Sunday, August 17, 2014

How Marriott Ensures you Travel Brilliantly: Bloggers Diary

You don’t want to spend a weekend at a corporate hotspot of an IT city. Until unless it’s a five star hotel that innovates to please Gen Y, offers a sumptuous Sunday Brunch and has a nice spa! My recent stay at the Marriott Whitefield , Bengaluru surprised me as it was  a perfect work-and-play weekend.  

Jump the Queue: Mobile Check-In Counter
I reached Bangalore on a Saturday morning for a bloggers trip organised by Marriott Hotel. As soon as I got into the car I checked in using the Marriott mobile app. Being a blogger and Gen Y myself people expect me to be quite tech and web savvy. Truth be told I am always wary of trying new apps on my phone.  But the Marriott mobile check-in turned out to be rather smooth.  The cab that hotel had sent to pick me up was wi-fi enabled, thus making the check-in even simpler.

Once I reached the hotel it took me exactly thirty seconds to collect my room key that was ready at the mobile check-in counter. Marriott Hotel has globally rolled out mobile check-in and check-out using its mobile app. In fact the Marriott hotel in Bangalore was one of the five hotels in Asia where mobile check-in app was tested, as the global biggie is constantly innovating for the next generation traveller.

The mobile check-in has another advantage. The time that you save can be used for a power nap and a luxurious shower. I loved the room design at Marriott. With a glass wall between the bedroom and bathroom, the shower area looked bigger and had ample of natural light. Perfect for a woman, I say.  It’s the details after all that matter.

Chic: Room with see-through bathroom
In a very enjoyable company of the general manger of the hotel Nick Dumbell and fellow  bloggers, Ajay Jain of Kunzum Travel Cafe , Kalyan Karmakar of Finely Chopped and Jeet Banik of Traveling Beats,  I enjoyed a hearty lunch at the M Cafe. For a Saturday afternoon the restaurant was packed. I particularly enjoyed my glass of white wine, biryani and stir fried vegetables from the live counter.

In the evening,  I headed to the hotel’s  Sama Spa for the Asian Fusion massage. A speciality at their spa, the treatment is a perfect mix of dry Thai and oil massage. In fact being a spa addict I had browsed the Marriott app on my iPad mini to check the spa details and decided on the treatment even before I reached Bengaluru. Post the relaxing treatment, 15 minutes at the dreamy Jacuzzi and I was rejuvenated . The affable spa manager told me that while the spa was open till 10 PM, the fitness centre next to it was open 24/7. I was quite happy when she told me this as one of my top hotel pet peeve is fitness centre at a five star that’s not open round the clock.   

The evening was spent leisurely sipping cocktails at the M Bar. That India was winning medals at the Commonwealth Games that was playing on the screen was a bonus. Now I will fall short of words. We had dinner at Chef Alfonso’s Alto Vino and the meal that night was superlative. The seafood risotto was perfect and Chef made mozzarella cheese in his own kitchen. It’s the best mozzarella I have ever had, almost addictive.

Blogger Selfie: Jeet Banik, Vishakha Talreja, Kalyan Karmakar, Ajay Jain 
Next day at the Marriott Amazing Race, a treasure hunt sort of competition for bloggers, we visited  the HUL  Aerospace Museum that houses fighter planes and an old church. For Marriott’s #travelbrilliantly campaign we clicked lot of selfies together. It was great fun.
When we reached hotel we were pretty tired but the good news was Sunday and the hotel had its special Sunday brunch on! From steaks to pizza and stir fried vegetables, I tried everything from the live station. It was a lavish Sunday brunch spread with Sushi, Indian and Chinese all being served. The outdoor seating with some refreshing cocktails made for a memorable afternoon. Did someone say this was a business hotel?     

I was quite delighted with the breakfast spread at the M Cafe...and actually ate my breakfast like a Queen. My favourite was the ragi dosa, a healthy option but didn’t really help as I ate two waffles with chocolate dressing from the live station.  What takes the cake is the pastry shop Whitefield Baking Company (WBC for short). The soft baked chocolate cookies were to die for! The ones at Oberoi Hotel in Delhi are my favourite but the WBC’s came close, very close. I even tweeted about it few days back that how I missed those cookies (so they must be really good). Oh I really miss them.

I had an early morning flight on Monday but thank god for the Marriott mobile app, I was able to check out right from the comfort of my bed late in the night. The hotel staff was attentive and asked me a night before if I would like early breakfast in my room. The next morning without worrying about the hassle of standing at the reception for check out I enjoyed the sinful chocolate muffins, fresh cut fruits and my cup of cappuccino.

Wait this was suppose to be a work trip, but proved to be a great staycation!

If you want to read detailed review of the Marriott Mobile App here it is:

Monday, August 4, 2014

Food Review: La Vie - The Tempting Little Pizzeria

Herb Grilled Vegetables Sandwich
In the hustle and bustle of south Delhi’s Khan Market, tucked away is a new quaint little Italian joint La Vie. As one steps into this cosy restaurant, it’s easy to be transported to any little pizzeria that you’ll encounter at every nook and corner of Rome, Florence or Naples.

