A sneak peek at the soon-to-be launched Tata Vista D90

I was one of the lucky ones, asked to drive and report back on the yet-to-be-launched Tata Vista D90, and so for the last 3 days, I have had my hands on a pristine, brick red, brand new, shiny new car, mine to drive around Delhi as I wish.  All that was asked of me was my feed-back, which is easily done.

It’s a super little car, zippy, roomy and perfect for city driving.

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Now despite having driven for aeons, I am not especially technically knowledgeable about cars beyond the basic essentials, so I decided to test the Vista D90 by subjecting it to 3 days of my normal Delhi routine.  Lots of quick trips here and there.  Far too many long, noisy, ill-tempered traffic jams.  And the eternal quest for a parking slot.  And in all these 3 areas, the car scored a perfect 10.

The Vista D90 handles well, accelerates brilliantly and moves with speed, all the time feeling safe and secure.  I was able to zoom ahead when the traffic lights changed, overtake quickly and safely, and sudden braking (tested while we were later filming) was easy and without ever making me feel the car was anything but stable. In 3 days of test-driving, I didn’t actually need to brake suddenly, thank goodness, so the braking was admittedly deliberately tested.  I was filmed driving today, some of which involved my coming to a screeching halt just in front of the (brave) cameraman, and so I know how smoothly and swiftly the car brakes.  Equally, the pick up is fantastic.

So, the Vista D90 passed the Delhi driving tests, as far as I am concerned.

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Next, the traffic jams. How did the car perform in them ? The Vista D90 is comfortable inside, has a great sound system, has an integrated Bluetooth phone on the dashboard, which meant that during the long jams on the BRT I could catch up on calls –  and since everything is hands free, it is 100% safe.

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There are controls for the phone and the music system on the steering wheel, which makes complete safety sense.  You can pair up to 5 mobiles, there is a USB port, there are cup holders, so there is everything you need to entertain you while (hopefully) driving but also while you are stuck in traffic.

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My 3rd testing criterion ?  Parking.  Since the car is neat and compact, finding parking was not an issue.  I was, however, terrified that someone would scratch my on-loan car.  No one did, though I did encounter one man who stared so long and hard at the car that he nearly toppled off his bike.  We also encountered an elephant on our first trip, but since I was driving I couldn’t take a photo to prove it.

There are some useful touches and features :

a pen holder in the glove compartment, which means you don’t have to scrabble to find one.


the heated rear window, which really came into its own in the bitter Delhi cold.

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the alarm that sounds if you try to close the door with the ignition key still in.

the alarm that sounds if the driver doesn’t belt up within a few seconds.

immediate automatic locking

I very much liked the fact that the Vista D90 is quite high off the ground, with good wide visibility. I felt more elevated than many other cars on the road, and there was no blind-spot.

Conclusion ?

The car is nice looking, comfortable to drive, feels very safe, and is roomy inside.

I have only one teensy quibble.  There is literally no space at all to the left of the clutch, which means you tend to leave your foot on the clutch by default.

But that’s it.

Otherwise I loved driving “my” Vista D90 and felt a real pang when, filming over, I had to hand it back.

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Where to get coloured cables for Apple products in India

It’s not rocket science, but the first time I saw a display of coloured iPhone/iPad/iPod cables, it was something of a revelation.

Move over classic same-as-everyone-else’s white cables and chargers, and enter a range of bright, jolly, indivdual colours.

There is the added incentive that these might well mark the end of one of the many little squabbles that dog a home full of dedicated Apple users.

Trying to mark my territory over my chargers and cables, I had taken to sticking on labels with my initials (confusingly CAP), but different colours makes much better sense.

So for Christmas that’s what my son did.  From ebay India he bought us all different colours.

I am red, fyi.

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Cheap AND cheerful.
Thoroughly recommended.

Where to buy jewellery in Old Delhi

Shopping in the crowded tiny lanes in India’s Old Delhi is amazing fun but can be a tad overwhelming.

