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Twenty9 By Piccadily – A Forgettable Experience

Nothing is more important than family – work, the people you meet, or the people you call friends. So when it is family dinner time, you go to a place selected by the collective hive-mind hoping better judgement will prevail next time. Nonetheless, dinner time is only about the food and the company. Within these parameters, while the company is something one can make do with, below average food is not something to settle for. Unfortunately, that’s exactly where Twenty9 by Piccadily loses the plot.

It’s All About the Location

Situated next to Janakpuri District Center, the location of the hotel is quite convenient by twenty-year-old standards when traffic congestion used to be perhaps one-tenth of what it is today. However, that is not something that the hotel can be faulted for, just their luck. The seating, layout, the decor, etc. are all quite nice and spacious. However, a lack of clear focus on the menu style is quite evident. North Indian, Mediterranean and the ubiquitous “Continental” words appear in the description of the menu. Fortunately, Piccadily has refrained from going for a dimly lit space, as is the norm at most fine-dine restaurants in city hotels today.

The Indian buffet has a range of selections.
The Indian buffet has a range of selections.

With the surroundings surveyed, twenty of us (yes, that’s a big family) placed ourselves around the dinner table. A less appreciated, nice thing about Twenty9 is that the staff doesn’t hassle you much. To some, it may seem like they (the staff) couldn’t care less and are laggard in servicing the guests. But give those guys a little break, people, they work really hard all day for meagre pay.

The Food at Twenty9

Moving on to the food. The well laid out Indian buffet (1399++ per head) at Twenty9 has starters and soups occupying a corner, of which the chicken soup wasn’t ethereal, but fairly balanced in flavours as compared to the vegetarian option. There’s a certain amount of emphasis on paneer in the menu, which is probably a deference to the patrons, most of whom seem to hail from the sometimes overwhelming Punjabi neighbourhood in Janakpuri. Keeping that same point in mind, there is a golgappa counter as well which seemed to draw a lot of attention from local as well as foreign guests of the hotel. Grilled non-vegetarian fare, however, isn’t the kitchen’s strong point. The fish was overdone and squishy, while the Chicken Tikkas were dried out, both dishes devoid of any real flavours of the meat or the spices.

As good as the food looks, the end result leaves plenty to desire.
As good as the food looks, the end result leaves plenty to desire.

The mains offer a decent amount of choice between vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes, however, the fixation with paneer continues in the vegetarian options. Dal Makhni, Dal Dhaba, Chicken Korma and one more paneer dish (the name of which I can’t recall) were just about average with underwhelming flavours. Hyderabadi Biryani and Mutton Curry raised a few hopes to rescue the evening, but alas, nothing to write home about there either. However, surprisingly enough, the mutton was cooked to perfection, a feat which is rarely seen even at some of the most celebrated restaurants.

A Disappointing Affair

Self-service

Other than the well-cooked mutton, the only other interesting thing is the name Twenty9. The restaurant derives that name due to the copper lined ceiling and 29 is the atomic number of copper in the periodic table. Apart from that factoid, when it comes to the food, the overall score for Twenty9 is a dismal 2.5 out of 5 for the lack of flavours. However, if one were to consider the simple finding perfectly cooked mutton, that score gets bumped up to 3 out of 5 for the sheer rarity of such an event.

If you are in the neighbourhood of Janakpuri, and want to spend a rather hassle-free evening with the family over some very average food, Twenty9 may prove to be a good choice. However, there are many more (and better) options a little further down the same road in Rajouri Garden.

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Wine & Spirits

A Little Bit Of ‘Americana’ – Napa, California

Californian wines have come a long way from being perceived as a ‘poor man’s substitute for good wine’ to command its own place in the world. Winemakers and vineyards from Napa and Sacremento valleys regularly feature at international competitions and have won many accolades.

The wines we have for you today are among the very best from Napa Valley, one of the most well-known wine regions of the world.

Napa Valley AVA, California

Region: Just like the DOCG classification of France, an American Viticultural Area (AVA) is a designated wine grape-growing region in the United States. It is distinguishable by geographic features, and its boundaries are defined by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) of the United States Department of the Treasury.

Napa Valley, American Viticulture Area, California, United States of America, USA, Kendall Jackson, Sauvignon Blanc, Stag's Leap, Cabernet SauvignonClimate: Napa, and California in general, has a Mediterranean climate. The geography and geology of the region contribute massively to the conduciveness to raising quality wine grapes. In addition to that, several mesoclimates (restricted to tens or hundreds of meters) exist within the AVA due to various weather and geographical influences. Due to its proximity to the San Pablo Bay, the open southern end is cooler during the grape ripening season, while the northern end remains much warmer. The eastern end is quite arid due to its proximity to the desert and also since it is on the leeward side of the Rockies. The southern end of the valley has soil rich in sediments, while the northern end is mostly volcanic.

Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2013

Price: INR 800

Style: Off-dry

Grape: Sauvignon Blanc

Color: Clear, off-pale with a golden tint

Nose: Ripe pears, fresh lemongrass and lot of citrusy freshness of grapefruti are dominant in this medium-bodied Sauvignon Blanc.

Palate: The palate reinforces the freshness of the nose with notes of ripe pears and lemongrass with an Napa Valley, American Viticulture Area, California, United States of America, USA, Kendall Jackson, Sauvignon Blanc, Stag's Leap, Cabernet Sauvignonadded citrusy zing to them. It is wonderfully aromatic and juicy with the added notes of grapefruit on the mid-palate, and some figs and mild minerality (which is seen quite a few other products from Napa Valley) on the end palate.

Serving Temperature: 9-12ºC

Food Pairing: It is perhaps the most versatile wine from the Napa region. Pairs well with red meat dishes like Rogan Josh, light aromatic curries like chicken curry, prawn curry, spicy tikkas, Hyderabadi biryani, pork vindaloo, Malvani fish, chicken and goat curries, Bengali fish curries, spicy vegetable dishes, and fresh summery salads.

Notes: If you’ve had a pre-set perception about wines from Napa Valley, the KJ Vintner’s Reserve Sauvignon Blanc will change that for you. It is one of the finest examples of new-world winemakers taking on the challenge of creating something wonderful with an old-world grape. Finding a bottle of this wine, however, is still slightly challenging and the best bet is duty-free shops for now.


Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Artemis Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Napa Valley, American Viticulture Area, California, United States of America, USA, Kendall Jackson, Sauvignon Blanc, Stag's Leap, Cabernet SauvignonPrice: INR 3800 (approx.)

Style: Dry, with soft and supple tannins

Grape: 89% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot, 2% Malbec

Color: Dark, ruby red

Nose: Black cherries and plums dominate the nose, complemented with hints of vanilla and rosemary

Palate: This dry red wine from California is a perfect blend of fruity and earthy flavours on the palate. The palate mirrors the nose with notes of black cherries and ripe, black plums with tremendous amounts of fruitiness that is well complemented by earthy notes of rosemary and hints of black pepper and cinnamon on the end palate. The tannins are soft and supple, never overpowering the fruitiness of the Napa Valley, American Viticulture Area, California, United States of America, USA, Kendall Jackson, Sauvignon Blanc, Stag's Leap, Cabernet Sauvignonwine at any point. The finish is medium to long with added spice and dark chocolate notes.

Serving Temperature: Best serving temperature hovers between 12-15ºC for Indian summers

Food Pairing: Pairs well with steaks, light curries, kebabs, Awadhi biryani, tandoori chicken, and lightly spiced chicken tikkas. Actually, pair it with anything lightly spiced with aromatic spices like cinnamon, black cardamoms, black peppers, nutmeg, star anise etc.

Notes: This is one wine that is sort of hard to find in the Indian market. However, if you do find it, especially at the duty-free shops, do get yourself at least one bottle of this fabulous wine and you will not regret that decision.

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Wine & Spirits

Wines That Are Easy On The Pocket

All wines are not meant to be equal. Each bottle has a story to tell – the story of the winemaker, the vineyard, the grape, the process and much more. The wines we have selected for you today are some of the most cost effective labels that are never too harsh on the pocket and yet deliver a brilliant experience with each glass.

Cono Sur Bicycle Chardonnay

Region: Chimbarongo, Chile

Climate: Mild summers, with cool nights and foggy morningsCono Sur, Bicycle Chardonnay, Chilean Wines, Hardy's Stamp Chardonnay Semillion, Australian Wines, Italian Wines, Chianti, Tuscany, Umbria, Ruffino Orvieto Classico

Price: INR 1420

Style: Off-Dry at 13.6%

Grape: Chardonnay

Color: Yellow-green with golden tinge

Nose: Intense and fresh aromas of citrus fruits, white peaches, melons and mild minerals.

Palate: The palate demonstrates a fresh youthfulness with citrus fruits featuring very prominently on the mid and end palate. The end palate also demonstrates a fresh minerality that goes very well with the overall mouth feel of this young Chardonnay. As with all Chardonnays, the Cono Sur Bicycle Chardonnay has the typical creaminess on the mid palate that is as refreshing as the citric acidity of the wine.

Serving Temperature: 10-12ºC

Food Pairing: Pairs well with summer salads, fish, light curries, green olives, kebabs, tikkas, and tandoori chicken. Good for unpaired consumption in summers when served chilled at 10ºC.


