Pet heaven in Manhattan

So there we were, wandering up Lexington Avenue – as one does –  when we saw a crowd on the pavement, surrounding a van.  We stopped (obviously) and saw it was a pet adoption drive.  Since all our critters over the last 25 years have been rescue animals (barring 2 English setters), this spoke to the heart.

As did the new name, which I shall now start using to describe Yoda and Tommy :

 

Anyway, we duly wandered inside the shop (where yet more critters were up for adoption), and what a shop.

Pet heaven.

Everything your dog or cat or budgie or rabbit could desire. And then some.

I love NY T shirts for dogs, anyone ?

And before you ask, the answer is no.

While Tommy is given a discarded coconut husk to play with, pampered NY pooches have this dazzling array (below) to choose from – no, wait, they don’t choose, the owners do.  Who knows, possibly the NY dogs would also like coconut husks ?

A freezer full of treats. Like lollipop shaped granulated rawhide chewies…back to the coconut husk, Tommy…

Oooh,  rawhide sushi rolls.  So Manhattan.

 

Given the way the dogs  – the late Képi and Birdey, and Yoda –  hate all the noise and the firecrackers of Diwali, I was intrigued by the idea of this anxiety thundershirt (bel0w)

 

Now HOW on earth would I find a cat anxiety thundershirt big enough for Tifi (aka Garfield) ?

 

My goodness me, am I glad we don’t pooper scoop here in India, but what a pretty display the bags make…

 

Our shopping was quite restrained, I think, given the abundance of exciting goodies on offer :

 

Great shop.

Staff couldn’t have been more friendly.

 

PERSONALLY TRIED & RECOMMENDED

 

 

Where to source excellent tea in New York

Now I may well be teaching granny how to suck eggs here, but on a recent visit to New York (after far too long, but that’s another story) I discovered TEAVANA.

What a delicious shop, full of temptations galore.

And who knew there could be so many delightful sounding teas on offer?

I went in to buy what I described rather vaguely as Japanese rice tea, and the charming, knowledgeable shop assistant knew exactly what I wanted (is that what they are still called, by the way,  shop assistants ? Or is that a painfully old-fashioned term ?)

He showed me 2 kinds of genmaicha, and sold me a tin (which was another $7 – bit steep) :

But the tin is air-tight etc etc, and it did come with instructions :

Some of the teas in their catalogue sound heavenly – Lavender Dreams, anyone ?

If I’d read the catalogue then (as opposed to now), I might well have succumbed to Slimful Chocolate Decadence :

Ooh does that sound good or what ?

Less sure about the Rooibos Chai, even though it does skilfully blend South Africa and India, 2 big loves of my life, so who knows…

Loved the stylish decor of the Lexington Avenue shop (below) :

 

Personally tried and tested (and even tasted !) and therefore recommended.

 

Where to eat good Polish food in London ?

Our London based friends were already great fans of GESSLER AT DAQUISE, a Polish restaurant in South Ken, and so at their suggestion,  off we headed, the 4 of us, on a lovely summer evening.

The restaurant has been in London since the 1940s, and the slightly faded, old-fashioned decor pays hommage to that fact – in the nicest possible way.  There is what one imagines to be an authentic whiff of old Warsaw what with the bistro setting, the large wooden table for serving, the mirrors – I loved the ambience.

The service was attentive and kind, and actually rather stylish, which is not a word one uses much these days for waiters, is it?  Again, a a slightly old-fashioned feel to it, which is very welcoming.

The young Indian sous-chef who served our food at the table was thrilled to talk about India and speak Hindi with us, and couldn’t have been more charming.

And now to the food, where I have to say up front that I wasn’t as thrilled by the food as my 3 carnivorous companions, simply because I am not a carnivore.  I am essentially a vegetarian although I do eat fish, which left me with Hobson’s choice on the solidly meat-based menu.  There was one cold fish starter, one warm fish starter and one main dish.  Not one single vegetarian offering.

As I said, Hobson’s choice.

I had the cod (below), because there was nothing else, and though the accompaniments were delicious the fish was very cod-y.  Rather heavy and rather dull and I left most of it. (And no-one asked me why, which was a little odd, given the otherwise attentive service)

I did try the herring (below) from my friend Eden’s tasting menu (and the staff kindly gave me an extra piece) and that  – on the contrary –  was absolutely delicious.  Thick and tasty and served with all kinds of lovely stuff on the side – fab thick cream, for example.

