Category Archives: Food

Delving into the nuances of fine dining and even finer wine

Navratri Feast at The Square, Novotel Mumbai

Juhu, the home ground of Prithvi Theatre, is one of those lovely pockets of Mumbai that is unfortunately a little hard to reach. Lined with posh residences, celebrity hang-outs, the original Natural’s ice-cream outlet and the sea breeze from Juhu Beach, this swanky suburb is home to more than one fancy hotel. But Novotel Mumbai is our favourite. We have so many fond memories of this hotel – wonderful sunsets at Gadda Da Vida, a bachelorette staycation for a friend and a few corporate events, all of which let us bask in the familiar hospitality of the Novotel group. But last night, we were there to sample the Navratri buffet at The Square, their 24 hour signature restaurant at the lobby.

Navratri buffet at THe Square, Novotel Mumbai
Posing for selfies

The entrance was suitably festive with a wall decorated with festoons and dandiya sticks, ideal for a short photo session before the hunger pangs hit. The lavish menu with an emphasis on vegetarian fare and Gujarati cuisine had been overseen by Executive Chef Kailash Gundapalli, with a special Tam-brahm counter curated by Food Consultant Geeta Hari.

Drinks at The Square, Novotel Mumbai
Panagam

Ms. Hari, resplendent in her pattu podava (South Indian silk sari) ensured that we tried the raw banana bhajias, neer mor (a Tamilian version of buttermilk with lots of green chillies and curry leaves), panagam (a sweet drink made of jaggery and ginger), and “Tam-brahm idlis” fashioned from the special rice flour popular in the South.

Starters at The Square, Novotel Mumbai
A platter of starters

We began with bowls of steaming hot and spicy dal rasam. Sous Chef Devendra Kunwar also plied us with a variety of starters such as paneer tikka, fried baby corn and vegetarian kebabs. And how can we forget our friendly server Prateek, who made the excellent recommendation of some Fratelli Sangiovese (their house red) to go with our meal?

Navratri buffet at The Square, Novotel Mumbai
Gujju delights

While all this special attention was fantastic, we were itching to get our hands on the enticing buffet spread that curved around the seating area. We tried the dhoklas and khandvi from the Gujarati counter, a few salads, capsicum usili, arbi gravy, French beans poriyal and curd rice from the Tam-brahm counter and some dahi wada from the chat counter. Yes, there were all a lot of sections and we couldn’t decide which one was the most appetising. We were absolutely floored by the Tam-brahm fare – Ankita is one herself so you can trust us.

Salad at The Square, Novotel Mumbai
Fresh salad

There was even an Ayurvedic salad counter featuring sprouts and an array of raw vegetables. But we were more drawn to the platter of til laddoos (out of place perhaps or maybe Ayurvedic in nature!); they turned out to be melt-in-the-mouth and buttery.

Tambrahm cuisine at The Square, Novotel Mumbai
French beans poriyal

For this feast, the vegetarian dishes had been emphasised as the nine-day menu coincides with the Hindu festival Navratri. But meat lovers wouldn’t be disappointed either as there were plenty of non-vegetarian dishes on offer as well. The Tam-brahm section featured primarily onion and garlic-free dishes sourced from the Palakkad region of Tamil Nadu and fussy eaters had the option of ordering pasta and pizza as well. A choice of varied fried papads, including our favourite sago (sabudana) papad went very well with the food. A pav bhaji counter and North Indian fare such as paneer masala and many other vegetable preparations completed the feast.

Dessert at The Square, Novotel Mumbai
Dessert was a sight for sore eyes.

But we’re forgetting something, aren’t we? Dessert was a sight for sore eyes – balushahi and milk cake, sweet pongal, mango cheese cake, Florentine chocolate cake, eggless varieties of many indulgences, a variety of ice-creams, a unique “coconut slice” and our all-time favourite baked yoghurt with muskmelon lay spread out before us. We tried many (we aren’t about to reveal the number) of the aforementioned treats and came away replete.

