Sunbean Gourmet Coffee: My First Experience with the New Brand from ITC

International Coffee Day had just gone by and I was back in Hyderabad after a long vacation in Kolkata when I received this invite to attend a media briefing session of gourmet coffee from ITC Foods. The session was organized at Skypoint, the rooftop watering hole of the newly launched ITC Kohenur. On the appointed afternoon, I along with some media and blogger friends assembled at the outlet to try out the products.


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Experiencing the Heavenly Himalayan Trail at Bidri

Different restaurants in Hyderabad host many food festivals and promotions throughout the year. Most of these are based on cuisines of a particular state, region or country. However, there is often a tendency to showcase the cuisines which are comparatively well-known such as Punjabi, Bengali or Italian.


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Street Food From Lucknow: Kabab, Kulfi and More

A journey to Lucknow for a food enthusiast like me has to be about the delicacies special to the city. The Awadhi region has a long and rich culinary history and people from Lucknow believe that there is no better cuisine than Awadhi. Beyond the biryani (read about my biryani trail here), there are many other dishes of note, some from the restaurants and some from the streets mainly in the old parts of the city. So, for my short trip, I had contacted my friends for suggestions and received a huge list of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian places to cover. I could not even do one-third of the places, and even this kept me happy and contented for all four days.


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Chef’s Special: Delectable Telugu Dishes from Chef Sakala Sankara at Dakshin

I have known Chef Sakala Sankara of Dakshin, ITC Kakatiya for quite a few years now. In every meeting I still have with him, I learn something new from him regarding South Indian food, especially the cuisine of the two Telugu states. Whenever Chef goes to another city to curate a Telangana or Andhra festival, my friends from there ping me singing paeans about his culinary skills. And above all, he is an affable and smiling chef who loves to feed you delectable food.

Mutton Podi Fry

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The Lucknow Biryani Trail

I was planning a trip to Lucknow for quite some time now. Apart from revisiting the City of Nawabs and shopping for some exquisite Lucknow Chikan, the food from Awadh was perhaps the chief motivator for me. Lucknow is known for its "dum pukht" cooking style and its kababs such as galawati and kakori are known the world over. However, being from the biryani city of Hyderabad, trying out the good biryanis of Lucknow was on the top of my mind. A few tips from friends and notes made from books read, here I was ready with my list to explore the biryani places in the city.

Lalla Biryani Lucknow

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Badam Ki Jali: Hyderabad’s Own Almond Cookies

While Hyderabad is known for biryani and haleem, traditional sweets and desserts are also no less appreciated here. Apart from the ubiquitous Qubani Ka Meetha, Kaddu Ka Kheer and Double Ka Meetha, a host of other sweets like Jauzi Halwa from the twin cities have started getting some limelight. Badam Ki Jali is another sweet which was comparatively lesser known - but in recent times this almond and cashew based sweet found in the bylanes of Old City are making waves among the discerning food lovers.


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Eat Street Asia at Marriott Hyderabad

The street food from the Orient, especially from the countries of South-East Asia, had been great attractions for me when I visited these countries. The atmosphere in some of the hawker street food markets had been electric and the diversity of dishes made the experience even more enriching.


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The New Menu at Farzi Café

It is less than a year since Farzi Café started operations in Hyderabad. In this short time, the restaurant offering contemporary and modern dishes, often with a touch of molecular gastronomy, has created quite a buzz in the city. The menu has been revamped quite a few times, bringing in delicious new dishes to provide variations to the loyal customers.


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Spiti Valley Travelogue Part 3: The Homestay at Lhalung and Visit to Chandrataal

The mesmerizing Spiti Valley extends beyond Kaza to Tabo and then Nako, after which the Kinnaur region of Himachal starts. The river flows along this route and merges with the Sutlej.  Along with a visit to Tabo, our itinerary included a day’s stay at Lhalung, one of the high altitude villages of the valley.


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The New Menu at Kanak, The Trident Hyderabad

Kanak, the Indian restaurant at The Trident Hyderabad is one of my strong favourites. This is a place which is known for its well-researched dishes, immaculate service and lovely ambience making it a diners’ pleasure. The lovely Hindustani music here is another attraction for me.


