Saturday, December 26, 2009

Spice It at Hotel Ibis

The newly started Hotel Ibis on Nagar road has a lunch buffet at their restaurant called Spice It. Its a nice spacious place with a cheerful and bright decor. The weekday lunch buffet is reasonably priced at Rs.300/- a head. But as far as buffets go, its not a place which you will want to visit again and again.

First of all, the variety was slightly limited, but that can possibly be excused if its meant to be a working weekday lunch. What got me down was the quality of the only two non-veg items in the buffet. The fried Calamari was awefully chewy and the mutton curry with potatoes was undercooked. There was a choice of two soups and some salads which were decent enough. The veg items were much better with the panner makhanwala and dal makhani being the best of the lot. There was a pumpkin stew which I avoided. The live chinese counter - rice and noodles with a variety of sauces and chicken/egg/prawns was a good option, though there wasnt much difference in flavour whatever the combo you take.

The dessert section comprised a banana pie (avoidable), exquisite pineapple pastries, strawberry ice-cream, gulab jamuns and carrot halwa. Again the mistake of not having some chocolate based dessert left something to be desired. The service though was quite attentive, but that is to be expected for a new hotel with limited visitors at the moment. The restaurant a-la-carte menu is limited and priced at par with most hotels of this class in that area. So all in all, visit this place only if someone else is paying for the meal.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Good Breakfast Joints

Enough about fine dining places! Lets discuss a few good breakfast options in Pune which will ensure a merry start to your day.

For sheer quality and consistency through the years, Vaishali on FC Road would definitely be at the top if you are looking for a good South Indian breakfast. The onion tomato uttappas, idli wada sambar, the various dosa options, the filter coffee are probably the best in Pune. With all due respect to Wadeshwar, Madhuban and Ram Krishna, I have not tasted a better sambar and chutney anywhere else in Pune. Vaishali also makes a fabulous upma sambar and batata wada sambar and with their famous cold Bournvita provides a terrific start to your day.

If you are looking for a good and cheap bread-omlette breakfast, I don’t think you need to look beyond Vohuman Café and Good Luck. Cheese omlette, buttered toast and Irani chai at Vohuman Café will put you in such a great mood, you wont mind the slightly shabby ambience that has always been the way at Vohuman. Ask any of the regulars here and they will swear by the place.
Good Luck as everyone knows is another Irani joint on Deccan and with a similar, albeit slightly better ambience than Vohuman. Bun omlette, scrambled eggs on toast, baked beans on toast, sweet French toast, brun maska and chai – can you think of anything better for that ‘feel-good’ breakfast? Both these places get full with their regular patrons, so mind that you go early.

The popular German Bakery has plenty of healthy and slightly unusual breakfast options. Mostly frequented by foreigners and Osho people, this place has only continental-style dishes with various egg, potato and bread items like the Spanish omlette and fried egg on mashed potatoes, home-made muesli and cereals, variety of fruit and vegetable juices, sandwiches, cakes and what-not. They also have a lot of snack items on display which you can order or parcel home with you. It’s a shaded cozy little place, though not very comfortable with wooden benches for chairs.

Now if you are looking for more expensive places for breakfast with non-veg options, then Mocha is a good bet to go for. There you will find pancakes and waffles, mind-blowing omlettes and Panini sandwiches, crustinis and croque monsieurs and an amazing selection of coffees. Mocha is very comfortable and people here spend hours chatting away with friends. It’s a little expensive, but the food is worth it and definitely a place where you can indulge in now and then.

Fine dining buffet breakfasts – Le Meridien is the best in this category. Priced at 450 a head, the variety is mind-boggling and I guarantee you will not be able to have another meal in the day if you sample all the available options here in the buffet. Everything from cold meats, eggs made to order, waffles, pancakes, south Indian items, milkshakes, juices, fruits, cereals, variety of breads and on and on. Spare a couple of hours for breakfast and do visit on some special occasion. Aubergine (on Nagar road) and the Glass Window (Deccan Rendezvous) also have good breakfast buffets and priced cheaper than the Le Meridien one.

Apart from these places, if you want some typical Maharashtrian (upma, pohe, misal, khichadi) breakfast fare, you can try the Sunday buffet breakfast at Shabree for Rs.100. Café Coffee Day is a decent option for a quick sandwich-coffee breakfast. Or Marzorin of course, for chicken mayo rolls, almond macroons and cold coffee.

