One of the most culturally rich states in India and home to the twin world heritage sites of Ellora and Ajanta – As well as the holy city of Nasik and the ‘Baby Taj’.
Begun in the 2nd century BC, Ajanta lay hidden by bush on the bend of a river for centuries before being rediscovered by Europeans. Luckily the elaborately decorated interior was preserved and gives a unique insight into early Buddhist art. As Buddhism declined, so did Ajanta, and the focus moved to Ellora where the huge rock-cut temples attest to the rise of resurgence of Hinduism and the popularity of Jainism.
Nasik is one of the holiest cities in India , and one of the few where you can achieve Moksha, or liberation from the cycle of birth and death, by bathing in the holy ghats – Also used for more general bathing and for washing clothes. I found it one of the friendliest cities in India – a nice break from the hassle of more touristy areas.
Anyway, here’s some photos
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Yesterday was my birthday and that meant going to the best place in town and having a slap up meal. The latest and supposedly greatest in Mumbai is Ziya, opened by Vineet Bhatia in the same place where he was head chef before he left to move to London and become the first Indian chef to gain a Michelin star.
The whole modern Indian food thing has just arrived in Mumbai strangely. You’d have expected the pretentious upper classes here to be desperate for some new way to show off their wealth but it seems they just don’t get it. They prefer their Indian food in a more traditional format.
In fact, just after opening, they had to call all the reservations to explain that the food would be served plated, course by course. Not trusting people to remember this when they arrive, the first page of the menu is devoted to a further explanation. Even still a table of four walks out after they realise that they won’t be getting their food in a little copper pot.
This doesn’t leave very many people in the place, just us a table of four, a single whitey, and a couple eating Michelin standard food with their hands – I’m definitely going to try this! So even with years of eating in European restaurants this way I’m not sure eating Indian food this way is going to catch on in Mumbai.
And in all honesty the food isn’t that great. We go for the seven course tasting menu and have an extra portion of foie gras. There’s a lot of repetition, like kitcheri twice – don’t they do other rice dishes in India, and the lobster mayo from the prawn dish makes three appearances. It just feels as if everything is not quite right. The only thing that I really enjoy is the masala foie gras with wild mushroom naan, but even this is served with a pointless fennel salad thing and the foie gras “coins” are grey and bland. At a price tag of 1800 roops it should be flawless.
The restaurant is just opened and maybe they need time to get everything right and even with the faults I had a great time there, but If Ziya wants to become the landmark restaurant I think they want it to be then they will definitely need to up their game a bit.
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Down a back street in Colaba is one of the most captivating restaurants in Mumbai. In fact it’s not really a restaurant; it’s a stall selling kebabs that puts out a few tables at night. But this place is run like a restaurant with a team of servers and chefs pumping out food for hundreds of people without making mistakes.
Its a pet hate of mine when waiters don’t write things down, especially when it comes out wrong, but here they are taking orders for three or four tables and the food still comes right. When I see them run off to tell one of the clerks with their clipboards and bunches of pink papers I realise they probably don’t know how to write. The clerks keep track with an ongoing check for each table and hand it back to the waiter when the bill is requested. A complicated system but one that works and has probably worked for along time.
The food is a long list of melt in the mouth kebabs served with relish, onions and the freshest flat bread you could hope for. I could eat here every day. We ate Chicken seekh, mutton kebabs, a mutton curry and some grilled chicken legs. Everything except the legs, which were a bit tough, was melt in the mouth.
But it’s not only the food which makes this place. The setting down a street which cars are still trying to get down, the tons of smoke coming off the char grill and the buzzy atmosphere make it a place that really draws the crowds.
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I’m not totally sure what I expected from Mumbai. I thought it was going to be a mess, a total assault on the senses. So many people had an opinion, some liking it some not. After leaving now I’m still not sure what to think.
Sure there’s a bit of a buzz and a couple of bars but its no real centre for nightlife. I was expecting to find a European style alternative scene with places to go and see live music, comedy. The kind of things you’d find in any world class city. I just couldn’t help feeling it was a little bit boring.
On a whole though, it’s not a bad city. The traffic isn’t too bad, the taxi drivers use a meter, and it’s clean – well compared to other Indian cities it’s shining. I can’t understand why people hate it because it’s a messy, chaotic place. On the other hand however, I just don’t see it as a unique cosmopolitan city either.
Honestly, I’d have preferred to have hated it. At least that way I’d have an opinion. Hopefully Delhi assaults the senses a bit more.
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