The Roseate: A Blooming Joy

33090979
Image courtesy of Roseate Hotels & Resorts

Delhi’s NH8 doesn’t sound like an obvious location for an urban oasis, does it? But enter The Roseate’s eight-acre property and your opinion will change. Pass an austere looking guard, and the road opens up into an expansive entrance driveway, dotted with art installations and adorned with 650,000 individually cast brass leaves, by British designer John Bowmen. Let me just write that again. Six-hundred-and-fifty-thousand individually cast brass leaves. To say it’s quite an entrance would be an understatement.

33091365
Image courtesy of Roseate Hotels & Resorts

Designed by Khun Lek Bunnag, known for his grandiose creations, the architecture throughout The Roseate sets it apart from other hotels in the city. With everything on a slightly larger than life scale, you’ll feel a little like Alice in Wonderland as you traverse its undulating grounds and water bodies. Boasting Delhi’s longest pool, at 102 metres long it is more than many can sprint, let alone swim! The Pool View rooms include private outdoor areas and direct access to the pool – perfect for a morning dip. Other notable features include a rotating pendulum disc and The Tree of Life, also designed by John Bowmen, as well as a wall of stained-glass in the lobby.

33091947
Image courtesy of Roseate Hotels & Resorts
33116674
Image courtesy of Roseate Hotels & Resorts

Rooms are decorated in white and grey hues, focusing on open spaces and natural light. Totally modern, all of your gadgets can be controlled from an I-pad so you can open your blinds in the morning from the comfort of your own bed. No hard hotel beds here (seemingly the mattress of choice in India) they are sink-into with soft pillows and cloud-like duvets. There is a capacious bathtub, almost al-fresco with views outside, whilst the shower doubles as a steam room and guests will find not one, but two sinks, big enough to be a church font.

76719403
Image courtesy of Roseate Hotels & Resorts

A lot of effort has gone into the menu design. From all-day dining at Kiyan to dinners at Chi Ni, the Roseate has roped in some of Delhi’s highest-flying chefs. At the majestic Kiyan, flanked by a collonaded wall styled on the Elephanta caves, chef Nishant Choubey heads a dynamic team creating innovative fusion dishes. The menu changes every few months and as much as possible is sourced their organic farm, just a few kilometres away. I had the Organic Pomelo salad to start, which was the perfect blend of fresh and crisp with a soft sweetness from the tamarind dressing, followed by the vegetarian thali, a great introduction to North Indian cuisine for those fresh off the boat. For breakfast, there is an array of healthy and not-so-healthy dishes (I couldn’t help but opt for the trio of pancakes, not once but twice), as well as fresh pressed juices and crispy South Indian dosas. Try to make sure you have dinner at Chi Ni during your stay, for authentic Chinese flavours courtesy of chef Ban. Starting with blanched baby spinach in a sesame dressing for starter, we were taken on a culinary journey of wasabi shrimp, vegetable lettuce wrap, chicken Siu Mai, and soft and fluffy tofu bao.

33006982
Image courtesy of Roseate Hotels & Resorts

If you’re travelling with little ones, there is an excellent kids club, with virtual simulation technology, art walls, and so much more. Honestly, you’ll have to drag them out of there. For grown-ups, the Aheli spa, headed by Sushma Rai, is the perfect hideaway. Including signature massages and hammam treatments (the only place in Delhi you’ll find them), and using Ayurvedic Kama products, you could spend more than just a few hours in their capable hands. There is also a small but perfectly formed gym and yoga pavilion.

33091254
Image courtesy of Roseate Hotels & Resorts

Who’s it good for?

Design Junkies, Wellness Addicts, and those wanting to escape the city

For direct bookings click here.