The duck was declared delicious, and it looked pretty good, even to a non meat-eater.

The tasting menu and the beef were both also declared to be a triumph.

I also had a taste of Eden’s beetroot & dumpling soup, (above) from the tasting menu : very good, and such a new, interesting taste.  And such a fab colour.

Moral of the story ?

Head to GESSLER AT DAQUISE if you love meat, and what I can only call authentic-looking food, served in generous portions.

I found £150 for 4 a tad pricey, but I am way out of touch with London prices, so who knows ?

 

 

 

gessleratdaquise.co.uk

Where to buy excellent pashminas in Delhi

This review was originally posted in July 2012, and nothing at all has changed in my approval of this shop –  except that the name has changed and they are now not at all tucked away in a corner at Santushti, but on a main lane in the same complex – just more visible.

I went there 3 weeks ago, and shopped, as I always do when I go there.

I will leave the original review pretty much as it is, below, and will add a few updated comments at the end (in another colour, to differentiate –  blue, methinks) and some updated photos, as well as their new address.  But I will change the name of the shop to its new one, so you don’t go off on a wild-goose chase.

 

July 2012

I was chatting yesterday over lunch with a girl-friend here in Delhi who knows a thing or two about pashminas and all manner of things Kashmiri.

I commented that the word “pashmina” seems to have traveled like wildfire around the globe, and has become oftentimes almost indistinguishable from the word “shawl”.  Everyone seems to wear a “pashmina” these days.

Most Indian women still know their shawls and can identify a fake from real class with one quick glance, but for those of us less skilled, you need to be able to know and trust your dealer.

For years I have bought shawls from a shop tucked away in a quiet corner of that lovely peaceful shopping centre “Santushti”.

The shop, BARGHA, has a range of shawls, stoles, and scarves in just about every shade you could think of.  You think you know what colour you want, and then you see all the gradations, and decision making goes out of the window.

 

 

 

The shop stocks top end pashminas, as well as a range of mixes – x % pashmina with x % silk or wool, and they scrupulously point out all the choices and qualities.

 

One of the things I appreciate about shopping at Bargha is that the staff are totally un-pushy, leaving you alone to browse at your own pace.

Speaking only for myself, I tend to flee a shop where the sales-people try to force my hand.

Personally recommended.  

Oh yes, and by the way, I had been buying from them for years before I posted my original review, and only told them about it the next time I visited.

 SHAWL1

 

SHAWL2

 

Fast forward to May 2014

So the shop is now more visible in the pretty Santushti complex, the name has changed, but otherwise it is the same quiet un-pushy service, which makes shopping there so relaxed.

And the same rows of wonderfully colour graded shawls…

India_New Delhi_8653

India_New Delhi_8654

 

 

I love, love, love these bright scarves with fabulous jewellery attached.

They will be on my shopping list for my next visit, I can tell you.

India_New Delhi_8652

India_New Delhi_8651

 

10/10 for consistently discreet service.

9/10 for range, price, quality.

 

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Take a generous helping of the best of British acting talent.

Add an exotic (yes, really) location like Rajasthan, India.

Combine with great filming and the result is a colourful, happy, feel-good, entertaining confection.

This film is  a delight.

It may not be the most searingly important film on the circuit, and it might not address issues of world importance, but it manages to make you happy, make you smile, make you cry a little bit (though I do cry at the drop of a hat, to be fair) and after all, why else do you go to the cinema ?

Our standard noisy Delhi cinema audience, who had chattered and gossiped on their mobiles through all the trailers, were pin-drop quiet during the movie.

Admittedly a few mobiles did go off, but that’s par for the course. There’s always one who ignores the request to turn the critters off.

It was extra fun, as a Brit living in India, to sit and watch a film about Brits moving to India.  The (Indian) audience clearly loved the movie, though I realised I was a lone voice laughing out loud at “building tea.”

The film tells the story of a group of British pensioners lured to India in separate ways and by separate decisions, to spend their twilight years in what they imagine will be palatial splendour, with almost certainly an overlay of colonial glory.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is, shall we say, not quite what they had expected.  Despite the bubbling enthusiasm of the young manager Sunny (Dev Patel) the palace of their dreams is little more than a tatty, run down hotel.  Bags of charm but certainly not splendid.

The British pensioners react in various ways.  Some complain, some hate it, some good-naturedly accept it and some eventually come to love it. Each one of them tackles this new chapter of their lives with different degrees of positivity and gung-ho-ness.

