Tag Archives: food

Food meets films in vibrant ambience

Which one of us does not love and cherish the film Sholay? Most of us I think, do. Naturally then, when a restaurant is named after one of the famed characters of this iconic film, the intrigue factor heightens. Basanti and Co. in Seven Bungalows Andheri West thus beckoned me.

The colourful interiors, trendy decor and cheerful vibe, set the tome of our evening. The bric-a-brac and design elements thrown in appealed to me instantly. The seating area is spacious and the bar in one corner, eclectic.

The menu offered Awadhi and North Indian food with a special section of Chef Qureshi’s signature Biryanis. Yes, another chef from the famed Qureshi family.

The service staff seemed articulate and alert. Roy, serving us was well-spoken and well-informed about the menu too.

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Murg Badam shorba, is what we started with and the creamy soul was comforting. The hint of saffron and the crunch owing to the almonds seamless meshed with the creamy thick broth. There were chaats too on offer but we decided to skip those.

Murg Tikka Patiala was well marinated and grilled to perfection. The smoky flavours were apparent in each bite. The Dahi ke kabab however stole the thunder. Well-made, these were soft, tangy and wholesome.

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For mains, we ordered the makki ki roti and sarson ka saag with a lassoni addition. Did not work for me at all. The saag was far from the real thing. The Punjabi choley with mini lulchas, were robust and delightful. The Nalli Nihari was the star of the show. The pronounced flavours of mutton in a well-spiced gravy and soft well-cooked pieces of mutton and of course the nihari was an absolute treat. Chicken Tariwala too was a preparation which tingled our taste buds.

The assorted rotis were the perfect accompaniment- garlic naan, missi roti, makki ki roti and tandoori roti. The lamb kulcha sounded enticing too.

The dessert options were strangely limited. Jalebi rabdi and malai phirni was all they offered. Both were strictly mediocre as the textures were far from authentic. The phirni lacked the quintessential grainy texture and bite and was too pasty, whereas the rabdi was cloyingly sweet and again of a overly creamy texture. The crisp and well-fried jalebis got my instant vote though.

The thandai shot at the end of our meal was mild but served the purpose of an after-meal digestive.

This place offers an exhaustive variety -both food and the bar menu. Vegetarians need not fret as there are abundant options. The portions too are hearty and perfect for a family meal. The food is well-presented but sans any unnecessary frills.

We missed trying the biryani and in order to remedy that, I need to make a second trip to Basanti and Co.

Open for lunch and dinner, a meal for two without alcohol is approx Rs 1500.

Rating : 3.5/5

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Tea Tales & Winter food

Winters are somehow all about indulgence. Given the weather when the temperature drops, one can getaway by giving in to one’s guilty pleasures. More calories are needed to generate body heat, we are told, so we all gladly embark upon that task. Sadly, Mumbai does not gift us real winters, yet, we unabashedly gorge on some winter delicacies.

Another thing which is synonymous for everyone with winters, is a hot brew-tea or coffee. I love my tea and  when a winter menu is about tea and food, naturally I am ecstatic.

Brooke Bond Taj Mahal Tea House (TMTH) has curated a new Winter Menu, using the most exotic and fresh produce of the season.  TMTH has handpicked season’s popular ingredients and created an interplay of flavours to intrigue the diner’s taste buds.

Irresistible this sounded, so I set about to explore it one evening.

As I settled in, I discovered each item on the cleverly crafted menu, was aptly complemented by one of their signature tea blends.

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The falafel chaat arrived on the table and was paired with  a pink guava and kaffir lime tea. The tangy chaat with palate-teasing flavours, was delightful. After a sip of the light tea, the flavours came alive with a vengeance. I was off to a good start.

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Next was the salad with paneer and the tea to go along, was a delicate Oriental Jasmine and rose. A unique blend of the East and West- a romantic tea, which uplifts your mood instantly. It did just that. It perked my taste buds and I found myself enjoying the hearty and crunchy salad even more.

