Fort JadhavGadh : Vacation like royalty

Sometimes its hard not to let the city take toll on you. No matter how many weekends you try unwinding with friends in the cafes, lazing around on Sunday afternoons and working from home on Mondays just cause you can, a long drive away from the city hustle is what your mind actually craves.

And you, like me, may not realize it. But I only realized how much I needed a break when I set foot in the 300 year old fort-turned-hotel, that looked deceptively very far away from the city but actually took us only an hour and half drive to reach.

 Just about 22 kms away from the main city, this heritage hotel is much more than just a place to spend the night. The fort has been preserved in all its essence with only minimal, functional changes done to the structure to make it habitable. The grounds of the property provide beautiful sweeping views and makes for a great for hikes and walks. Or just staring at dreamily.

Our arrival to the property were welcomed by trumpets and drums, like royalty. In fact, all guests are given this special treatment and I never got tired of the sudden blasts of invigorating drumming the entire day. Mr. Biswajit and Mr. Lobo, in charge of the property, personally greeted us and showed us around to our rooms.

Our rooms were The Kholi- Deluxe rooms from their selection of rooms. The rooms had a part of the 300 year old fort wall on one side and some newly added partitions that made it really thrilling. There were cozy nooks around the room which were probably embrasures on the fort walls that were used in the olden days to fire cannons from, but now were (thankfully) used just to provide some natural light to the space.

The room also had window seats over looking the small walk-way outside and were wide enough cushioned and cushioned enough for one to laze/ sleep around.

The highlight of the day was perhaps the audio tour we got to the whole property. The good thing about the audio tour is that it does away with guides all together and any need to hurry or drag your pace in comparison to your fellow tour-takers. Each of us were handed headsets, maps to the property, information brochures and audio devices which could be operated manually to provide commentary in Hindi, English or Marathi.

The tour covered all parts of the fort including the scary looking, very dark and very narrow dungeon that triggered my claustrophobia quite a bit. But I did manage to climb down into it and have a look around in the dank, musty blackness before fleeing out.

The tour then took us to the original water reservoir or the kund that has now been transformed to a fancy temperature-controlled swimming pool.The swimming pool area has an island with a couple of neem trees you could lounge under.

The grounds also house the Aai (Mother) museum. It houses the small but very detailed collection lovingly curated by Doctor Vithal Venkatesh Kamat and dedicated to mothers across the world. The museum doesn't allow cameras but it's a treasure trove of knowledge that you could spend hours in.

The whole property is green and beautiful intact with a 200 year old temple where young couples can still get married if it strikes their particular fancy. But in any case, the hotel management has been trying to brand itself as a candidate for destination weddings. To be honest, a heritage fort could be a good place to host a lavish wedding.

There are a lot of activities to be involved in and fun to be had. Guests can indulge in archery, shooting, paintball, segway rides, zip lining or rappelling if they are in need of a distraction. Or they can simply take a hike up the hills lining one side of the fort that overlooks a stone quarry and lake and the fort with its beautiful grounds.

Meals are extensive affair with each served as a buffet. We had our breakfasts and lunches at the CHAJJA restaurant, closest to the rooms.

Dinner was had at the spacious PAYATHA, which touts itself as a ethnic foothill restaurant. I found the food more or less similar in taste, though the dishes may have been different.

With all the jazz about the place, the food wasn't really the high point of the visit. But what really got us on our feet was the amazing LAVANI and MARTIAL ARTS SHOW before dinner. The men performing the show performed brilliant stunts with fire and swords and like that ensured we remained at the edge of our seats until it was over.

LAVANI, a traditional maharashtrian dance form was enjoyed by the entire crowd and was the most popular show. The beautiful women, decked in sarees and jewellery made sure the crowd was engaged for the entire span of 2 hours that they were on the floor. No sooner, they had us dancing with them. Know Marathi or not, having fun is something everyone surely understands!

