general, Rajasthan Trip 2016

Laxmi Mishthan Bhandar, Jaipur

LMB’s legendary status was built up by my mother in law ever since we planned to visit Jaipur earlier this year. She was born and raised in Jaipur and been a regular there in her childhood – clearly, this place and its people have been around.

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Unfortunately by the time we dropped in @ LMB in the evening we had already had a heavy wedding lunch and could not force anything in. We ordered some mithai (walnut barfi) and a birthday cake @ the counter and proceeded inside for tea. We were led to a table quite inside and seated. However it was 5 minutes till anyone actually waited on us. We ordered one big pot of tea, a small pot and a cold badam milk. The order again took its own time coming.

It was good and the cutlery was very attractive. Unfortunately I forgot to click photos. We asked for the bill and then had to wait for another 7+ minutes.  370 rupees! For three teas and one badam milk!! Insanely expensive – legendary or not. The tea was good, but I don’t think it was worth 70 rupees.

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The cake was good, but again the same complaint – it was INR 420 per kg. I did not taste the walnut barfi as I have tree-nut allergy, but could take wife’s word that it was good.

Maybe legendary and maybe in the future I will go there to try the food sometime, but I still think way overpriced.

general, Rajasthan Trip 2016

Jheel’s Ginger Coffee Bar & Bakery, Udaipur

I thought Udaipur would be nice and pleasant in December – except it wasn’t. The afternoon  sun roasted us enough, and drove us back into our hotel for a nap. By the time we woke up in the evening, our tummies were grumbling again. Wife checked for a cafe in the thereabouts of the hotel and we zeroed in on Jheel’s.

Now walking around in Gangaur Ghat with Google Maps is a bit of a joke and a disaster to boot. The roads are extremely narrow with vehicles zipping in and out that walking with your eyes on a phone can be hazardous to self and others. The winding lanes also mean that your English accented Google voice can take you on a wild goose chase if you aren’t alert. It happened to us when we started to head in the seemingly opposite direction to Jheel’s. Realizing the futility, we resorted to the oldest version of Google maps, and asked an ‘uncle’ standing outside a hotel called Krishna Vilas, I think. He gave us the perfect directions and we were there in less than 3 minutes.

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The interiors of Jheel’s is as good as any cafe in Bangalore, but mildly cramped. Wife wanted a table by the lakeside (ah, women!), but they were all occupied. So we placed the order at the counter and took a window table, which still offered a pretty good view of the Pichola lake. As we started chatting, we noticed one of the lakeside tables emptying. We pounced ahead of a couple who had arrived just then and were in shock of our cat-like reflexes.

Though I was initially uncomfortable with the low seating and proximity to the water, I must say the view was much better from here. From this vantage point, you can see the lights all across the lake, the two bridges that take pedestrians and vehicles take to Hanuman Ghat. The water keeps splashing close to your feet on the potted plants and you could say that it was relaxing. They could have done something about the mosquitoes though.

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Our order consisted of plain toast and chilli cheese toast to be washed down with a cappuccino for self and a irish coffee for the wife. While ordering I felt that the coffee was a bit overpriced and might still hold that view, but the food definitely wasn’t. They gave us a healthy quantity of toast and cheese toast that made us happy and forget our hunger and the coffee prices.

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The chilli cheese toast wasn’t too heavy and the toast was pretty good, wheat bread as well even without us asking. The coffee was on the money as well, I didn’t have anything to complain. Wife said the Irish Coffee spiked her up and ready for the evening, so I guess it’s a thumbs there as well.

For a posh looking place, they don’t accept cards. I think the place does have good breakfast as well, check it out the next time you are here. I could smell some good pizza as we walked, so that is something you can try as well.

general, Rajasthan Trip 2016

Hari Garh, Udaipur

Gangaur ghat is a hotspot for foreign travellers in Udaipur. It is close to the city centre, City palace, the railway station and most other attractions. We stayed on the side of Bagore Ki Haveli, and crossed over the lake at night to try the restaurants there for dinner.

The other side, called Hanuman Ghat has the high end hotels like The Leela Palace and Ambrai Garden. It also has fine dining restaurants like the Ambrai Garden, Hari Garh, Upre and 1519 AD. Little did we know that all these restaurants are sought after in the evening – we walked to each one of them to be told that we needed a reservation in advance, or we’d have to wait for 45 minutes at least. On a weekday! I don’t know if this is due to preferential treatment for foreign tourists, as I did see quite a number of them having the coveted lakeside tables, I only hope not.

