On the Road Again

Sunday Carvery at Royal Haathi Mahal, Cavelossim, South Goa

Goa is about sun, sea, food and  fun. Several trips made  over the years have made the cultural and historical sights and sounds of Goa so familiar that we no longer feel the need to do the touristy thing and visit those places again, wonderful as they are.( Old Goa, Tambdi Surla, Fort Tiracol, Divar) .

We do what every one else does....relax and think about the next meal.

Finding a good meal in Goa isn't as easy as it sounds. Beach shacks serve up a pretty standard menu and after a couple of days one starts getting nitpicky about the size of the prawns  in the curry rice. While its necessary to taste the local food when on holiday, two weeks of any one cuisine can get a trifle boring.And  in these days of choice it is not necessary to exclude all other options as chefs in Goa get better and better at producing other cuisines--Italian, Mexican, Burmese, French ..besides Indian regional food be it Kashmiri or Bengali, its all available in Goa. 

One of the best dinners we had was on a Sunday at Attwoods Bar in Haathi Mahal, close to Cavelossim Beach. Good old British Pub food but then a mite better than you get in Blighty.IMG_5362


Roast chicken , beef and pork, all perfectly cooked, accompanied by roast potatoes, carrots,  cauliflower cheese, Yorkshire pudding and all the trimmings.


IMG_5360The ingredients are sourced and their cooking supervised by Jeremy Westcott, who once ran pubs and hotels in Somerset. As a result you get custard of a perfect consistency, Yorkshire pud, crisp but not dry, and sauces the likes of which I haven't tasted outside of the British Isles.


The apple pies are made in a light and crumbly pastry not the stodge one is generally served . Jeremy also makes the outstanding sausages on site at the Haathi Mahal . His genial  presence is a big plus to the otherwise fairly sleepy resort and he has crafted a menu to remember. 

IMG_5354Attwoods bar is a bit of a throwback, in style and decor, to the ubiquitous corner pub in every British town. Its low ceilings with exposed timber, beer barrels and dart board all add to the theme. The name of the bar is a touching tribute to a former manager of the resort by the owner and, except for the large portrait of the India hating, racist Winston Churchill which is quite  inappropriate here, manages to be a cosy place.

The Carvery is a right royal feast , with unlimited portions of everything on offer and highly recommended to those craving a change from red chillies and rice. 

 Every Sunday  from 7.30 pm . An amazing Rs 750 per person inclusive of taxes.


At Haathi Mahal.

Cavelossim, Mobor, Salcette, Goa 403731

Phone:0832 672 5300

Messing in Mussoorie-at the Carlton Plaisance

Finding good food during travel seems to have become as much of an adventure as deep sea diving , involving  research, exploration, and discovery, while risking little else but cash and intestinal well being.

Which is why anyone and everyone, those with taste buds and those without, are on the same adventure trail, exclaiming about every meal  on SMS, on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Enthusiasm is generally in direct proportion to the amount paid for such detection. The vada pau rarely gets the same flowery praise as the French croquette especially if said croquette is served in "French owned" restaurant , even though it might be equally deep fried to death.

The question is ...what is so pioneering  about  "discovering" a fancy restaurant, one which is heavily advertised and has million of reviews to back up claims of excellence? The real taste revelation is more and more to be found in peoples homes ,where food is prepared with care, and sometimes even better, with love.

So how do you find this on your travels? In India where relatives abound, it isn't as difficult as in other countries, though the tradition of asking people over to a meal is slowly fading and  becoming a thing of the past. You might be still be lucky. Mostly it is serendipity . You are mysteriously drawn to places and people which promise the palate surprise, comfort and delight.

Such fortunate happenstance occurred when we plumped to stay at the Carlton Plaisance in Mussoorie recently. I say 'plumped' because, with just a little  scouting online, I found the site "still under construction".The description of the hotel was intriguing, promising a bit of history, ( A Chateau built in the late 1800's )  a bit of garden, and a good view.


What we found was a rambling old house, eclectically furnished, with a delightfully shabby air. High ceilings , ventilators and dark interiors reminded me of my many childhood homes. A parlour filled with (now very non kosher) stuffed animals  and deep sofas, a high table, permanently set with linens, crockery and cutlery in the centre hall from which doors led out to large suites and the kitchens.