Ruffino Orvieto Classico

Region: Umbria, Italy

Climate: The Orvieto Classico region of Umbria, Italy has a rich history of wine making. The chalky limestone soil, called tufa, predominant in the Classico area, along with remnants of volcanic soil, gives a unique character to the wines from the region. The wines produced demonstrate a fair amount of Cono Sur, Bicycle Chardonnay, Chilean Wines, Hardy's Stamp Chardonnay Semillion, Australian Wines, Italian Wines, Chianti, Tuscany, Umbria, Ruffino Orvieto Classicominrality on the nose and palate, along with fresh citrusy notes of fruits and flowers.

Price: INR 1530

Style: Dry

Grape: 40% Grechetto, 20% Procanico and 40% Verdello, Canaiolo Bianco

Color: Lightly pale, bright and clear

Nose: Green apples, some amount of peaches, and floral notes dominate the nose.

Palate: This dry white wine demonstrates a true Italian heritage of smooth, refreshing flavors that balance beautifully with its structure and acidity. A unique mineral character that comes from the chalky limestone soil of the region adds to the summery charm of this wine giving it a long and fragrant finish with hints of almond on the end palate.

Serving Temperature: 10-12ºC

Food Pairing: Pairs well with dishes that use liberal amounts of rosemary, light curries, summer salads, green olives and mild flavoured cheeses like mozzarella, excellent for unpaired consumption in summers. To pair this wine with Indian dishes, avoid dishes that use heavy amounts of pungent oils like mustard or strong flavours like asafetida.


Hardy’s Chardonnay Semillion

Region: McLaren Vale, Australia

Climate: Australian climate is quite similar to the Mediterranean region, and McLaren Vale is one of the best examples of that. Warm dry summers and cool wet winters, with low relative humidity and relatively high evaporation are normal to the region with little risk of rainfall or frost during the harvest period, making it a brilliantly predictable place to raise grapes for premium wines.

The proximity to sea results in hot summer days that are moderated by cool westerly, southerly or easterly breezes off the surrounding ocean, and also the ‘Gully Winds’ from the Hills giving a prolongedCono Sur, Bicycle Chardonnay, Chilean Wines, Hardy's Stamp Chardonnay Semillion, Australian Wines, Italian Wines, Chianti, Tuscany, Umbria, Ruffino Orvieto Classico ripening period for the grapes on the vine allowing them to accumulate flavour and intensity.

Price: INR 1230

Style: Medium body, off-dry

Grape: Chardonnay Semillion

Color: Light, pale golden

Nose: Tropical fruits, peaches and apples on the nose, with delicate influence of oak.

Palate: The Hardy’s Stamp Chardonnay Semillion is a medium bodied wine that demonstrates brilliant flavours of tropical fruits like pineapples and passion fruit, white peach and under ripe apples. A mild hint of oak on the nose is transferred to the palate that adds to the body of the wine while allowing the fruit to show through prominently.

Serving Temperature: 10-13ºC

Food Pairing: Pairs well with summer salads with fruits and nuts, salmon, and chicken. Light Indian curries, kebabs of vegetarian and non-vegetarian origins also pair well with this wine. Excellent summer wine when served chilled at around 10ºC.

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Wine & Spirits

The Big Boys Of Wine

There are wines and there are wines. But the winemakers who have been making wines for generations do have a few aces up their sleeves. The wines we have selected for you today are a few of those aces that have earned a distinction in the world of wines.

Umani Ronchi Podere Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo DOC

Region: Abruzzo DOC, Italy

Climate: The Abruzzo region is located in east-central Italy with the Apennines Mountains to the west podere, montepulciano, umani ronchi, dead-arm shiraz, sangre de toro, torres, miguel torres, catalunya, catalonia, mc laren valeof the region. The mountains act as a barrier to storm systems from the west, but are practically useless to block storm systems originating in the east, often resulting in high precipitation. To the east, the Adriatic Sea provides a Mediterranean climate for the vines.

The soil is rich in calcium and very clayey in nature. The northern vineyards demonstrate altitude and microclimates similar to the central wine regions of Italy like Tuscany, and Umbria. The southern flatlands are humid with more fertile vineyards that show characteristics similar to southern Italian regions like Calabria and Apulia.

Price: INR 880

Style: Medium bodied, off-dry

Grape: Montepulciano

Color: Bright, ruby red

Nose: Red berries and black fruits aromas such as over ripe plums, and blackberry.

Palate: This off-dry wine is round and comes with notes of wild, under ripe strawberry on first sip. The acidity along with the mild-mannered tannins is a refreshing surprise for a red wine. The tannins are complemented by ripe, dark fruits that mirror the nose and give the wine a dash of extra body on the mid palate.