So go ahead and explore and let me know how it works out. Also any new places you find, I will be very interested in knowing!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Polka Dots

Polka Dots is a small inconspicuous eatery located in Aundh and Kalyaninagar. But for a diehard foodie, its a very valuable joint in Pune’s gourmet scene.

It’s not a place where you can have a nice romantic dinner or a quiet family outing. It’s a place which you can frequent with a group of college friends or office colleagues. The crowd is young and colourful and the décor is minimalistic. Its best to go very early, especially if you are going for dinner as the place gets packed to the brim soon.

The main thing about Polka Dots is the eclectic cuisine on offer and quite reasonably priced. They specialize in continental food, though the menu does have some Indian options as well. The food is rarely disappointing in quality and well presented with the Paprika Chicken, Traditional Roast Chicken, Chicken Teriyaki, Shepherd’s Pie that are at the top my mind, having sampled them recently. The menu also boasts of specialty dishes from around the globe like the Hungarian goulash, the Greek moussaka , Italian pastas and the traditional Thai curries among others. The only downbeat thing about the food is probably the quantity. If you are really hungry, then maybe one dish may not suffice and you may have to order a side dish as well. Most of the main course dishes are priced for Rs.185/- Veg options are slightly limited, but the desserts are definitely worth going for. And sorry, no alcohol here!

For me, Polka Dots will always be among the first places in the list for an economical, yet delicious continental dinner.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Mixed experience at the Season Hotel

After planning for a long time, I was finally able to check out what the Seasons Hotel, Aundh has to offer in terms of a dining experience. From what I was able to try out, I came away with fairly mixed feelings about the place.

I visited their sports bar, Time Out, recently with a group of dear friends for a drinking night out. Its a decently designed lounge with limited seating, but a good deal of privacy with each group having their own private corner. The flat screen TVs and the sports related decor lends a theme to this bar. The low sofa seating and the dim lighting is perfect for the place. The drinks menu is pretty impressive and is not overly expensive. All the cocktails were quite strong and well prepared. The snacks and appetisers on offer were quite tasty and overall we had good fun watching the T20 game and getting blown.

That night, Flavours, which is the multi-cuisine buffet restaurant there had an Oriental festival going on. Even though we were all quite full with the cocktails and snacks at Time Out, we still grabbed our plates and sampled the Chinese food available. Sadly, the buffet was quite disappointing with both the variety and quality on offer. There were 2 non-veg main courses and 2 non-veg starters and surprisingly, more variety in the veg section. The pineapple rice was pretty bad and the only other option was regular steamed rice. The soup was nothing great either. So at the end we were more interested in what the desserts would hold rather than the free glass of wine on offer. Of the 4 dessert choices available, coconut custard was the best and the only one worth even tasting.Priced at Rs.500 a head, it definitely was not worth it.

So, a week after this visit, I surprised myself by revisiting Seasons again. This time to try out the rooftop Greek food restaurant called Galaxy Grill, with my darling wife. I have never tried Greek food before and was quite eager to sample the cuisine despite the exorbitant rates there. The ambience at this place is quite wonderful and definitely among the best in Pune. I always feel Pune does not have enough terrace restaurants and this one situated by the poolside and elaborately decorated is quite a pretty place. The soft Greek music and the very nicely designed seating set the mood for the evening. Thankfully, they have a set menu for the night and priced at Rs.650 a head is relatively better compared to the a-la-carte prices (between Rs.400-600 for a main course dish). The set menu includes one soup, starter, salad, main course and dessert which you have to choose out of 3-4 options. The chicken,egg and lemon soup was really nice and the fried squid starter was quite good. The tiger prawns and pasta course and the apple crunch for the sweet dish were mind-blowing. A word of advice though; avoid the minced chicken in vine leaves and stay clear of the a-la-carte menu.

I might still go ahead and try their Punjabi outdoor restaurant, Cinnamon Spice, and the tempting cake shop, Cakes and More. Galaxy Grill is quite a romantic place, but visit only if you are in a mood to experiment with the food. I would advise my friends to avoid Flavours and Time Out is worth it if you want to combine a cricket match and drinking session with your buddies.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

MoMo Cafe

Courtyard Marriott's MoMo Cafe is another addition to Pune's growing buffet places. Though this all day dining restaurant does have an a la carte option, the very high pricing on the menu leaves the buffet as the more popular choice. And the buffet does not disappoint. Once you are ready to shell out Rs. 400/- plus taxes for the meal, sit back and have a good time.