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Teas being paired with every course, I thought was an exciting thing to do in order to enhance the dining experience. And it really worked wonders.

Risotto infused with Sambar was served next but the watered down version did not entice me enough. The silver needle and berries tea paired with it though, took me by surprise. Fruity and flavourful, it was comforting all the way and yet, added zest to my palate with its intoxicating flavours. Who needs wine with teas like this around?

The Idly Crust with Pomfret was the piece de resistance. Fresh fluffy soft fish with a delectable crust was a treat for the taste buds.

What can I say about the matcha semifreddo. It bore ample testimony to Chef’s mastery over his craft. The matcha tea flavours, lend themselves seamlessly to this dessert and in fact enhanced the taste. Layers of Matcha cream and cake covered with grilled almond slivers and served with chocolate sauce. Truly decadent. Paired with the robust mocha tea this course was truly memorable. Assam chai with a rich coffee cream crown and finished with cracked roasted coffee beans. Whew! I had tasted nothing like this ever before.

There is Chai cheese cake tart too, for dessert lovers, which I have to head back to try.

This menu is truly innovative and offers something for every palate. A special treat for the Vegans is using the winter staple Ragi in a contemporary Vegetable Quiche. Vegetarians can relish the Multigrain Hari Matar Burger, while carnivores will enjoy the Baked Irani Lamb Kheema – Aubergine parceled shells baked with lamb kheema inspired by Dhansak flavor and glazed with Béchamel sauce, among others.

I left the place with a smile as the manner in which teas had been paired with food,  especially the fish course was a true revelation. And I had sampled the very best of teas and food. It does not get any better than this. Winters had set in for me this evening, and I was not complaining.

Rating : 4/5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A haven of rest and relaxation

Getting out of Mumbai is always an exciting prospect. We all need short breaks at least when we live in big cities and lead hectic lives. My excitement knew no bounds as Alibaug is a place I love. What added to the charm was that I was to experience Radisson Blu Resort & Spa, Alibaug, a hotel, which has been around for a while but revamped and refurbished recently.

As our car rolled into Radisson Blu Resort & Spa Alibaug, the vast expanse over which this property is spread, caught my eye.  A warm welcome and quick check in made me feel truly welcome.

The prospect of a stay at Radisson Blu Resort & Spa Alibaug with its famous Aparanta, the all-day dining restaurant and Kokum & Spice, the specialty restaurant, serving coastal fare, a spa, recreation facilities, suddenly seemed more thrilling.

Spread across several acres of land, this hotel is a haven of luxury, rest and repose. Shown around the hotel by the affable Aparup Biswas and Hemang Parmar, Director F&B, I thoroughly enjoyed the tour. Time had just flown as I was soaking in all the information.

The 156 rooms comprise deluxe rooms, superior rooms, executive suites, deluxe spa villas and executive spa villas. With beautiful views, each of these offers understated luxury.

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I entered my vibrant and comfortable villa. The elegant and aesthetic décor appealed to me instantly. My villa spelt comfort and all the possible needs of a guest were anticipated and taken care of by Radisson Blu Resort & Spa Alibaug. Their attention to detail impressed me. The duplex villa was designed aptly with effective usage of space. The living room with a dining space was on the lower floor with a spacious bedroom on top.

After settling down in my room, I enjoyed my lunch at Aparanta, where chef had created unique delicacies. Punjabi food acquired a whole new meaning here as chef gave it a contemporary twist in presentation without altering the flavours. The food was hearty and the flavours robust. Even the vegetarian dishes boasted of exquisite flavours and bore testimony to the chef’s creativity.

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After a restful afternoon, I moved to the Escenza Spa, where I was booked for a spa treatment. The spa, I noticed, had a tastefully done up reception area, treatment rooms, steam room and sauna. Other amenities of the hotel include a gym, a library, outdoor and indoor games. One need not step out of the property as there is something for everyone to relax and keep busy.