Next day was a day to bid the hotel a goodbye and we half wished to stay a bit more longer. I bid farewell to Jadhavgadh by fitting in a quick dip in the pool in the morning before we packed to leave. I mean, come on, wouldn't you?

It was a short trip, yes. Very (very) close to the city, yes. But the fun we had was immense. We got back to our regular monotone with happy hearts and lifted spirits. Isn't that what's a vacation about?

A big thanks to the entire team at Jadhavgadh for treating us like royalties. Also, hugs to the lovely Neha Joshi for having us come over.

If you are interested in staying over for the weekends or planning a one day fun trip for your family, I do recommend checking with the hotel for special packages suited to your needs! Do let us know how you liked the place and tag us in your pictures!

Unwind at Unwind

Sealing Koregaon Park's fate as one of the most popular party and hang out zone in Pune, is the brand new entrant. Rubbing shoulders with the oldies like Hard Rock Cafe is the spanking new complex of Unwind.

My initial impression of the place, when I first got there for the launch, was that it looked incredibly like a classy Goa shack with live music and people thronging the area. The ambience, needless to say, was incredible for a weekend night out.
The most recent visit I had was for a quiet dinner in the Bistro area and it was a spacious location, overlooking the alfresco area. Its very open and breezy space, with wooden table and chairs giving it a very beachy feel.

Unwind is now soon going to unveil its incredible night club which seems kick ass just by the sound of it. But if you are visiting for a nice meal here are a few tips you could use from my experience of the place!

Chicken Kebab

Here are the things that I thought were amazing and you should try!
  • DRINKS: Frankly going by how they want to market themselves, they are on point with the drinks. All the concoctions are great and you might want to get a bit more adventurous with the drinks menu to find out what really ticks your taste buds.
    I downed quite a number of MOJITOs which is hard to go wrong with but they still did a pretty good job nevertheless. Another favorite that you can try if you are not adventurous is the white wine based, HUGO, which was definitely the star of the table that night.
  • DIM SUMS: I loved all the dim sums that we were served that night and especially loved how they were paired so well with the accompanying sauces. I particularly favored the CHICKEN DIM SUMS though and quite liked the BROCCOLI AND WATER CHESTNUT one as well.

  • MALAI BROCCOLI: I know right? Broccoli has been the bane of my existence growing up with my mother sneaking it into my food ever so often. We have been at loggerheads until I was served this cracking of a dish. We actually had seconds and maybe thirds. But seriously guys, vegetarian or no, give this dish a shot. You might be in for a surprise.
  • CHILLI GARLIC FISH was supposed to be an appetizer but it came with a nice thick gravy that made me wish for a bowl of piping, hot steamed rice so bad! The fish was delicately cooked and the gravy was beautiful, but it can be disappointing if you order this for starters. I'd definitely treat this as mains.
  • I was eyeing the SOBA NOODLES in the menu since the time I sat down at the table. And it was worth all the wait! It was so good with the eggs on them. Definitely go for them. Soba Noodles are made out of buckwheat flour so they have this really amazing flavor, almost nutty. I really enjoyed this one.
  • PRAWN THAI RED CURRY was a beautiful, beautiful curry that I just wanted to carry home, snuggle under a blanket in front of the telly and hog on it till I was fat and happy. It was absolutely comforting and with the steamed, sticky rice absolutely heaven. Try it, please?

And now the things I'd suggest you miss, in case you were wanting to try it at Unwind:
  • FLATBREADS: Maybe it was just me, but the flat breads didn't sit well with me at all. Was it the blandness? or the weird cheese? I don't know but I'd personally steer clear of all the flat breads when I'm down there for my Soba Noodles run. Only other thing flat about these breads was the taste.