First of all, the ambience of this restaurant is among the more classier ones in the city. The high ceiling, tall French windows, carpets and the tasteful decor allows you to relax while you enjoy your meal. The buffet spread is quite vast and the style of displaying the dishes is very aesthetically done. There is plenty of space, plenty of light and plenty of good food on offer. The place attracts a lot of IT crowd being located in Hinjewadi and is quite packed throughout the week, so reserve a place well in advance. The buffet has both continental and Indian style non-veg and veg starters, soups, Indian style main courses, a wonderfully stocked salad bar with dozens of condiments and vinaigrettes and an array of desserts.

I visited the place a few days back with my entire family and we all enjoyed the food. The starters included murgh afghan tikkas, crispy chilly babycorn, grilled fish with tartar sauce and fried chicken with pepper sauce. All were really good, especially the fish. The soups of the day were an Oriental non-veg soup and a Zucchini veg soup, but were a little disappointing. Of the various salads on offer, a special mention must be made of the chicken walnut salad which was mind-blowing. In the main course, there were plenty of veg options of which I remember only the bhindi masala, dal tadka and a paneer preparation. I was too caught up enjoying the delectable mutton and chicken preparations. Both were cooked Indian style and left me licking my fingers.

Of the entire experience, the desserts that day were a little disappointing. Not with the number available though. The strawberry mousse, lemon mousse, fruit salad, kala jamuns, jam tarts were all good. But I could have easily skipped the assorted pastries including an unusual basil one and the caramel creme. However what frustrated me the most, was there wasnt any chocolate based dessert or even ice-cream in the dessert spread that day, which is a cardinal sin.

But I had an enjoyable evening here and its for the tastefully done decor and the tastefully done dishes that I will remember the place.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


A very fine and recent addition to the dining scene in the Kothrud/Deccan region has been Xia, a pan-Asian restaurant located just off Karve Road. It has been started by the Kiva Lounge people and hence you can be assured of having a good experience there. However please note that this is not a lounge at all, but a regular fine dining restaurant with an awesome food and drinks menu. The food, especially is very good and has never disappointed on the numerous occasions that we have visited the place.

Xia has both indoor and outdoor seating, but we have always preferred to sit indoors since the place is located on the busy and noisy Karve road. Its not a big restaurant and hence go well in time to get your choice of place. They have tried to do an Oriental and bamboo sort of theme to the place which, though not as well as desired, does provide some distinguishing character to the place with Buddhist statues and paintings, and cane and leather furniture. A well stocked bar is visible as you enter the indoor seating on the first floor.

But the ambience is not the key factor here. The food is what will bring you back to this restaurant again and again. Xia serves a variety of dishes from Chinese, Thai, Indonesian, Burmese, Japanese, Korean and Malaysian cuisine. All the dishes mentioned on the menu have options in veg, chicken, lamb or fish. They also have the old Varunraj restaurant menu in case you want to go for the regular Indian fare. Their specialties include the Pattaya, Nasi Goreng, Burmese khow suey, roasted chilly chicken and the red Thai curry. On my last occasion there with some close friends, we tried the roast lamb and a chicken papaya salad as appetisers with our martinis. The main course comprised of the Pattaya, fish prepared in Burmese style with steamed rice and the malay parathas.

Verdict: The pan-Asian preparations at Xia are among the best that you will sample in Pune at that price. The food as well as drinks are easy on the wallet and definitely value for money. The service is prompt and polite. Visit this place if you are looking for budget dining with quality Oriental food and a good bar service in the Kothrud/Deccan area.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Lunch buffet at Kokum

I dont think a lot of people have heard of Kokum yet. Its an upscale south Indian style fine dining restaurant located in Viman Nagar.I have been there a few times for their weekday lunch buffets and have come away quite satisfied with the experience. Not that I am terribly fond of Andhra or Tamil style of cooking, but at least the buffet at Kokum allows you to sample some of the best dishes that the south of India can offer. Priced at Rs.275 for the weekday lunch, this buffet is definitely value for money.

One of the things that draws me to this place is the ambience. The wood and dark green colour theme with the traditional lamps at the centre give a very comfortable and soothing feel to the restaurant. After you load your first plate with some typical appetisers from the south like chicken or fish fry and dry mutton and fill your soup bowls with crabmeat soup or whatever are the soups of the day, you can sit back and relax in the cool atmosphere. There arent too many starters or salads to spoil your appetite and you can start off on the main course in your second round to the buffet.