The spa room was tranquil and I felt relaxed immediately. The serene environment, the expert therapist using the best possible range of products were enough to pamper me.  The Swedish massage with aromatic oils, sounded just like what my tired body needed. The therapist firmly but gently removed all the knots from my muscles and massaged me deftly. I was rejuvenated beyond words. The music however could have been a bit softer. Nevertheless, a surge of well-being enveloped me as I left the Spa recharged ready to enjoy my evening.

Dinner was at Kokum & Spice. We experienced coastal food at its best. The chic but understated elegance of this place impressed me. The spacious seating and mood lighting added to the charm of this traditional restaurant.

Chef had curated a menu for us, giving us a glimpse of the signature dishes from Goa, Mangalore, Maharashtra and we had a lot to choose from. Mangalore fish curry, bombil fry, rawas, prawns, vade. The food was delectable and offered a melange of tantalizing flavours, characteristic of the coastal belt.  The freshness of the sea food and the quality of ingredients used struck me as outstanding. The spices used were authentic and the outcome was an aromatic experience which lingered on my palate. This restaurant was going to  henceforth top my list for coastal food.

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I rounded off my meal with the traditional ukadiche modak with ghee or thoop. And of course the paan freshly made by the cute paan kiosk outside the restaurant.

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Next morning, feeling rested after a good night’s sleep, after sipping my tea in my room which faced a  lake, I stepped down for breakfast at the all-day dining restaurant, Aparanta.

The breakfast spread was an exercise in choices. The expansive restaurant with several seating options and abundant natural light, was abuzz with activity. The live counters served dosas, eggs, parathas and more. The food was fresh and the offerings varied. The service was alert and exemplary.

After a lazy morning spent walking around the property, I checked out at noon.  I had been spoilt thoroughly by the warm hospitality extended to me. Radisson Blu Resort & Spa Alibaug, the contemporary luxury resort, so close to Mumbai, yet a perfect getaway, transports you to another world nestled in nature’s surroundings.

 

Chronicles from Madras

Having grown up going to erstwhile Madras where my grandparents lived, I have developed great fondness for the local food. In fact I thoroughly enjoy the varied flavours of food across Southern India. While I am otherwise a carnivore, vegetarian delicacies in Southern food appeal immensely to my palate, perhaps more than non-vegetarian too.

Madras Diaries, naturally, conjured up images of lip-smacking South Indian fare and opened a floodgate of memories too. This new restaurant which opens tomorrow, Ocotber 11, 2017, is located in Bandra West Mumbai off Waterfield Road.

The colourful and vibrant decor, with the Southern leitmotif conspicuously running through in the design elements, catches your eye immediately as you enter. The seating is cosy and offers sufficient privacy.

Neeti Goel of Nom Nom and Farhan Azmi of Basilico  have endeavoured to revive lost recipes and Chef Murugan and his team execute this with authenticity and precision.

The menu, looked inviting from word go and I was keen to try a lot of the delicacies from the South. The hint of innovation in some dishes on the menu enhances its appeal.

Cheese Chilli Jalapeno Idli in Masala Fondue was what we started with. The bite-sized idlis were delicious and paired well with the spicy fondue.

Jalepano Idlis with Cheesy Dips

The big idli swathed in the fiery podi got my instant vote. The ragi dosa, which came next, bore testimony to their efforts to cook with forgotten grains. The accompanying sambar is easily the best I have had in a long time in Mumbai. The podis- made with lentils and spices, packed a punch and the pachadis, were delectable and enhanced the dining experience. Some pachadis were curd based, others made from vegetables tempered with spices and curry leaves. The freshness shone through and I ate each one with relish.

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The food here struck me as authentic, clean and made with fresh ingredients. The contemporary twist in some cases was exciting and acceptable. The aroma of home-made ghee was evident in each dish. The options in each section- be it idlis, vadas, dosas or utthapams was tremendous.

Among dosas, Pesarattu made with green moong dal and Dhavangere Benne made with rice and urad dal were my other favourites. The coconut chutney was quintessentially home style and bursting with freshness.

