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The Leopold Cafe, Mumbai

Visiting The Leopold Cafe has been high on my list of things to do in Mumbai ever since reading Shantaram, by Gregory David Roberts. The main character famously spent a lot of time sitting in the café with his associates. It has been a Bombay institution and was founded in 1871.

 

The café also made headlines for a tragic reason in the 2008 Mumbai Terror attacks, where gunmen opened fire at diners in this café. You can still see the bullet holes today and the café was resilient and re-opened after a few days following the attack. There is a security presence now which is reassuring but also sad that this is the fear we live in today.

 

Located on Colaba Causeway, one of the oldest and busiest roads in the city, it has high ceilings with fans, comfortable chairs and is spacious, making it the perfect spot to people watch and grab some food and escape from the hustle and bustle of the nearby streets.

 

I was staying close to the café during my recent trip to the ever buzzing Mumbai. I loved the atmosphere, the choices on the menu and the cheeriness of the staff. It was already busy when we arrived and we were lucky to get a table straight away as soon after we were seated there were queues, testament to its popularity.

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It was a particularly hot day when we went and so to refresh myself I went for a Cold coffee, which was delicious. The menu choices for food were overwhelming but as soon as I saw Chilli cheese toast on the menu I was sold. They arrived in quite a generous portion and they were just divine.

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Amit went for the garlic basil chicken tikka upon recommendation from the waiter and absolutely loved it.

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In terms of prices, it was so so reasonable! They even had Lobster dishes for 900 rupees which is really good.

 

If you are around the Colaba district, or have read about Leopold café in Shantaram, it is definitely a must visit. It is fun to people watch while in the café and it is a nice break from the busy streets in its vicinity. There is such a diverse range of people who come to the café and it was such a lovely experience.

 

There are so many different dishes available to choose from too, as well as a superb selection of cakes so it is perfect for a tea and dessert stop too if you don’t fancy a full on breakfast or lunch.

For more information on Leopold Cafe and Bar go here.

 

 

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Jamavar London

There is a brand new Indian restaurant in Mount Street, Mayfair. Named after the vibrant 16th century  Kashmiri shawls, Jamavar is the sixth restaurant opened by Dinesh Nair, co-chairman and managing director of The Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts, and the first of the group’s venture abroad, outside India. He is running it alongside his daughter, Samyukta Nair.

The kitchen is at the helm of well loved Executive Chef Rohit Ghai, who has worked in many leading Michelin starred kitchens, including Gymkhana, Trishna and Benares.

The inspiration for the menu at Jamavr are from his travels to India. There are also a few signature Jamavar dishes, which feature in all six restaurants.

I went for Sunday lunch during the preview and as I walked in I couldn’t help be in awe of the amazing decor that adorns the restaurant. You could be mistaken for being in a modern Mumbai restaurant.

There are some fabulous art pieces, mirrors as well as the print of the signature Jamavar design across all the walls all in a spacious dining room with high ceilings. There is also a downstairs area which is equally stunning, and which houses a beautiful bar.

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To toast the restaurant’s opening, Amit went for a classic Gin and Tonic, while I went for the Tree of life, upon recommendation from the waiter. It is also one of Jamavar’s signature cocktails. Made from a blend of Sipsmith gin, suze, almond and ginger falernum,  pimento bitter, lemon juice and absinthe spray, it tastes almost like bubblegum and delicious!

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We enjoyed some Mixed papads with a variety of chutneys while we decided what to order from the menu. What I loved about the papad selection was that alongside fried and roasted papad, there was also banana crisps, which went amazingly well with the mango chutney.

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The food menu is really good – the type where you feel like ordering everything! We had to control ourselves though and to start with opted for the Malabaar Prawns, which are sauteed king prawns cooked in white turmeric, onions and curry leaves. Loved this dish and it had a slight kick to it which was fabulous.

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We also went for the Kid Goat Shami Kebab, spiced with black cardamom, served with a dollop of mint chutney and a side of chur chur paratha. I loved the presentation of this dish as well as the soft, melt in your mouth texture of the Shami Kebab. A dish I would order again!