I am not well versed with the south Indian names of the dishes on offer, but I was told by a good friend of mine who is knowledgable in this style of cuisine, that the main course includes dishes from all the southern states. Fortunately, the staff is there to guide you through the buffet if required and the English descriptions are also written below each dish. I have never sampled the veg courses here as I am not too fond of them especially cooked in south Indian style. However the chicken, fish and mutton dishes in the buffet have always been very well cooked and the taste has been to my liking. Typical of the cuisine, they are a little spicy, but if you enjoy spicy food, you will love these. The dessert section is not very vast unlike some other buffets, but all the desserts are worth trying. Again I am not fond of the payasam, but the chocolate balls, butterscotch pastries, fruit salad and the tastiest vanilla ice-cream I have ever had is a very satisfying end to the buffet.

I have never tried a la carte here as the dishes seem to be expensively priced, but I am inclined to try that the next time I go. Or I would love to try their dinner thalis sometime which are also very good I am told. All in all, Kokum is not a place which I would frequently visit as I am not terribly fond of south Indian cooking, but the lunch buffet is worth a visit if you want to experiment or try out something new, at a comparatively low cost.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Dessert coffees at CCD

After a gap of several months, I had occasion to visit the Cafe Coffee Day chain four times in the space of a week. Normally I have the hot coffees there, but this time I decided to indulge myself and try out their dessert coffees. Apart from their staple hot and cold coffees, CCD boasts of serving some premium cream blended cold coffees which I am calling as dessert coffees here. There are four of them - kaapi nirvana, cafe frappe, devil's own and choco frappe. I tried each one during my recent visits and have concluded that only one of them requires special mention.

Out of these, Devil's Own is undoubtedly the best dessert coffee served there. It is a smooth blend of cream & coffee, drenched with chocolate sauce, topped up with some whipped cream and coffee beans. First of all, it tastes like coffee and not a milkshake as the others. It is not too milky and heavy on the stomach and has less ice in it in any form. I actually craved to have more of this coffee preparation on finishing my tall glass of the brew, while the others I did not crave for more. All in all, if you want to spend about a hundred bucks on some coffee at CCD, you wont be dissatisfied if you choose the Devil's Own.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Royal Symphony

Have you
ever been to a restaurant where the food, ambience, service was all good, but still you dont feel like revisiting the place? Simply because the place has no character, no USP. I recently had an occasion to go for a dinner party to one such place. It was at the President hotel's restaurant called Royal Symphony.

It is a decent place with good lighting and ample space even for big dinner party groups like ours was that night. The menu is predominantly North Indian (serving non-veg as well) with a few chinese and continental dishes thrown in. I thought the prices were a little steep for the place with the regular non-veg fare priced over Rs. 250 per dish. We had a few rounds of vodka with tonic water with the usual Indian appetisers like chicken tikka, chilly chicken, veg platter, reshmi kabab and the like. The food was good, the service was good and the table conversation was good. And yet, the whole experience left something missing.

First of all, the restaurant was very silent with hardly any tables filled. Also there was no soft music playing in the background and nothing around in the decor of the place to catch one's attention. The table settings were the standard run-of-the-mill stuff and even the menu card and the menu were uninspiring. In short, there was no USP and no character to the place to draw you back. The food was surprisingly good though with the murgh musallam and the lucknowi gosht being very tasty. The chicken biryani was among the better ones I have ever had. The fresh lychees with ice-cream and the generously sized sizzling brownees went down well.

However, Royal Symphony is a little too standard for my liking and the place does not leave you with a very good impression to call for a revisit.
The food is definitely good, but I would rather spend the same amount at Deccan Rendezvous or even Koyla for that matter.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Chicken sandwiches anyone?

Tell me which is the first place that comes to your mind when you think of chicken sandwiches. Or let me put it this way - Which places would you go to if you want to have a decent chicken sandwich at different times in your day? I have not been able to find out the right answer to this yet, but some of the places below definitely spring to my mind.

What is it about chicken mayo sandwiches and cold coffee at Marzorin? I guess some childhood memories of pigging out on the same on many an evening. The same quality and taste has been maintained over the years by Marzorin. Simply done with mayo and chicken, and yet very delighful. Perfect for a warm summer evening. So whenever you are next in Camp, do stop for a moment and sample these for sure.

Have you had the grilled cheesy chicken sandwiches at Mocha? Please do! Warm and tasty to the core. At Mocha - you get them in various forms; as paninis or as croque monsieur. But man, they make my mouth water whenever I think of them. Totally different from the Marzorin ones, paninis have some other fillings along with chicken and are toasted. The herbed chicken panini is a good one to have. Hot grilled, with melted cheese and chicken are the croque monsieurs. Ideal to have on a cold rainy day with some hot coffee.