La Vie at best seats about 30 people at a time and on a wet and dreary Monday evening it was almost packed to the rafters — which indicates the rapidly growing popularity of the restaurant. If the large oven at the back of the kitchen is not enough to tempt you already then take our advice and opt for the breads and pizza immediately!
For starters, we ordered the Rosemary and Garlic Bread (Rs 200) along with a Chicken Caesar Salad (Rs 320) as well as a Spinach and Ricotta Raviolli. The aromas from the herb on the bread are the first attraction followed by the sweetness and freshness of the beautifully baked garlic bread dough — perfect accompaniment for any of the salads.

The ravioli was silky smooth in texture and the mild crunch of the spinach with the fresh ricotta cheese in a pesto sauce made it lip-smackingly good. For the next course, we opted for the pizza and we picked the Pizza Milano (Rs 590) and Pizza Mexicano (Rs 690). The former is a cured meat special with thinly sliced ham and bacon topped with basil and mozzarella cheese while the Mexicano comes with a layer of BBQ sauce with toppings of tender chicken, jalapeƱos, pineapple, cheddar cheese and mozarella.

Chef Naresh Varma
The crust of the both the pizzas was thin yet crispy which made the bubbling cheese on top of it even more tastier. Since La Vie is only in its early days, they offer a selection of about 20 pizzas right now which they hope to double soon enough. Chef Naresh Varma has spent the better part of two decades working in Italy and care he takes with the pizzas and raviolis just shines through on the plate.

For the Indian loving public, La Vie also offers a selection of tikkas — Chicken Methi Malai Tikka, Chicken Tikka and Fish Tikka (made with fresh river sole) — but if one can have a much more tasty and sumptuous experience with Italian, why opt for Indian?

For our main course, we ordered Grilled Prawns (Rs 690), perfectly smoky in flavour and served with mashed potatoes, grilled vegetables and herb rice. The tiger prawns were crisp on the outside but perfectly cooked in the middle with their taste accentuated by the garlic, white wine and vinegar marinade. The Grilled Chicken on the menu is equally tender yet juicy. The chilli and herb marinate goes perfectly with the sides of herb rice.

The restaurant doesn’t offer any alcoholic beverages but that is more than made up for by their own unique mocktails, one of which is the signature La Vie Da — a lovely mix of lime, oregano and jalapeƱos. 
La Vie is the perfect for a family outing on an Italian binge and if you can’t make it to a pizzeria in Italy, might as well turn up here!

Location:  La Vie, 51- A, Khan Market.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Preview: Barbeque Nation’s ‘Global Cuisine Indian Style’ Food Fest

Must Try: Grilled Chicken Breast with Potli Gravy
There was a time when casual dining meant a Chinese or an Italian meal at a restaurant before some restaurants started doing Indian food in a way that made it quick, fun and moved beyond the butter chicken, rogan josh and seekh kebabs. Barbeque Nation is one such chain that made Indian food popular among the upwardly mobile Indians who were bowled over by its concept of DIY (do-it -yourself) live grills .
Keeping with that tradition of doing Indian differently, Barbeque Nation has launched its ‘Global Cuisine Indian Style’ food festival that is on from 1st to 17th August at all Delhi outlets. I happened to preview the menu and before I write about the food let me tell you it was their beverages that blew my mind. Paan Shots (Vodka shots paan flavoured), concoction of Jim Beam with Guava and the jaamun mocktail were the high points of my meal.

Prawns in Indian Sauce
The must try from this menu include the succulent Grilled Chicken Breast (with potli sauce), prawns in Indian sauce, mushrooms with cheese and the Chinese Biryani.  Other signature dishes that this food festival offers include the likes of Roasted Lamb in Thai Curry, Mexican Baked Potato Curry and Mushroom ‘n Pasta in Indian Arabiata sauce. Just like the cocktails, the desserts too are impressive. There is red and white Kheer, Rasgulla Litchi Cake, Masala Spice Brownie and Kappi Pie- innovative and delectable desserts.

I also met the man behind the new menu Chef Vijay Anand Bakshi who is Barbeque Nation’s Head of Culinary Operations. Bakshi has worked with some of the biggest hospitality brands across the country. Though five star hotels didn’t give him a chance to experiment much, at Barbeque Nation he says he is free to try innovative dishes. His freedom is patrons delights this Independence Day. The new menu indeed is innovative but doesn’t go too far from the standard Barbeque Nation menu.  

Off late with so many Indian restaurants, both in casual and fine-dining space, crowding the Delhi-NCR many foodies have stayed away from Barbeque Nation saying the live grill place known for its long queues doesn’t serve lip smacking appetizers anymore. The patrons who have fallen off with the brand must try this new menu. They might want to return to the restaurant.

Ready Reckoner
Where: Barbeque Nation outlets - Connaught Place | Jangpura | Saket | Vasant Kunj | Pitampura | Janakpuri | Vivek Vihar | Noida | Gurgaon
Date: August 1-17, 2014
Average Meal Cost (for two): Rs 1600

Timings: Lunch and Dinner hours