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Spiti Valley Travelogue, Part 2: Exploring the Villages around Kaza

The picturesque Spiti Valley spreads out after the Kunzum Pass from Losar to Kaza and then to Tabo and Nako, finally ending in the Kinnaur belt of Himachal. A handful of small villages dot the river bank, some even located on high mountains. Villages are connected by decent roads most of the time, some high altitude ones have a kachha road for the last few miles. Almost every village has typical whitewashed mud brick houses and a monastery. The inhabitants of Spiti are Buddhists, speak a language called Bhot, and are simple and happy people. The valley gets snowbound during winter leading to extreme hardships for the villagers, but they embrace their difficulties with a smile.


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Spiti Valley travelogue, Part 1: The Scenic Journey from Manali to Kaza

It was raining heavily at 4:30 am in Manali. Bunty, the driver of our hired Innova warned us to be up and ready very early as the journey to Kaza was going to be long and arduous. We had arrived Manali the day before by road from Chandigarh and were quite tired, but our enthusiasm got the better of it, and we were ready in the wee hours of the morning.

The Landscape of Spiti Valley

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The River Water Hilsa Festival at Oh Calcutta

My family had migrated from East Bengal (now Bangladesh) during the partition. “Bangals” as we are still known as having deeply rooted fascinations about many things. An important chapter of our culinary habits is written around Hilsa or Ilich mach as we call it, the aqua queen of the monsoon season. Bangals love this fish from the core of their heart, a passion that can only be matched by the Hyderabadi passion for biryani.


Paturi Ilish

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Dakshin at ITC Hotels has a New Menu

Dakshin at ITC Kakatiya is the best South Indian restaurant in Hyderabad possibly by miles. The restaurant incorporates the best dishes from the entire region, with diverse signature concepts like Iyer’s Trolley items, Banana Dosa and Meen Moilee. Being a favourite of a large number of diners, an expectant buzz is guaranteed when the 28-year old national chain Dakshin comes out with a new menu.


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Odia Food Festival at Sheraton Hyderabad

The regular readers of this blog are familiar with my love for regional cuisines of India. There are many states serving lots of delectable food, but these tend to be ignored in favour of Bengali, Punjabi, Goan and some other cuisines which are marketed well. The Odia cuisine has always surprised me with its variations.


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Zephyr: Signature Cocktails at the New Gastro Lounge in Town

With the opening of many breweries, bars and pubs over the last couple of years Hyderabad is now a much-improved place for connoisseurs of good drinks. Still, there is a lack of places offering curated drinks and designer cocktails in the city. Zephyr, the new gastro-lounge near Filmnagar should fill that void with their range of exquisite cocktails.


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Haleem Trail: Shadab Hotel


Hotel Shadab in Ghansi Bazar near Charminar is famous for its Hyderabadi cuisine, among which are their biryani, nihari, and paya.  Their Hyderabadi breakfast is also among the best in town. Apart from their main outlet in the old city, they also have a takeaway point in Banjara Hills. Haleem in both places is supplied from their centralized kitchen.


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Sambal: A Taste of Indonesia in Hyderabad

Though there was no Indonesian restaurant in Hyderabad so far, the local food lovers had basic exposure to this cuisine through some dishes in Pan-Asian places like Mekong, Mamagoto, and even Wok Republic.  So, while Nasi Goreng, Satay, and Sambal had some amount of familiarity, there was no way to delve deep into the cuisine in this city. However, with restaurateurs becoming much more risk takers, much to my delight we now have a true blue Indonesian restaurant, aptly named Sambal.


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Haleem Trail: Green Park Hotel, Begumpet

Green Park Hotel is one of the places in Hyderabad which serves haleem round the year as part of their Midnight Biryani buffet. However, during Ramzan, the hotel puts up a stall in their campus, selling Iftar food from evening till 10 pm. Apart from haleem, a limited menu of paya, biryani and desserts are also available for takeaway, as well as delivered through Swiggy and Zomato.

I am a big fan of Green Park Hotel. I stay in the vicinity and often visit them for their Midnight Buffet (See: Midnight Buffet at Green Park Hotel), which is one of the sought after late night joints since the last two decades, steadily maintaining their popularity. Their haleem kiosk during Ramzan is another promotion which is loved by one and all.