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The Lobster Neruli is one of Jamavar’s signature dishes, and it was epic. Cooked in a southern spiced coconut milk and pearl onions, it made me nostalgic about coastal holidays. It was amazing and went so well with our selection of breads.

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Our other choice for mains is one of my favourites to order in Indian restaurants – Old Delhi Butter Chicken.  This particular dish is made with Suffolk corn-fed chicken which is char-grilled and pulled, cooked in a fresh tomato and fenugreek sauce. OMG it is amazing. Amit and I literally couldn’t stop eating it with naan bread and it was divine. I think it has become my number one butter chicken dish now!

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To eat our mains, we went for the Mixed breads and Cucumber raita (pictured below), both of which were fabulous.

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We also had mini rice dhosas which were really tasty.

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The dessert menu was just as exciting and I couldn’t decide what I wanted. I know I will be back again and so on this occasion I went for the Jalebi Caviar. It was beautifully presented in the midst of masala pista milk, rabri and saffron. It was a decadent dessert and the perfect end to a gorgeous lunch!

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To accompany it, I went for a cappuccino, made from the House blend of Medium Roasted Brazilian Monsoon Malabar and Tanzanian Coffee. Really nice coffee and the best kick start to the afternoon after that wonderful meal.

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The entire meal was faultless, delicious and dreamy. There are so many dishes I want to come back and try! The Vegetarian selection is really good too and the desserts are fantastic. Well done to Chef Rohit Ghai for creating such a wonderful menu and dining experience. It is definitely worthy of a Michelin star in the near future.

The service was impeccable and massive kudos to our waiter who was actually on his first shift at lunch service and was simply amazing!

I can’t wait to dine at Jamavar again and I can’t recommend it enough if you are looking for a new Indian restaurant to try out. You will love the venue and the food, and the excellent service! The cocktails are a must have too.

My meal was complimentary but all views and photos are my own.

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Things to do in Dubai

 

Dubai is an ultra luxurious holiday destination with its opulent hotels, fine dining restaurants and high end shopping, beaches, a marina, creek,as well as state of the art entertainment venues and daring skyscrapers. It is also home to the largest shopping mall in the world and the highest building in the world.

Perfect for a holiday either as a final destination or a stop over, Dubai also benefits from year round sunshine. It is extremely safe and you do have to respect the culture and dress appropriately.

I have been to Dubai a few times and so this post is a combination of suggestions from my visits, of my favourite things to do.

Dubai Marina

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You can take a 7km long walk alongside the Dubai marina which has a whole host of restaurants, entertainment complexes and views of the various skysrapers and hotels. You can also take a dhow ride.

We enjoyed a lovely meal at one of the eateries whilst people and yacht watching.

The Burj Khalifa

 

You can take an ultra fast elevator to see Dubai from the tallest building in the world. Perfect for day or evening, the views are incredible. It is advisable to book your tickets in advance though, as this is a very popular activity.

From the 124th floor you can get a 360 degree view of Dubai, which is just breathtaking.

The higher floors are also fabulous and you have photo opportunities available too. If you happen to be there around 6pm you can also watch the Dubai Fountain show from up above, or alternatively head down for 6pm.

Desert Safari

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Dune bashing in a landcruiser – perfect for adrenalin seekers, as a 4×4 car takes you on a rollercoaster journey through the desert sand dunes. It is a must do and the perfect adventure before a lovely dinner in a Bedouin style camp, where you can watch belly dancers whilst you dine.

There are various types of packages available and options of types of cars depending on your budget, so there is bound to be something that appeals to everyone.

You can even go for camel rides in the desert or jump around in the sand like I did. Trust me it was lots of fun!

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Dubai Mall

Go shopping in the world’s largest shopping mall which has some of the biggest luxury and designer brands all under one roof. It also houses an aquarium, ice rink amongst a host of fabulous restaurants and coffee shops. We enjoyed a lovely coffee and cake break at the Armani cafe, before going up the Burj Khalifa, whose entrance is from this mall.