If you happen to visit Madras Diaries during lunch, you can enjoy the light vegetarian meal  which showcases five treasured specials from the Southern region along with sambhar, rasam, curd, rice and the option of choosing two accompaniments from Dosai, Malabari Parotta, Appam & Chappathi.

Apart from dosas, idlis and vadas, there are a plethora of other options too. Choose from the crispy, flaky, soft Malabari Parotta, or the Kambu Roti made with pearl millet or the Chilly Parotta with Salsa and Onion Raita to be relished with vegetable kurma and raita. Pillowy soft ‘Appams,’  too are on offer and one can savour these with a hot vegetable stew or ‘ulli theyal,’ a gravy with onions and coconut.

How can you leave a South Indian restaurant without eating payasam? I too did not. I relished the tender coconut payasam as well as the chiku halwa or sapota kesari which was an absolute surprise.

Authentic Filter Coffee

You may enjoy the rasam shots during your meal, as I did, but a filter coffee at the end of your meal is a must.

Madras Diaries ensures you don’t necessarily have to trek to Matunga for authentic South Indian food. The fare on offer here is homely, rustic and mouth-watering.

I stepped out with a little bit of Madras on my palate.

Rating: 4/5

 

 

Pleasing my Palate in Pune

My foodie trails take me to several places and recently I found myself at Double Tree by Hilton, Pune, a hotel located in Pimpri-Chinchwad away from the hustle-bustle and yet, with all basic necessities a stone’s throw away.

The gourmand in me beamed with pleasure as a large, warm, chocolate chip cookie was handed over to me at the time of check-in. That is a Hilton tradition. The warm cookie was comforting after my journey and simply melt-in-my-mouth.

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3 Spices, the vibrant all-day dining place at the lobby level impressed me. It exudes an air of bonhomie and comfort. The cheerful and warm staff settled us in and we looked around the buffet spread for lunch. There was no run-of-the-mill stuff here. Food from around the world – Indian, Pan Asian, Global- something for every palate.  And attractively displayed. The bar at the entrance is well-stocked and the bartenders adeptly mix cocktails of your choice.

There was a live chaat counter too. Just perfect for this weather to perk up my taste buds.

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The roasted chicken with rosemary jus, the mangshor jhol or quintessential Bengali mutton curry with birasta pulao, struck me as outstanding. The bhakris, chicken in khada masala and stuffed okra that chef specially made for us to give us a taste of the local flavours took my taste buds by storm. The flavours were distinct and no where did spices overpower the ingredients.

The Pan Asian fare was equally well-made sans any additives and preservatives.

The a la carte menu here is exhaustive and boasts of everything from curry laksa and classic caesar salad to penne pasta genovese and chicken tikka pizza. The 6 seeti ka mutton and Kerala Pomfrt curry from the regional specialities are a must-try.

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The desserts were equally unusual. The beetroot halwa, Um ali- the Egyptian bread pudding, caught my fancy and both of them surpassed my expectations. The creamy texture of both desserts wowed my palate.

The varied fare at this buffet with unusual delicacies, certainly sets it apart from many others.

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Although for dinner, 3 Spices had an Awadhi food promotion, which looked immensely tempting, I decided to skip it as Miyuki, the small and cosy Japanese restaurant behind 3 Spices, beckoned me. Chef Nirmal’s work at the Teppanyaki griddle, mesmerised me as he treated us to an exotic meal complete with salads, sushi, sashimi, fried rice with chicken teriyaki and of course dessert. The flavours were simple and subtle, in keeping with Japanese cuisine and the ingredients fresh. The Sashimi particularly stood out for me in the entire meal.

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The service staff at all the F& B outlets is impeccable. Well-trained, courteous and most importantly well-informed.

My breakfast next morning was an enjoyable experience again. The live counters with eggs and waffles were fun to watch as chefs adroitly dished out waffles and eggs for diners a la minute. The ‘Kadak chai’ tapri or stall served piping hot masala tea, in keeping with the culture of Pune.

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Cereals, Pan Asian dishes, fruits, South Indian fare, bakery items. There truly was a lot to choose from. The array of fresh juices- mixed, watermelon, orange, carrot and ginger in glass bottles impressed me beyond words.

