Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Ravanna burning bright
In the city of the night,
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy ten-headed symmetry.
If you missed the sight of ten demon heads burning in Mumbai yesterday, you should build your own blazing Ravanna. The crafty kit from Little Creative Mind teaches you how to make a demon from scratch.
Follow the instructions, and you’ll find yourself staring at a grand 3D purple and yellow paper Ravanna with an even grander mustache. Ten heads, ten evil smiles, and one scathing sword will follow. Setting it ablaze, is optional.
Getting there: Buy it at Crossword Bookstores for Rs 199.
If you’re looking for ready-made mythology, head to Fluke at Bandra. In this house of worship-worthy hand-painted everything, you’ll find Goddess Durga’s delicate features paint brushed across a sleek leather clutch bag, sans her usual ten arms, tiger and lotus (Rs 2,000 onwards). Sharing the altar is the fiery Kali devi. This Goddess of change watches over wallets (Rs 900).
Getting there: Fluke Design Studio, Shop 7, Rafi Mansion, 28th Road, Gurunanak Park, Bandra (W). Call: 26438087.
Fabindia went West and returned with East. Back home, we’re not impressed. The Indian retail giant reportedly bought a 25% stake in UK apparel and accessories brand East, and plans to open at least 200 stores across India. Judging from the latest one in Mumbai, we’re far from excited about the grand plan.
Back to the Future
Interestingly, East facilitates time travel; the hangers host kurta tops and crushed skirts that the city was wearing five years ago. The price tags, however, will catapult you back to the future; here, a simple cotton kurta costs Rs 1,500, and a wrinkled sleeveless dress, a cool four grand or so. The styles are boring, the prints, blah, and the silhouettes just don’t make the cut. No bohemian wrap-sodies, these!
Despite being disoriented from all the time travel, we were still thinking straight - why did Fabindia have to partner with a UK brand to retail styles that are inherently Indian? “With natural, organic fabrics, East’s fashion philosophy fits right in with Fabindia’s,” the store manager told us. We weren’t convinced.
The Mykanos collection, with its crushed sleeveless dresses and cropped jackets make ripples of blues and greens in one corner of the store, while the Indigo Rose range splashes the other side with pinks and blues. The centre is calm with white linen pants and breathe-easy tops for summer. And yet, they fail to make for eye candy. The haveli-inspired collection coming up next, will hopefully be more appealing.
Putting their Necks on the Line
Saving face for East is the limited jewellery collection, surprisingly priced between approx Rs 60 and Rs 300. Our favourites were the wooden and bead cutaway flower earrings and necklace, and the chic shell danglers. We love the brooches at the UK store and hope to see them in Mumbai soon. It could have been haute hippie, but seems like this time machines is a little rusty.
Getting there: Navroze building, next to Fabindia, Pali Hill, Bandra (W). Call 65150357.
Friday, September 25, 2009
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Bpb Contest: Pop-art Istanbul posters, hand-painted scenes of whirling dervishes, yummy Turkish wine – these are the treasures we’ve brought back from a kick-ass vacation in Istanbul. To win yours, send us your favorite travel secret at firstname.lastname@example.org. Top five entries will receive a Turkish surprise in the mail, and get published on bpb! Also, read our Istanbul recommendations here.
What: Baklava in a box, Iranian Sweet Palace, Haroun Manzil, near Metro Opticians, Imamwada Road, Bhendi Bazaar, call Hassan Irani on 9870017847.
Why: This perennial stock investor opens the shutters at Iranian Sweet Palace only during the month of Irani New Year. But few know that if you call him at other times, he can’t resist taking an order (provided it’s a big one) for the best baklava in the city.
When: You need to take stock of your sweets.
What: Strut on Stilts lessons, call Shilpa at 9833103710 for individual/group classes, Rs 3,300 onwards.
Why: Hot on the heels of Fashion Week, this pole dancing expert’s Strut on Stilts class teaches balance and postural training, complete with stiletto struts and catwalk moves that will leave you feeling sexy, strong and confident. Bonus: Leaner legs.
When: You want to get (a)head over heels.
What: Made-to-order Lebanese and Turkish cuisine at Walkeshwar, call Reshma Choksi on 9322260232, Rs 300 onwards.