Dessert at The Square, Novotel Mumbai
Coconut slice

Book your table at 02266934444:

Address: Novotel Hotel, Juhu Beach, Balraj Sahani Marg, Juhu, Juhu, Mumbai 400049
Dates: 21-29 September, 2017
Timings: Lunch 12-3pm, dinner 7-11pm
Price: Rs. 1773 per person (can be upgraded to a champagne buffet at an additional cost)

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Italian temptations at Alto, Four Seasons Jakarta

Far removed from the commercial and at times, grimy environs of Indonesia’s capital city, Alto at Four Seasons Jakarta offers one of the most elegant dining experiences a couple of newly weds can hope for. Jakarta was our final stop in Indonesia but we were determined to make the most of it. And with a dinner reservation at this fine Italian restaurant, one thing was for sure – we were ending our honeymoon in style.

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We walked into
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a space of mellow lights and tables
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with gorgeous views of Jakarta
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and we couldn’t help but go click-happy.

There are two Four Seasons hotels in Jakarta so after some re-routing, we managed to find the right one. The hotel itself is extremely elegant and luxurious, manned by uber-courteous staff. We were directed to the 20th floor to reach Alto, their Italian restaurant. Rich hues of red and ochre combined with grand seating arrangements and a sweeping view of the city from 360 degree glass windows greeted our suitably impressed eyes.

Enjoying a glass of Prosecco
Enjoying a glass of Prosecco

Polished wooden chairs and tables were nestled at cosy spots by the windows or found centre-stage in the midst of the restaurant. Ours was one of the cosier tables, separated by slim curtains from the busier main section. We were welcomed with a tall glass of Prosecco wine and thereafter, the four-course set dégustation menu was ours to enjoy.

Salad at Alto, Four Seasons Jakarta
We began with a fresh arugula, tomato and avocado salad
Spaghetti at Alto, Four Seasons Jakarta
moved on to a broccoli and pumpkin spaghetti,
Mushroom risotto at Alto, Four Seasons Jakarta
a decadent mushroom risotto
Pistachio crème brûlée at Alto, Four Seasons Jakarta
and ended with a pistachio crème brûlée – unique and flavourful.

While the meal didn’t disappoint us at any point, we were particularly pleased with the creaminess of the risotto and the seasoning of the glassy spaghetti. The salad was very light and refreshing – great for calorie counters. The pistachio flavour in the crème brûlée was quite intense and took some getting used to. But this was a meal to remember indeed and we’d like to thank the hosts for their excellent service.

Address: Four Seasons, Jl. Jendral Gatot Subroto Kav 18, Gatot Subroto, Jakarta
Reservations: 021 22771888
Cost for two: IDR 500000

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The Daily, Bandra: Delicious & original

Sip on artisanal cocktails and dine on gourmet Italian and Mediterranean fare at The Daily Bar & Kitchen in Bandra, Mumbai, a restaurant whose aesthete is part grunge and part experimental art.

The name plate outside proudly states that the restaurant was established in 2013, in a font that’s reminiscent of the 19th century. If that’s a strategy to make folks think it’s one of the oldies, it could work.

The Daily Bar & Kitchen, Bandra, Mumbai
The bar

Inside, there are two parts to the restaurant. The lower level is smaller and practically empty during the day – the real action is at the upper level, which houses the bar and sports a ceiling strung neatly with various framed newspaper clippings of interesting articles over the years. This could be great for a first date where you’re hunting around for things to talk about. For instance, did you know that Nicki Minaj has been funding an Indian village since several years, contributing to its computer centre, tailoring institute, reading programme and two water wells? We bet your date didn’t.

The Daily Bar & Kitchen, Bandra, Mumbai
The lower level

Black dominates the colour scheme and the music and lighting nudge you to categorise this place as a pub. But the menu is far more extensive that what a pub would have and now they even have lunch specials, which is what we were there to experience.