  • I nearly chocked on BARBADOS KE JHINGE. I do believe it could be amazing because it sounds incredible on paper. Marinated prawns flambéed with old monk. But sadly all the flambé left the prawns swimming in rum which only made it bitter. Too cloying for my palate. Maybe someone into Rum may like it? Now that's a thought, but you wouldn't really be tasting any prawns though.
  • The only dessert we had that night was the CHOCOLATE MUD PIE which did look tempting. The consistency was however very congealed and thick. It was a bit unyielding to my spoon and didn't want to be eaten that day. So I let it go, with a taste of course. :D
    But I guess they have a lot of other desserts to choose from that you can try.

In spite of these minor setbacks, you can definitely opt for Unwind for a good place to.... unwind(?) at the end of the day. Also, I guess we also have to take in the consideration of the fact that this is a really new place and it's still evolving everyday. They are constantly taking feedback and improving on food and things.

Do give this place a shot and tell me YOUR favorites if any? 

UNWIND Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Culture - पुणे

Culture Pune has opened up in one of the busiest streets of Pune, Fergusson College Road, and I have already cataloged it as my go-to place for food and drinks with friends.

Double Decker Chicken Burger

This was one of the places I was able to go to with Mr. TKD in tow (occasions like these are few and far in between since he upped and left for Delhi last year) and we enjoyed it.

Rawa Tawa Bombil Fry

For people who are familiar with Delhi food scene, Mr.TKD reports he could draw a lot of similarity as far as the ambience , the design of the menu and the aesthetics of the place went. But it was one of those fun tasting with friends which start as a tasting but ends up like a hang out instead. But yes, a lot of the good time was drawn out of the fact that the food and drinks were good.

Bakes cauliflower with fried garlic

But, but, but....there's a caveat. Next time I go I'll personally steer clear of the mains perhaps.

As they admitted themselves, Culture Pune is trying to be a place where you go in with your friends and hang out and spend time while you indulge in some good drinks and munchies by the side. They are not looking to be a proper restaurant which I guess is a fair point.
So the do have mains in the menu, but you might want to go for some amazing options in other parts of it instead.

Here's what we suggest you try!
  • DRINKS: I was really happy spending the night nursing a glass of my much loved SANGRIA (which was really good tbh) but I was on a tasting. So I tried the CULTURE ELECTRIC GIN which came in a cool bulb  It tasted delicious and found many takers on the table.
    I also specially liked the TULSI BAUG which was vodka based and unusually served in a brass pot but tasted really nice too.
Tulsi Baug

  • My suggestion, go experimental and try what catches your fancy. They take great care in preparing their drinks and almost everything we tried, we liked.
  • PANEER SOFIYANI TIKKA is something we all unanimously liked and devoured, vegetarians, non-vegetarians alike. Very tender paneer pieces and spiced delicately. Really tasty.
Paneer Sofiyani Tikka

  • TOSSED THAI BASIL CHICKEN was another crowd pleasure. The thai elements were well played on the dish and it really made for a good accompaniment to the wonderful cocktails.
Tossed Thai Basil Chicken

  • PRAWN CURRY WITH RICE: We know we asked you to stay clear of the mains. But this here is your savior if the hunger pangs are too much to handle. I personally loved the curry and
    with the rice it made for a good after-drinks meal.
Teriyaki Chicken

  • BOURBON PANNA COTTA was one of the satisfying desserts we tried that day. Beautiful, creamy panna cotta sitting pretty on a bourbon based sauce. It was wiped clean so fast, how I managed to get a picture is a miracle.
Bourbon Panna Cotta

  • RASPBERRY CREME BRULEE: Oh my heart! The creme brulee at Culture Pune is something you must try when you visit. They do it right with the creamy custard and that caramelized sugar coating on top that cracks as you go for it. Plus they add a twist with fresh fruits. My favorite perhaps. 
Raspberry Creme Brulee

There is so much to discover more and the place promises fun time just by the look of it. No wonder it was bustling even on a wednesday night.

Ratatoullie Palif

Here's thanking Culture Pune for the invite and the great service rendered. Hopefully the feedback and improvements only make it better than it already is!!

