Tag Archives: memorable

Grand(eur) all the way

Visiting any place in Gujarat always excites me as the State is so rich in art and culture and the prospect of getting a glimpse of that, in itself is an attraction.

So when Vadodara, beckoned, as Surya Palace, the iconic hotel in the city of Vadodara was being rebranded to Grand Mercure Vadodara Surya Palace, it was reason enough to pay a visit.

Chukh chukh chakh chakh Bombay se Baroda tak. Rishi Kapoor’s famous song from the film ‘Rafoo Chakkar’ was playing in my head as I travelled by train to Vadodora, albeit from Surat.

Surya Palace is synonymous with Vadodara and boasts of warm hospitality, great food and impeccable service. But of course I needed to experience it for myself. Add to that the involvement of the world famous AccorHotels now, so the expectations were really high.

The warm welcome and smooth check in won my heart instantly. But it was the lobby with a display of a plethora of art works that caught my attention. I was mesmerized.

From the sculptures by Nagji Patel in the porch and the ceramic works of P. R. Daroz, Jyoti Bhatt, along with display of Padma Vibhushan Prof. K G. Subramanium’s paintings, it was like walking into a beautiful art gallery. That itself gave me an insight into the rich heritage of this hotel and its connect with the city of Vadodara.

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My well-appointed room with warm earthy colours, beautiful paintings and replete with amenities, appealed to me instantly. The attention to detail struck me as outstanding. Bharat Kumar Gupta, the Front Office Manager and his team were omnipresent, always ready to assist and help at any time of the day or night.

Deluxe King Room - Gand Mercure Vadodara Surya Palace

Jean-Michel Cassé, Chief Operating Officer, India & South Asia, AccorHotels rightly said, “Grand Mercure is a cultural touchstone in each destination, capturing guests’ imagination and bringing local stories to life.” It certainly held true for Grand Mercure Surya Palace Vadodara.

Piyush Shah, Managing Director, Jindal Hotels Ltd with Jean-Michel Cassé, Chief Operating Officer, India & South Asia, AccorHotels at the launch of Grand Mercure Vadodara Surya Palace

The food, which is always the pivot of my existence, in more ways than one, surpassed my expectations. I expected to eat only Vegetarian food in Gujarat and perhaps only local delicacies, but Executive Chef Sudhakar Angre’s prowess in Non-vegetarian food at each meal surprised me at Azure, the all-day dining restaurant.  The quality of ingredients, the presentation and cooking methods used were impressive. No where was there an instance of spices overpowering the flavours. The ingredients were the hero. The sheer variety offered at each meal was amazing. From chicken quesadillas to lamb rogan josh and from panki to undhiyo, there was everything on offer. The Mediterranean offerings were equally lip-smacking. The local food was of course a treat for our taste buds- khaman, fafda, jalebis, sev tameta nu shaak etc

Vanilla the delicatessen, was hard to resist each time we stood in the lobby as the display of freshly made desserts, cookies, cakes, was alluring.

Just when I thought, I had sampled it all, the traditional Gujarati thali served to us for dinner on our last night there, swept me off my feet. The spread in the thali was expectedly varied, but the authenticity of the dishes and the manner in which it was served, left me awe struck. The local breads of Gujarat served were outstanding as were the aamras, kadhi, dal, undhyo, bhindi. It was a feast fit for royalty.

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The cultural function organsied by the Hotel giving us a peek into Gujarat’s rich cultural heritage was a treat as was the visit to places of interest like the Laxmi Vilas Palace and Fateh Singh Museum.

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Rajesh Gopalakrishnan, General Manager, Grand Mercure Vadodara Surya Palace said, “Grand Mercure Vadodara Surya Palace will provide a unique dimension for guests staying at the property. With a distinctive portfolio of accommodation, dining destinations and MICE facilities, we are set to define new standards of hospitality and look forward to cater to the city’s growing tourism and business activities.”

Well, if the launch and my personal experience was anything to go by, the 146 room, Grand Mercure Vadodara Surya Palace certainly was all set to achieve this and more.

Sensationally Sensory

“A good fragrance is really a powerful cocktail of memories and emotion.”  A wise man once said this and there is ample truth in his words.
Last night’s dinner at Romano’s JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar will remain firmly etched in my memory for ever. I can even close my eyes and recall all that I ate. Such are the memories. And this has a lot to do with the fragrances created painstakingly by Chef Roberto and his team after months of research and hard work.

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Aromas, as the promotion was rightly titled, was fragrant from word go. The ten herb and ingredients infused distilled edible fragrances like nutmeg, saffron, oregano, rosemary, coffee, orange, sage, thyme, vanilla, fennel were every diner’s playful kit for the evening. Bottled in delicate glass perfume bottles these were both enticing and inviting.

With the special dishes created by Chef Roberto using fresh ingredients of the best quality and keeping the flavours simple, not letting anything overpower those, one was to merely experiment with these fragrances. “Spray some on your fork as you taste a mouthful of the dish,” Chef Roberto explained with a smile. No, these were not paired with each dish, but one had the freedom to try these as per one’s preferences and tastes.

With the baby burrata and lychee I got adventurous  as I sprayed rosemary first and the burrata came alive with a myriad flavours. Of course nothing interfered with its distinct taste. Fennel, coffee, thyme. I was on an experimental spree, enjoying myself thoroughly. Even though no dish was particularly paired with the fragrances, the flavours complemented each other so well. I marveled at Chef’s thought process.