It was a Saturday afternoon and the restaurant was nearly empty when we walked in. But this could also be because there was a crew shooting a film at the lower level. Our couch-table was super comfy and splashed with patches of inky black. We were presented with four different menus – a regular food menu, the lunch special menu, drinks menu and wine list. We sampled the first three – and we were mostly delighted by everything that made it to the table.

Drinks

Every cocktail that came recommended was unarguably awesome. From the ones we ordered ourselves, a few were all right. The rest paled in comparison to the more exemplary ones. So our advice is to go with the server’s suggestions based on your spirit of choice.

Cocktails at The Daily Bar & Kitchen, Bandra, Mumbai
Elysium and Majestic Mame

We wanted to start with whisky-based cocktails from their signature list. The server was keen that we try Elysium, but we also ordered a Majestic Mame. The two looked almost identical when they arrived, except for the fact that the Elysium was deep gold in colour while the Majestic Mame resembled diluted watermelon juice. We weren’t entirely sure about the Elysium because it contained curry leaves but one sip and we knew this was one of the best whisky-based cocktails we’d ever tasted. The drink also contained dates, apple juice and rosso. Majestic Mame couldn’t quite compete with the genius of Elysium but it was pleasant enough, with the infusion of apricot brandy, basil and cranberry tea.

Cocktails at The Daily Bar & Kitchen, Bandra, Mumbai
The Contender and Mai Tai

Mai Tai, from the ‘Tiki cocktails’ section came in a dramatic mug carved with an angry pirate’s face. The tall concoction of white rum, dark rum, orgeat (a non-alcoholic syrup), pineapple and orange juices was good enough for two and the orgeat lent a wonderful floral, nutty flavour to the rum. The Contender was the other white spirit-based cocktail we tried and it was served in a cosmopolitan glass. The fruity cocktail composed of vodka, poire, pear, mint, nutmeg is ideal for those who prefer lighter drinks.

When we were done with our meal, we spotted the ‘molecular cocktails’ section on the drinks menu. Our curiosity was piqued. The server’s recommendation was Gypsy Queen but we also went with a Wild Card because it included bourbon in lieu of whisky. The molecular cocktails are priced a notch higher than the signature ones but the only difference is they are poured before you, with light fumes of dry ice making their way into the air. In terms of taste, we feel the signature cocktails are superior. The Gypsy Queen was really good, with the sweet and spicy notes of clove, cinnamon, peach and apple wood smoke. The Wild Card was just all right and lacked character even with the inclusion of triple sec, martini dry, cranberry-infused tea and hickory wood smoke.

Food

We don’t have a single criticism to make about the food at The Daily Bar & Kitchen. Be it the aesthetically served salads and starters or the nachos piled so generously with the good stuff, everything here is beyond perfect. Our main course was so scrumptious that we finished it despite the obvious lack of space in our cocktail-filled tummies. We wish we could’ve tried the desserts as well but it’s always good to leave something for next time.

Salad at The Daily Bar & Kitchen, Bandra, Mumbai
Halloumi cheese and watermelon salad

From the lunch specials menu, we went for the layered halloumi cheese, watermelon and fig salad. Topped with chopped fruits and mango salsa, the salad was juicy, sweet and refreshing. The cheese and fig provided a satisfying fullness to the salad and the lettuce and radish made every bite a brilliant burst of flavours and textures in our mouths.

Loaded nachos at The Daily Bar & Kitchen, Bandra, Mumbai
Loaded nachos

From the regular food menu, we opted for the chef-recommended patatas bravas and loaded nachos. The nachos came with an interesting twist – beer infused cheese sauce. The kidney beans, mayo, tomato and jalapenos were nothing short of perfect. We thoroughly enjoyed the nachos thanks to the lavish serving of mayo and cheese sauce.

Potato pockets at The Daily Bar & Kitchen, Bandra, Mumbai
Patatas bravas

Ditch the French fries and gorge on their succulent potato pockets as we did, filled with ratatouille vegetables, mascarpone and garlic aioli sauce. At six pieces per serving, this is ample for two people and the beetroot slathered at the bottom is a great accompaniment. The gooey vegetable and mayo topping ensured that every bite was full of cheesy goodness.