Lakshman Sagar: A Kaleidoscopic Escape

As reviewed for The Hotel Guru:

19306999

Inspired by the kaleidoscopic colours of Indian this 19th century former hunting lodge is not your average rural Rajasthani stay. Twelve cottages (each with their own private plunge pool) are dotted around a 32 acres and a man made reservoir. The sound of peacocks resonates throughout the grounds from sunrise til sunset, interrupted only by the chattering of a lively flock of parakeets. A totally unspoilt, rural idyll, staying true to Sewara hospitality’s mantra Lakshman Sagar is as gentle to the environment as it is on the eye. And what a visual feast it is! Decorated in pop palettes rooms are a riot in greens, pinks, yellows and oranges; juxtaposed against natural dried mud walls. Repurposed furnishings such as a traditional coal iron for a soap dish and baby’s crib for a wash basket add a novel touch. Though the pièce de résistance has got to be the zenana, formerly the women’s quarters. Decorated in pink and purple shades, mosaic floors and trickling fountains. The rooftop affords 360 views of the property and the best seat in the house.

1930699819307002

There is an Ayurvedic spa-cum-tree house run by Amul, possessing an encyclopaedic knowledge of herbology. He even takes yoga classes. Or simply spend an afternoon recumbent by that pool. Carved into the landscape, out of a giant rock, it has been named one of Conde Nast Traveller’s favourite pools in India.

19307011
Inspired by the ‘Slow Food Movement’ all cuisine is either grown in the property’s expansive vegetable garden or locally sourced. Serving fresh, traditional Rajasthani dishes these simple meals are a blessing – compared to the heavy, oil laden affair on offer in most hotels. That said, flavours can get a little repetitive, but staff do their best to meet requests. A totally enchanting stay.

68902718

Great for: Couples will love the private cottages and plunge pools with a view. Ideal for a few nights of rural idyll between the bustling cities of Jaipur, Jodhpur and Udaipur.

Best time to go: October – March. Expect a chill in the evening between December and January.

For direct bookings click here.

Colonial Charm at The Oberoi Grand, Kolkata

46433340
Image courtesy of Oberoi Hotels & Resorts
As reviewed for The Hotel Guru:

Known as the “Grande Dame of Calcutta” this iconic hotel, dating back to the 1880’s, is located in what was the heart of British India. Aside from a few mod-cons, little seems to have changed. Colonial charm still perforates every inch of this property and the at times ‘Fawlty Towers’ service only adds to the poeticism.

46433348
Image courtesy of Oberoi Hotels & Resorts

From the moment you enter its gilded gates (complete with fleet of bright yellow Ambassador taxis awaiting outside) guests time-travel to a bygone era. Having been greeted by a team of staff at the door, complete with white gloves and shiny gold buttons, you will be whisked through reception, with its grandiose flower arrangements and ornate chandeliers. Not to mention that grand piano.

32092072
Image courtesy of Oberoi Hotels & Resorts

Some might find the décor a little tired (the carpets could do with replacing) but overall this adds to the charm of this relic of a hotel. With classic green marble or wood-clad bathrooms, polished wood furnishings, artwork depicting a historic Calcutta and antique light and socket fittings the hotel evokes pangs of nostalgia at every turn.

46433342
Image courtesy of Oberoi Hotels & Resorts

Complimentary Forest Essentials toiletries are included as standard and the best rooms feature pool views. Breakfast is not included in the room rate and at hefty price per head I would say it’s not worth the average fare – especially with so many great dining options on nearby Park Street. Baan Thai restaurant is worth investigating, however a G&T in one of the Peacock chairs by the pool is an absolute must.

46433007
Image courtesy of Oberoi Hotels & Resorts

Oberoi’s spas are always worth a visit and this is no exception. Classic treatment rooms, a steam room and sauna plus a slightly old fashioned gym. A historic stay right in the heart of Kolkata.

46438167
Image courtesy of Oberoi Hotels & Resorts

Top 10, Delhi: A Sushi Addicts Guide

Top 10, Delhi: A Sushi Addicts Guide

The original of the article published on Delhi’s own Little Black Book:

When moving to a foreign country you learn a lot about yourself and your vices. I always thought of myself as a down and out cheese fiend. Having been known to forgo the crackers and accompaniments in favour of a more direct ‘block in mouth’ approach. It seemed there were no limits to my in fridge fromage foraging; but no…

 Hi, my name is Megan and I am a sushi addict.