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Gold Souk – Deira

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All that glitters is gold – quite literally! You can find so much in this souk (market) but make sure you negotiate the prices. The government keeps an eye on the quality of the goods so you are safe in the knowledge that it is genuine.

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Burj Al Arab

The mythical ‘seven star’ hotel is definitely one of the most opulent I have seen! To gain access inside the hotel you have to have a booking at one of the restaurants or bars. However, you can also marvel at the architecture from various vantage points.

Pictured below was the view from dinner at Jumeirah Beach Hotel, part of the same group of hotels. I love seeing it at night as it changes colour and occasionally has a brief animation show.

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The view below was from Madinat Jumeirah, where we enjoyed a lovely lunch.

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Other ideas:

  • If you have enough time, a day trip to Abu Dhabi, which is only a couple of hours drive, is a must to see Ferrari world, Yas Island and the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.
  • A day spent at Atlantis at the Palm, which has a water park, swimming with dolphins experience, restaurants, bars and shops.
  • A helicopter ride over Dubai for an aerial view.
  • Skiing at Ski Dubai!Yes really
  • Fine dining at one of the many amazing restaurants in Dubai.

Have you been to Dubai? What was your highlight?

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Vineet Bhatia London

For my birthday dinner this year, as a special treat, we visited Vineet Bhatia London, named after the owner, the well loved chef Vineet Bhatia. As soon as I had read it was opening and I had seen some sneak previews, I knew this was where I wanted to celebrate.

Located in Rasoi’s previous home, in a townhouse on Kings Road, Chelsea, you can enjoy a tasting menu comprising of modern Indian dishes. The menu has approximately 16 dishes, which are a mixture of amuse bouches, small and larger plates, and desserts. The food is low in carbs and chef Vineet’s aim is to provide a sensory experience through his different dishes, which he truly succeeded in doing.

As we arrived, we rang the doorbell, and we were welcomed as if we had arrived at someone’s house for a dinner party. It was so lovely.

Unfortunately on the evening that we dined, chef Vineet was travelling, but that didn’t stop him surprising us with some bubbles to start with, which was very happily received.

We both opted for the non-vegetarian tasting menus, and decided to stick to the champagne rather than going for the wine flight.

First to arrive was Aloo Chat, presented in a spherical shape with a pipette filled with raita (yoghurt) attached to the hollowed out centre. A gentle squeeze of the pipette injected the Aloo Chat with the yoghurt mixture and we ate the whole thing in one go, appreciating the explosion of flavours in our mouths.

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Then arrived a gorgeous platter which had one of Amit’s favourite dishes, but in a modern twist, Pau Bhaji. In this instance, the masala was baked into the dough and served with bhaji butter on the side. This was just magical and so delicious. While I am typing this up I am craving it!

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Also on the platter was India’s beloved Khari biscuit topped with aubergine jaggery, called Khari biscuit Aubergine Kut.

Served in a metal plate and on a beautiful spoon was Idli Sambhar with crab chutney. This was so dreamy and left such lovely flavours on my palette.

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A theatrical Sago papad soon arrived with a smokey aura. Topped with delicious tuna tartare and a green apple salsa, this was sensational. This would have been what would have been normal papad in an Indian meal, and I loved this alternative as it was really light, tangy and perfect in terms of portion considering we were having so many dishes.

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In an extremely gorgeous dish,  arrived amazing Pan seared Ghee scallops with garlic, chilli, pearl cous cous and edamame. This was one of the highlights of the meal and totally divine.

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From the next section in the tasting menu we were served some Smoked Salmon with a dusting of pea powder and coriander ketchup. I had the smoked Paneer as I am not a Salmon fan, and it was just incredible. They were so flexible in terms of swapping dishes which was fantastic. The smoky aroma was intoxicating and invoked nostalgia of summer barbeques but with an upmarket twist.