Ravioli at The Daily Bar & Kitchen, Bandra, Mumbai
Oven roasted tomato and olive stuffed ravioli

For mains, we decided on the oven roasted tomato and olive stuffed ravioli. To be honest, the dish wasn’t the most visually appealing when it came to the table. But when we began to tuck into the house-made ravioli, the wonderful stuffing of oven roasted tomato, olives and pine nuts cooked in a chive butter sauce began to work its magic on us. The warm and flavourful tomato sauce topped with pine nuts and goat cheese made us positively rapturous.

In a nutshell, even if you ordered from the menu purely at random, you’d probably be delighted with every gourmet morsel that entered your mouth.

Our rating: 5/5
Cost for two: Rs 3000 (with drinks)
Where: Linking Road, Bandra West, Mumbai

The Daily Bar & Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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The curative power of friends and a good breakfast

Somehow, pancakes and eggs do a much better job of soothing ruffled feathers than pasta or biryani

If you really love someone, meet them over breakfast (and that includes yourself). Don’t be weighed down by the carbohydrates of a heavy lunch or the illusory high of drinks at dinner. Allow good conversation, a sunny table and honeyed pancakes to infuse freshness into your life and spirit. And a nice double espresso can do wonders to bring you back to the pleasant present. You smile, you laugh and you learn to live in joy for the rest of the day.

I’ve had some of the best breakfasts in my home city – Mumbai. Be it brun maska and mawa cake at an Irani café or croissants and coconut crepes at a French one, the city has always filled my belly with good food and my soul with utter contentment. My best friends are also my favourite breakfast buddies. Over forkfuls of syrupy waffles and inappropriately large bites of basil and mozzarella sandwich, we nudge each other to offer up our dreams, secrets and pet philosophies. And they add their own unique flavour to the dishes.

Sometimes, I breakfast with a pen and book instead. We’ll bond over hot chocolate and talk to each other in verses, with nothing to interrupt us save a twittering bird or an interesting song. Books are just like people in that they both get consumed into your own self, altering you ever so slightly. And with both, you learn a different nuance every time you do a reading.

Whether your preferred breakfast company is of the breathing or the bound kind, here are twelve cafes and restaurants in Mumbai that won’t disappoint. Each one has a special place in my memories and all have borne witness to minor mutations in my view of life.

  1. St. Xavier’s canteen: Chocolate croissants, illicit affairs and struggling to fit in

But after a while, I simply stopped struggling. I wasn’t ready yet, to stop being a child and start being a ‘cool’ teenager and that was all right. I spent my days reading, writing, studying French and learning HTML, while my peers found boyfriends, bunked classes and auditioned for plays. I learnt that it is possible to be content doing things that are different from the norm.

P.S.: I don’t know if they still serve soft, warm croissants oozing with dark chocolate sauce. But back in 2005-06, they were legendary. And they only cost 15 rupees!

  1. Cha Bar, Oxford Bookstore: Exotic teas and the reassuring fragrance of books

Cafes in bookstores are one of the best inventions of our time (assuming they didn’t exist until the 20th century). You find a table, a book finds you and good tea keeps watch while you’re wrapped up in each other. Cha Bar was my first introduction to gourmet tea (I was pursuing my graduation then). One sip of their Kashmiri Kahwa could make me feel as elite as the crisp sari-clad artist at the next table.

Honorary mentions: Markiv’s Café for coffee and croissants, 210 Degrees for decadent pastries

  1. Gaylord Café: Kona coffee and wrought iron chairs

All I have are happy memories of this outdoor café, attached to one of the oldest restaurants of the area (Churchgate). Good friends, new friends, books, pens and solitude – I’ve brought them all to this place and they’ve all left happier and more caffeinated. My only grouse is that they’ve discontinued the fluffy whole wheat muffins.