Common sense tells me not to eat sushi in Delhi. At home I wash my vegetables more thoroughly than I do myself, but sure I’ll eat raw fish in the city that has a stomach ailment named after it.

As all those suffering from an addiction will be familiar with, at some stage you hit rock bottom. I have tried Paneer California Roll so you don’t have to.

This my fellow sushi lovers, is my definitive Sushi Addicts Guide to Delhi:

1. Guppy by Ai – Lodhi Colony

I love the décor here, you feel as though you’ve wandered onto the pages of an anime cartoonist’s sketchpad. Unlike almost every other accompaniment, I often find the wasabi in India to be lacking in spice – not a problem here. Their tuna is sourced from the Andaman’s and there is an emphasis on seasonal produce, so it’s brownie points (although sadly no actual brownies on the menu) all round.

Good for: Friends and family

2.Town Hall – Khan Market

The one I keep going back to. With its split-level Mediterranean style roof terrace and laid-back house playlist it is more Ibiza vibe than central Delhi. The wide range of antipasto sharing platters and salads (the fig, rocket and gorgonzola salad is divine) means that even if you’re not a sushi lover, if such a person exists, it’s still a great place to eat. The Augusto platter, a must try, is for four to five people but if you’re as much of a maverick as I am you’ll say “To Hell!” with menu mandate and order regardless. I’ll get the rest packed, thanks.

Good for: Friends, Family, Date Night

3. Sushiya – Select CityWalk Mall, Saket

Well priced sushi, delivered to your door. Need I say more? This is one of those joints where the wasabi does not pack the punch it should, shovel that stuff into your soy to avoid a bland nigiri. The California rolls however really hit the spot. Avoid the kimchi at all costs.

Good for: Healthy home dining or lunch on the go

9. TKS – The Hyatt

Primarily a teppenyaki restaurant their sushi is so good you’ve got to order a few plates. I was sold when I saw one of my favourite South African wines from the “Fairview” vineyards (at about ten times the price) on the menu. Crispy tempura asparagus, perfectly cooked scallops and sushi plates so aesthetically pleasing you don’t want to ruin them. The puddings however are not worth bothering with and the sashimi portions are Michelin sized.

Good for: Family

4. The Yum Yum Tree – New Friends Colony

These guys pride themselves on being the only restaurant in Delhi with a sushi conveyor belt. Located in an area of New Friends Colony that’s seen better days this place is cheap and cheerful. Cheap: I’m talking Tuesday and Sunday “All You Can Eat and Drink” Sushi and Dim Sum for 1500 INR. Cheerful: Those “Magic Moments” Mojitos are industrial strength, so you’ll be laughing your way through dinner; if you can remember it at all. This isn’t the place to start getting adventurous stick the salmon and tuna rolls. Their dim sum is incredible, we had pork, duck and vegetable and lost count of how many portions we ordered.

Good for: Dinner with friends5. Benihana – Epicuria, Nehru Place

6. To quote Mr Hiroaki Aoki, Benihana’s founder: “it’s not just a meal, it’s an experience”. Their sushi platters are excellent and you must order at least one, but the real ‘experience’ is in the hibachi dishes. When possible I’m all about locally sourced and the hibachi basa was by far my favourite. This joint is a time old, well-oiled Teppenyaki machine with chefs that know how to wield a deba bocho knife. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it and other than its less than atmospheric setting in Epicuria, there’s not much to complain about here.

Good For: Friends, Date Night

6. Megu – The Leela

This American import has been making waves since the day it landed on Indian shores. The décor is opulent to say the least (there’s giant glass Buddha, lording over the place like some translucent monarch) and the plates are themselves miniature treasure troves. The Salmon Tartar with Osetra Caviar is in my opinion the only way to start your meal, washed down with a hot glass of sake. Meat eaters will be pleased to see Kobe beef on the menu.