The finish is short to medium with added citrus notes on the end palate along with very mild notes spices.

Serving Temperature: The winemaker advises to serve this wine at 18ºC, however, this wine surprises the palate very pleasantly at 11-13ºC

Food Pairing: Pairs well with salads, light curries, pastas, and red meats . Good for unpaired consumption in warm weather when served chilled at 11ºC.

Notes: Under the Italian wine laws, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo must have a minimum of 85% Montepulciano grapes, while the rest 15% can be filled up with Sangiovese (another native Italian grape). The grapes are harvested to yield no more than 14 tonnes per hectare and the wine must be aged for a minimum of 5 months before release. Wines aged longer (for a minimum of 2 years in wood barrels) must be labeled as Vecchio and the minimum alcohol levels must be maintained at 12%. Montepulciano d’Abruzzo can be produced as a rosé and must be labeled as Cerasuolo.


Torres – Gran Sangre de Toro

Region: Catalunya DO, Spain

Climate: Catalunya has a variety of climates and soils in a relatively small area. As a result, wines from different winemakers in the region can be very different in characteristics depending on the sub-region.

The region enjoys a Mediterranean climate with hot, sunny summers ( avg. temperature of 28º C) and podere, montepulciano, umani ronchi, dead-arm shiraz, sangre de toro, torres, miguel torres, catalunya, catalonia, mc laren valemild winters (avg. temperature between 8°C and 17°C). As a result, the grapes get a a lot of character from ripening on the vines. Some of the best winemakers belong to this region of Spain. Although the best product from the region is Cava, a sparkling wine, the reds from Catalunya are considered just as good and next only to the Rioja wines from Spain.

Price: INR 1800

Style: Dry

Grape: Syrah, Cariñena, Garnacha Tinta

Color: Garnet-Burgundy red

Nose: Brilliant ripe aromas of wild blackberries with toasted oak notes. Warm, deep, and velvety with deepening aromas on each consecutive whiff.

Palate: The Sangre de Toro is a serious wine that appeals mostly to the very serious wine aficionados. It is dry and demonstrates layer upon layer of aromas and tastes on the palate. The tannins are well-rounded but can be mildly offensive when served without decantation. However, that is the charm of this wine, and a signature Spanish winemaking style – robust and rough around the edges.
The wild fruit aromas are mirrored on the palate along with some prominent spice like cinnamon and nutmeg, with hints of black pepper on end palate. The finish is long and smooth with added notes of dark chocolate and tobacco and hint of fruits and spice, making it a very masculine, yet well-behaved wine.

Serving Temperature: 13-15ºC

Food Pairing: Pairs well with steaks and red meat dishes, light aromatic curries, assortment of cheeses and fresh summery salads.

Notes: Torres is a force to reckon with in the wine world with more than four generations involved in the winery and with the brand. Torres has presence in Chile and California as well and exports wines to more than 140 countries around the world, making it the largest winery in play.


D’Arenberg ‘The Dead Arm’ Shiraz

Region: McLaren Vale, Australia

Climate: Australian climate is quite similar to the Mediterranean region, and McLaren Vale is one of the best examples of that. Warm dry summers and cool wet winters, with low relative humidity and relatively high evaporation are the norm in the region with little risk of rainfall or frost during the harvest period making it a brilliantly predictable place to raise grapes for premium wines.

The proximity to sea results in hot summer days that are moderated by cool westerly, southerly or easterly breezes off the surrounding ocean, and also the ‘Gully Winds’ from the Hills giving a prolonged ripening period for the grapes on the vine allowing them to accumulate flavour and intensity.

Price: INR 7320

Style: Dry

Grape: Shiraz

Color: Bright red with purple hues

Nose: Black and purple fruits, blackberry, plum, blackcurrant, licorice and sweet beetroot aromas are podere, montepulciano, umani ronchi, dead-arm shiraz, sangre de toro, torres, miguel torres, catalunya, catalonia, mc laren valesubdued initially by peaty, oaky, smoky and earthy aromas that are very easily taken care of by decanting this wine.

Palate: The Dead-Arm Shiraz is another wine meant for the very serious wine lovers. The wine starts off on the palate with petrichor and oak featuring very prominently followed by over ripe black fruits (plums, balccurrant, blackberry, beetroot) and spices (cinnamon, black pepper, mace, and sage – which is very unusual). Tannins are usually strong on the Dead-Arm Shiraz, making it ideal for storage in the cellar under right conditions for at least 10-12 years easily.