Must try: Chocolate tart, tea cakes and muffins

  1. Food for Thought, Kitab Khana: Dark chocolate, apple tea and flavoured cupcakes

I finished reading the lion’s share of ‘Sophie’s World’, a fictionalised guide to philosophy, at this café in a bookstore. Whatever the temperature outside, I could never get enough of their perfectly sweet and tart apple tea. And their hot chocolate was as dark and murky as the mysterious portions in my book. Also, delicious as sin.

Tip: Have the cupcakes, priced at just Rs. 50 each (as of 2016)

  1. Suzette’s Creperie: Feeling French, watching people and passing time

I’ve been to two of their outlets. The one at Bandra has al fresco seating, which I love. The one at Nariman Point is smaller and stuffier, but dear to my heart for it has often helped me play the waiting game. Owned by a French woman named Suzette (but of course), the crepes here are perfection – both sweet and savoury varieties. I’ve met some forgettable people in those days (early working days) but perhaps the café remembers.

Honorary mention: Candies at Bandra (the one at Pali Hill), for its ample space and salad buffet

  1. Starbucks, Fort: Space, solitude and freedom

The only problem is their beverages are too light and lukewarm. On the plus side, the food is scrumptious – special mention to the chocolate muffin and paneer sandwich. This is the largest Starbucks I’ve seen and the area upstairs assures undisturbed privacy, not to mention an interesting view of the people downstairs. The best part is you can sit for hours without ordering anything new – perfect for getting work done. I’ve had some great business meetings at this Starbucks as well – I guess it’s lucky for me.

Honorary mention: The sea-facing Costa Coffee at Carter Road, Bandra offers breezy climes and a relaxing view

  1. Kyani & Co: Snobbish Irani café with humble pricing

You could eat and drink at this iconic Irani café for as low as 50 rupees but the waiters would have you believe otherwise. Be prepared for dismissive (bordering on rude) service and waiters who vanish before you’ve even finished speaking. But the mawa cakes, custard, tarts, puffs and tea make up for all of it. It’s strange but Kyani is special to me through a friend, who has enjoyed many lonesome breakfasts here and shared their accounts with me.

  1. Grandmama’s Café: A happy place where you’ll never go hungry

If ever you feel like the clouds in your life are obscuring all the rainbows, head to Grandmama’s Café. There are three outlets in the city (as of today) and all of them sport cheery interiors that are full of light. The menu is choc-a-bloc with waffles, pancakes, salads, eggs, sandwiches and pastries. Take a bite of their vanilla pancake, served with cinnamon fruit compote, vanilla ice-cream and maple syrup and contemplate the joy of existence. I was at their Dadar outlet with a friend yesterday and I can still hear the music – classic oldies played at just the right volume.

  1. The Nutcracker: Eggy goodness in a kitschy café

There isn’t much space here, so find a table quickly and order as much as you can stomach. Everything here is uber tasty and often heavy, so make this a brunch rather than breakfast. I travelled for over an hour to make it here for breakfast on a Sunday morning, but it was worth it, for the curative powers of friends and a good breakfast.

  1. Khar Social: Heaven in a tray, and drinks if you’d like them too

I have only a small number of close friends, so every other café/restaurant on this list reminds me of the same person. Memories of cheery conversations rush back, but I can remember exact experiences and weather details. Happiness isn’t all that easy to forget. By day, the Socials (there are several) are bright and lively breakfast joints. By night, they are bars that attract a youngish crowd.

I loved: Kiran’s Big Apple breakfast with pancakes, Oreos, fries, scrambled eggs and toast, all for Rs 280

  1. Annapurna Restaurant, Matunga: Give in to all your dosa idli fantasies

It’s tough to pick a favourite in a locality that’s dotted with authentic Udupi restaurants but Annapurna is special, for this is where my parents and I shared plates of perfectly prepared idli sambhar, uttapam and pineapple sheera after a hectic day of wedding shopping. I’m a Tam-Brahm with regular access to South Indian delicacies but I still don’t tire of tucking into Mysore masala dosas at restaurants. I think it’s all about the coconut chutney for me.

