Friday, 23 October 2015

#TravelDiaries - Places to Stay in Pondicherry

In the past two years a holiday destination that I've frequented the most is Pondicherry. The count stands at 5 visits. Why not? It's a quaint little place to experience cultural diversity, easily accessible from Bangalore for a weekend and has the needed ingredients for a perfect weekend get away for either family, friends, couples and the likes.

Have you been to Pondy (affectionately called so)? If no, it's a destination that i'd highly recommend for a weekend or may be even a long weekend. It's just not coincidence I've been here pretty much every quarter (if I may exaggerate). A prime factor that decides how you spend your weekend in Pondy and the memories you carry back is the kind of stay you choose. You may either choose to stay in the city, or away from it.

My 5 visits have had me check-in to a different property with each offering diverse or different experiences. What remains common among the 5 stays is that each one was a good experience. This post is my recommendation of where to stay in Pondicherry and what you can experience and expect from it.

1. Dunes Eco Village & Spa

Our very first visit had Puja and me stay at Dunes Eco Resort. It was a long weekend and we were booked here for a 2 night and 3 day stay. The resort as the name suggests was an eco resort and was spread on an expansive land with access to the beach. The words 'expansive land' might come to suggest the fact that the resort was located far away (about 16 kilometers) from the city on the Pondicherry - Chennai ECR.

Various room types are available depending on how close you want to be in contact with nature. A plush 4 star property offers various activities like wellness therapies, yoga, spa, and many other forms of indoor and outdoor activities. A stay at such resorts usually spell 'relax and rejuvinate' and are meant to cut you off partially if not completely from what you can do when you stay in the heart of Pondicherry. Even with a two wheeler on hand (available on rent), commuting between the resort and the city itself seemed like a task.

Stay here for a relaxed and lazy holiday away from the city in a world of its own. If you are looking to explore and live in the city, this clearly is not a place. Auroville is the closest popular attraction.

2. Anantha Heritage Hotel

Located to the west of the canal, as the name spells, this is an 18th century heritage Franco-Tamil villa property with just 7 rooms. A stay here in true sense does justice to the tagline of Pondicherry Tourism - 'Give time a break'. Prime attractions of the city are all within a 2 kilometer radius and the railway station and bus stop are under 3 kilometers away.

Welcoming you to the property is a wonderful courtyard where you can spend time playing a game of chess or two and listening to the traditional music being played in the background. If you were to believe in the tagline of Pondicherry Tourism - 'Give time a break' this is one place to stay. In no time does it successfully manage to make you travel back in time to the 18 - 19th century.

The staff is warm, courteous and attentive. A stay here includes complimentary breakfast which is a soul satisfying mix of south Indian classics and continental dishes all made fresh to order. The best way to explore or move around is by renting a two wheeler.

Stay here to experience the calm, elegance and comfort of living in an ancient 18th Century heritage villa. You are conveniently cut off from the city when in the villa at the same time also conveniently placed in the vicinity of the popular attractions and places of interest.

3. Laila's County Hotel

A hotel property located at the north end of the canal road. Not the best location in terms of the street lighting and cleanliness, the hotel is otherwise located in the very heart of Pondicherry with Promenade beach just a stone's throw away from here. The rooms and bathrooms are ambient with modern upholstery and fittings needed to elevate the experience by a notch. Prime attractions of the city are all within a kilometer radius and so it the railway station. The bus stop is quite accessible too and is around 3 kilometers away.

The hotel houses a coffee shop and also has a roof top restaurant and bar. Breakfast is complimentary and the hospitality is warm and comforting. A nice hotel indeed for a night's stay.

Stay here if your focus is to extensively stay outdoors and explore the city and end your day in a room that offers modern room fittings and basic hotel amenities. Of course proximity is the key.

4. Hotel Sunway GRT Grand

Coming from the famous GRT group; Sunway GRT Grand is a part of hotels and resorts from GRT Hotel Group. This hotel is a 4 star property located 3 kilometers south of the railway station and away from the prime attractions of the city of Pondicherry. Ideal for a families with kids as the property is vast and has amenities that cane enjoyed best by both adults and children. 

Promenade beach and other attractions are at a distance of around 5 kilometres from this hotel. The comforts and the luxury at this hotel makes for a pleasant stay. 

Stay here if your family includes children and you want to enjoy being in the city of Pondicherry with relatively easy access to popular attractions of the city.

