Friday, February 28, 2014

Quality Seafood in Chennai

Little known restaurants often hold interesting secrets. 'Hotel Quality' is no different. About 200 metres from Raintree Hotel, down St Mary's Road as you approach the Park Sheraton hotel, you will find Hotel Quality at the corner. The area is also known as the 'Adyar Gate Auto Stand'. 

The food is unquestionably yummy. Hotel Quality is my favourite go-to place whenever I stay at Raintree or Park, and also when I am anywhere within a 5 km radius. There are two sections, a non-a/c section on the ground floor and an a/c section on the first floor accessible via a narrow flight of stairs. 

My all time favourite order is the Surmai Tawa Fry. No need to look at the menu for this. 

Thereafter, the menu provides further food for thought. Now what?   

The Surmai Tawa Fry in the non-a/c section in the ground floor is equally amazing. 

Once the Surmai Tawa Fry has been ordered, it's time to research the menu for further options.

During a recent visit, the Appam with Fish Masala seems to be a good second order. 

To add to the quality food, another interesting point about Hotel Quality is that they stay open till past 2 AM. So, food is guaranteed till quite late (or early) should you go hungry that long in Chennai.

Bon Appetit..!!

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Friday, February 14, 2014

Cheers to Olypub, Kokata!

Cities usually tend to develop "things-to-do" and "places-to-visit" lists over the years. The history and culture rich city of Kolkata (known as Calcutta until 2001) has several areas, streets and restaurants that have become synonymous with the city. One of the most well known informal meeting places, besides the coffee shops on College Street, is Olypub, short for Olympia Pub on Park Street, a landmark road in Central Kolkata. 

The atmosphere in Olypub is extremely informal. That Olypub is not particularly interested in marketing and brand building is evidenced by the fact that the picture below, which I casually clicked on my mobile phone, was chosen by TripAdvisor to represent Oly Pub (as of March 2014). 

The email from TripAdvisor said: 

"Congratulations! One of your photos has been selected to represent Olympia Pub on TripAdvisor websites around the world. 

Thank you for uploading your photo. Since Olympia Pub didn't already have an official photo on TripAdvisor, your photo will help travelers see what it looks like. We appreciate your important contributions to the community and hope you'll continue sharing your travel photos and reviews." 

The seating is functional, made cozy by the vibes. Those who expect luxury are likely to be disappointed. Those who expect prompt and friendly service will certainly not be disappointed. I was a single guest that evening. The waiter brought along two glasses, the bottle and the measuring glass. The drink is poured right in front of you. 

Once the measure is poured, the waiter pours out a bit more as a bonus amount. Customer service at its very best! 

Olypub is renowned for food, particularly the variety of Steak. 

The menu is extensive. Below are glimpses of the menu.

A pub worth visiting. No nonsense, friendly staff, quick service, good food. Open from 11 AM to 11 PM, extremely busy in between. The last order is taken at 10:45 PM.

Bon Appetit..!!

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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Tunday Kababs and Lassi in Lucknow

Lucknow is well known for several attractions, ranging from Classical music to Literature to History to Food to Chikan handicrafts. I decided to explore several areas of Lucknow to sample the acclaimed 'Tunday Kababs' available at only a few outlets. The word 'Tunday' means 'one-handed' in Urdu. The story goes that a King, several hundred years ago, announced a contest for making the softest of kababs. The winner turned out to be a one-handed man. The reason for the contest was that as the King grew older, his teeth grew weaker. He was therefore looking for softer kebabs to munch on.

Tunday Kabab outlets are limited. Probably because the recipes are passed down generation by generation. The outlet I discovered is located down a street almost opposite the Doordarshan complex, a 15-minute walk from the hotel where I was staying. Not long enough to digest the rich food, I thought. 

The menu is fairly extensive, attributed to his Grand father. Maybe the one-handed gentleman who had won the softest kabab contest.

The delicacies are cooked along the street at the front of the restaurant.

The range of kebabs actually dissolve in your mouth, laded with spices.

The orange parotha is called 'Sheermal', a saffron flavoured bread that has its origins in Persia.

Dastarkhwan is yet another must visit place in Lucknow, located in the Hazrat Ganj area. Busy by day, the area calms down after sunset.

The menu is simple, but adequate.

Food is served fairly quickly by a few busy waiters.

Dastarkhwan stays open till about 11 PM. It appears to be very popular with locals who come to take the food away, and equally popular with tourists bending under the weight of plastic shopping bags.

One of my students took me to a well known lassi restaurant further inside town in the Chowk area. Sri Lassi, was it?

Normally not a lassi drinker, finding the cream floating around rather irritating,  I found this cool lassi particularly delicious, unlike any I have tasted anywhere, with a bonus topping of dry fruits.

My student had offered to be my guide and kindly gave me a ride on his scooter. The traffic density is probably the highest of all the places that I have been to. Or, my student took it upon himself to squeeze through impossible gaps. I had to, on several occasions, raise my legs way high to avoid amputation or getting squeezed between smoke belching buses or cars barely a centimeter away. 

Riding around the busy city with incredibly crowded streets, we took a minute to peek into some of the historical buildings. The grandest and most well known structure in Lucknow is the Bara Imambara. The story is that the King had this building built during the late 1780's, just after a famine. It was a congregation hall. The King wanted to provide food for the people. He offered them food in return for work. In order to prolong the project, the parts that were constructed during the day were razed to the ground during the night. 

And so the cycle of construction and destruction continued for months. Reputed to consist of a large number of corridors, halls as well as a large main hall, the King and the architect are buried inside. 

The Chota Imambara is a smaller structure located about a kilometer away, constructed during the 1830's, where members of the Royal family lie buried. Known as the Palace of Lights, historians claim that the vast number of chandeliers inside were imported from Belgium.

Separating the two Imambaras is the Rumi Darwaza, a decorated gateway that once used to be the main gate leading into Lucknow. 

The Clock Tower manages to peep out from the Victorian era.

However, the narrow, crowded streets from several hundred years ago quickly take over. 

It looks like the people of Lucknow like to celebrate weddings with the help of colourfully decorated 'band' vehicles.

Are such wedding aids a feature of North Indian cities? I've come across similar vehicles in Indore, as well.

An oasis of cleanliness and calm in the midst of the cacophony, crowds, litter and dust outside, the Ramakrishna Mission seems to represent the state of mind that we need to strive to achieve, as we go about our daily lives.

That was a brief Tunday Kabab and Lassi tour. And a quicker glance at a few of the historical sights around Lucknow. I hope you enjoyed the journey! 

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