The snow beans and fennel carpaccio was simplicity personified. Once could taste each ingredient clearly and the freshness shone through.

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As my meal progressed, I realised how the flavours in each dish were kept subtle so as to experiment unbridled with the fragrances, which were meant to enhance the dining experience. And truly they were doing just that.

There were other exciting options for appetizers on the menu too. Parma ham with robiola cheese, heirloom tomato with buffalo mozzarella.

For mains, I was blown with the flavours and textures of the house-made tagliolini pasta with black garlic, chili and extra virgin olive oil. Simple and unpretentious. The black garlic actually added the zest to the dish. Flawless. And yes,  I was not missing my meats at all today.

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The Chilean sea bass with mild flavours but a distinct texture on a bed of eggplant was a delight for the taste buds. Here too I tried fragrances like rosemary, sage, and even nutmeg and they all passed in flying colours for my taste buds were tantalized sufficiently.

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What can I say about the deconstructed tiramisu? Apart from being a treat for the palate, it was perfectly executed. Avant garde in presentation but absolutely authentic and true to its classic ingredients. The chocolate mousse on meringue, surpassed my expectations as it was an amalgamation of flavours and textures which immediately satisfied your sweet cravings.

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Yet, again, as always, Chef Roberto had excelled. His offerings were unique, the execution, flawless.

I walked out of Romano’s with a smile as the whiff of those fragrances lingered on in my memory and always will.

On till June 4 for dinner, do try this if you want to embark upon a once in a lifetime food journey.

Rating: 4.5/5

Rediscovering Cashew-The wonder fruit of Goa

I have loved cashews ever since I can remember. Roasted, plain or in marzipans. I love them in any form. Being married to a Goan, of course I am now well-versed with the importance of cashews in Goa and its popularity, but it was only recently that I rediscovered the fruit, apart from the nut, I am so familiar with.

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Park Hyatt Resort & Spa Goa’s Cashew Trail beckoned us to Goa. I am ever willing to go to Goa, just as most of us are. But in reality, it was the cashew related itinerary, which intrigued me.

As a food and beverage writer, I was keen to know more about feni and urak, the drinks made from cashew apple and of course cocktails made with these. I was equally curious to see how Chefs infuse the cashew into a variety of dishes across cuisines. And that’s exactly what the culinary wizards at Park Hyatt Goa did. I was mesmerized.

I was in for a surprise at Casa Sarita, the Goan restaurant at the Hotel. The special five-course menu was paired with urak, feni aged one year, an Oak Cask 2012 edition feni and a Port Oak Cask 2010 edition feni. These feni selections were specially presented by the Vaz family for Cashew Trail 2015.

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I loved the passion with which Mac Vaz painstakingly explained each feni as we got ready to sip it with each course. I have great regard for Chef Edridge  of Casa Sarita, who is a master of his craft. He loves his Goan cuisine and knows it really well. Well enough to, give it his own contemporary twist. And yet, the dishes are authentic. That’s what makes him a class apart.

Chef Edridge Vaz - Casa Sarita

We began with the Assiette of seafood peri peri and Cauliflower tondak served with first pressed coconut milk and salted cumin biscotti. Exquisite flavours enveloped my mouth, as, I savoured each morsel. The spices used were 100% Goan and the modern twist to it was laudable. Light and flavourful, I relished the cauliflower tondak. The cumin biscotti added the right amount of zest to the course, in terms of the crunch. Never knew Vegetarian Goan food could be so appeasing. The Cinnamon feni sorbet meant to be our palate cleanser, was so delicious that it well could have been my dessert. Smooth in texture, it almost had a creamy feel to it.

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The highlight of the evening was the Alle Belle Cold Cheese cake with Cashew Jam. It had me spellbound. A traditional sweet of Goa, Chef had presented and served it so interestingly. It looked so appetising that my heart broke to upset his presentation on the plate. The base of the dessert was crispy and crunchy, juxtaposed perfectly with the smooth and creamy cheese cake on top. The highlight undoubtedly was the cashew jam, which I tasted for the first time ever. Chef Edridge had yet again proved his mastery. This was an example of innovation at its best.

The gourmet dinner and exquisite fenis proved to be a heady experience.

If the dinner, was an extraordinary experience, so were our subsequent meals, where cashews were so skillfully integrated into various dishes. Pulaos, curries, lentils, soups, chutneys and dips. Yes, there was cashew in all of these and more. And yet, the palate never did tire of it, even though we relished this cuisine for three days, albeit in different forms. The Cashew Trail finale brunch replete with cashew based dishes is something I will always remember and cherish. Each dish stood apart from the other. The chefs’ creativity knew no bounds today.

What can I say about the cocktails created with feni and urak? any of these were a revelation for me as I discovered several spices and seasonal fruits which were cleverly used with feni and urak to create the innovative Buenisima, Orange Sunrise and Fenirinha among others.

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Apart from savouring myriad cashew creations in various forms, the picking of the cashew apple at the Cashew farm in Valpoi and watching the feni being distilled, is something which made this trip so memorable and the experience unparalleled.

And as I sit at home in Mumbai and bite into my cashew chikki and relish the cashew nut and mango chutney, so generously provided by the Hotel, as our lil’ giveaway, I get nostalgic about the 4th Cashew Trail at Park Hyatt Goa. I had embarked on a guilt-free, hedonistic journey, but I am not complaining. For this one, once is clearly, not enough.