There definitely arrives a time when you move over the glitzy restaurants serving fast food and return to the classy old school establishments which still serve the dishes of your childhood. Such places continue to improvise their dishes but maintain their uniqueness. And Shekaza is one such dine out restaurant which will impress you with their fine food and services.
We have a thing for Britishesque or European interiors with minimalism and Shekaza is the epitome of such specifications. The restaurant portrays soothing paintings with peaceful environs.
It has been running successfully for the past thirty years and with their impeccable service, we seriously wish they continue to achieve new milestones.
Non veg kebab platter: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Afghani chicken tikka – perfectly grilled and melt in the mouth
Fish tikka – extremely mellow and slightly tangy fish pieces with a subtle crusty exterior.
Gilaafi kebabs – firm and flavourful with hints of sweetness because of the presence of chopped bell peppers.
Chicken tikka – Spicy and tender chicken pieces which are difficult to resist
Drums of Heaven: For a change, this was hot but not spicy to the point of burning your palate. The magic of chopped onion and garlic along with a slight drizzle of vinegar and honey on a crusty leg piece of fried chicken can leave you in splits. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Dahi ke kebab: The sweet yet sour hung curd deep fried in a crunchy exterior of a secret ingredient (we are aware but will not reveal) is bound to give you a major food gasm. The presence of chopped green chillies and bell peppers does give a different dimension to these lovelies. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Lemon chicken: Boneless chicken pieces drenched in a subtle yet tangy gravy of lemon and fresh vegetables – broccoli, carrots, baby corn, zuchhini, garlic, tomatoes, sweet corn and spring onions – maelstrom of flavours which can not be forgotten easily. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Shekaza special Hakka Noodles: The finest noodles tossed with boneless chicken chunks, eggs, carrots, mushrooms, bell peppers, broccoli and spinach and served to you without the addition of vinegar – could we stop ourselves? HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Chicken Rara: Boneless chicken pieces drenched in a tomato based thick gravy of fine chicken keema – why not? HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
What will be life if we do not follow our heart’s wishes for adventures?
My first Uttarakhand and a winter trek happened at the beginning of 2018. The temperatures in Delhi were already below 5 degrees and Uttarakhand signifies a red signal for cold prone people like me.
But regular adventures satisfy the soul and I am no different. When the opportunity came calling, I had to respond; otherwise I would have faced the regret of not going for a winter trek for a year or so. Departure
I along with a bunch of three enthusiastic friends enrolled ourselves for the weekend trek of the professional trekking company Trek The Himalayas. We boarded the midnight train – Nanda Devi Express from Delhi and reached Dehradun by 6a.m. Arrival – Day 1
Since we were not going to bathe for the next two days considering the requirements of this strenuous trek and a six hour journey through Mussoorie, we decided to slightly freshen ourselves at the railways station waiting room.
And man, what an experience it was!
Keeping your trekking and day bag alone and then going towards the rest rooms to refresh your mouth and wash your face sounds scary at first but trust me, it was not. I had a lady friend with me and we made sure to back each other up. But 6 a.m. in the morning is not the time that the thieves (they are actually waking up!) wander, looking out for precious something of travellers; so you are perfectly safe.
The tour guide from Trek The Himalayas picked us up at 6:45 a.m. and we were comfortably seated in a tempo traveller. We relished the silence of the Dehradun while its residents slept peacefully.
And then after two hours, came Mussoorie – the hill town I was most anxious to visit since childhood. The winding drive through the tree-laden roads with the sun light filtering through the swaying leaves is exhilarating to say the least. The colonial balustrades and the Britishesque street lamps did transform to a different universe, because I was in a different universe!
A few kilometres from Mussoorie, we halted for our breakfast break around 9:30 a.m. A local dhabha serving the most delicious butter loaded paranthas was opened graciously to the customers and boy, could we say no?
At the restaurant, a small balcony beckoned us to savour the beauty that solemnly waited. The snow clad Shiwaliks with a few green patches stood there with the cold waves swirling around them like an enchantress.
But this ephemeral moment was marred by a red butted mischievous macaque ready to pounce any moment. Time to rush back!
