Prawns

First Impression of Kovalam

I am not one to lose my calm when I am around my parents. Why? Because they’re capable of doing it without my help. They lose their marbles at the drop of a hat which is why, even if I want to, I can’t. But, they know, that if I start to panic, there really is something to worry about.

Headed to Kovalam had me worried. We had a super early flight and somehow, we were extremely close to missing it. We made it inside the airport with minutes to spare and my bad choices had me swearing under my breath, incessantly. The one time I should have worn sneakers, so that I could do all the running around with ease, I decided on 6 inch heels.

Poor judgement aside, we boarded our flight without much of a delay.

A stop over later, we had landed in Trivandrum.  After a fifteen odd minute drive , we were pulling into the breathtakingly beautiful resort, Vivanta by Taj. Beautifully structured and designed around waterfalls and forestry, the resort oozed serenity and calm. Welcomed with shell garlands, we settled down to cool ourselves, sipping on some refreshing coconut water while our backs were taken to our room.

Having toured all that we could of the resort while the receptionist was confirming the details of our check-in, we decided to stop by the sea. It gave us time to have a quick trip down to the beach, something, all of us were quite eager to visit.

The sun was at its peak, there was salt in the air and the waves were crashing relentlessly on the rocks.

Yes, my vacation had indeed begun.

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We then headed back to the resort where our lovely concierge Roshin surprised us by upgrading us to the Premium Deluxe Suite. Let me just say, the room was spectacular. With a gorgeous sea view, a panoramic view of the resort, two balconies and a walk in bathroom, I was all but ready to kick my heels off and collapse into the relaxing environment that was beckoning me, enticing me never to return to reality.

Having not had lunch, I decided on treating myself to Roasted chicken breast with rosemary, potato mash, mushroom jus and sautéed vegetables.

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I got quite obsessed with mushroom jus by the end of it, my father being witness to it. He actually caught me with my finger dipped deep in the jus, unabashedly treating it like a jar of nutella.

 

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On our way to the sea in the evening, we got to see more of the resort, landscape and design of the resort and everything it had to offer as we bumped along on the cute buggy that was driving us there.

Processed with VSCO with f3 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetRight next to the beach was a small lagoon. A boatman would, every forty minutes, seat three to four people in his boat and take them around the lagoon. Just as the sun was setting, we got into the wobbly boat, wearing extremely unflattering lifejackets. The boat ride was quaint. The stillness of the water breaking every time the oars splashed, was possibly the only sound one could hear, with the occasional screech or hoot of birds in the surrounding environment. None of us spoke. We simply absorbed the rustic beauty surrounding the village; the swoosh of the oars, hum of the boat floating slowly and our gentle breathing, creating a mild tune to keep us company.

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The water was so still, everything was a mirror reflection on its surface. On our way back, once the boat had turned around, we got to witness the sun setting. Shades of pink, purple and orange kissed the skies and watching it, had my heart fluttering at its beauty.

With our feet back on solid ground, we relaxed some more on the beach.  Eager to let loose the water soul I host, we headed back. The swimming pool in the resort was beautiful to say the least and I really wanted to dip my toes in and swim, something I hadn’t done in ages!

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The design of the swimming pool mimicked the infinity pools that have become so famous, with one side of the pool not walled, instead, ending in a steep drop. The view on the unwalled side of the pool was basically, a never ending view of the sea and the sky meeting, two distinct shades of blue, shaking hands.

Dad decided to give me company while I swum. Having not swum in ages, I decided to really push myself. By the end of it, my muscles were on fire, something I actually enjoyed. While I headed back for an extremely relaxing and LONG bubble bath, my parents headed for their spa appointments.

I think I dozed off in the bath. The warm water and the heady scent of lotus from the bubbles had me relaxed and I lost track of time. When I got out, I felt so sleepy. It was a good kind of exhaustion, not the kinds where you are weary and want to curl up and cry. Donning a bathrobe, I collapsed on the couch, all set with my book. Soon, my parents returned from their spa appointments, smelling of oils and looking, well…sticky.

Dinner was as succulent as lunch. I treated myself to Garlic butter prawns for an entrée and Pesto pasta for my main course. For dessert, I chose Tiramisu with shaved coffee flavoured chocolate.

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Well fed, relaxed to the point that our limbs were almost jelly-like, we hit the bed. For the first time, in what seems like forever, I fell asleep immediately. Actually, I didn’t even realise I had fallen asleep. Middle of the night, when I awoke, parched and in search of a water bottle, did I realise that I had fallen asleep and had been tucked into my bed by my Dad. Slightly embarrassing but adorable too, I’d say.

My first day in Kerala was perfect in every way!

 

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Roti Chai

Remember when I said, being away from home made me miss India and its cuisine a bit too much?

Ya well, despite having quite the heavy meal at Dishoom, my desi soul wasn’t quite satiated. I was craving more. The lingering taste of the cuisine made me want to have more of it and I just couldn’t find the excuse to go savour it.

