Tuesday, October 21, 2014


Situated at the far end of Ambience Mall, Gurgaon, Chili's has a very unceremonious entrance that might even make you miss it were you not looking for it. Nevertheless, it’s not what’s on the outside that matters, but rather what comes out of the depths of their kitchen that does.

Inside, Chili's is reminiscent of other international chains such as Ruby Tuesday’s and TGIF when it comes to the décor and ambience; each one having a sort of bar and grill concept when it comes to food and drinks. The branch I visited was surprisingly busy on a weekday afternoon and that is always a positive indication of the food they offer, or maybe the drinks, but since I was with the family, drinks were not to make an appearance on our table. Clean and tidy with comfortable seating, because leg space is very important to me, and a child friendly atmosphere the restaurant is welcoming; be it the host or the person providing the service. In fact their friendliness lied just on the right side of being over bearing and annoying, not too intrusive, but at the same time a few visits to either “play” with my one year old son or to ask if everything was in order. These minor intrusions were easily looked over as the service was brilliant, on time, and in fact appreciative when I was recommended the best option for my daughter, the kids menu, which proved to be perfect and to her linking.

The food as Chili's looks as unassuming as its entrance, some of it served in “baskets” in a very informal and casual manner, which is by no means a negative and in tune with the entire theme of the restaurant. In fact it eases the tension of eating at a sit-in restaurant and makes it fun to just dig into it with both hands. My daughter had the child’s menu, which mind you is a bargain, consisting of a Margarita pizza, fries and hot chocolate, each of which she enjoyed. Even the fries were slightly thicker in cut (for some reason in the photograph they don't look as thick as they were) than what is available in most fast food restaurants and thus better in taste. The Margarita pizza, a part of which I too had, looked somewhat unwelcoming, but tasted pretty good owning to the cheese they used. Most Margarita’s lack a certain taste, but the chefs at Chili's definitely pay attention to the cheese used and the same was evident when I had the Pepperoni pizza which once again had a very distinctive cheese taste and thus proved to be scrumptious.   

As I dug into my juicy Santa Fe Sandwich which consisted of “Cajun rubbed chicken breast, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, guacamole, and chipotle aioli in a philly roll” my wife experimented with the Chilis’ Quesadillas, which too was to her satisfaction.     

Furthermore the damage to the pocket doesn’t pinch as we managed a stomach-filling meal which included three mains, two non-alcoholic drinks, and a child’s menu for roughly Rs 2000,- I am also happy to say that Chili's serves its drinks in normal glasses and not in mason jars which seems to be a clichéd trend being adopted by quite a few restaurants.    

Chili's has quite an extensive menu and with big enough servings (we had to get some of our food packed) it is difficult to try more than just a couple of dishes per visit, but what I tasted I enjoyed, thus it should not be long before I visit Chili's again to experience some of their other offerings.

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Old World Charm of Fontainhas

I first came across Fontainhas when I did an online search for self-guided walks in Goa. Located in Panaji, the capital of Goa, and also known as the Old Latin Quarter, Fontainhas is famous for its pretty and colourful Portuguese-style private residences. I was charmed by the description and the many images of Fontainhas available online convinced me that I should visit the area while in Goa.
So after a day spent at Old Goa, I decide to head towards Fontainhas. There’s only one problem: my cab driver has no idea where it is with the result that we spend quite a bit of time in asking around and locating Fontainhas.
It is an hour before sunset when we finally arrive at the Panjim People’s Inn, a landmark in the area and now an art gallery. I would have loved to see the exhibits at the gallery, but have to give it a miss as otherwise I will not be able to take advantage of the remaining daylight to see Fontainhas.

A walk through Fontainhas reveals an old world charm in old, colourful houses with tiled roofs, narrow curving streets, vintage house signs, children playing football, a vintage car or two, gift shops selling souvenirs … The only thing that does not have a splash of colour is the local St. Sebastian’s Church; it’s whitewashed, neo-classical, single-towered façade is in stark contrast to the colored houses all around.
In spite of the evening time, it’s quiet and peaceful and it’s easy to imagine a bygone era. If not for all the modern cars around me, I would probably have thought that I had travelled back in time.
I wish I could have spent some more time at Fontainhas, but daylight is fading fast and there is nothing more that I can see. I drop into Marcou’s Artefacts to pick up some gifts for friends and family before I leave.

My last view of Fontainhas is from the steps of the nearby Church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception. Or rather it’s an imagined view as I can’t really see any of the buildings of Fontainhas and can only imagine them hidden behind the trees and out of sight. A colourful blue building with red windows opposite the church is a reminder of the wonderful evening that I have just spent at Fontainhas.