The journey from here to Pantwari village went in a quiet power nap which lasted another two hours.
The drive through the village was definitely eventful considering the frolicking crowd – an afternoon Pahadi wedding in full gusto. Half sleepy, half awake, we listened to the cheerful crowd singing the local Pahadi songs and tried to decipher what each word meant, although we were unsuccessful!
At Pantwari village, we were provided changing rooms at a local guesthouse and the next hour was spent in freshening up again, changing into our trekking gear and preparing our carry on luggage. A quick fulfilling lunch provided us the necessary energy required for the daunting journey ahead.
The Nag Tibba trail begins from the Pantwari village (1450m) and ends at the Nag Tibba top 9-10 km away. Since it is a steep trek with fewer gradual trails in between, it takes time to reach the top and so in between the village and the top, there is an area designated as the Nag Tibba Base Camp where temporary camping facilities are provided.
Compared to the breathtaking trails of Himachal (my view at that point of time), Nag Tibba trekking route is least serene. The initial journey is through a pebble and mud laden trail which is steep as well as slippery due to dry leaves. You need to carry a light bag and comfortable clothes because the continuous uphill trek saps you of energy and will power. As my bag was around 8kg and I was wearing three layers (because of below ten temperatures), I had to remover a few layers and tighten up the straps of my bag. Taking frequent rests became a routine here which was never the case in my previous treks.
The scenery is not as enjoyable as you would expect – dry parched terrain, scattered greenery and big lose boulders and pebbles on which you have to tread carefully lest you shall suffer a back breaking fall. But the surrounding view of The Lesser Himalayas compels you to forget the hurdles of the journey.
We started the trek at 2pm and the swiftest person reached the base camp by 5:30pm covering 6km. I reached by 6:30pm due to multiple factors – a heavy bag, back ache and ankle inflammation which developed during the journey and loss of time as I went astray in the trails and had to wait for about 15-20 minutes for the people preceding me.
As the night drew in, the ambience got colder and it must have been around 1 degree in the night. Basic camping facilities were prepared for us with pit-hole washrooms. Trek The Himalayas took good care of everything – tea, dinner, temporary restrooms, warm sleeping bags but better facility for water should have been there because there were no nearby streams.
The night sky was star studded and it was mesmerizing to watch so many twinkles after ages. You do not get to see the children of universe this clear in Delhi.
Trek to Nag Tibba top – Day 2
The back breaking journey had been so tiring for me that I decided to not go for the early morning trek to Nag Tibba top. I took my time in getting up but then eventually decided that I would not be able to forgive myself if I did not trek all the way up to the peak. The opportunity seemed too precious to miss!
The biting cold was so ominous that it was difficult to change into my second trekking gear which had to be cold specific considering the chilling mountain waves lingering around us. A quick breakfast of soul satisfying plate of steaming maggi brought me back to my fighter instincts.
This particular trail to the Nag Tibba top is also steep but easier compared to the harrowing one we had completed on the previous day. The pebbles had gone though the boulders were still there with slippery edges of melting snow. And my all weather trekking shoes weren’t for snow because hey, no spikes!
So what did I do when I saw a few flakes of snow for the first time in my life? I kept looking. I tried to keep a few in my hands but the warmth melted them away.
The melted snow on the trail was a tad challenging considering many of us were first timers for a snow trek. Slipping now and then on the trail, I managed to reach the top where a large patch of snow awaited the avid trekkers. Many of our trekking mates experienced snow for the first time and so went on to play body skating games on them. I, however, having slipped and fallen a few times, stayed away and took on a few lovely snowflakes.
The Nag Tibba top is adorned with a pole which carries prayer flags in multiple hues. And the view from the top is soul filling to say the least. At 3022 m, the highest peak of the The Shiwaliks or The Lesser Himalayas, you do feel a sense of achievement while enjoying the breath taking ranges. The whole Lesser Himalayan range along with a few peaks of the mighty Greater Himalayas is a sight to behold and lose yourself in.
But as they say, the descent is always tougher than the ascent. And on a steep trek you have to be highly careful, especially on slippery melted snow patches. We had to tread cautiously on the loose pebbles, boulders and mud lest we would have suffered a bone breaking fall.