Good for: Date night, Special Occasion

7. Sushi Haus, DLF Phase 1

An exciting new contender on the sushi scene Asian Haus have extended their culinary horizons. A small but perfectly formed menu, personal preferences would dictate that the one thing missing is an edamame bean portion, however they do a yummy Edamame California Roll. The signature Haus Roll is spot on, as is the Crunchy Spicy Tuna. There are also plenty of great vegetarian options such as the Asparagus Tempura roll and the Avocado Maki which is delicious. These guys have really stepped up the game when it comes to home delivery. Sushiya – watch out.

Good for: Healthy home dining or lunch on the go

8. Sakura – Time Tower Building, Main MG Road

A hidden gem, popular amongst Gurgaon fat cats for long, ‘wine and dine’ lunches; go in the evening and you’ll have the place to yourself. Generous sashimi portions, mouth-watering barbequed eel and wasabi ice cream so tasty I double scooped. If you’re a die-hard sushi lover then this place is worth the trip.

Good for: Power lunches, extreme sushi lovers

10. Wasabi by Morimoto – The Taj Mahal Hotel

I saved the best until last and this one is if not my favourite restaurant, then certainly my favourite sushi restaurant in Delhi. A Times Food Award Winner, Wasabi is known for its pioneering chef Masaharu Morimoto. They have proper black cod, which I defy you to fine anywhere else in this city and bountiful sushi and sashimi platters. If you can’t find your tipple on the extensive wine list then ask their mixologist to create you something special. The service, as you would expect with such a price tag, is excellent.

Good for: Special Occasion

10 Signs You’ve Become Culturally a Delhi-walla

10 Signs You’ve Become Culturally a Delhi-walla

Piece published on Matador Network:

Having spent the last year and a half living in Delhi I’ve come to the realisation that… I’ve become culturally a Delhi-walla. You may not have been born and bred here, but if you’re guilty of the following, you too have become a Delhi-walla:

  1. You refer to everyone (bar your actual family) by the title of close relatives: Aunty, Uncle, didi (sister), bhaiya (brother).
  1. And you have an ongoing love/hate with relationship with your landlord (aka Aunty/Uncle) who in turn refers to you only as beta.
  1. You no longer eat “curry”. No, you eat dal makhani, chole bhature and palak paneer, washed down with chai, not tea.
  1. You can (and do) get everything delivered straight to your door. I’m talking alcohol, cigarettes, aspirin and a single bar of chocolate. Oh and some ice. And a sponge. Milk.
  1. You have a drawer full of ‘visiting cards’ for every sort of service professional you may at some point in your life require: doctor, carpenter, taxi driver, massage therapist, tailor, electrician, removal man, ironing man, bamboo man; the list goes on.
  1. You know you shouldn’t, but you do, eat roadside food at almost every dhaba.
  1. And Jugaad has become so much more than just your favourite Hindi word. It is a philosophy and a solution to almost every problem.
  1. You’ve mastered the Indian head wobble: an aqueous head motion with no accurate translation; merely an ambiguous affirmation that you have said something.
  1. Weddings are no longer a boring affair. They are an almost week long matrimonial marathon of wardrobe changes, buffets big enough to feed an army, attended by 1000 of your closest friends and family.
  1. You find yourself speaking “Hinglish” in an attempt to go native. Example:

“Have you reached?”

“Actually, I will take some time: ‘office time’ traffic”

“Well I’m glad we didn’t pre-pone!”

“I’m 5 minutes away, only”

“Do one thing, call and cancel”

  1. In fact once you have become culturally a Delhi-walla, almost nothing, bar the city’s dodgy wiring, will shock you. Even three generations and the family goat cruising down the NH8 on a scooty.

It’s just Delhi: it’s like that only.