There are so many people, it is so noisy and crowded, and you are spoiled for choice.

If you are shopping for trinkets or buttons or beads or ribbons or gift bags or any other of the wonderful things you can find in Old Delhi, then the worst that you risk is paying a couple of rupees more in one tiny shop than you would have done in another.

If you are in the market for jewellery or for gem stones, however, then the stakes (and the risks) are more substantial.

And that is why the cognoscenti beat a path to the following address in Old Delhi :

Ask for the Jain Temple, and the shop is in an old haveli in the same tiny little lane where the temple is.

This lane is famous for its row of prettily painted old houses, and is an oasis of quiet.  The temple is also delightful, so the whole trip is well worth your while.
Ashish Nahar and his father are courteous, welcoming, and have a huge range of jewellery and loose stones.

The latter are a particular favourite of mine – bags of topaz and amethyst are offered for you to select the stones you want, and their quality is excellent, their prices good, and their reputation impeccable.

A real find.

Personally 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 ?






This review is different, since it is a guest post by a Twitter friend?/acquaintance?/cyber-friend? –  well, anyway, someone with whom I chat and tweet online. His Twitter handle is @alltough, and last month, he tweeted a review of a Delhi restaurant, which caught my eye.

@alltough tweeted in a series of posts – for those of you who don’t tweet, you are limited to the numbers of characters per tweet.

This review, sentence by sentence and photo by photo, appealed to me enormously as it unfolded slowly in cyber-space, and so I asked @alltough if he would guest post for me.

Here is his review.


A pictorial tribute to an exquisite fusion dinner that was indulged in at the Indian Accent restaurant on March 28, 2012 based in the Manor Hotel in 77, New Friends Colony. The meal was prepared by the friendly Chef Manish Mehrotra that evening for a table of five. For their menu online, click here: http://www.themanordelhi.com/restaurant-menus.htm

  1. Went to the Indian Accent at the Manor Hotel last evening. Had never heard of it before but now I won’t stop raving about it for a few days.
  2. Had the most delicious little parathas stuffed with blue cheese as an appetiser. I think, I can safely recommend, it is worth dying for it.
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    Too much naatak; too little to eat – a cheese ball hung over a slender cup filled with shorba. I couldn’t dunk it
  4. Items on menu have a slight Indian twist to it hence the name. the chef came to our table & explained the aesthetics of his presentation.
  5. most fine dining places can be quite snobbish but this one had the friendliest staff. They make you feel at home. not everything is priced.
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    The chef sent this to our table as a complimentary item:  enjoyed the tangy chilli strawberry dip but ignored liver
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    The famous Pao Bhaji at Indian Accent
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    veggies wrapped in thin paneer was ordered for a starter but I think I could order three more and make it a mains
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    It took time for us to touch this one because nobody had the heart to destroy the way it looked. Potato chaat
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    This was a strict no-no for me. I pretended it wasn’t there. some part of a goat’s ankle many will relish
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    crisp Mexican rotis stuffed with chicken gravy (naming whatever I like as I don’t remember menu) this was delish
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    I could have died & gone to heaven if I had eaten the whole thing. Prawns on a bed of thick Goan rice. Must have
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    Some very exotic fish whose name I can’t be bothered with. With fried lotus roots. Again, nice mellow flavour.
  14. The names on the menu were simple but long and without any added adjectives like ‘creamy’, ‘smooth’ and ‘spicy’, but staff use it liberally.
  15. dessert was strictly okay. Fancy names but I was too stuffed to change the way my palate felt. Order assorted stuff & share in a small group
  16. Indian Accent is in the Manor Hotel in New Friends Colony (West) at #77. Make a reservation. Good experimental food and great service. Go.
  17. We paid for our food. My hosts loved it so much they asked the unassuming celebrity chef to come to South Africa and open one there. #Delhi
  18. That was a restaurant review in 16 tweets. Must storify. Thank you, ladies & gentlemen. You may now resume with your work day. Bon appetit!