Wife wanted to have a lakeside dinner – our search started at Hari Garh and ended there, though not by the lakeside. We tried all the other restaurants I mentioned only to be turned down and finally took a table in Hari Garh.

I liked Hari Garh’s ambience at the first look itself and was surprised that it wasn’t as crowded as the other restaurants. They have a small garden in the entrance leading to the ground floor. The lakeside tables are not so much tables, it is an elevated level with soft mattresses and pillows. With lit candles, the place makes for a very cosy, quiet and romantic dinner experience.

The waiters did a bit of bungling initially, but finally got us a table. Exhausted with all the walking, we took a pot of hot lemon ginger honey tea first up. Having had a rather heavy evening snack, we told the waiter we’d take a little while in ordering our meal. The tea arrived soon and the first thing I loved about it was the cutlery. All white, the perfectly sized pot and cups instantly charmed me and I told the wife that we’d have to get a similar set in the future. She burst out laughing. The tea was perfect – we took our own sweet time sipping and discussing our tales in Udaipur.

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Soon, the tea worked its charm and we felt hungry. I decided to go for the Laal Maans which was the local Mewari mutton specialty along with couple of tandoori rotis, and wife chose the Macaroni Mexican. Interestingly, the menu has the same description for Laal Maans and Mewari Mutton, but different prices! Oversight?

Laal Maans was awesome – the meat was succulent, the gravy at the perfect spice levels and a little oily, but the overall taste was excellent. I could not spot any coriander leaves in the garnishing as described though. It was after a long time that I had mutton and did not regret ordering it. Was too busy licking the mutton off my fingers that I did not try the pasta, but the only complaint I heard from wife was that it had a little extra butter. Otherwise acceptable I believe.

I haven’t been to the other fine dining places at Hanuman Ghat, but would definitely recommend Hari Garh as a place to have dinner. Was thoroughly satisfied as I made the walk back across the lake to our hotel.

general, Rajasthan Trip 2016

Cafe Ra, Udaipur

Though we stayed right opposite Cafe Edelweiss during our stay, our late start in the morning meant that we could not breakfast there. By the time we walked out at 0930 pm, the place was full to bursting. Our grand plan of having breakfast in the iconic place crashed, we set out checking where we could have the first meal of the day.

We Zomato-ed couple of places around Gangaur Ghat and kept walking when we came across Cafe Ra. Checked the rating, was a decent 3.5 and had some good reviews, so decided to check the place out. Cafe Ra is another outcome of Udaipur’s ‘convert your haveli into a restaurant or hotel’ philosophy. The restaurant in itself has some room on the first floor, which is slightly congested and a bigger, more flamboyant ‘rooftop’ on the terrace. When we first entered the building, I was wondering where the restaurant actually was, then spotted it as we went up the winding stairs.

The owner was finishing up his morning puja as we went in – we were the ‘boni’, first customers of the day. He escorted us up to the terrace, gave us the menu and told us he’d be right back to take our orders. The stairs to the terrace are even more winding, if one did not walk with care, one could simply fall straight to the ground floor, though it seems unlikely it has ever happened.

The terrace is nicely done with Bollywood pop culture insignias painted all over. I found the couple kissing with a flower hiding the kiss very funny and nostalgic.I found a list of top 100 Bollywood movies and portraits of AB, Madhubala and famous Bollywood movie posters. I wonder if the foreign tourists would get the significance though, or if they’d simply find the place exotic.

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The owner eventually arrived as we were taking some photos and we placed an order of masala sandwich toast, plain bread toast, muesli with milk and two cups of ginger tea. We actually wanted to have a fruit plate as well but then their fruit stock was either depleted or hadn’t arrived yet, which was weird as it was 10 am in the morning by now and the sun had come out all shining.

The masala sandwich and plain toast landed first. The latter was plain good – I don’t really think anyone could have messed with it though. The masala sandwich was a surprise, the filling reminded of me the stuff that was usually made at home and it was light on the tummy. As we polished these two off, wife’s muesli arrived laden with milk and bananas. I wasn’t entirely full so I ordered a banana pancake. Tasted the muesli in the meanwhile and found the milk soothing.

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The pancake arrived in the disguise of a crepe. Check out the photo to actually see what I mean. I was wondering if the guys were pulling a prank on us by giving a crepe when we ordered a pancake. I decided to try it, but found the maida and the oil too overpowering that I gave up too soon and felt that it should be called a creep instead of crepe. Wife asked the owner why we were given a crepe – he asserted that it was a pancake and that this how he has been making pancakes for years and everyone, including white people loved it. Wife laughed and said she didn’t want to pay for it. Possibly to avoid an inauspicious start to the day, he agreed to dock the ‘pancake’ charge.