The pensioners are all ever so British, in ever so many different ways.

I won’t spoil the plot, but suffice it to say that it has (almost) a totally happy ending.

The cast is beyond stellar with Dame Judi Dench and Dame Maggie Smith turning in fabulous performances.  Maggie Smith is utterly brilliant.

Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Penelope Wilton –  the cast is absolutely perfect.

Despite the revulsion some of the Brits feel at the squalor and dirt and chaos and noise of India, overall the country comes out a winner.  India is not romanticised, but by and large the Indians are kind, polite, caring, non-whingeing nice people.  Certainly nicer than the British families most of the pensioners have left behind in England.

A happy feel-good film, beautifully shot, and a perfect family choice.

 

Where to get authentic pizzas in New Delhi, India

In one word – Amici.

This popular restaurant in Khan Market is a buzzy, friendly place with good food, pleasant service and a great location.

I recently went there with 2 young American friends who were leaving India after a year here, and this was their choice for our farewell lunch, so that tells you something.

My veg Starving Celebrity was delicious.

Ditto the ginger fizz.

Good value for money.

Recommended.

 

 

I review anonymously and I pay my own bills.   No freebies.

PENCH JUNGLE CAMP

Pench Jungle Camp is a small, 3 star lodge about 5 minutes from the main gate into Pench Tiger Reserve, in Madhya Pradesh, in central India.

It has tents or cottages, a small pool, a dining room, a small Ayurvedic massage centre, a rather neglected little library and a small conference room, which we didn’t actually see from inside.

The twin-bedded tents are air conditioned with a proper attached bathroom, and have a kettle, a little fridge, so all the amenities are there.

The hotel staff are friendly but there is an air of vagueness about the place. After 3 nights there, I am still unsure as to who the manager was.

I think affable vagueness is an accurate description of the hotel.

For example, on arriving, we found the remote for our air conditioner didn’t work nor did one of the plug points. The former problem was resolved straight away. The latter never was throughout our stay.

One day 2, one of our lights wasn’t working.  Call reception. No-one comes. Call reception again. “Oh, didn’t anyone go?”

That kind of vagueness.

Since we left each morning at 5.3o for our game drive, we took a packed breakfast with us.

Day 1 fine.

Day 2 fine.

Day 3, no breakfast.

That kind of vagueness.

Eventually, as is the way in India, about 3 hours later we crossed paths in the jungle with another vehicle from the lodge, and were given our breakfast boxes, which was fine.  But there was no fruit, no juice.

That kind of vagueness.

When we told he font desk on our return, the reaction was, ” Oh, do you want breakfast now?”

No apology, just an apparent lack of interest.

The waiters were, without exception, lovely and friendly and helpful and dynamic.

The man at the font desk sat stoically unsmiling, day after day.

On check out, I was handed a bill for Rs 6000 extra,  Rs1000 for every game drive : since I am not Indian, though a full-time resident here, I am deemed to be able to shell out extra  for each game drive (see my blog for more on this, and my quest to find out my rights as a resident, tax-paying PIO).

Even though these extras were charged by the park, not the hotel, since it was part of the package and therefore on my bill, had I been the hotel manager, I would have raised this problem with my client on day one, not left it until the last minute.  Sadly, it meant I left the lodge on a less than happy note.

By and large, though, a comfortable stay.

Our tent was blissfully cool, despite the searing heat outside.

Dinner in the garden was lovely.

Food a tad same-y.

But Pench Jungle Camp can safely be recommended for any visitor to the wonderful jungle.

Our tent

Below, the pool –  small, but perfectly adequate for cooling off between game drives

Lovely  –  dinner in the garden

Packed breakfast

And breakfast the day the wheels fell off the organisation – not as smartly presented and also rather thin on the ground

For rates and packages, check their website :  http://www.wildlife-camp-india.com/

Tiffinware – THE place to find stylish, whimsical silverware in Delhi & in the UK

Disclosure time first.

Risham Chawla who runs Tiffinware here in Delhi is a friend, but I see no reason not to review her Tiffinware products the way I would any other supplier.

I have bought her products as gifts for friends overseas, who unanimously love them, and for my own use, and I equally love them.

Tiffinware specialises in fun, original pieces for the home – especially for your dining table. Cutlery, cake-stands, serving dishes, and a personal favourite, seriously stylish egg-cosies.

As in a beautifully beaded cover to keep your breakfast boiled egg warm and cosy.  And why wouldn’t you ?