Chef Joy who is at the helm and his team of talented chefs ensure that the F&B offerings are unique and monotony never sets in for a long staying guest. They constantly endeavour to create new dining experiences for guests.  The attentive and affable waiting staff executes this to perfection and together, they contribute to a memorable dining experience for the guest.

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Tarta, the tiny and attractive bakery and patisserie in the lobby is hard-to-miss. Fresh breads, pastries and cakes galore, are on display and irresistible.

I have stayed at many hotels in India and abroad, but the F&B offerings here at Double Tree by Hilton Pune, Chinchwad are something I will long cherish and remember.

 

 

 

 

 

Around the World in 52 weeks

A new cuisine every Friday for 52 weeks? Sounds incredible, doesn’t it? World Streat Food Delicatessen and Taproom at Dalamal Towers, Nariman Point Mumbai is the place which accomplishes this magical feat.

 

At affordable prices in a contemporary restaurant with a warm vibe one can relish a new cuisine each week at a week-long festival or order from the exhaustive a la carte menu. Equally varied is the bar menu with exciting cocktails.

I was fortunate to experience the South East Asian food festival as that is one of my favourite cuisines. The menu was exciting and there was a fair amount of variety including several vegetarian options.

A comforting bowl of Laksa was what I began my meal with. Well-made, the ingredients were fresh and of a great quality and the spices, authentic. The creamy  coconut milk based soup was filling and I thoroughly relished it given the rainy season in Mumbai. There were other options too from Indonesia, Malaysia, East Timor, Philippines and so on.

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The Singapore curry puff seemed inviting, but I decided to skip it in favour of the Murtabak. This crispy stuffed pancake with chicken, eggs, potato and spices, was strongly reminiscent of the Moghlai Paratha in Kolkata. Delicious with a generous amount of filling, this was a palate pleaser. The Thai dumplings, usually my favourite, paled in comparison today.

 

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Nasi Goreng, Hainanese Chicken Rice, Phad Phak, there was a lot to choose from.  I opted for the Phuket’s Chilli Basil rice upon the recommendation of the Manager and when it arrived, I was grateful to him for his recommendation.

Served with the fiery Tabonjan sauce, in the center, it perked up my taste buds instantly and set my palate tingling.

For dessert I skipped the typical Tub Tim Grob and settled for the Indonesian custard Kopyar instead. Pieces of tender coconut in a creamy coconut based custard were delightful. The tramisu from the a la carte menu sounded delectable too.

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The al la carte menu is equally a gourmand’s delight – Mee Goreng, Iran Mughlai Biryani, and Brazil Habanero Chilli Prawns Soups like Canada Cheese Burger Soup, Thailand Tom Kha. There is something for every palate.

Mexican Veg toastadas

Tempting desserts like the Japan Matcha Cake to Thailand’s Tub Tim Grob, Sweden Kladdkka, Austrian Sachertorte are bound to make you indulge in these sinful choices.

Taproom, of this exquisite restaurant is  a hotspot for youngsters, as Crafted Beers and Bottled Wines are being served from  across the world.

The varied range of teas and coffees struck me as impressive. Italy Espresso, Turkey Turkish Coffee, India Desi Coffee, New Zealand Flat White to England Earl Grey, Thailand Thai Iced Tea, Morocco Maghrebi Mint Tea. Whew! Those were some offerings.

The impeccable service, warm vibe, good food which is easy-on-the wallet along with the stellar concept of sampling a new world cuisine each week throughout the year, is bound to make gourmet’s like me come back often to sample a new cuisine.

 

Akshaya Patra : Inexhaustible Efforts To Feed With Love

For the longest time I have been intrigued by the work done by The Akshaya Patra Foundation (TAPF).  Striving to address the issue of “classroom hunger” and promote “education” by providing nutritious meals to children in Government and Government-aided schools, their journey began in 2000, with the feeding of 1,500 children in 5 schools in Bengaluru. Today, they reach 13,210 schools, feeding over 1.65 million children every day in 11 states through their 27 kitchens.