Why: This haute chef makes a mean tabbouleh, fatoosh and fataya, but her newly introduced couscous with vegetable tagine is our current favorite.
When: You want to get hook(ah)ed up with a Turkish delight.
What: Wine from Chile to your door, Four Seasons Wine Discoveries Program, visit the website here, starts at Rs 5,000 for a six bottle shipment.
Why: These vino experts hunt down yummy, hard-to-access wines from all over the world and ship them directly to your doorstep, at prices usually under MRP. All you have to do is join the Society – membership is free! We especially love the Chilean wines in the current selection. Also, for your chance to win a bottle of Turkish wine, click here.
When: You’re expecting the stork to drop off a cork.
What: Dhoop and Craftmark textile exhibition at Dhoop, Sheetal Apts, corner of Union Park and Ambedkar Road, Khar (W), call 26498646.
Why: The crafty girl behind Dhoop once again finds a way to connect India’s best artisans with mainstream markets. Kalamkari saris and block print passport pouches for men, are bpb’s picks.
When: Spinning a yarn is fashionable; September 25-30.
Event Round Up: Retro Music for Change Night at Blue Frog on September 26, the proceeds of which go to charity; Get wasted at the latest happy hour – 9.30 to 10.30 pm – on September 30 at Marimba, Andheri (W); and read our review of the spanking new Tote on the Turf that opens Monday!
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Arrive at KeVe, and you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a magic garden. Located on the very edge of Taksim, Istanbul’s hippest shopping district (we highly recommend the walk here from Taksim square) and housed in a 19th century open-aired courtyard, this little restaurant is cannily decorated with fairy lights, wrought iron chairs and a couple of resident cats. The whimsical décor warrants a visit all on its own, so the airily light cheese and spinach tortellini, mint lamb and perfectly pitched drinks are a great bonus.
Another good bet is The House Café, also in Taksim. The freshly-baked bread is loaded with olive oil and super delicious, the mezze platter is large enough to feed a greedy family of four and interesting enough that you won’t want to share, and the basil, mozzarella and cherry tomatoes pizza (we know, we know, when in Turkey… but this is really good pizza) stands up to anything you’ll find in Brooklyn.
Plus, both places have plenty of vegetarian options, a major bonus in Istanbul.
KeVe, Tünel Geçidi 10, Beyoglu, approx 25 Turkish lira/person*; The House Café, İstiklal Caddesi Mısır Apt. No:163, Beyoğlum, approx 20 Turkish lira/person.
Istanbul is absolutely fabulous to shop in, which explains our credit card’s current near-coma condition. In Taksim, you’ll find the popular European brands (TopShop, Mavi, Diesel) jostling for space with hip boutiques run by 20-somethings sporting skinny jeans and perfect hair. For traditional amber jewelry, carpets and souvenirs, hit the shops in the Sultanahmet (old city).
One of our favorites goes by the unlikely name of Robinson Crusoe. We stumbled across this quirky bookstore while making a beeline for a pair of hot red stilettos in Taksim, and were enchanted by the elegant library ladders and old, leather-spined editions lining floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. Forty minutes later, we emerged with a uber-cool Manga comic of Shakespeare’s Richard III in English and a coffee-table book featuring kitschy Turkish art, killer heels completely forgotten.
Also stop by the Arasta Bazaar. Skirting around the Blue Mosque, this is a smaller, more pleasant version of the chaotic Grand Bazaar. Bargain hard (think Colaba Causeway), and you’ll find plenty of treasures to take home.
Robinson Crusoe, Istiklal Caddesi 389, Beyoglu; Arasta Bazaar, Near Blue Mosque, Sultanahmet.
Locals will tell you that 360 is old news, but it’s a must-see. The open-aired terrace bar, located smack-dab in the centre of Istanbul, gives you an incredible view of this enchanting city, with its mosques and turrets, high-rises and sugar-cube houses, all tumbling over the Bosphorus shores. Be prepared to splurge though – at this tony lounge, you’ll have to shell out 30 lira for a 12 year Chivas on the rocks.
360, 163 Istiklal caddesi, Taksim, visit www.360istanbul.com, starts at 15 lira for a drink.