I recently had a chicken sandwich at Burger King, yes the same one on East Street and just before ABC Farms. Not too bad I would say. Three layered and stuffed with chicken and cheese and toasted is their style. With fried potato chips. Reasonably priced and very filling. If you want to have a quick bite for lunch, then the chicken and cheese sandwich at Burger King will definitely serve the purpose.

I have been hearing about a particularly buttery and warm chicken sandwich being served at a popular "quarter joint" in the Deccan area. Surprised?? If you are, then you dont know Swagat.
For every food item served there is really good. They just dont serve bad dishes! I have not yet had the opportunity to try it out, but I am assured of the quality of their chicken sandwich. Though I was not aware that a chicken sandwich can go so well with a peg of rum or beer, till I tried one myself at Apache. Small toasted finger sandwiches with coleslaw. Perfect to wash down with a pint.

Then there are the popular coffee joints, the Cafe Coffee Days and the Baristas. They also are quite adept in making a chicken sandwich. Maybe a chic tikka sandwich or the smoked chicken one. Again, just the right amount of chicken and soft bread. A little pricey maybe, but then the mood is also different. Have it with either a hot or cold coffee or a juice. Goes well with everything and gives you that satisfying feeling.

So there you have it. Chicken sandwiches for every occasion. Of course, there would be many more places that serve good ones (do tell me if you know), but for starters, go ahead and explore the ones above.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Chinese food in VimanNagar??

If you are ever in VimanNagar hunting for a decent place for lunch, do check out a nondescript eatery called Chang's.
Its Chinese of course!! If you are to summarize the place, its a very cozy and value for money joint with quick service and good food. We have been to Chang's quite often on our Friday office lunches and never once has the place disappointed.

Its a small air-conditioned eatery with an inviting glass facade and half shaded by trees. Not many folks seem to have discovered this place since you will always find it half empty. But believe me, the food is definitely something to look forward to. The soups and chicken dumplings are wonderfully made and the stewed rice and Peking chicken have always been upto the mark. To get an idea of the rates, a meal for 4 will cost about Rs.800. So if you are searching for a neighbourhood Chinese restaurant in VimanNagar, you have found one now!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Barbeque Nation: Review

Let me start my blogging journey by sharing my dining experience at one of my favourite buffet places -
Barbeque Nation! Located on Nagar Road, Barbeque Nation provides the gourmand with a mind-numbing variety of items in their buffets.

My recent visit to Barbeque Nation was on Saturday night and as usual, the place was packed to the brim. Inspite of reserving a table, we had to wait for a good half hour to get a place. However, the wait was worth it and soon we were digging into the juicy kebabs and the dazzling array of starters. If you have not been to Barbeque Nation before, then the appetizer course itself will be an experience. To ensure that the starters remain hot and tempting, they are skewered and a grill is placed on each table. Care is taken to ensure that the veg and non-veg skewers are kept apart from each other. There were 5 veg and 5 non-veg starters (grilled prawns, fish tandoor, lamb kebabs and some chicken ones). And trust me, it was difficult to say which was the best, all were very very tasty and made to perfection. Did not sample all the veg ones, but the couple of ones I tasted were really good.

A new and welcome addition to their dinner buffets is the presence of a live sea-food and pasta counter. And for me that was the highlight of the buffet. You can get the chef to whip up whatever style of seafood dish you want - crabs in butter garlic sauce, grilled rawas, prawns pasta, mussels in white sauce were some of the ones we had.

After you push down the little flag on the table to signal that you are done with the starters, its time to move on to the main course... that is, if you have any appetite left. All I could do was just glance at all the courses available. The usual chicken, mutton, fish, paneer, dal etc dishes which do not look very appetizing after the starters. So I just skipped the main course and moved onto the desserts. The dessert selection is also not as tempting, however I could not say no to angoori gulab jamun with vanilla ice-cream. It was superb and a perfect way to end the meal. There were some small pastries and an apple pie as well, but if you have to go for one dessert, that was the one.

All in all, a very nice experience; provided you get a table on time. The ambience is very comfortable and there is a wood and glass theme in the place, which is quite pleasing. The dinner buffet is priced at Rs.510/- (including taxes), which may be a little steep and the service is a little clumsy at times. However, if you want to sample some really nice grilled non-veg starters, then this is the place to go.