5. Richmond Hotel

Our most recent stay was closer to promenade and in the historical and quaint white town of Pondy. Primarily a French colony historically, this part of town is picturesque and perfect for the early morning and evening strolls. Beautiful French architecture, restored heritage properties and the grid like streets can have you mesmerized enough to forget the upcoming Monday blues.

The hotel has quaint rooms on the first floor and the ground floor houses more larger and spacious rooms. Richmond hotel is entered around the Promenade beach, restaurants and cafes of the White Town making it an ideal location for those wanting to live in white town and explore what this french segment of Pondy has to offer.

Stay here if you'd like to explore the White Town in depth and soak in the french culture, architecture, food and history.

Do visit the wonderful city of Pondy - 'Give time a Break'

Friday, 9 October 2015

Care for a Bubby Bento or Sushi?

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My neighborhood is known to host some of the best hotel properties of Bangalore. I may sound over-confident but that doesn't change the equation. Very recently, I visited this beautiful and sophisticated Pan-Asian rooftop offering tucked away in possibly one of the most expansive hotel properties in Bangalore. Driving into the property itself is an absolute pleasure. This rooftop restaurant is also an apt place to lounge and soak in the wonderful weather Bangalore has to offer especially around this time of the year.

You possibly have guessed it by now, "I am speaking of none other that 'OKO'". I love the concept of Bento meals which offers personalized portions of multiple meal courses allowing you to explore a cuisine of interest. Going a step ahead, sometimes it also allows for customization of what goes into the Bento meal. 

Being served for lunch at OKO it is called 'Bubbly Bento'; for the bento meal comes with a glass of bubbly to savor. Here one can choose a bento meal being offered for 3 cuisines - Japanese, Thai and Chinese. Interestingly, it is also possible for you to customize the box to include more than one cuisine if you may wish.

Each of the cuisines are available in vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. My Bubbly Bento meal was customized to offer a mix of Chinese and Thai dishes. Here's a look at a wholesome Asian meal:

The above box was a nice mix of the somethings Chinese and something Thai. The soup was 'Tom Yum Kai' was fragrant Thai with Thai spices and exuded distinct hot and sour flavors. Lemongrass, Kaffir lime leave and Galangal were clearly felt and contributed to a lasting after taste. In the salad it was the Thai classic 'Som Tam Thai'. It's a salad that can easily go wrong but when it's right it has the potential to kill your appetite for the remaining cuisines you may have planned for your meal. The flavors were bang with an interesting medley of flavors and textures like sour, chili, sweetness, crunch and so on.

The bento meal also comprised of delicious and succulent 'Szechwan La Ji'; a delicious and succulent preparation of chicken with chili bean sauce. The flavor was distinct and the chicken was melt in mouth. The stir fried Chinese greens were light on the stomach and perfectly blanched to retain the much required crunch. Both the chicken and the stir fry greens were best enjoyed on their own or with the accompanying Thai jasmine rice. 

The meal was enjoyed in the company of a lovely glass of Sula Brut sparkling wine; the buttery texture and the complex flavors of which best complimented the milder Asian dishes. 

I'm in love with sushi and given a chance I'd be more than willing to make a complete meal out of it. Unable to resist the temptation, I gave an assortment of sushi a shot. There was 'Maki sushi' (rolls), 'Nigiri sushi platter' (Meat on a lump of sushi rice) and 'Sashimi platter' (just meat). Describing the ingredients as top quality or fresh will be an understatement and this clearly reflected in the taste.
Maki Sushi
Sashimi Platter
Nigiri Sushi
It was time to call it a meal and having chosen a mix of Thai and Chinese bento, the dessert of my choice was the obvious 'Tab Tim Grob' - water chestnuts in coconut milk with a heap of shaved ice. It's the best way to end a meal at any Thai restaurant and for me it did make for a perfect ending to a lovely meal.

Continuing the indulgence on sushi, Chef Tenzin brought out her signature that was rightly kept for the end - 'Chocolate Sushi'. This was rich and indulgent with a chunky stick of chocolate ganache stick used a s filling and melted dark chocolate to coat the sushi rice. In short it was a burst of richness in the mouth.

The bento bubbly meal is very well priced at Rs. 899++ for vegetarians and Rs. 999++ for non-vegetarians. Here's leaving you with more reason to visit OKO. For table reservations please call +918030527777.
The Lovely Bar Counter
Restaurant Seating

Bon Appetit!

Address: Oko, Hotel Lalit Ashok, Kumara Krupa Road, High Grounds, Bangalore
Phone Number: +91 80 3052 7777