One of Tiffinware’s unique features is the beaded handles on their cutlery and knives – you can change the beads, the colours, the patterns at the time of ordering, customising them to suit your own decor.

Tiffinware’s website is easily navigated, and is slick and simple to use.

On the website you can find out where their pop up sales are taking place, whether in the UK or in India, and also check where the outlets are.

The website shows most of the range of products which are designed by Risham herself and which are made by master craftsmen here in India.

For the loyal royalist out there, or simply for the lover of fun, one-of-a-kind gifts, there is currently a range of absolutely fabulous items for the rapidly approaching Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth.

Jubilee egg cosy, anyone ?

Go on –  isn’t this irresistible ?

How about a Diamond Jubilee tea cosy, as well ?

 

If you are based in Delhi, you can call Risham for an appointment, and go check out the many other gorgeous things she also makes – shawls, stoles, clothing, luscious handbags, and a wide range of jewellery, including lovely silver cuff links, which have become something of a gift staple for this reviewer.

And here are a few more items to tempt you – if you are not already online at Tiffinware, shopping, that is.

 

The address and contact details are all on the website, or you can contact Risham (below, hard at work with her signature beads) via Twitter – @Tiffinware

YOKO ONO TO INDIA WITH LOVE

Yoko Ono’s solo, lone performance in Delhi, India, at the India Habitat Centre last night (15 January 2011) was a distinctly odd event.

The auditorium was packed to the gills, with an orderly and clearly enthusiastic audience, all seated a good half an hour before the performance began.

Because I suppose that’s what it was.

A performance.

Ms Ono looks amazing for 78, absolutely fantastic, with her trim figure, snappy dressing, and sort-of-Michael-Jacksonesque hat.  Oh, and the trademark dark glasses, of course.

Ms Ono moved around the staged with a mike, looking fit as a fiddle.

The 2 Indian musicians, a sitarist and a tabalchi, looked elegant and smiled and were models of the best kind of Indian elegance.

As for the rest…

…the best I can say is that it was rather like watching a sloshed relative at a party who grabs the mike and thinks she can sing.  And dance.

Off-key careening is the word that comes to mind.  Lots of shouting and panting and wailing and a few lines in English, and the 2 lovely Indian musicians valiantly accompanying her, while she tripped around the stage, wiggling her hips from time to time.

Ms Ono performed 2 songs (?) which lasted an ear-splitting 30 minutes.  I swear I saw the musicians smiling at each other in a sort of “oh what the heck?” kind of way.

Interval = about 15% of the audience voted with its feet, including my husband and son.

They missed the best bit which was the Q & A.

All the inevitable questions about John Lennon – “Does he still live in your heart ?” –  I ask you, what a daft question.

What is your favourite song ?  I suppose the questioner meant a Beatles song, as opposed to her own, and I don’t think she really replied.

Do psychedelic drugs enhance creativity ?  Ms Ono gave a not really specific answer, and then when the questioner persisted, turned away.

She was much more of an appealing figure answering/not answering questions, so I am glad I stayed.  She made many of we ladies of a certain feminist generation cheer (and we were quite numerous, I was happy to see) with some of her answers to questions like “What is women power ?”  (Obviously asked by a man)

Ms Ono talked a little about the Beatles and John Lennon and made a rather endearing comment about how much she was hated after the Beatles broke up, saying “I was not a very hateful person before.”

Glad I saw her in person.  But sitting through another performance ?

Never again.

Never.

 

 

Gondola lift in Gulmarg, Kashmir

The pretty hill station of Gulmarg in India’s Kashmir state, is already high enough for many people who fly into Srinagar.  The first day can leave you a little breathless from the altitude  – 2699.6 m/8856.9 ft.

So wait a day or two before taking the gondola up to Apharwat.  This French-built lift takes you up to 3,979m, just below the summit of Apharwat, making it the world’s highest ski lift. The latter is a fact we were told many times.  The locals are very proud of their gondolas.

The system is in 2 stages, and you buy separate tickets, so if you only want to experience one stage, you can do so.

Gulmarg-Kongdori is the first stage and costs Rs 300 per ticket, while the second stage, Kongdori-Apharwat, costs Rs 500, so the trip isn’t cheap by Indian standards.  But it is well worth it. (These are round trip tickets, obviously)

The views are lovely, as you climb ever higher, the gondolas are clean, perhaps thanks to the cute sign inside each cabin :

We went in the summer, and the queues were long, but surprisingly orderly (this is India, after all) and move pretty quickly.