Honorary mention: Ram Ashraya, near the station

  1. Aaswad, Dadar: Quintessential Marathi fare in an artsy, air-conditioned ambience

I love a good Maharashtrian breakfast and Dadar is the best place in the city to get it. A few years ago, an acquaintance and I went searching for the famous Aaswad. It was unimaginably crowded, and after a 15 minute wait, we managed to get a table. “Be quick,” the waiter’s eyes seemed to signify. Poha, sabudana upma, missal pav and kothimbir vadi – this restaurant spins magic with everything on the menu. And you get to look at local art while you eat.

Go, meet a friend you haven’t seen in a while. Treat them to waffles and fresh juice. And enjoy the way their face breaks into a smile.

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Rediscovering the pleasure of slow travel at Fratelli Vineyards

In all my trips until 2016, I can only name one where I had the luxury of doing nothing. Trust me, it’s the greatest privilege there is in this world and if you have it, you’re lucky indeed. That I could begin 2017 with yet another lazy retreat is a fact as sweet as the lingering aftertaste of sparkling wine.

Ever since I tasted an exceedingly good red wine by Fratelli at Gaylord’s 60th year celebrations, I’ve wanted to pay a visit to their winery and witness the viticultural alchemy for myself. Wine harvest in India begins from Jab-Feb and I schedule a trip to Fratelli Vineyards in Akluj, Maharashtra in the month of January. I would’ve been content to spend a weekend there but they insist on hosting us for three days. I know now, that this will be a holiday where the clock stops ticking and I can allow myself a peaceful siesta or two.

Fratelli Vineyards and Winery, Akluj, Maharashtra
We spend our time at the guesthouse
Fratelli Vineyards and Winery, Akluj, Maharashtra
dining and wining,
The guesthouse at Fratelli Vineyards, Akluj, Maharashtra
sleeping off the afternoons and
Green grapes at Fratelli Vineyards
enjoying winery and vineyard tours
Fratelli Vineyards, Akluj, Maharashtra
in the mellow light of sunset.

And how can I forget my disastrous attempt to ride a quad bike (a four wheeled contraption) which ended in me crashing into a wall? I have to admit though, it was exhilarating at first and I believe I’ll fare better next time!

The vineyard

Living next to acres of verdant vineyards has been a long-cherished dream and it comes true for a few days at Fratelli Vineyards. In the morning, I wake up to see the workers at the winery setting up the processes and the birds chirping excitedly in the garden surrounding the main building. That’s where our guesthouse is located, accessed by a spiraling staircase that is a work of art in itself. We arrive after a longish drive from Mumbai, have a late lunch in the dining room on the same storey and enjoy a little siesta, post which we are taken on a round of the Motewadi vineyards. We encounter row upon row of little green chardonnay grapes. Once they grow a little bigger, they will be ready for harvesting.

The winery

Our visit to the vineyard comes to a quick end with the descent of the sun and we promise to return the following morning. But for now, a tour of the winery lies between us and a much anticipated wine tasting session. The winery is vast and there are so many different sections, dedicated to various processes that are part and parcel of wine-making. In one automated belt, we witness the process of wine bottling.

In another, we see the process of labelling. But the most fascinating part of the tour is the room where countless bottles of white wine are being fermented, to be turned into sparkling wine. While there are many ways of making sparkling wine, the basic process involves the introduction of sugar and yeast to induce fermentation. Thereafter, the bottles are rotated (riddling) to allow all the sediments to accumulate at the neck and then be popped out. Finally, some residual sugar is added back to the bottle.

The process of fermenting wine at Fratelli Vineyards, Akluj, Maharashtra

While most of the wines at Fratelli Vineyards aren’t aged, the top one per cent of their grapes goes into making the premium SETTE vintage wines. The partly Italian heritage of Fratelli Wines was never more apparent than we entered the chilly, hallowed room where the casks and bottles of SETTE wine are displayed. I consider myself most fortunate that I was able to taste one of these the following day.

