Saptami at Holiday Inn Mumbai International Airport is a great place for multi cuisine-dining in a luxurious and spacious environment. But be warned, this lobby-level restaurant at the four star hotel is already pretty popular and long queues are inevitable for those who turn up late for the buffet breakfast. During our recent weekend staycation at the hotel, we enjoyed an indulgent dinner and refreshing breakfast at Saptami and came away quite impressed and comfortably satiated. Here is a visual account of our forays into their culinary offerings.
Ambience is very important to us when it comes to eating out – after all, great music, seating and lighting are as crucial to the fine dining experience as the taste and presentation of the dishes themselves. Saptami scored well on all aspects and we were led to a nice corner table – we hate sitting in the midst of a busy restaurant.
Maintaining great taste, presentation and quality across such an exhaustive array of dishes couldn’t have been an easy task but the staff at Saptami managed it with aplomb. There was something to delight everyone at the dinner and breakfast buffets along with juices and a choice of still and sparkling water. But we have to say, the attentive service and friendly host were the icing on the cake.
Saptami at Holiday Inn Mumbai International Airport is open everyday from 6 to 10:30 AM for breakfast, 12 noon to 3 PM for lunch and 7 to 11:30 PM for dinner. For reservations, call +91 9004617824 or 022 40851895.
Thalis are the embodiment of Indian culinary ethos – colours, variety, a melange of every flavour and best of all, limitless refills. The last point is usually not of much use to us, since we barely manage to finish one serving of an elaborate thali. But at Mercure Dwarka’s Maakhan restaurant, we actually mustered the courage (and tummy space) to have another helping of the dessert, snack and bhaingan aloo ki sabzi (potato brinjal curry). While the Gujarati thali was no doubt the highlight of their gastronomical offerings, the a la carte menu and buffet breakfasts had us smiling ear to ear as well. Let’s dig into the details.
An earthy colour scheme with nicely lit alcoves and ample seating space made Maakhan seem very inviting. We were a large group that inevitably ended up at one of the long corner tables, although for breakfast, we’d sit at a table next to the veranda (which was actually the smoking area but the windy outdoor space endeared itself to us for other reasons). We were at Mercure Dwarka for two nights and enjoyed most of our meals at Maakhan.
The aforementioned thali was the first meal we had at the restaurant, after checking into the hotel and it impressed us completely. The tomato sev sabzi was quintessentially Gujarati, as was the potato brinjal preparation and sweet dal. We were offered a choice of theplas or roti and of course, we chose the local thepla. Some khakra, kachori, salad, rice and gulab jamun for dessert completed the perfect luncheon. The ubiquitous glass of masala chaas (on the milder side) accompanied our sumptuous meal.
That night, we enjoyed a buffet dinner which featured numerous varieties of Indian and international vegetarian dishes. Yes, the restaurant doesn’t serve meat or eggs because Dwarka, being a Hindu pilgrimage site, is an all-vegetarian state. However, the variety of vegetarian food is more than enough to keep food ennui at bay. For lunch on the following day, we ordered a buttery paneer preparation, non-sweet dal tadka, an interesting bharwan aloo (stuffed potato) and pasta in red sauce.
The pasta, dal and paneer were supremely delicious. The cheesy, flavourful pasta assured us that Chef Inderpal Singh could do a great job with non-Indian dishes as well. The thick and creamy dal was so comforting that we ordered another bowl. The potatoes had a luxuriant cream cheese stuffing but the gravy was a tad tangy. Nevertheless, it was a wonderful, nap-inducing meal. Yet, we made room for chocolate and vanilla ice-cream at the end of it all.
Breakfasts are often our favourite meal while travelling because not only are they usually complimentary, they also feature the widest variety of dishes. We missed South Indian cuisine (idlis and dosas) at Maakhan but thoroughly enjoyed the poha, upma, fruits, salads, flavoured yoghurt and muffins. The variety of juices were also very refreshing though there was nothing to beat the serene perfection of their masala chai.
Have that thali!
Where: Hotel Mercure Dwarka, Porbandar-Dwarka Highway, Dwarka, Gujarat When: Everyday, all day Damages: A little expensive on the pocket, but worth it
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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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.