Sudha is one of the founders of #TSBC (or The Sunday Book Club), a traveller, a bookworm, an editor, a communications consultant, an amateur photographer, a Classical music (Indian, Western, and Arabic) lover, a mythology enthusiast, a closet graphic designer... She claims that she is a nerd who is chained to her office desk during the day, reads books and listens to music in the evenings, and dreams of travelling to faraway lands at night. In between all this, she finds time to blog a bit. 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Walk of Stars, Broad Street, Birmingham

Did you know there was a Walk of Stars in Birmingham, UK? It might not be as grand as the Walk of Fame in the US, but nevertheless this little tribute to the local artists is something that should be celebrated.

You won’t find tourists or locals getting down on their knees to take photos with the “stars”, but this little initiative from the Broad Street businesses does pay homage to the various “celebrities”, mostly from the fields of TV, Cinema, Sports, Music, and other such arts, who have strong linkage to Birmingham or the surrounding areas, and those who have made prominent contributions to their respective fields.

The first in the series of the stars than can be found along the length of Broad Street at different locations, was presented to Ozzy Osbourne on 6th July 2007. Since then there have been 27 more stars that have been added including influencers like Chris Tarrant, Beverly Knight, Julie Walters, Frank Skinner, Noddy Holder, Jasper Carrot and the likes.  

Since the stars are placed without any real order and are not marked, it does make for a nice trip as you walk along Broad Street to try and find your favourite local artist. On the other hand, without any guide one can miss out on a number of these. Another reason why the Walk of Stars is not as popular as its counterparts is that it features local artists and thus overseas tourists might not be aware of most of them.

Nevertheless, the Walk of Stars remains a well appreciated initiative that does make a first timer stop and look and if they are familiar with the celebrity, maybe even smile and take a photo of/with the star.  

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Johnny Rockets

It's all Americana from the moment one enters this classic "original burger" joint from the West and it stays that way till the very end. Johnny Rockets' newest branch, in Ambience Mall Gurgaon, with its "diner" like decor is the place to go for some comfort food. With an open kitchen plan, Johnny Rockets is primarily filled with a table-chair seating style, but a small section comprises of barstools which keeps the entire diner look as authentic as one can possibly have when it comes to commercially run restaurants. The staff is friendly and it's quite clear that the notion of service with a smile has been infused into them wholly during training.  

Off late many restaurants have a theory that the key to success is offering as many different cuisines as possible. While this does work because it helps bring in people with varied tastes, it can also backfire as the chef(s) just might not be as good in everything on the menu as compared to specific food which is their specialty. Since over time I too have gotten used to such restaurants, my initial reaction on reading the menu at Johnny Rockets was that it was a bit bland and very limited in choices with burgers and shakes taking most of the space and that too once again in limited numbers. But, it wasn't till I was half way through my mean that the beauty of the simplicity of what they serve truly struck me. They might have only a few choices in comparison to the many other places, but they seem to know their strong points, and the fact that they make it perfect, with the focus being on the product and service, is what matters in the end.

The entire ambiance at Johnny Rockets is very laid back, something that is essential when you just want to take a bite in-between carrying shopping bags for your wife. There is also an aura of fun in the air, something that is heightened by the song and dance routine that is performed every half an hour or so by the staff. Another aspect about the entire meal that stood out was the choice in music that was played at the restaurant, which stayed honest to the theme, with rock and pop songs from the 50s to the early 80s.

While all the superficial elements in a restaurant add on to the way a customer feels, the most essential aspect is the food itself. Here again Johnny Rockets comes away with flying colours.

The milkshakes that come in glasses with that little extra bit served in tumblers is a nice little gimmick that works perfectly, especially when the said milkshake (Vanilla for me and Hershey's Chocolate for the wife) is perfect in terms of not being too sweet or too thick.

Johnny Rockets also has options for the somewhat health conscious and the Streamliner vegetable burger that sports a delicious soya patty is highly recommended if you want something light. Unfortunately, the potato fries that accompany the burger are very basic and not at all impressive. A helping of freshly made hand-cut fries would have gone a long way and would certainly be much appreciated.

Lastly, the Shredded Chicken Philly Sandwich that I had was juicy beyond comparison. The stuffing reminded me of the kind one finds in a Doner Kebab which compensates the dryness of the bun, making it very tasty especially if you include the freshness and crunchiness of the green salad side that accompanies the dish.

Who would have thought that keeping it simple can have such an effect, but Johnny Rockets does exactly that, but focusing on their strengths they guarantee delicious food that would certainly make this foodie visit them again real soon.