The Haleem 

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Haleem Trail: The Gyarah Handis of SodaBottleOpenerWala

Ramzan has started and it is raining haleem everywhere. At every nook and corner of the city, you have small cafes to large restaurants offering this complete dish of wheat, meat, lentils, ghee and spices, which are lapped up not just by the fasting devouts, but also aam janta across communities.



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Itachuna Rajbari: Living Up Life in a Heritage Homestay

Weekend getaways have become favoured destinations near any metro city. Typically close to the city, it offers a quick rejuvenation after a busy week. Around Kolkata, quite a few large mansions of kings and zamindars have been converted into homestays where you can visit them to have a unique experience of living like a royalty in a rural setting. One of the most well-known among these is the Itachuna Rajbari.


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Aaheli: Traditional Bengali Food in Kolkata

I had left Kolkata when I was 17, and for about a decade I was in Banaras, Jamshedpur, and Bangalore during my student life and for my initial work years. While I got exposed to some delectable cuisines of Bihar, Eastern UP and Karnataka, I used to miss home food as well as the larger Bengali cuisine. So, on my transfer to Kolkata in the late eighties, I was happy and eager to explore Bengali food in the city.



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The Salt House: A Promising European Restaurant in Kolkata

Prior to my recent trip to Kolkata, I have been seeing a lot of posts on social media about The Salt House from trustworthy friends like Rukshana and Anindya. The latest European restaurant to open in the city, it serves European cuisine with a twist, incorporating local ingredients into the dishes as much as possible. The innovatively styled dishes in their posts were some more aspects which interested me, and as a result, in spite of my busy schedule, I readily accepted an invitation to review the restaurant during my short stay Kolkata.

Bhetki Roulade
Bhetki Roulade served with Sauteed Mushrooms

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Milee Droog: Experiencing Russian Food in Kolkata

I try to visit Kolkata two to three times every year. The visits are always short and less than a week, given my constraints at home. And, for every trip, I carry with me a list of food places to cover. Visit after visit the list gets longer as I am hardly able to scrape the surface of the changing food scene in the city. The amount of experimentation which is being done on the local cuisine is praiseworthy, and places serving uncommon cuisines are also coming up fast.

Uzbec Lamb Plov
Uzbec Lamb Plov

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Street Food from Varanasi, Part 2: Thandai, Chaat, Mithai and Paan

Continued From Part 1: Kachoris, Lassi and Rabri

When we were students in the early eighties, one of the must-dos after exams was to go to Godowlia, have a thandai laced with a little bhang and then go watch a movie of Big B or Mithunda at Mazda. The go-to shop for thandai those days was Mishrambu, bang on the crossing. Now, thirty-five years later, there are about five shops next to each other dishing out a range of thandais. A chilled milk-based drink with a soaked paste of almonds, cashews, and pistachio along with saunf, thandai is not just a drink for Holi in Banaras but enjoyed year-long. I tried a Kesaria Pista Malai Thandai at Mishrambu, which has saffron and pista in it too. The heavy drink was still as sublime.

Malaiyyo

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Street Food from Varanasi, Part 1: All About Kachori, Rabri and Lassi

Varanasi is a city very very close to my heart. I spent the biggest chunk of my student life here, and the holy city has contributed to significant learnings and unlearnings that I have had. A return to the city after a gap of a decade was to soak in the spirituality of a place which is bustling and tranquil at the same time. The name itself signifies the philosophy of the city. Banaras is where the potion of life (“ras”) is ready (“bana”), you only have to drink it.


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Bohri Food Festival at The Westin Hyderabad

I have never had the opportunity to try out Bohri cuisine before. I had heard a lot about it from the Bohri food trails of Mumbai friends, read about it from the articles of food writers as well as seen photos of the food, which had made me quite curious. The Bohri Food Festival at Kangan, the Indian restaurant at The Westin provided me the first opportunity to familiarize myself with the cuisine.