Back to the base camp, we had a delicious protein and carbohydrates filled lunch of kidney beans, rice, chappati and legumes. We had to take care of the time factor while trekking down as descending during the evening can be dangerous.
We finally reached Pantwari around 5pm and changed back to comfortable apparels after spraying our whole body with Moov.
The journey from Pantwari village to Dehradun was spent in taking a few scattered power naps and watching the lighted view of Mussoorie and Dehradun. The tempo traveller of Trek The Himalayas dropped us at the Dehradun railway station at around 9pm and we had dinner at a nearby restaurant – Sagar. The Nanda Devi Express geared itself again to ferry the travellers from Dehardun to the national capital and we also went along with her flow.
Nestled amongst the mighty Dhauladhars and the fierce Tirthan river, this enticing valley should be on your wish list if you adore mountains.
I was fortunate enough to visit this beautiful place on a team outing and our stay was at the Camp Chrysalid, Tirthan, which is at the edge of the Great Himalayan National Park.
The rage of the Tirthan can be heard from a far off distance. It originates from the Tirthan glacier (I had no idea about this one) and flows through the treacherous landscape of the Himachal before
The journey from Delhi is an arduous one – 14 long hours and the last one hour is on a very narrow stretch of road. Forget your luxurious Volvo, a 30 seater has a better chance here.
The twittering of mountain birds welcome you as you step into the property of Camp Chrysalid. About 15-20 camps stand tall on a railed edge near the Tirthan river with damp Himalayan grass guiding your way. The camps/tents are well equipped with charging points, warm beds and blankets, inside pockets for keeping essentials, a shoe rack (wow!) and double layered mattresses. They are built on a raised platform, so no worries about water spoiling your luggage and beds during the monsoons or sporadic rain spell.
Washrooms are situated a few metres from the camps and are gender differentiated. The staff here is very energetic and loves to initiate all the team building activities with innovative energizers.
On day 1, after a back breaking journey of 15 hours and resting/refreshing for two hours, we decided to trek to a famous waterfall here. The trek is a short one but steep as hell. The crystal clear cold waters soothe your tired feet, so why not have a dip in them?
The meals are heavenly delicious and the variety in the dishes is exemplary.
On day 2, we proceeded for the adventurous activities – rappelling and valley crossing on a ropeway in the middle of the jungle on the mountains.
We visited this camp during the onset of monsoon and the river was in full flow. We were advised not to wade near the Tirthan so we restricted ourselves to a three step staircase while revelling in the songs that Tirthan played.
Yet another restaurant that promises to tantalize your palate, Biryani Bhaijaan is a nwly opened restaurant in Sushant Lok, Gurgaon. I commend the owner of this outlet because very few have the courage to experiment in Mughlai cuisine and succeed in that.
Chicken Malai Tikka: When mellow chicken pieces are drenched in thick, yoghurt based gravy, magic happens! The use of their secret masala adds to the depth of this mesmerizing appetizer. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Mutton Seekh kebab: As if the usual seekh kebabs weren’t appetizing enough that these guys drenched them in tangy and creamy gravy and presented it to you. Perfection is a small word for this one. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Murg Mussalam with Khameeri roti and Naan: I thank Biryani Bhaijaan for making my first experience with Murg Mussalam a memorable one. The consistency of the curry is perfect with the addition of peanuts and ginger jullienes. Chicken pieces are tender and egg perfectly boiled, but what baffles you the most is the addition of chicken seekh kebabs. A Mughlai experimentation at its best! Kalonji seeds are embedded in the naan imparting an unusual dimension to this whole ensemble. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
We live in the vicinity of the Himalayas and it seems to be our first choice for a weekend getaway or even a long vacation. But when we are not yearning for an adventurous journey or a challenging trek, the hills of South India seem to be our next option.
Kodaikanal and Ooty have been on our bucket list for a long time now but we wanted a place away from the hustle bustle of the city life and touristy crowd. And that is where Coorg came in. No internet connection for two days with minimum network coverage can definitely leave anyone mad, but not when you are surrounded by three big hills, coffee plantation, colonial wood cottages, a small pond and an excellent hospitality.