SETTE wines at Fratelli Vineyards, Akluj, Maharashtra

White and red wine-tasting

We have our tasting of three white wines on our first evening at Fratelli Vineyards and a session of red wine tasting with their assistant wine-maker the following evening. The wines we taste are chenin blanc, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay. They’re all more robust than the light sangiovese bianco we had at lunch but I love the spicy notes in the sauvignon blanc and the smoothness of the chardonnay. The chardonnay is technically the most superior, we’re told. But I know I’ve given my heart to the sauvignon blanc. When it comes to cheaper wines, I stick with whites because it’s safer but at Fratelli Vineyards, I am reminded afresh of my original passion for the reds.

Wine tasting at Fratelli Vineyards, Akluj, Maharashtra
This is where our white wine tasting takes place.

Our red wine tasting session with the assistant wine-maker Vrushal Kedari and one of the distributors of Fratelli Vineyards proves to be an eye-opener in more ways than one. We work our way through a sangiovese red, a vintage SETTE 2012 and a premium blend of sangiovese, cabernet franc and syrah. If the M/S blend has us closing our eyes in quiet appreciation, the SETTE vintage astonishes me with its unparalleled taste and texture. A better Indian wine I haven’t had thus far. It is the brainchild of Piero Masi, the Italian winemaker who joined Fratelli in 2006 at the behest of the Secci family, who were in partnership with the Sekhri brothers in Delhi and Mohit-Patile bothers in Akluj.

Dining room at Fratelli Vineyards
This cosy dining room is where we had our red wine tasting.

A slice of Switzerland

Imagine visiting a piece of paradise that isn’t even on the map. On the afternoon of our second day at Fratelli Vineyards, I come face to face with a living reminder of Switzerland’s terraced vineyards. Right from the mountains in the background to the vineyards at their feet and the glistening lake in their midst, everything about Garwar Vineyards feels like an echo of the European sojourn I had. Of course, these aren’t terraced but the sheer range and beauty of the landscape leaves me speechless. Here is a destination designed for panorama and 360 degree shots – because it’s practically impossible to capture it all in one frame.

Garwad Vineyards, Maharashtra

On the advice of a staff member, we drive ahead of the elevated machan where we were to have our lunch and chance upon the promised rows of black grapes – so large that they might burst out of their skins any moment. It gladdens my heart to walk among these fields in the fresh winter breeze and imagine them populated with dozens of harvesters once the season begins (soon after we leave, as it happens).

Finally, after much exploration, we settle down at a table in the machan overlooking the vast vineyards, lake and mountains and contemplate the beauty of life over sips of delicious sparkling wine. The wind whips tendrils of hair across my face and I seize the moment for some ‘dreamy’ photographs (you’ll see evidence of these on my Facebook page soon). Some lovely rose wine follows the sparkling wine and a cloud of contentment settles over me. I partake of the lunch spread sparingly and then we decide to go in search of that lake in the distance. It’s only a short walk away, we’re told. We walk in the late afternoon sun, giggly from the wine and replete with the fragrance of the terrain. Presently, we come across the lake we were in search of.

Garwad Vineyards, Maharashtra

Currently, Fratelli grows 12 varieties of grapes in their three vineyards – these include seven reds and five whites. The whites are Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer and Müller-Thurgau while the reds are Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon , Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Marselan and Petit Verdot. While all the wines are dry, they are very well balanced and leave a fruity aftertaste on the palate.

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Getting there: The route to Akluj from Mumbai goes via Pune and Phaltan. It’s a six hour drive but if you live in Pune, you can reduce that by half. Here is the Google Maps link.

The guesthouse: The rooms are spacious, air-conditioned, have HD television, tea-coffee makers, room service and direct access to the lawns. Rates begin at Rs 6500 per person per night. When not touring the winery and vineyards, you can play pool in the dining room or carom, foosball and table tennis downstairs. The surrounding villages are also a pleasure to explore.

Contact details: Website | +91 1126592900 | Email

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