The better suites had a pretty gallery which once looked out to the hills in the distance but now looked out to a cement structure, which may have been a water tank. Water shortage is a problem in Mussoorie  and we were sparing in our use of it during our stay. The platform on top of this structure ruined the view but closer to our rooms were very pretty flowers, glimpsed through the window panes , hyacinths and daisies which bloomed cheerfully in the sun.



Once in a while monkeys thundered across the tin roofs and were chased off by the staff. For the rest, even though the Company Garden road passed 100 meters away , we remained unassailed by other noise, chiefly the incessant honking of cars, which is a feature on all roads leading to, away and in Mussoorie, reaching high decibel levels near the Mall Road

What made the stay so good was that every day we ordered our meals in consultation with the cook , Kalam Singh, ( what was in season, available , tasty)  and and he made  it as simple or as elaborate as we wished , fresh and on time , calling us to the table when all was ready. We felt very much at home.

Everything tasted good, with a homely type of tarka, not swimming in oil or smothered in spices. In the course of our stay three preparations stood out. The Nepali Anda Aloo Achari, a mustardy dish with a creamy texture, the Pepper Chicken ,unlike any other chicken I have tasted to date,  and the Achar Dal.

In spite of petitioning him thrice, Kalam Singh did not deign to share the recipes , smiling mysteriously and fading into the depths of the kitchens. Usman , the genial, friendly and  always helpful Major Domo, kept his secret .

Now the only way for anyone to taste all that good food that is to go spend a pleasurable week at the agreeably laid back Carlton Plaisance while getting a glimpse , albeit dim, of an era long gone, like the promised (pale) view of hills.



Breakfast on the Deccan Queen

While much has changed for the worse, some things have definitely changed for the better, in the last five years, in India. One of the changes I am really grateful for is to be able to book train tickets online.


Does anyone recall ye olde days of yore at the railway station, standing in a queue for 4 hours to reach the head of the line only to be told “Sold out” or “Waiting list only” or only available for the next day and other such disappointing stuff. We knew full well that half the tickets had been “reserved” to be sold in the black market later that day.

Being a frequent PUNE-BOMBAY traveler this was my weekly plight. My fate was to be jammed in with a hundred other women for “floor only” seating in the unreserved ladies compartment, time after time.

Eleven years ago all that changed. IRCTC online happened and there has been no looking back. Oh the pleasure of booking a ticket from the comfort of home rather than being inspected with infinite interest from top to toe, for an interminable four hours by bored and curious fellow queue’ ers in the grubby and smelly environs of the booking office !!


Though trips are less and less frequent, I still make the odd journey on the Deccan Queen (now rather battered by age) with its tattered blue rexine covered seats and less than spacious chairs.





However one wonderful tradition has not changed.  The menu of breakfast made fresh in the pantry car......

Omelette sandwich, Cutlet sandwich, Sabudana wadas , hot chai and coffee. All dripping with oil and deliciously sinful, served with “tomato” (read pumpkin) sauce.

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The waiters have a great memory, taking the order before Lonavala and coming round a couple of hours later (around Panvel), to settle the bill without aid of pen and paper.

Today the price of the breakfast snack is significantly more than the original 35 paise but worth its oily weight in gold.

When you crave the fine pleasure of spacing out on train journeys and eating gloriously unhealthy stuff, or are bitten by the nostagia for the delights of chair car travel and railway food- you can whip up the following.


 Omelette Sandwich Deccan Queen Style


2 tablepoons vegetable oil or butter

2 eggs, beaten

½ onion, finely minced

/1 green chilli, finely minced

½ tomato chopped fine

¼ teaspoon salt

2 large slices white bread


1. Heat the oil and a frying pan. When hot fry the onions and chillies. When soft add the tomatoes and sauté.

2. Pour in beaten eggs and fry till set. Fold into half and then fold again into a quarter

3. Butter two slices of bread. Put the quartered omelette in between .

4. Serve hot with plenty of tomato sauce and a paper napkin to wipe a shining face later.