Coorg is an enchanting travel destination located in the Western Ghats. When you head from Bangalore to the hilly slopes, the winding terrain bewitches you and it is difficult to take your eyes from the alluring scenic beauty.
Where to start: It takes around 6 hours from Bangalore to Coorg by a car through NH 2575 and en route you can enjoy the beauty of the famous Ramgarh hills where the legendary Sholay was filmed.
Pit stops: Kamat Upachar and Nakshatra
We had a light breakfast at Kamat located at Mudhugere, Bangalore Mysore Highway. The authentic South Indian Upma is to die for – a novelty for us North Indians.
A heavy lunch awaited us at Nakshatra located at the Bypass road, Hunsur on the Bangalore Mysore Road or NH 275. The chicken dum biryani was exceptional and it was the Mysore version of the biryani and was served with a spicy hot saalan or rasam. The vegetable curry was good though extra hot with the flavours of gun powder and garam masala igniting a lava on my palate. Washrooms are clean and ambience is good.
Just two hours from Coorg, we took a halt at Kushalnagar, which is home to several Tibetan settlements as well as the abode of Namdroling Monastery. A splendid Tibetan temple with a golden pagoda occupies the crest here. At around 4pm, you can hear the booming Buddhist chants when the monks gather in the main temple for their evening prayers. The chants sooth your clamorous soul and bring the eluding peace.
You can buy prayer flags, Tibetan handicrafts and paraphernalia from the shop at the starting of the monastery.
The uphill drive starts after Kushalnagar with very narrow paths. The roads become narrower as we proceed with the forests and the sideway plants/trees growing thicker and denser. The roads are not dangerous compared to the Himalayas, but they are deserted with no sign of a living being for miles. So it is better to avoid driving or even visiting the resort after 6pm.
The roads are not jittery and you will not feel even an impulse to vomit. But if you are a newbie, better to carry Avomin.
We had booked a resort, Leisure Vacations Three Hills, which is located in the valley and three giant hills surround it. It had three separate cottages and there were rooms in the main villa as well, but we had booked a cottage for ourselves and each morning we were greeted with a raw, enchanting natural beauty. There is a little pond nearby and one can spot the ducks gracefully swimming in it.
We visited Talakaveri the next day which is the place where the river Kaveri originates. A temple is situated here and because of the extreme height at which it is located you will be greeted by clouds which will be floating away in front of your eyes. Now if that doesn’t leave you flabbergasted, what will!
It is advisable to wear knee length or longer clothes to this place as you will not allowed to enter the temple. Additionally, they will rent out the traditional “lungi” or the wrap around garment at a meagre price of 10 bucks.
There are about hundreds of steps located near the temple and after climbing them, you can witness the whole picturesque and vividly green valley from the top. Though it would have been better if the temple authorities allow the tourists to wear footwear while climbing the stone steps, especially when the ground on the top is not levelled properly and has huge stones and boulders lying carelessly.
Our stay at the resort was pretty luxurious and relaxing. The steward assigned to us – Mr. Shiva took excellent care of the our requirements and was there to guide us about the place. We wished for authentic Coorg cuisine to be served to us and he, along with the cook presented the most explosive dishes to us. They were pretty new to us, extremely flavourful and way too spicy.
The dining area was in the main villa and the feasts were prepared on demand. We came to know about a local favourite here – Karimpettu – a rice and sooji steamed ball taken with spicy vegetable curry. Another favourite was the bread omelette they served us in the breakfast – fluffy yet thin omelettes wrapped around raw breads.
After a stay of two nights, we headed back to Bangalore and what better than Mysore for an afternoon stop over?
Note: Do not forget to buy home made chocolates, organic honey, spices and cosmetics from the local shops while driving from Coorg to Madikeri. You won’t regret any bit of it.
Our next stop over was at Desi Platter, Mysore were we got to gorge upon the exploding Mysore mutton dum biryani and a vegetarian meal before heading on to the famed Mysore Palace.
The famed Mysore Palace, which is the official residence of the royal family of Mysore was next on our itinerary. Towering over you, the behemoth palace casts a spell on you with its beautifully crafted walls which light up in the evening.
