Well, I would have to run 10 km the next day, but hey, well worth it!

Delicious chicken

Delicious chicken

Shishtouk anyone?

Shishtouk anyone?

The steamed chicken suimai that followed came with soup and dipping sauces. Its presentation – on a tray – was nice, especially for pictures against the wooden table top. The butter chicken pasta or the ‘Desiride with Kukkad’ was interesting. With butter chicken extremely popular in this part of India, eateries often try and combine the flavours with Italian dishes. Lastly, the ‘Café Cheese Chicken Burger’ served with ketchup and fries is what I’ll definitely recommend.

Steaming dim sums, nice presentation isn't it?

Steaming dim sums, nice presentation isn’t it?

Butter chicken pasta!

Butter chicken pasta!

Really a good burger!

Really a good burger!

The portions ensure one doesn’t go hungry while the taste lives up to each dish sampled. The interiors make a patron comfortable while the music keeps a head nodding. For the ones hooked to hookah, don’t fear. One can enjoy it while snacking on the munchies!

Ambiance: 4/5
Food and beverage: 5/5
Service: 5/5
Value for Money: 4/5
Where: 1st Floor, C-4, SDA Market, New Delhi

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