Serving Temperature: 13-15ºC

Food Pairing: Pairs well with game meats, red meats, red meat curries, and soft cheese like Brie.
Notes: The name Dead-Arm is derived from a fungal vine disease that renders one half of the vine dead, while the grapes in the other half notice a significant increase in the intensity of flavours and a much lower yield.

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Wine & Spirits

Beaujolais In India – Wine Reviews

Whoever said that red wines are only meant for the winters has perhaps never had a red wine from Beaujolais. The Beaujolais region or AOC is a part of the Burgundy AOC and produces very light bodied red wines with relatively higher acidity. The grape varietal most widely used in the region is Gamay, a grape that comes with a natural thin skin and light tannins. Some winemakers blend a little Pinot Noir or a local variation called the Pinot Liébault to add a little body to the wine, but not very often. A bottle of Beaujolais is best enjoyed lightly chilled to get a perfect summer red wine that is light on the palate and easy on the tannins.

There are different levels of finesse in the Beaujolais products, however, the Indian market it seems is only open for business to the middle-segment Beaujolais Villages AOC with Cru Beaujolais still a long way off from being available to the Indian consumers at reasonable prices. Here are 3 of the best Beaujolais wines that we found in the Indian market so far.

Region: Beaujolais AOC, France

Climate: Beaujolais enjoys a semi-continental climate with some influence of the Mediterranean Sea. It is slightly warmer than the rest of Burgundy and by the time the winemakers release their produce in November, some regions in the Burgundy foothills get their first snow of the season. Springtime frost is a common hazard in the region. Soil conditions also vary within the region, with the northern and southern halves having very different soil characters. The northern half that produces the more premium Cru Beaujolais has rolling hills of schist, granite and some limestone in the soil composition. The southern region is flatter and has richer soil with sandstone and clay dominating the composition, and some limestone patches. The lack of slopes in the south also results in the grapes being left on the vines much longer than in the north.

As a result of these conditions, the northern region produces more structured, complex wines, while the southern region produces lighter, fruitier and easy drinking wines.

Beaujolais, summer wines, red wine, summer red wines, Joseph Drouhin Beaujolais Villages, Maison Louis Jadot Combe Aux Jacques Beaujolais Villages, Maison Louis Latour Beaujolais VillagesMaison Louis Latour Beaujolais Villages

Price: INR 2250

Style: Off-Dry

Grape: Gamay

Color: Bright, ruby red

Nose: Red berries and black fruits aromas such as blackberry, and strawberry.

Palate: This mildly off-dry wine is round and comes with notes of wild, under ripe strawberry on first sip. The acidity along with the mild-mannered tannins is a refreshing surprise for a red wine.

The finish is short to medium with added citrus notes on the end palate along with very mild spice notes.

Serving Temperature: 11-13ºC

Food Pairing: Pairs well with salads, light curries, olives and cheeses. Good for unpaired consumption in warm weather when served slightly chilled at 11ºC.


Maison Louis Jadot Combe Aux Jacques Beaujolais Villages

Beaujolais, summer wines, red wine, summer red wines, Joseph Drouhin Beaujolais Villages, Maison Louis Jadot Combe Aux Jacques Beaujolais Villages, Maison Louis Latour Beaujolais VillagesPrice: INR 1830

Style: Off-Dry

Grape: Gamay

Color: Dark, ruby red

Nose: Ripe, dark berries, and fruits with notes of mild spice (cinnamon and nutmeg).

Palate: A juicy wine from one of the larger producers in Beaujolais with notes on the palate mirroring the nose. The wine demonstrates a greater intensity and structure while maintaining the attractive fruitiness on the nose and palate through to the end. This mild extra intensity makes it an excellent partner to some intensely flavoured dishes.

The finish is medium at best with some added citrus berry notes on the end palate along with very mild notes dark chocolate and licorice.

Serving Temperature: 11-13ºC

Food Pairing: Pairs well with salads, chicken and lamb preparations with aromatic spices cooked in lighter North Indian styles, light curries, olives and cheeses. Good for unpaired consumption as well.


Joseph Drouhin Beaujolais VillagesBeaujolais, summer wines, red wine, summer red wines, Joseph Drouhin Beaujolais Villages, Maison Louis Jadot Combe Aux Jacques Beaujolais Villages, Maison Louis Latour Beaujolais Villages

Price: INR 2000

Style: Off-Dry

Grape: Gamay

Color: Clear, medium intensity, ruby red

Nose: Red berries, mild flowers and spice.

Palate: On the palate, floral and fruity notes complemented by a typical high acidity of a Beaujolais. Cherry, candied strawberry and cranberry notes along with juicy dark berries. Soft and approachable, the freshness and fruit remain on the palate for quite some time at the finish.