Where to stay in Varanasi

Arriving at the JUKASO GANGES HOTEL by boat, on a first time ever visit to Varansi was spectacular.

As we made our way downstream from Raj Ghat, the exciting panorama of life along the Ganges unfolding before our eyes, we slowed down in front of an elegant building, snugly fitting in between Ganesh Ghat and Bhosale Ghat, and set a little bit back from the river.

Our hotel.

The Hotel only opened in early 2012, and indeed not all of the planned 15 rooms were ready at the time of our visit (1-3 April 2012), but the hotel promises to be a little jewel when it is completed.

Our rooms were deliciously cool (a blessed relief from the 40C temperatures), well appointed, and those facing the river have views to die for.  Good bathrooms.

The staff couldn’t have been nicer or more helpful, staying up late and serving us dinner without a murmur when we returned after 10.30pm one evening, ladened with shopping after a long foray into the bazaars.

Any little glitches –  and they were only little ones –  were dealt with promptly.

The location of the hotel  –  quite a distance up river from the main Assi Ghat area –  means either walking or taking a boat to go down to the busier ghats.  It also means the hotel is quieter.  The walk along the river is fascinating, along a wide, well maintained walkway, and to go up and down the Ganges by boat is a total delight.  Just tell the hotel, and they will arrange a boat whenever you need it.

The only possible criticism –  though that is too strong a word – would be the location of the restaurant.

The restaurant is very small, and located on the top floor, involving a climb up 2 flights of stairs (the lift only goes up to the 3rd floor, so the occupants of the 2 rooms on the 4th floor always have an extra floor to climb).  I doubt the restuarant could hold all guests at the same time, once the hotel is running at full capacity, because that would ideally be 30 covers.

The chef told us that in the winter some guests will be able to eat on the outdoor terrace, which has an admittedly fabulous view.

But there are monkeys, so that issue will have to be tackled.

Despite air conditioning and a fan, the restaurant was very hot, mainly because the large picture windows have no curtains or blinds, so the summer sun was beating down remorselessly. Chick blinds are a must.

But this comment apart, our stay was an utter delight.

The proof of the pudding ?  We made reservations to return in the winter.


The  timing of my visit to the Hockney exhibition could not have been better. An early weekday morning, and the weather was grey, windy, piercingly cold, with a hint of snow. London at her most miserably winterish.

The contrast between the freezing grey outside and the explosion of colour inside the Royal Academy was electric. Just walking into the first gallery was like a dose of warmth and sunshine.

Today was my Road to Damascus moment as far as David Hockney is concerned.

I knew a little of his work – “A Bigger Splash”, obviously, and some of those extraordinary photo collages of the Grand Canyon, but, to my shame, not much else.

To my eternal shame, I didn’t even know know Mr. Hockney is a fellow Tyke.

But this morning, if a fairy godmother had waved her magic wand and given me enough money (and ginormous walls) I would have bought every single painting there, so bowled over was I by the work of this wonderful talent.

Wandering round the galleries full of colour and happiness made me feel happy. I know I had a daft, dippy expression, smiling at people –  but then again, everyone else looked happy too, and smiled back, and chatted, so obviously I was not alone, in the feel-good stakes.

I have frequently been moved by seeing a particular masterpiece – the Madonna of the Rocks last week, for example at the Leonardo Exhibition at the National Gallery –  but never have I felt so incredibly happy at an exhibition.

And never have I felt so ridiculously proud of being a Yorkshire(wo)man.  There, I’ve said it.  True, I have never actually seen my native west Yorkshire looking as riotously colourful and vibrant as Mr. Hockney’s landscapes, but I have seen the hedgerows full of meadow sweet and hawthorn bushes that he so eloquently paints, in the countryside I remember as a child.

Favourites from amongst these amazing pictures ?