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Now the Mushroom Momo with makhani tomato ice cream and garlic raita was just superb. The broken plate is my friend Maham’s work – isn’t it just stunning? The momo, which is like a dumpling, was gorgeous and the tomato ice cream was a revelation. Garlic raita was always going to be a winner for me as I am obsessed with garlic.

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Lobster is another weakness of mine and this Grilled lobster with gram flour cake (what we call Dhokla), squid ink foam and baby melons was heavenly.

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With two main dishes to go before dessert, we were surprisingly okay after all these dishes. In a normal Indian restaurant if we had eaten this much we would not be able to move! I love the balance of ingredients that Vineet has so skillfully chosen and used and this experience was already at this point top of my list for 2016!

We had Malai chicken which was served with braised spinach, sundried tomato powder on white makhni sauce.  Garnishing the plate was a Tomato crisp, Boraj leaf and black olives. This was really delightful.

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The final of the savoury dishes was the Kapi Lamb Chops served with ghatia. Kapi, which is coffee, is something I never imagined would go with lamb but boy did it go well! It was such a treat.

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We were by now very excited about dessert and to start with we had a bowl of Ras gulia called Coconut Calm, with coconut crisp, coconut jelly and coconut cream. It was a lovely light rendition of the dish and one you could eat tub fulls of while curled up on the couch with your favoutite TV show.

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The highlight for me, out of the desserts, in terms of taste and presentation, was the Chocmosa  which was served alongside pani puri filled with cheese which was sat on top of a shot glass filled with green pistachio milk. Mamma mia was this amazing!

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The Salted caramel kulfi topped with toasted quinoa served on a banana leaf and cooled on a himalayan salt block was just as fabulous!

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The dessert didn’t end here though. Next we had a selection of Petit fours which included Rose ginger jubjub, Chai Ganache (which was my favourite), Chocolate Fennel, Sesame crips, Chilli chocolate and Almond Tuille. We were well and truly spoilt with the assortment.

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The surprise didn’t end there though and out came a Birthday mocha mousse cake which was amazing. I truly felt like a princess having dined on a fantastic banquet in Vineet Bhatia London and I really did have the best meal I have had in a long time.

 

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As far as tasting menus go, I am not sure what could possibly top this! However, I was assured that the menu is going to change frequently which is a great excuse to go back! The vegetarian menu is just as incredible. I can totally see a Michelin star being awarded super soon.

If you have seen me you are probably wondering how I managed to eat so much. I can assure you it is so well though out that is is an enjoyable experience rather than one which leaves you passed out on the couch in a food coma.

The entire experience is just out of this world, from the venue, the service and the fantastic food. At £105 per person it is the type of meal you would choose for a special occasion and it is one I can’t recommend enough! If I had to rate it I would give it 11/10.

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The Sheraton Mexico City Maria Isabel Hotel

The Sheraton Maria Isabel, also known as Sheraton Mexico City, is centrally located on Paseo de la Reforma, overlooking the famous Angel of Independence. The drive to the hotel was only 30 minutes from Mexico City International Airport. The hotel was originally built in 1962 by the Bolivian tycoon Antenor Patiño.

I was staying at the hotel as part of a press trip to attend the Latin America 50 Best Restaurant Awards, with a group of bloggers and journalists.

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The hotel has 755 rooms and suites, and is close to the Reforma 22 shopping mall, as well as Zona Rosa, where you can find many Mexican eateries and shops. It is such a convenient location and the subway station is really close by too. It is based in the financial district and close to major banks and offices.
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My room was on the SPG floor and was a club room. It had that wonderful Sheraton  Sweet Sleeper™ Bed, which is one of the cosiest beds I have ever slept in. What I love about staying at Sheraton hotels is that you get the same experience no matter where you are in the world so as soon as your head hits the pillow it feels like you are in the comfort of your own home.
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The room itself was large with a lovely desk, which I made my temporary office, as well as a nice spacious bathroom, with a lovely tub, which was very well used daily after long days of excursions. There was also a dressing table area, with excellent lighting, and a hairdryer, ironing board as well as massive cupboard space, in case you wanted to unpack your belongings.
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There were ample plugs dotted around the room, as well as a very handy full length mirror, which made getting ready that much more convenient.
The hotel had various restaurants and bars, including the Jorongo bar, where you could listen to live Mariachi music, an Italian restaurant called Restaurant Amici, a Japanese restaurant and a deli.