To fill up, I ordered another masala sandwich toast, got a good one and finished off the tea. Barring the crepe incident, I was satisfied with the overall meal. As we walked out, I noticed the ground floor also has like tons of photos of Indian film actors. I would have loved to stay and stare, but we had places to see. I quickly caught the sight a Kamalhassan photo as I followed the wife outside into the bustling street.

general, Rajasthan Trip 2016

Sun and Moon Cafe, Udaipur

general, Rajasthan Trip 2016

Hotel Ganesh, Mt. Abu

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Hotels in Mount Abu are damn expensive. And that too in the peak tourist season of December to get a good hotel might mean shelling out 10 grand for a couple of nights. I was all for enjoying my stay in Mount Abu, but I had zero intention of splurging that kind of money. After a lot of research on hotel booking sites, I zeroed in on Hotel Ganesh, which was relatively close to the city center, not too expensive and had decent reviews.

What is so special about this nondescript hotel which on any other day most travellers to Mount Abu? Their food and the way they go about it. The first morning at Hotel Ganesh, we walked out to breakfast before our day out. The ‘restaurant’ of Hotel Ganesh is its verandah, which they’ve spruced with a swing, potted plants and tables with neat table cloth. Adjacent to the verandah, there is a small kitchen, where your food is prepared once you order it.

We asked what was available and the guy said “sub kuch hai” – everything is there. We opted for the paneer paratha, one gobi paratha and a bread butter jam. Tea, once we were done with our breakfast. The guy walked away calling out to his colleagues in the kitchen, repeating our entire order.

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Paneer paratha
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Gobi paratha
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Tea in vintage flask

The first bite of the paneer paratha we took, and we knew this was good stuff. It was like, ok let me correct, it was homemade stuff. The usual paratha at any other place would instantly feel heavier, probably with reused cooking oil and baking soda mixed into the dough. This one was fresh off the pan with fresh ingredients. The gobi paratha was pretty good too, but the paneer paratha had bagged the gold by a mile. Even after we had polished off the parathas and the bread, we weren’t full so we ordered an aloo paratha and a chilly cheese toast. Trust me, the aloo stuffing was almost like the wife makes at home. As I burped, the ginger tea came in a small flask and it did not disappoint either. The ginger had been properly crushed and its strong flavour could not be missed.

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The kitchen
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Bread butter jam

The next day we were checking out early, but made sure we did not miss the breakfast at all. Another round of paneer paratha, aloo paratha and bread butter jam with the addition of a methi paratha this time. The methi one took the cake, someone had actually taken the effort to clean the methi and the dash of turmeric gave it a unique taste.

I wanted to compliment the staff for their cooking, but could not find them as I left. Simply left a word with the manager and made sure I write this post.

general, Rajasthan Trip 2016

Chills and Thrills, Mt. Abu

Winters, at least in India, have a romantic connotation. A relief from the sweltering summers and the heavy downpours, winters offers a chance to snuggle up in blankets, woollens and have  sugary sweets and hot tea. There is also this theory that ice cream is even more enjoyable to have in the cold weather, I hadn’t experienced it much save once or twice, but what happened in Mount Abu is certainly a moment to cherish.

Mount Abu in the night was a perfect place to enjoy all of this, and I was enjoying a nice walk  back to our hotel with my wife after our dinner. Wife spotted Chills and Thrills and let out a squeal of delight. She wanted to have ice cream! As always I was non-committal at first, what with my pants getting tighter of late and no exercise in sight. But her excitement was too infectious to ignore and I found myself standing outside Chills and Thrills.

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I scanned the menu and ordered one cone of Vanilla with French Chocolate, though I had zero idea of what the latter was. It turned out to be a good chance that I took – as the guy poured the chocolate over the vanilla in the cone, my lips extended into a smile and I saw that wife was grinning. Captured the moment on my phone.

The cold instantly hardened the chocolate over the ice cream and in a good way, it was crispy and a perfect foil to the ice cream inside. We walked  back to our hotel and ate on the way, exchanged the cone between us and it never seemed to end. I was so lost in the crunchiness of the chocolate that I chose the wrong hotel on Google Maps and we walked back to the base of Sunset point. Realising the folly,  I got the right location and walked back to our hotel, with the aftertaste of the ice cream fresh in our mouths.