An opportunity to visit and experience their Surat kitchen first hand, seemed like an interesting proposition. At the crack of dawn, one morning, I set out, as the operations in the kitchen begin really early and in order to see the work force in action, one had to get there early.

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The sheer scale of operations was mesmerizing. I had expected to see a big kitchen yes, but certainly not of this magnitude. I was awestruck with the hygiene, cleanliness and state-of-the-art equipment. The work force seemed well-trained and were seamlessly carrying out their work. I was impressed by the fact that practices like daily shower, use of clean uniforms, caps to cover the hair, face masks to cover the mouth and nose area, gloves, gumboots, other protective gears and hand sanitisation are mandatory.

 

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A strict kitchen process is observed which includes certain mandatory routines to be followed by each member of the kitchen staff. Food Safety Management Systems are implemented in all the kitchens be it centralised or decentralised, in order to handle, prepare and deliver food.  All kitchens run by the organisation follow a scheduled menu. All cauldrons, trolleys, rice chutes, dal/sambar tanks, cutting boards, knives and other instruments in these units are sanitised before usage every single day. All vessels used in the kitchens are made of food safe stainless steel of 304 Grade which is capable of enduring high levels of temperature for long intervals.

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Akshaya Patra is one of the best examples of PPP (Public Private Partnership) model, where Central Government, State Governments, Corporates and individual donors contribute to the cause, and the Mid-Day Meal Programme of the Government is successfully implemented through the efficient workmanship of Akshaya Patra.

The pre-production begins as early as 2-3 am in the morning, when vegetables, grains and other ingredients for that day’s meal are readied. The cooking process begins a bit later and the mid-day meals are ready to go out to schools carried by the special vans by 8.30-9 am.

The roti-making machine in particular seemed fascinating. The manner in which the dough is made, rolled out in sheets, cut into circular rotis, cooked and even smeared with ghee before getting into the containers is a treat to watch and inspiring.

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Similarly I was enthralled by the manner in which large vessels were used to cook rice and pulao with steam. The attention to detail by the work force is praiseworthy as is their dedication.

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Standardisation of recipes is an important factor while maintaining high levels of nutrition along with taste and TAPF strictly follows this. In order to achieve these levels, a well-structured Quality Assurance programme is implemented at all stages of Operations— Pre-Production, Production and Post-Production.

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Watching the meal being prepared was captivating enough, but equally gratifying was a visit to the School no. 301, Shree Purushottam Ji Prathmik Shala, Punagam, Surat. The meals arrived piping hot to the school in the special vans and were lovingly served by volunteers under the supervision of the Principal Chaya Ma’am and her team of teachers.

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Girls and boys queued in a disciplined manner to avail of the meals in steel thalis. The kabuli chana pulao and dal was the meal for that day, as the menu changes daily. I spoke to several children independently and discovered that they enjoyed this meal even more than what they ate at home and looked forward to it each day. What’s more, I sampled the meal myself and could vouch for the quality and taste.

The teachers informed me that they have never faced any quality issues with the meals. The meals are first tasted by the teachers before being served to the children. The meal quantity too is sufficient to feed all the children to their heart’s content.

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The Akshaya Patra Foundation is continuously leveraging technology to cater to millions of children. In partnership with the Government of India and various State Governments and the inestimable support from many philanthropic donors and well-wishers, Akshaya Patra has grown. Today, Akshaya Patra Foundation is the world’s largest (not-for-profit run) mid-day meal programme serving wholesome food to over 1.6 million children in 26 locations across 11 states in India

By leveraging the unique resources of the organisation, Akshaya Patra is all geared to fulfil its mission of ‘feeding 5 million children by 2020.’

As I stepped out of their Surat kitchen, having witnessed the painstaking operations by the dedicated work force, I had a silent prayer on my lips. I earnestly wish that they are able to reach their goals soon and in future, every hungry child in India is well-fed so that education is not an option, but a priority.