Jodhpur: A Hotel Guide

Jodhpur: A Hotel Guide

Working in travel one has to be sympathetic towards almost any whim, requirement and diet fad of a client. Life and people are full of surprises but when trying to second guess someones preferences it is necessary to (like it or not) pigeon hole. Luckily I am very familiar with each of the extremes. On the one hand we have myself: I will literally eat, sleep, pee anywhere and on the other: my mother, who to put it simply, will not. Even the most globalised of cities in India could prove a culture shock to some but there are certain places that offer a pretty PG portrayal of India.

Jodhpur is one of these and a pretty safe bet for even the most cautious of travelers. Saying this, a client of potentially difficult disposition is not going to rock up at any old guest house. For some travelers, hotels are as experiential as the cities that house them. My most recent jaunt in Jodhpur was a self-appointed work trip which meant I visited and stayed in some stunning hotels that I would certainly not have been able to afford myself – especially on my Indian salary! So, here is my whistle stop tour of the best hotels in Jodhpur.

RAAS

It claims to be a heritage property when in reality about 400 sq feet of this hotel is heritage. Why? I do not know. RAAS is beautiful and does not need to pretend to be anything it is not. An excellent Design Hotel RAAS is “three parts Rajasthan, one part LA”, implementing traditional Jodhpur colours and textiles with a modern twist. And with the best views of Mehrangarh Fort as its backdrop, RAAS is an excellent option for anyone wanting high end luxury in a town setting. The food is lip-smackingly good (they have pretty much re-invented the chicken korma), the service Western standard and the staff are beyond friendly. An afternoon spent lounging by the pool listening to the Asr call to prayer, home-made lemonade in hand, would be an afternoon well spent.

1469817_180330782169018_2016343741_n 1460157_180330648835698_748840231_n

The pool at RAAS and the view from most of its rooms.

Things to bear in mind:

  • RAAS’s central location is great for being able to wonder straight out your front door into the thick of things. However it also means that the thick of things is right out your front door.
  • Garden View rooms (as the name might suggest) do not have a view of the fort, which considering they are some of the best in the Jodhpur seems an awful shame.

Who is it good for?

  • A city dweller. Someone used to five star luxury who does not mind a bit of back ground noise.

Ratan Vilas

Do not let the website fool you. I was so pleasantly surprised when I arrived at this little gem of a property. A colonial heritage hotel located just a few kilometres outside of town, Ratan Vilas offers guests an incomparably personal experience and piece of history. Now in its fourth generation of ownership, the current owner Maharaj Bharat Singh and his wife do their best to personally greet all the guests and answer any questions they might have about the property. The hotel itself is decorated with portraits of long lost family members: from successful polo players to keen hunters and much of it is furnished with antiques from when the hotel was still a permanent residence. With a delightful swimming pool and lots of cool shady areas to retreat to with cup of their delicious masala chai, Excellent value for money!

1424468_180331098835653_1763330915_n602798_180331135502316_525506858_n

The tranquil pool area and shady courtyard at Ratan Vilas

Things to bear in mind:

  • Request a room in the front courtyard – it is in the older wing and much more quaint.
  • The “continental” breakfast was very average however I would imagine that their India food would be excellent.

Who is it good for?

  • A country bumpkin looking for a family experience.

Pal Haveli

This very Indian Haveli is a great way to ‘play pretend’ and really step back into Jodhpur’s past. The rooms are decorated in traditional haveli style: kitsch to some; tacky to others. Personally it’s my least favourite of the the four but the rooms are really “fun”. Pal Haveli has an exceptional roof top from where diners can “witness all of Jodhpur’s history” with 360 views of Mehrangarh Fort, Umaid Bhawan and the clock tower. Private Bhopal dinners can also be arranged at the restaurant for a truly memorable evening or party.

IMG_0954 IMG_0956

An extravagantly decorated bedroom at Pal Haveli and the view from its rooftop restaurant.