The effect of all those canvases in “The arrival of spring in Woldgate East Yorkshire in 2011 (twenty eleven)” was amazing – an array of fabulous little details of grass and flowers and shadows and leaves, all contributing to a stupendous whole.

And as for those films (digital video) –  utterly glorious and I laughed out loud during the dancing, as did my neighbours in the projection room, and when Mr. Hockney appeared, brandishing a mug, lots of people applauded.

The exhibition is a delight.  An utterly delightful treat for the senses and the soul.

I am cross with myself that I have wasted so many years of my life not knowing enough about David Hockney : today I became a total and utter adoring fan.

Mr. Hockney’s talent and exuberance and mastery of so many media is impressive.  Damn it, why can’t I do such amazing things with my iPad ?

Entry to the exhibition costs £14, and you really do need to book.  I was incredibly lucky, walking by yesterday afternoon and being told I could go straight in, or choose whatever time I wanted, but I understand that booking online isn’t quite as easy.

I opted for the first time slot, 10am, when the Royal Academy opens, and by the time I left, it was getting quite crowded, so I would advise the earlier the better.

There is more merchandise in the shop than you can shake a stick at, but if you buy only one thing, let it be the catalogue.  It’s heavy, and at £29.95 it’s expensive, but it is well, well worth it.

A safe, reliable choice for lunch in Delhi – Basil & Thyme

If you are looking for a safe, reliable, air-conditioned, relaxing place for lunch in Delhi (and come to think of it, who isn’t ?) then look no further than the little restaurant tucked into the far corner of the Santushti Shopping Complex.

Welcome to Basil & Thyme.

A favourite haunt of ladies who lunch and foreigners shopping at Santushti’s elegant shops, Basil & Thyme serves consistently good, Western food.

Lots of quiches, salads, pasta, crepes.   Divine olive pate.

No alcohol.

Good puddings.

OK coffee.

Delicious ginger fizz, which is a lurid bubble-gum pink, but refreshing.

It’s not that cheap, I warn you – well, I think Rs 125 (+ VAT) is a lot for a small coffee.

Having said that, it’s a relaxing place to eat in one of Delhi’s cutest and quietest shopping centres.


Here is our recent bill for 3 people :



Hauz Khas village, a popular arty enclave in New Delhi, India, is changing at the speed of light.

My first visit in 2 months, and lo and behold, I now have to pay for parking.  But to be fair, the muddy sidewalk is now paved over, so I suppose one mustn’t crib at paying Rs10 to park there.

I went with one of the city’s better known food writers and critics, for a casual getting-to-know-each-other lunch in Flipside, a new café, tucked away up a steep flight of stairs.

Simple food, relaxed service, wi-fi, and all very pleasant it was, too.

We opted for crepes, rather than pizzas.  My companion had a sweet one – a rather daunting sounding confection of peanut butter, chocolate and whipped cream, whereas I opted for savoury.  Cheese, mushroom, corn and lettuce –  the latter not really doing it for me as part of a crepe, to be honest.  I’d rather have had the salad on the side.

Nice cold coffee.

The puds looked good, and my companion proclaimed the sacher torte she ate as tasting home made.

I can see this place becoming popular with tourists and students, with its easy atmopshere and wifi.  Today, for example, there was a young lady on her laptop in one corner, nursing a coffee.  There were 2 rather bedraggled-looking French tourists, and later 2 American youngsters with their rucksacks propped against the wall.  I met another girlfriend having a quick lunch reading her paper.  All very casual and easy-going.

At Rs 90 ++ for a cold coffee, it ain’t cheap, but I can see myself calling in whenever I am wandering through Hauz Khas.

Flipside is open 10-10 every day except Tuesday, doesn’t have a liquor licence, takes credit cards – what else ?  Oh yes, seriously, nice clean loo.

7, Hauz Khas Village

New Delhi 110016


Tel : 011 2651 6341

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.