There is also a Sheraton Club Lounge for club level guests and SPG Platinum members where you can enjoy complimentary breakfast, afternoon hors d’oeuvres and a variety of beverage options all with a lovely view from the 18th floor.

As it is a business hotel, it has ample amenities for meetings and conferences. There were several conferences going on whilst we were staying there.

The hotel has a swimming pool and fitness amenities as well, in case you fancy keeping fit whilst staying in Mexico City.
The room service choices are excellent and I treated myself to pancakes one morning, with a nice steaming hot cup of coffee, and some freshly squeezed orange juice.
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On my last day I also ordered in Pizza, as I was working hard from my room, catching up on emails and blog posts and it was so delicious! Room service is available 24/7 and is really quick.
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Needless to say I couldn’t resist the comfort of the bed and ended up working from it eventually!
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If you are planning on  visiting Mexico City, this hotel is just perfect in terms of location, the rooms, amenities and service. It is also in a safe neighbourhood, and at no point did I feel concerned about my safety.
My room was complimentary as I was staying at the hotel as part of a press trip, however, rates start from USD 98 a night.
To read more about my time in Mexico City, click here.
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Birthday breakfast and cocktails at Rosewood London

 

Birthdays are a fantastic excuse to indulge all day (as if I need any excuse)! I started my birthday with a delicious breakfast at Rosewood London, in their fabulous Mirror room, with some of my favourite bloggers, Aftab and Angie.

We sipped on some delicious coffees, whilst we peered through the menu, trying to decide what to have for breakfast. My coffee was delicious with beautiful coffee art. There had been a slight glitch to start with whereby mine and Aftab’s coffee’s had been mixed up, but that was swiftly sorted.

Now truffle is my weakness at the moment. I love it on pasta, chips, cheese on toast…you name it. When I saw that they had truffled baked eggs for breakfast as a choice, I was won over.

It was just perfect. The best baked eggs I have had. Served in an earthy pan and just oozing with deliciousness. I want to go back for this so if anyone wants to join me let me know!


Aftab opted for the Acai bowl, which is quite rare to find on breakfast menus, and he absolutely loved it. It was probably a wise start to the day as we were set for major indulging (cocktails) for the rest of the day! The Acai bowl had blueberries, bananas, strawberries, raspberries, granola, goji berries and bee pollen.


Angie chose classic porridge with fruits on the side. She too was off for lunch later that day and the weather was the perfect setting for a comforting bowl of porridge.


Over breakfast Angie told us all about her recent trip to Kenya and Zanzibar, a topic close to my heart since I was born and brought up in Kenya. She went on safari in both the Masai Mara and Samburu, as well as stayed at the iconic Giraffe Manor. You have to go read all about all her experiences on her blog, SilverSpoon London.

The Giraffe Manor is one of the most unique hotels in the world, whereby you have endangered resident Giraffes wandering around, peeking their heads through the massie windows whilst you have breakfast, or wanting to be petted or kissed whilst you have afternoon tea. I had afternoon tea there last December, when I was last in Kenya and you can read about it here and you can read about Angie’s experience here.

When we finished breakfast, the heavens had opened and rather than braving the rain, Aftab and I took refuge in the gorgeous Scarfes bar.

I obviously had a Mojito, which was made extremely well. Aftab had wanted a pornstar martini, but they didn’t have them at this bar. Instead he went for one recommended by the bartender, who assured him it was just as nice as a pornstar martini, and it was!

It was the perfect way to start my birthday off and I am so grateful to have such lovely blogger friends to have spent it with.