The finish is short to medium with added citrus and licorice notes on the end palate.

Serving Temperature: 11-13ºC

Food Pairing: A versatile wine that is excellent for chilled serving or with chicken, salmon or summer salads.

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Wine & Spirits

Top 5 Beer Brands In India

It is just annoying to click on an article talking about beer and finding some exotic brands available in some remote pub on the planet. Most of them are not even imported into India and the chances of finding them at your neighborhood uncleji’s theka are even more remote than where those brews come from. Given that premise, here’s a list of some of the best brews available in India that are sure to add a zing to your summer afternoons this season.

Stella Artois

There’s more to Belgium than just their waffles. Stella Artois (pronounced Stella Är-tu-ah) is a six-century-old Belgian tradition that has been in the Indian market and winning fans for a while now. With that much tradition involved, there has to be some rituals related to this beer that never get old. But at the end of the day, it is all about the taste, and Stella Artois never ceases to amaze on that front. This full-bodied brew that has a very light texture on the palate is truly worth every penny that it commands.

top 5 beers, india, IPA, indian pale ale, kingfisher, budweiser, corona, hoëgaarden, stella artois, chilled beer, child beer, summer beers, hopsHoëgaarden

First, lets get the pronunciation right – it’s who-gaa-dun, not ho-gaarden, or ho-ga-den. Second, remember the Belgians, well they are the ones making this beauty as well. This creamy wheat beer with its orange peel and coriander notes is among the best wheat beers you will ever taste. Sure there are more from Europe that are finally available in the Indian market, but Hoëgaarden has definitely benefited from the first movers advantage and keeps climbing in popularity ratings very steadily.

Kingfisher Ultra

Yeah, we had to say it. Regardless of the fact that the airline of the same name has been a damp squib, Kingfisher is a brand to reckon with in the India market <insert Kingfisher joke here – oh wait – “there’s a bird in my window, and it’s just sitting there, not flying away. No wonder, it’s a Kingfisher>. Believe it or not, the brand commands an excellent market in North America as well. And the Kingfisher Ultra takes the brew games to a different level for the brand. This beer from the iconic brand is far smoother and crispier than its lower priced cousin and makes for an excellent choice in the hot Indian summers.

top 5 beers, india, IPA, indian pale ale, kingfisher, budweiser, corona, hoëgaarden, stella artois, chilled beer, child beer, summer beers, hopsCorona Extra

To be honest, it is the Kingfisher equivalent from Mexico – the beer of the masses. Everyone enjoys a chilled Corona on a hot summer day. And as for the lime wedge –story goes that it is placed at the mouth of the bottle just to ward off the flies in Mexico. Nevertheless, the fad has caught on and although it doesn’t really add to the taste or the experience of the beer, it does give it a bit of a distinction. The price is pricey, just because it’s an import, however, not bad at all and very popular among people who want to be seen dunking an imported beer.

Budweiser

Speaking of the beer of the masses, it doesn’t get bigger than the Bud. Thanks to the American-style marketing blitz, Budweiser’s popularity never dips. The taste is fresh, light and good, the price is also good and that keeps its popularity evergreen.

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Columns Travel

For The Love Of Nature – Day Trips From Delhi

The concrete jungle that is Delhi often makes one feel the need for an escape into the arms of nature. Luckily, this mega metropolis holds a few surprises for nature lovers as well. These wildlife preserves within the Delhi-NCR region are well equipped with amenities and offer a closer look at the rich bio-diversity of the region.

Sultanpur National Park

nilgai, blue bull antelope, northern shoveler, sarus crane, brown headed barbet, white throated kingfisher, Delhi NCR, wildlife preserves, national parks
White Throated Kingfisher is among the many resident birds at the Sultanpur National Park

Who knew that there was a National Park at a mere hour’s drive from Delhi? Located on the Gurgaon-Farrukhnagar Road, 15 KM from Gurgaon is a bird watchers paradise, especially in winters. The number of migratory birds visiting this sanctuary in winters far exceeds the number of winged visitors in summers. However, it still houses some excellent bird species all year round. Some of the resident birds that can be spotted around the park are purple sunbird, Indian cormorant, common spoonbill, white-throated kingfisher, spotbill, painted stork, black-necked stork, white ibis, black-headed ibis, little egret, great egret, crested lark, rose-ringed parakeet, red-wattled lapwing, spotted owlet, magpie robin and weaver bird.

The amenities at the Sultanpur National Park are good, with a well-appointed guesthouse for people who wish to stay for the night. No vehicles are allowed inside the park, although parking facilities are available. A walk around the park’s periphery takes about two hours on foot, and there are four watchtowers at different points in the park. Sultanpur National Park remains open all year round to winged visitors, while human visitors must plan their visit between 7am – 4:30pm during the week, except on Tuesdays when the park is closed.

Okhla Bird Sanctuary

nilgai, blue bull antelope, northern shoveler, sarus crane, brown headed barbet, white throated kingfisher, Delhi NCR, wildlife preserves, national parks
A pair of Sarus Cranes

The Okhla Bird Sanctuary is actually an excellent example of development for all species, including humans. The wetlands of this bird sanctuary were created due to the construction of the Okhla Barrage. Located at the point where the river Yamuna leaves Delhi and enters UP, it is one of the most important bird sanctuaries in North India. Resident bird species include blackwinged stilt, oriental skylark, Indian pond heron, brownheaded gull, graylag goose and many others usually join in during the winter migration season including cranes and flamingoes.

The amenities within the park are quite good. However, be prepared to shell out a modest entry fee of INR 30 if you are an Indian citizen and INR 350 if you are a foreigner. Camera permits are also required inside the park, which can be obtained at the entrance for INR 500 (still camera for Indian citizen) and INR 1,000 (still camera for foreigners). Movie camera permits cost INR 5,000 and INR 10,000 for Indian and foreign nationals respectively. No vehicles are permitted inside the park premises, so plan your day accordingly. The park remains open between 7am to 5:30pm in the summers and 7am to 5pm in winters. While, the best-advised time to visit is between November to March, summers, especially monsoons usually have some pleasant bird watching surprises in store.

Asola Wildlife Sanctuary

nilgai, blue bull antelope, northern shoveler, sarus crane, brown headed barbet, white throated kingfisher, Delhi NCR, wildlife preserves, national parks
The Northern Shoveler (background) and Shoveler (foreground)

The Asola Wildlife Sanctuary is the largest wildlife preserve within the city limits of Delhi covering an area of nearly 7,000 acres. It is home to nilgai (blue bull antelope), blackbuck, civet, jackals and jungle cats. This wildlife preserve is also home to a rich diversity of medicinal plants, and 193 species of resident and migratory birds.

The reserve is open to public and there is an entry fee of INR 100 per person. Park timings are 9am-5pm on weekdays, except national holidays. Do remember to check at the entrance for camera equipment fee, as there is no information available on the Delhi Government website regarding that. The sanctuary is easily approached from Tughlaqabad or Mehrauli. The sanctuary is also home to the Conservation Education Centre (CEC) which is run in collaboration with the Bombay Natural History Society and Government of NCT Delhi at the Forest Department building. The CEC staff also runs a nature trail through the scrub jungle to acquaint visitors with the flora, fauna and topography of the area.

Categories
Culture

Top 4 Wine Festivals In India

There have been many attempts at organizing wine festivals in India in recent memory. Sadly, most have fallen short on expectations on various fronts. However, as the demand for wine increases, irrespective of the various bans and the emerging socio-political landscape of the country, wine festivals in India have caught the fancy of the public. Here are the top four wine festivals in India that one ought to visit.

Bandra Wine Festival

The Bandra Wine Festival is organized in the month of November in Mumbai. The two-day festival promises lot more than just wine and attracts people from all over the country. However, it has been facing some problems off late, with the last installment of the event getting postponed by over 3 months. That apart, when it does happen, do not miss out on the fun it offers with grape-stomping championships, art exhibitions, dance and music, and of course, lots of good food.

The Pune Wine Festival is a replica of the Bandra Wine Festival and is organized by the same people, therefore, it gets a mention here with the note that ‘if you’ve been to the Bandra Wine Festival, you’ve been to the Pune Wine Festival as well’.

wine festivals in India, Taj Wine Festival, New Delhi, Taj Mansingh, IVFE, Sula Fest, Grover Fest, Bandra Wine Festival, Pune Wine FestivalSula Fest

Sula Fest has perhaps been the only one of the lot that has had a good track record of being on time every year. Each year in the month of February, Sula Vineyards in Nashik transforms into a hotspot for the hottest bands and live music, along with some of the best wine and good food. However, the Sula Fest is and always has been more about music and performing arts than wine. wine festivals in India, Taj Wine Festival, New Delhi, Taj Mansingh, IVFE, Sula Fest, Grover Fest, Bandra Wine Festival, Pune Wine Festival

Grover Fest

Grover Vineyards, the other big name in the Indian market organizes its own wine festival in Bangalore in the month of February. It is not as old as the Sula Fest, but attracts an enviable list of performers and crowds to the event grounds. 2016 marked the second edition of the festival and we hope there will be lot more before prohibition takes over the country for a foreseeable future.