So, when Esperanza’s birthday came round and she expressed her desire to go eat Indian food again, I all but fell out my chair with excitement. Instead of going to Dishoom, we decided on trying out a different Indian restaurant named Roti Chai. Roti Chai has two floors on which it serves food. Despite the fact that it serves the same cuisine, the first floor serves a more diverse range of street food and the like.The service is fast and it isn’t that heavy on the wallet. As my girls and I were going out for dinner and it was after all, our darling Espy’s birthday, we decided on treating her to the high end meal.

Upon entering, we were welcomed by a giant sign that not so subtly directed us towards the ground floor where we would be dining.

Bhojan Kaksh which translates into ‘Eating Area’

After being seated, we took a few minutes to settle down and take in the decor and setting of the restaurant. Lanterns hung low from the ceiling and steel racks were nailed to the wall on top which were placed suitcases to give the feel of a railway carriage. It was quite unlike the first floor which was decked with posters and mud dolls of Indian cultural performers. Having become warm and comfy in our seats, we were given the menu cards. We opted out of the set three course menu and decided on ordering a variety of stuff so that we could all taste and enjoy the dishes. Dipa and I, proud Indians that we are, helped Mary and Esperanza out as they went through the menu cards. After quite a lot of indecisiveness, we had finally decided on our starters. On our insistence, Mary and Esperanza decided to try out the Seasonal Pav Bhaji and Dhaba Tandoori Chicken. Being massive fans of prawns, Dipa and I decided on sharing a plate of Chilli Garlic Prawns.

From left to right : Seasonal Pav Bhaji which is spiced vegetable mash with buttered ‘pav’ bread, Chilli Garlic Prawns cooked with Goan chilli, roasted garlic, rock samphire served atop coconut rice and Dhaba Tandoori Chicken where the meat is rubbed with traditional tandoori masalas.

The minute the starters were laid in front of us, we dived in. I squealed in joy upon popping the first prawn into my mouth. It was so juicy and delicious. What made this dish even more yummy was the fact that it was served with coconut rice which is one of my favourite comfort foods. The rice is fried in yoghurt and coconut cream and makes for quite the hearty meal. With that first bite, I couldn’t help but miss my mum and home terribly. While I was lost in prawn land, Mary and Esperanza had started on the Seasonal Pav Bhaji. Despite the fact that it was a tad bit spicy, the buttery ‘pav’, which is a loaf of bread in the shape of a bun and the flavours of the ‘bhaji’ won them over. Although Esperanza’s eyes were close to watering, it didn’t stop her from spooning some more on her plate. We tried the Dhaba Tandoori Chicken at the end because it was a big chunk of chicken leg which had been pit roasted. For Indians like Dipa and me, the flavours were anything but spicy but Mary and Esperanza found the masala rubbed on the skin of the meat a little spicy. Nothing a big dash of lemon didn’t fix though !

We then requested for the menu cards once again, our appetites still quite ravenous. After much musings and explanations about what dish is what, we chose our main courses. While Mary decided on trying out the Parsi Chicken Dhansak, Dipa chose the Koliwada Fish Kari and Esperanza and I both zoomed in on the Butter Chicken. We ordered a side of Steamed Basmati Rice, Raita, one serving of Tandoori Roti and two servings of Garlic Naan. 

It wasn’t long before our noses caught the smell of our food wafting from the kitchen and before we knew it, the dishes were in front of us, waiting to be eaten.

The Koliwada Fish Kari is a traditional fisherman style dish with tilapia, coconut and South Indian spices.

The Parsi Chicken Dhansak is a Zoroastrian sweet and sour chicken dish with lentils, butternut and spices

The Butter Chicken is an old Delhi style chicken thigh tikka dish served with ‘makhani’ gravy and a touch of fenugreek.

The Garlic Naan went brilliantly with the Butter Chicken. The kick of the garlic along with the creamy gravy of the chicken made every morsel melt in my mouth. The chicken was cooked perfectly and there was enough for more than one person. Being a big fan of Butter Chicken, I don’t think there will ever be a time when I’ll have something bad to say about the dish. Esperanza enjoyed it too although being a little sensitive towards the flavours of India, she cleaned out the dish with her nose and eyes watering. The Raita helped soothe the taste buds since it had an added element of pomegranates in it which, surprisingly, went quite well with the cucumbers and yoghurt. On tasting Dipa’s Koliwada Fish Kadi, I was immediately reminded of a very common South Indian dish called Sambaar which is served alongside Idlis and Dosas. Not being a huge advocate of fish in general, the fish of this dish won me over. It was extremely soft and the curry in which it was cooked made it all the more tastier. Having never tasted Zoroastrian dishes before, Mary’s dish was a first for me as well and I have to say I enjoyed it quite a lot. It was a wonderful mix of sweet and sour where no one particular taste overpowered the other. Unlike the others, I preferred her dish with Tandoori Roti rather than Basmati Rice or Garlic Naan.