Things to bear in mind:

  • Not good for older people. This property has more narrow, winding staircases than the Hogwarts astronomy tower.

Who is it good for?

  • The undisputed Indophile.

Umaid Bhawan

The history surrounding this property is as fascinating as the building itself. The Palace was allegedly built “to provide employment to thousands of people during the time of famine” which seems like a very elaborate solution to me: “Give a man a fish…” and all that, I suppose. The architect behind Umaid Bhawan, Henry Lanchester, also designed Leeds University’s (where I spent three blurry years) Parkinson Building. Maybe it is something in Lanchester’s architecture but I felt the need to whisper as I shuffled along the bordering austere corridors of Umaid Bhawan. It is stunning, don’t get me wrong, but it is a little too flawless for me. I looked like some sort of street rat wandering around (not so) fresh from the day’s sightseeing. The grounds on the other hand I love and I share my friend Ellie Boulstridge’s appreciation for its pristine lawns (she is borderline obsessive for a well maintained bit of turf). However for me it is the view from the swimming pool and the peacocks strutting around like they own the place that makes it such a memorable property. Plus the fact that you can see its’ silhouette from just about all of Jodhpur.

IMG_0959 IMG_0958IMG_0961

Umaid Bhawan, the pool area and its award winning Jiva Spa (excuse me in the background)

Things to bear in mind:

  • Luxury comes with a price tag and palaces don’t come cheap. Whilst a stay at Umaid Bhawan is worth the money (if you can afford it) you get a lot more for your rupee for certain rooms in the same category. Being a palace all rooms will differ but to be on the same side ask for a Garden View Room rather than a courtyard.

Who is it good for?

  • My mother. Plus those for who the hotel is as much a part of the experience as the place.

I’ll leave you with this: the prettiest tuk-tuk in town found in the RAAS driveway. Sadly it was not for hire.

1467442_180331032168993_697297725_n

Almora: Photoblog and Guide from an Amateur

Almora: Photoblog and Guide from an Amateur

Morning has brokenThe stunning views along the drive from Kathogodam to Almora – worth staying awake for! 

Chai StopBread PakhorasFollowed by the mandatory chai stop and my first bread pakhora? I think that’s what these are called? Anyway they’re bloody delicious and basically hot morsels or crispy, carby goodness! 

The Beautiful Blue HouseThe beautiful “Blue House”

Sunny YellowAnd our “Happy Yellow” room 😀

The Butterfly!The butterfly(!) that made my lap it’s home for half hour or so. The juxtaposition of my horrible acrylic nails only makes it more beautiful; whilst simultaneously ruining the photo.

Billionaire Boys ClubThe Billionaire Boy’s Club of Crank’s RIdge: These guys have seen it all – Dylan? Ginsberg? Just another hippy passing through..  

HeavenA mountain “meadow”. If I died and went to Heaven, this would suffice. 

BellsTemple BellsBells at the sanctuary of Kasar Devi temple – it even has a meditation room. A more spectacular temple is the famous Chitai Temple which makes the Kasar Devi’s collection of bells look poultry! The temple is in honour of Lord Shiva and newly married couples in particular make offerings here. It is about 10km from Almora and a fantastic walk! 

Putting out feet up!Putting our feet up and enjoying the view at Mohan’s, the social epicentre of Crank’s Ridge. Pity about the annoying telephone wires.. If not renting a house I would certainly recommend staying here. 

Last Supper

Rhododendron JuiceOur last supper (mercifully not another curry) accompanied by the fruity elixir and bibendum of the gods: rhododendron juice! Warning: will cause tooth decay. 

Other activities in Almora include hiking, biking (pedal and motor) and fishing to name a few  – basically anything outdoorsy. All can be booked at Mahon’s. There is also a lovely little shop called Panchachuli where fabrics and clothing, made by local women using traditional methods are sold. The factory and associated NGO are located further down the road, closer to Almora town.

I hope you are inspired to visit Almora and love it as much as I do!!