It was built by the 24th Raja of Mysore and is exquisitely designed. The glittery yet pastel shades of the ramparts and the ceilings can give those French balustrades a run for their money. The graceful and gigantic pillared halls echo with the voices of the tourists without losing their mysterious sheen.
The marriage hall or the Kalyan Mandapa is a unique octagonal shaped hall with symmetry raging in every mosaic and motif. We were awed by the glass panels situated towards the top of the hall and we are pretty sure you will be too.
Food innovation is the current trend in the food industry and restaurants experimenting with fusion food are sure to attract customers time and again. Because combination dishes invite a loyal fan following and I am one of those people who love to explore new cuisines, even the blend of two or more.
The Chatter House has earned a fine reputation for experimenting with dishes and boy, they have succeeded in changing our palette preferences. Who could say no their Blue Cheese Naan or Port Wine with chocolate syrup?
For our Rock n Roll fans, this is the perfect place with the framed posters of The Beatles, Def Leppard, The Eagles and what not with a rivalling playlist is sure to seduce you.
Butter Chicken Spring Roll: Fusion food at its best! Who could have thought of combining the staple curry of Delhiites with the famed Oriental snack item? The spring roll has a light and flaky exterior with tender chicken pieces inside. The chicken is slightly drizzled with the smooth and creamy butter chicken gravy which is served separately and you have to dip your spring roll in the curry to enjoy this mouth watering decadence. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Garden in a bowl: Fresh vegetables – black olives, carrots, broccoli and cherry tomatoes along with roasted almonds served in a tangy and creamy yoghurt and eggplant based dressing and garnished with smoked olive dust – healthy as well as light. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Blue cheese Naan: This dish has been the most talked about snack item since the inception of this place. The chewy naan is redolent with the pungent flavour of blue cheese and chopped pineapple are adorned on its top so as to cut the sharpness of the cheese. Served with our very own Dal makhni which is ohh-so-creamy and we have a winner here. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Bacon Wrap Mac n Cheese: Why in the name of heaven did I binge on it? Because I can not stop craving it. The melt-in-the-mouth macaroni drenched in creamy and cheesy sauce and wrapped in a bacon strip which is smoked to perfection – bacon is crispy but not chewy and the mac n cheese is not too cheesy. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Mushroom Risotto: Subtlety defines this – smooth and not so creamy texture of the mushroom sauce with a topping of cherry tomatoes. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Fettucine Fungi De Basco: Their fettucine is prepared in house and when combined in the creamy white wine based sauce with the addition of mushroom ragout – we could not keep our hands off! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
There are very few places specialising in Mughlai cuisine which are able to dish out a decent meal, forget about bringing their innovation to the table. The usual tikkas and kebabs sometimes get boring and creative energy in culinary arts is the rule of the day. Majnu ka Tilla has excelled on both the frontiers.
Without much ado, I would straightaway move forward to the loebly spread that was sent to me a few days back:
Chicken Tangri Kebab: Why in the name of God did I taste this? I have always been drawn towards the salivating Tangri Kebabs and these stuffed ones in thick sticky gravy just set a new bar for my taste buds. The stuffing of finely minced chicken with a juicy exterior of the leg piece drenched in yoghurt based gravy and the occasional green chillies will leave you yearning for more. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Achaari Paneer Tikka: Tangy and spicy – wohoooo! The smoked cottage cheese pieces and the red, yellow and green bell peppers were smoked to perfection in the tangy and peppery batter. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Majnu Special Afghani Chicken: The reason these guys call some of their dishes as special is because they use gravy in these appetizers. The tikka was perfectly smoked, succulent and drenched in a lovely gravy of yoghurt, green chillies and coriander flavoured with chaat masala . HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Chicken Tikka: Again gravy based with tender boneless chicken pieces spreading the warmth in your mouth as well as stomach. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Paneer Lababdar: Vegetarians, you have to binge on this one. Thick and sliky gravy with the occasional bite of cumin seeds and a prominent flavour of the onion tomato mixture goes so well with every Indian bread that you can think of. And the paneer – top notch! They also use a secret ingredient in their preparation which I am of course forbidden to reveal. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.