We had finished off our mains faster than we had expected. Boy, we must have been hungry !

Doesn’t it look divine ?

Since it was Esperanza’s birthday, we couldn’t leave without some sugar tingling on our tongues now could we ? On Dipa’s recommendation, we decided on ordering the Chocolate Tart with Cinnamon Cream. It lived up to its fame I have to say. I was a little sad knowing my wish to try the Chai Brûlée had been over ruled but one spoon of this sin and my mind wasn’t thinking straight one bit. The chocolate mousse of the tart was silky smooth and the tart was baked just right. I never thought I would enjoy cinnamon cream so much but it was just out of this world. Gah, I have no words for it !!

Chocolate Tart served with Cinnamon Cream.

To preserve our lovely moments in this restaurant, we had a group picture taken and after one too many attempts, we got the perfect one.

From right to left : Esperanza, Dipa, Mary and me !

Personally, I don’t know which one I preferred more, Dishoom or Roti Chai. Even if I were held at gun point, I would be stammering and fumbling for words, both are THAT good.

My advice ?

Try both of them out. Maybe you can help me decide or find yourselves in the same quandary as me.

Have fun Mavericks !!

Post Valentine’s Dining

Who says you can only celebrate Valentine’s with your better half ?
You can just as well celebrate it with your friends or family and that’s exactly what I did. Three days later. With my best friend, who also turns out to be my better half, but we’ll just overlook that.

My boyfriend and I decided to go out and celebrate Valentine’s Day by doing what we love most, eating. Since both of us were busy with research proposals and presentations, we decided to go out and relax a few days later when we were both stress free.

With no clue as to where we were going to dine or what had been planned, I set out, in painfully high heels towards Holborn to meet up with my him. Having found each other, we walked towards a cute Italian restaurant, Amarcord Ristorante Italiono, where he had made reservations (in the bathroom of his office mind you). Turns out the restaurant served Italian cuisine and since I absolutely love the cuisine, wasn’t surprised when I found myself clapping gleefully and eyeing what people were eating while shamelessly salivating.

We were seated in a quiet corner of the restaurant and were immediately handed menu cards.  There were so many options, it was quite the struggle for me to decide my order. Finally, we chose our food and soon enough were being served our starters.

While I went for Avocado Con Gamberet, which was ripe avocado with prawns and cocktail sauce, my boyfriend chose the Aletti Di Pollo Pica, which was charcoal grilled chicken wings with garlic and red chillies. Both the starters were served with salad on the side.

Avocado Con Gamberet

Aletti Di Pollo Pica

The portions served were extremely generous. I was quite certain I would not be able to enjoy my main course on seeing the size of the starter but surprisingly, the food was light and so didn’t weigh me down. The prawns in my starter were fresh and soft with the right amount of cocktail sauce. The sauce had very balanced flavours and was neither extremely tangy or sweet. The combination of prawns and avocado went very well and I found myself cleaning up every inch of the plate. My boyfriend had very similar opinions about his starter. He didn’t find it too spicy and the wings were grilled just the way he preferred it. He also ended up finishing up my starter since eating healthy is more his thing than mine. I did get a disapproving look from him though when I not so subtly pushed my plate towards him, wordlessly asking him to clean up the salad on my plate.

As soon as we were done with our starters, the waitress came by and took our plates away and served us right after with our mains. I thought the portions of the starters were big, but the portions of the main courses were even more. Steaming hot and beautifully presented, we dove into our food without a second thought.
While he had gone for the Pizza 4 Formaggi, which had Parmesan, Mozzarella, Cheddar and Gorgonzola Cheese, I decided on trying the Ravioli Al Funghi, which was ravioli stuffed with meat cooked in mushroom and cream sauce.

Pizza 4 Formaggi

Ravioli Al Funghi

When I started slicing the ravioli, it got submerged in the sauce and I for a second thought the cream sauce was a bit too much and might make me queasy but once I was done with my dish, I realised it was the perfect amount. The mushrooms were cooked just right and the cheese had oozed all over the ravioli and mixed well with the sauce to make it creamy and silky. The drizzled parmesan on top simply made it more delicious. My boyfriend’s pizza which was bigger than both our faces put together was thin crusted. Quoting him in regards to the pizza ‘my taste buds are having a little dance party’ I think is more than enough explanation as to how much he enjoyed his dish.

We left with our food souls extremely satiated and a massive smile etched on our faces. Our post Valentine’s celebrations was fun filled and full of laughter, love and merriment, just the way we wished it.

With soothing music playing in the background, warm hosts, a cozy atmosphere, massive portions of amazing food at reasonable prices, Amarcord has for sure become a favourite. I can’t wait to go out and try some more of their lip smacking food. Anyone in the area, should definitely give it a try.