Burnt Garlic Veggies

Culture - पुणे Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Dalchini: True Indian Flavors

Raise your hand if you are mildly tired of all the hoopla that goes on with your plate of food in any glitzy, fancy new-age restaurants now a days. Drinks, puffing smoke putting steam trains to shame; fancy smears of colors on the plate as an excuse for chutney; drinks in gelatinous globules that burst in your mouth instead and fusion-food fusing foods that probably shouldn't have been fused.
You know what I mean. 

Hey, I won't lie, I have participated in the enjoyment and brief moments of merriment these novelty delights had to offer. But there comes a point where you start wishing your Dal Chawal didn't come pre-balled and trussed up and disguised as what it was not.

And evidently I am not alone when it comes to this ideology. A lot of new and upcoming restaurants are going back to the root and re-doing food as they originally intended it to be. Old-school yet original, lip-smacking yet wholesome.

One such place that I had the good fortune of dining at was Dalchini. Chaitanya Adgaonkar is a man with a plan. And he plans to bring to us food and the reminder of how richly and diversely blessed our Indian culinary map is. He travels frequently and extensively to discover and learn about the food that you find in kitchens of Indian homes but rarely in snazzy restaurants.

Might I say it was one of the satisfying tastings we've had. The amazing food came peppered with enlightening nuggets of information about it's backstory. It was like traveling while you stay put, gorging on some brilliant grub.

As always I would invite you to be adventurous with your choices off of the menu and let us know of your discoveries. But here are some of my favorite picks:

  • Salad love: I am a sucker for good salads though I'll be honest I do add a good helping of chicken to make it all the better. Dalchini served us a choice of vegetarian salads and I surprised myself by how much I loved them. KAIRICHI VATLI DAL was Maharashtrian spin on salad with tangy pieces of kairi or raw mango.
    KOSUMALLI was a beautiful South Indian salad with soaked moong dal mixed with carrots, cucumber and spices that made it hard to resist.

  • PALAK PAPDI CHAAT is one thing that you should make it a point to try. Inspired from the streets of Lucknow, this chaat has papdi made out of Spinach leaves! And it tastes stellar. Better than the regular chaats might I say. 

  • GHEE ROAST ALOO is a thing of dreams for carb lovers like me. Bite sized potatoes crispy fried in Ghee and coated in aromatic spices and served on a banana leaf. I'm in love <3

  • AMER KI KEEMA BAATI blew my mind yet again. Not the biggest fan of mutton, but the mutton keema filling in this baati was so carefully spiced and such delicately prepared, I couldn't help but falling for this.
  • BATLIWALA AUNTY'S PATRANI MACCHI is a dish that would do anyone from Bengal proud and some more! Such a spectacular dish. It's common in Bengal to steam cook fish wrapped in banana leaf but the spices in this one, the aroma that hit as soon as we unwrapped our fish was something to remember. If you love fish, heck even if you don't, give this a go. Thank me later?

  • 24 GHANTE KI DAAL was surprisingly my favorite from the mains even though there was such brilliant non vegetarian dishes on the table. Maybe the simplicity hit straight home but the creamy, comforting gravy just did magic. To think they hadn't added any cream to make it this smooth. Kudos to the chef!
  • RAMPURI TAAR KORMA was another thing that fascinated me no end. So apparently this dish from UP is prepared everyday using a bit of yesterday's leftover korma which is added to the new korma. This is done everyday and in some parts of India the taar or thread of has been kept on for centuries.
    Dalchini is doing the same with theirs, so make sure you taste this dish!

We wrapped our hogging spree with SERRADURA, a dessert from Goa in a glass, with layers and layers of whipped cream and crushed Marie biscuit. Nothing fancy, nothing theatrical just good ol' comforting food that puts a smile on your face after. Well, isn't that just what we are looking for anyway?

Dalchini Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato