Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Never give up

Most of us are a privileged lot. We may not want to acknowledge it but yes, our lives much better than we imagine. Nick Vujicic is someone who doesn’t mind using his own example to show you what you can achieve.
Nick was born in Australia in 1982 without arms or legs. All through his childhood and adolescence Nick questioned why he was the way he was. Bullied and ridiculed he often struggled with depression and loneliness. With the help of a loving family and some true friends he decided to turn things around. Since his first speaking engagement at the age 19, Nick has travelled around the world, sharing his story with millions, sometimes in stadiums and conference halls speaking to a range of diverse groups of people.
His story has always intrigued me. When he was born doctors never believed he would ever be able to walk and yet Nick has gone around the world. He even walks in his own style. This is someone who loves to swim, paint and has many books to his name.
His message of hope is universal. In a complex world that has no shortage of contempt, one can relate to his determination. He is coming to the UAE and I can’t wait to meet him.   

You can attend Nick's session: 
Thursday, November 17, 2016
10 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Expo-Center in Sharjah -‘Attitude to live with Nick.’
Friday, November 18, 2016 
7 p.m.-10 p.m. - ‘Night of Hope’ at the DOME, Dubai Sports City.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Hot chocolate for the soul

Like many people who appreciate the sweeter things in life, chocolate is my weakness. In a battle between a pair of designer shoes or a bar of tempting milk chocolate, for me the latter would certainly win. If you are a bit like me, it is time to rejoice, because Divan Patisserie is heaven on earth for chocoholics like us.

The Turkish café, recently launched their first Dubai store in Dubai Mall. Located on the lower ground level, the café offers a selection of bespoke Turkish delicacies, from a luscious array of ready-made hand crafted creations, to personalised exquisite blends of chocolates and macaroons.
The hot chocolate has an ability to make you weak in the knee but don’t take my word for it. Try it for yourself. Served in just the right amount and not lumped in an over-sized mug, it soothes and somehow tempts you to kick off your heels before you get on with the rest of the day.

The cutlery has elegant illustrations of the famous Hagia Sophia which seem to sway visitors along the waves of the Bosphorus. Its chic black and white décor and light jazz music offer a delightful heady feeling, or maybe that’s an overdose of chocolate.

What started as a single shop within the Divan İstanbul Hotel 60 years ago has now grown into a famous brand locally and internationally with its well-known Turkish desserts. The menu also includes chocolates infused with pistachios, almonds, coffee, coconut, truffles, macaroons in never-before tasted flavours. The new store is open for guests seven days a week from 10 am – 12 am. A colourful array of macaroons are priced at Dh. 9 per piece. Try the pistachio flavour for an unusual taste of nutty goodness. Gift boxes are in no short supply.  

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Grilled to perfection

With so many eateries springing up in this busy city, its often hard to select the ones which will stand the test of time. Since it opened in the UK in 2004, the Sahara Grill has achieved its fair share of success.

Their first venture outside the UK is in the UAE. I was wowed by the venue’s large bay window that offers a stunning view of the Burj Al Arab Hotel and Jumeirah Beach Hotel -- the iconic landmarks of Dubai. The vast blue expanse is refreshing as is the cool air that is let in to the restaurant via the gigantic wooden-framed windows. 

The rest of the restaurant is chic and simple but my mind is only on the food. Known for its fresh cuts, Sahara Grill only serves freshly imported meats. The meal is flavourful and grilled to the right degree, a plus for those of us who are avoiding fried foods.
Tye Razzaq, CEO of Sahara Grill says, “Our aim is to serve high quality traditional dishes with our own signature that appeal to foodies and are affordable for families.”
 Located in The Mall at Jumeirah Road, the opening night sees a large crowd of people. Pakistan’s cricket player Shahid Afridi is a chief guest but he arrives way after I have left. After a spectacular sand art depiction the media is taken for a food tasting and by then most bloggers are watching their clocks.
The melt-in-your-mouth lamb chops is their signature dish and one that I find hard to resist. The owners offer visitors a chance to indulge in other appetizing international dishes with a twist. The chicken wings are good but nothing like the juicy lamb chops. One can sample a rich Oriental Hummus, a fresh Greek salad or a juicy Mexican Fajita none of which are in short supply. The dessert menu is made of a number of Italian dishes but I never made it to them. Return I will, with a bigger appetite and enough room for dessert.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Where time stands still

Most Indians growing up in the 80’s and 90’s are familiar with the distinct sound of Asha Bhosle. Her unique voice reaches high notes effortlessly and her songs remain popular to this day.
The songstress shares another completely different passion and it has to do with food. Here is a woman who has belted out a tune for countless Indian films. Who has sung at packed concerts all over the world and is considered the world record holder for her contribution to Indian popular music. When did she find the time to cook, let alone perfect well known Indian dishes?

For most Indian women, cooking is expected to be second nature. We may never want to step in to the kitchen but that’s often a choice they aren’t given. Perhaps this may have been the case with a young Ashaji (ji – is a term of respect Indians give to seniors). It wouldn’t be off the mark to imagine that she would have been expected to learn to cook before she was allowed to become a full-fledged recording artist.
The Asha’s chain of restaurants captures the essence of this Indian nightingale. Its charming interiors are soothed by a hum of her music playing in the background. Frequented by locals, Indians and foreigners, one can step in and step back in time. Of course you must leave your calorie counter at the door. 

Jheenga Jalpari 

Sample the Jheeenga Jalpari which consists of deep fried king prawns stuffed with cheese and prawn chunks coated with bread crumbs and served with sun-dried tomato chutney. Pure heaven in my opinion. Vegetarians can sink their teeth in to a delightful Kofta Kham Khatai, a crispy fried bottle gourd and potato hash patties, pan tossed with tamarind chutney, ginger and fennel. Now, it is completely out of the ordinary to use a bottle gourd as a starter, so you will be pleasantly surprised at the outcome.
Making a royal entrance is the smoked chicken or Bhatti Ka Chaap where a boneless chicken leg is marinated in a mix of spices and yoghurt and cooked in the tandoor. The waiter brings it to the table covered in a translucent covered dish and lets out the smoke and the wafts of flavours all at the same time.  
Leave room for the Chamandi Prawn Biryani. It has prawns cooked in a coconut cilantro pesto with lemon juice and coconut milk. The Muscat Ghost was prepared by Asha after a visit to Oman. One bite and the flavours literally burst in to your mouth.
This is not a venue for a rushed meal. You need to take your time to savour the flavours and the effort that’s gone in to the preparation. The Calicut Gosht Biryani is made lamb, onion and yoghurt, spiced with cinnamon and star anise. Each dish is carefully crafted like a symphony playing in your palette. The house favourites like Dal Makhani are cooked overnight to achieve that right consistency.   

Bhatti Ka Chaap

“A great recipe is like an immortal tune, it happens but only a few times in one’s life,” says Asha Bhosle. It is believed that the singer has fed Indian film celebrities and dignitaries with her tempting biryanis. Her many awards for music include the BBC Lifetime Achievement Award and another for outstanding merit by the Dubai International Film Festival in 2014. She currently holds the Guinness World Record for ‘Most Recorded Artiste in the world.’ 

Asha Bhosle adds her touches to signature dishes

It would be a crime to skip dessert, what with its melt in your mouth Kulfi with Pistachios on offer. Other regulars like Gulab Jamun and Carrot Halwa are pale in comparison but they make the cut just the same.
Though I revisited Asha’s a whole decade later, I left feeling pleasantly full.

Asha’s currently operates in Manchester, Bahrain, Birmingham, Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE.
For reservations in Dubai call: + 9714 324 4100 

Kofta Kham Khatai
Listen to one of my favourite Asha Bhosle songs: Courtesy of You Tube

Sunday, 25 September 2016

My interview with legendary designer Ritu Kumar - Published in Kuwait Times

My interview with Ritu Kumar published in today's Kuwait Times.
 Follow the Link below to find out more


Published in Kuwait Times

My interview with Ritu Kumar published in today's Kuwait Times.
 Follow the Link below to find out more


Thursday, 8 September 2016

Beyond luxury

Dubai residents are familiar with luxury hotels which mushroom this landscape attracting hordes of tourists from the region and beyond. When it comes to enhanced luxury, many from the region will make sure they have experienced it. 

The St. Regis Vommuli Resort island

The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort is all set to unveil its newest and most exquisite venture. Built on its own island, with breath taking vistas, it offers the most privacy a visitor could want. The facility will open on November 1, this year. A select few journalists in Dubai were offered a sneak peak at what the hotel offers.  
Set on nine hectares of a private isle in the Dhaalu Atoll, the 77 all-villa accommodation are surrounded by pristine landscapes, thick tropical vegetation, a fine white-sand beach, a brackish lagoon and the glistening turquoise Indian Ocean.
The hotel offers a personal e-butler service prior to arrival. A luxury airport transfer greets guests who make their way to the resort after the 45 minute sea plane ride from Male Indernational Airport.
“The Maldives is a high demand destination for the Middle East, with more than six flights arriving daily from the Arabian Gulf,” says Mark O’Sullivan, General Manager of The St. Regis, Maldives.
Two bedroom family villa with pool
As tempting as it is to imagine immaculate beaches, the media gathered in Dubai had to be allured by what this hotel can offer.
We were offered relaxing foot and soothing hand massages along with a chance to sip on the signature drink of the St. Regis Maldives, the Island Mary. Many seafood delicacies were provided to evoke that island-feeling.

The property in the Maldives offers every villa its own private pool. Its John Jacob Astor Estate is among the largest over water villas in the Maldives with a total size of 1,540 square meters. Among the many amenities expected from a 5 star resort, they also offer a children’s club where trained staff can offer children a cooking class or other activities during their stay. 
Garden villa with pool
Beach villa with pool

A limited opening offer for an over water villa with pool for a couple costs US 2, 011. (Dhs. 7,385). Yes it is a lot, but when you have an uninterrupted view of the sunrise on one side and the sunset on the other, you may have little else to complain about.
Now all I need is a lottery win for a chance to actually experience it. 

For more information log on to www.stregis/maldivesvommuli

Whale Bar
An Island Mary is the signature drink at the St. Regis Maldives