Bohri Green Mutton Raan

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Rivaayat-E-Patiala: The Royal Cuisine of Punjab Recreated at The Trident

Rivaayat is an initiative of the Oberoi Hotels and Resorts group to revive interest in traditional Indian cuisine and bring back the nostalgia of recipes long forgotten.  As part of the nationwide program which started three years ago, we have had three festivals at The Trident Hyderabad. This year, the promotion is back with a difference, with Chef Parvinder Bali presenting the Royal Cuisine of Patiala as part of a promotion named Rivaayat-E-Patiala.


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Best Places to Enjoy Your Biryani in Hyderabad

Along with Charminar, the other thing Hyderabad is known for is its biryani.  Citizens of no other city can remotely come close to the fascination for biryani that we Hyderabadis have. We steadfastly refuse even any comparison with the other variants of biryanis in India, let alone accept that they come anywhere close to it in taste.

Biryani

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Andaman Travelogue, Part 2: Havelock & Neil Islands

Andaman and Nicobar Islands consist of more than seven hundred islands of various sizes, out of which only few dozen are inhabited. Of these, the most well-known tourist destinations are Havelock and Neil Islands. We had kept three days in our itinerary for visiting these two places, based on the feedback from our travel agent. We started off on this tour from Port Blair on the third day of our stay in Andamans. (See the first part of this travelogue)


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Andaman Travelogue, Part 1: In and Around Port Blair

The Union territory of Andaman & Nicobar Islands is possibly the remotest part of the country. You need to fly a couple of hours over the Bay of Bengal to reach these isles. I had been to Port Blair more than a quarter-century ago and remembered it as a pristine location with scenic beaches. So, when I got the opportunity to visit on a group tour with my friends, I did not take any time to say yes.


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Wine Tasting Event for the Best Bordeaux Wines

Bordeaux in southwest France is hailed as the wine capital of the world.  The largest vineyards of the country are located in this region producing some of the best wines of the world.


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Mohammed Ali Road Ki Masti at Barbeque Nation

Mohammed Ali Road is a popular destination in Mumbai which is known all over the country for some of the traditionally delicious street food which is available there.  From biryani, kababs and nihari, to firni, malpua and mawa jalebis, there are about a dozen iconic items which are not to be missed during a food walk in this locality.

Live Counter Barbeque Nation

Barbeque Nation, the nationally popular casual buffet restaurant chain has brought the delicacies from MA Road at a special promotion MA Road Ki Masti, which is currently on in Hyderabad. The promotion is part of the usual buffet and there is no additional charge for the same apart from the usual buffet rates. While the spread includes quite a few delicacies from the Bhendi Bazar area where this road is located, overall I also found a bias towards Mughlai food in the spread offered at this promotion, compared to the usual fare at the restaurant.

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The New Indian Night Buffet at Hyatt Hyderabad Gachibowli

Deori, the Indian restaurant at Hyatt Hyderabad Gachibowli is reborn in a new avatar. The restaurant now has a new look with fresh interiors reflecting the old Indian experience. The menu collection has been revamped with a perfect blend of North and South Indian recipes, with select dishes from states like Himachal which are usually ignored on the Indian culinary map. Old Indian favourites including varieties of pickles and mithais have been taken up for showcasing. And to top it all, the restaurant which is open only for dinner has introduced an Indian buffet presenting these well-researched dishes.


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The Portuguese Touch: Goan Promotion at Park Hyatt

Travelers to Goa who are lovers of the local food are aware of the strong influence of the Portuguese cooking on the dishes there. Goa was under Portuguese rule for around four centuries and many ingredients, as well as cooking styles had been integrated into the native fare to emerge as the Goan Catholic cuisine.

Goan Masala Fried Fish

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South East Asian Inspired Cuisine at Malaka Spice

Malaka Spice, the much-admired restaurant group headquartered in Pune has been operating its restaurant at Jubilee Hills, Hyderabad for more than a year now. I had been there once with my friends and had enjoyed the food there. So, when I was invited for tasting some of the best dishes on their menu, I was more than happy.

Thai Mutton Chops

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Farzi Café Brings Its Unique Cuisine to Hyderabad

Hyderabad had been somewhat ignored in the plans of national restaurant chains till about couple of years back. However, recently there has been a deluge in terms of the number of nationally acclaimed chains opening their outlets here. Farzi Café from the Massive Restaurants group, is the latest on that list, opening their much talked about the restaurant at Jubilee Hills.


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