Taj Wine Festival

Taj Mahal, New Delhi, organized its own version of a wine festival this year with over 50 wineries, making it one of the biggest wine festivals that actually focused on wine. Of course, there can’t be wine without food and celebration, however, all that was very limited and restricted only to a select guest list. The Taj Wine Festival saw the Navy Band playing at the Gala Dinner attended by the luminaries of the wine industry. Given all that, it remains more of an industry event rather than a real wine festival in the truest sense. But it is the first of its kind for the national capital and one hopes there will be more to come that will attract more than just the industry folks or the most serious wine connoisseurs.

wine festivals in India, Taj Wine Festival, New Delhi, Taj Mansingh, IVFE, Sula Fest, Grover Fest, Bandra Wine Festival, Pune Wine FestivalAlthough, only the Sula Fest has been an annual affair for quite some time now, others are trying to emulate the same. In spite of the efforts by organizers, a lot remains to be done in order to attract the masses. India is far away from organizing something like VinItaly anytime soon, but these independent wine festivals leave us with a ray of hope that things might just change for good in the future.

Categories
Reviews

Latitude 28 – A Disappointing First Impression

Scathing remarks at the tiniest of interactions with an establishment are never called for. The entire staff puts in a lot of hard work to bring an idea to life, to put food on your table, right from the chef to the cleaning staff. However, when the establishment in question enjoys something of a legendary lineage with Chef Ritu Dalmia at the helm, higher expectations are natural. And when those expectations come crashing down like a house of cards, disappointment takes over and ruins the experience. Latitude 28 at the upscale Khan Market is one such story of disappointment at first impression.

The décor is nice and warm, menu is enticing, the open salad counter adds a certain charm as well. Serving staff is polite and warm without being overbearing or smothering at any point. However, some amount of attention from them is desirable. For example, it would’ve been nice to at least be served a glass of water when a guest walks in without having to ask for it, especially when it is very early in the day at 12 noon with only 3 tables to wait upon. Within that same premise, it is expected that the staff will not forget an order placed by a guest.

However, it is a minor thing and nothing that someone in their right senses would or should bother about. Especially when one knows how hard people work at a restaurant to keep it running and considering that it might just actually be a one-off case.

Latitude 28, Chef Ritu Dalmia, Khan Market, New Delhi, Friuli Pinot GrigioLatitude 28 and the wine list

Latitude 28 has a decent collection of wines that look thoughtfully selected for the menu. Some excellent options with equally good pricing can be spotted on the menu. Options for “by the glass” wines are plenty and well priced as well. However, storage of wines served by the glass is below par. This innocuous little detail lends a disappointing turn to events.

As soon as a wine bottle is opened and the contents come in contact with outside air, it begins to deteriorate. Wine is a living, breathing drink that continues to evolve and ultimately dies regardless of its pedigree, much unlike a distilled spirit like a whiskey or a vodka. Selling wines by the glass is an excellent option for establishments to move their stocks quickly with decent profit margins that do not pinch the customer’s pocket either. However, when selling wines by the glass, establishments need to keep in mind the guest experience while accounting for wastage.

Friuli Pinot Grigio 2014

Simply plugging the bottle with the same bottle cork that has already been damaged by the corkscrew worm is not the right way to do it. Using a vacuum stopper, which is easily available and quite effective in increasing the life span of an open bottle of wine stored under the right conditions, is a simple enough solution that is overlooked at Latitude 28. As a result a fairly decent Friuli Pinot Grigio 2014 loses the freshness and crispness that is expected of it. A mild oxidation is fairly noticeable for a discerning nose and palate.

Latitude 28, Chef Ritu Dalmia, Khan Market, New Delhi, Friuli Pinot GrigioNow here’s the clincher. Ms. Dalmia is a highly experienced professional who has spent a considerable amount of time in Italy, researching the food and drink of a country that is pretty much like a second home to her. Her kitchen always delivers an impeccable experience for the taste buds in the narrator’s personal experience. So how can an establishment with Chef Ritu Dalmia’s name just replace a damaged cork on a bottle and sell the wine by the glass?

It is a very simple thing, almost trivial for someone who might just want to ‘be seen’ drinking wine with little knowledge of the subject or for someone who is concerned more about the food. But for someone who takes their wine very seriously, it is nothing short of atrocious to see corners being evaded altogether at a premier establishment like Latitude 28.

Having said that, although it was a disappointment to see such a treatment meted out to a good bottle of wine, the experience at Latitude 28 remains a limited one. I’m sure that Chef Dalmia’s signature style will be very evident in the food, which remains to be experienced at another time in the near future. Until then, a little attention to the wine list is perhaps in order.