Roll your eyes all you want, but this is one tourist activity worth doing. The Bosphorus ferry cruise takes about an hour and half each way, and makes seven stops. Drink in the great views and sea air, and get off at the last island (Anadolu Kavagi) to make the 20 minute trek up to the Yoros Castle. Your calf muscles will scream in protest, but the view once you get there is worth every twinge of pain. If you’re vegetarian or unwilling to give in to tourist-trap restaurants, pack a picnic lunch. Enjoy it while watching the Black Sea meet the Bosphorus from the crumbling ramparts of an ancient palace, and you’re guaranteed to feel like a king!
Bosphorus Ferry Cruise, get on at the Main Port, Eminonu, Istanbul, 20 lira/person.
Istanbul by Orhan Pamuk is the chronicle of his life, and his love affair with his hometown. The Nobel-prize winning author takes readers on an intimate, meandering history of the city, which can sometimes be frustratingly slow. Manage to plow through it, though, and you’ll find yourself in love with Istanbul even before you get here. Once you arrive, Pamuk’s writings will help you connect instantly to the ethos of this great city, cradle of ancient civilizations and a world capital of the future.
Istanbul by Orhan Pamuk, Crosswords Book Stores, Rs 248.
*One Turkish lira is worth approximately Rs 34.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Look Who Moved In
Olive at Mahalaxmi Racecourse has a new neighbor, and she’s a far cry from the girl next door. Tote on the Turf made its debut last night with a kick-ass launch party, complete with 25,000 sq ft of jaw-dropping decor, top level alcohol and top heavy socialites – can’t tell you who they were, as this Scouter is woefully ignorant of Mumbai’s social circuit, but most of the glittering, giggling crowd in attendance looked like it belonged on Page 3.
But we can tell you this: the interiors of Tote, dear reader, you have to see to believe. The mezzanine level offers a charming outdoor patio lit up with a string of pretty lanterns, and the inside section, done predominantly in white, looks like it’s held up by a forest of eerily graceful, bare-branched trees. We also loved the upstairs lounge, with its cubic, three dimensional wooden walls, soaring ceilings (think Shiro), and huge bar, which an architect friend guestimated to be about 150 ft long.
Cheers to That!
And last night, this bar was certainly hopping. Elbowing our way through the three-deep crowd, we were ecstatic to find that they’d broken out the good stuff to celebrate Tote’s birthday: a friend asked for champagne, and the bartender reached for a half-finished bottle of Moet. “Pink,” our friend corrected, and within a minute, he was offered a flute spilling over with Bouvet Rosé. Nice! We also enjoyed a vodka-based Red Bull cocktail that tasted like a grown-up version of Kalakhatta, but a peach concoction, apparently a house specialty, felt weirdly fuzzy on the tongue. Available too was Kingfisher’s newest offering, a golden, ultra light lager, which was apparently being launched at Tote.
The service was terribly slow, but that was probably because the place was packed, and it was apparent that the bartenders, including owner Rahul Akerkar, were making a valiant effort to keep up. The music was fun, manned by DJ Nikhil Chinappa and a guy playing different instruments, including the flute. A persnickety guest commented that acoustics in the upstairs lounge were terrible: we hadn’t noticed, and didn’t really care.
Now for our gripes. Coming from the gustatory magicians of the Indigo eateries, the food at Tote was a major disappointment. Part of the upstairs lounge was converted into an open-aired cooking station, which served up small plates of Asian-italian dishes like goat cheese balls and cream cheese nori rolls (odd); fusilli in green pesto, (pedestrian); and buttery cheese puff bites (addictive).
The more extensive dining set-up downstairs was chaotic, stuffy and funny-smelling, with a long line of hungry guests snaking up to an open kitchen. We gave up on sight, but a brave friend soldiered on, returning with treasures like fresh asparagus drizzled with creamy dressing and hearty mushroom risotto, along with the less successful sautéed mushrooms, which had a rubber-like consistency.
Wake Up Call
The food at parties, however, is usually sub-par to what the same kitchen produces when you’re sitting down for a nice a la carte, so we remain hopeful. But regardless of whether the menu gets better or not, we’re definitely going to return to Tote. It’s one of the most exciting entries on the Mumbai night scene, and just what the doctor ordered for a city that, tired of the same old Saturday Night, was about to fall asleep.
Getting There: Tote on the Turf, Next to Turf Club, Mahalaxmi Race Course, opens to public Sept 25, call Indigo at 6636 8999 for details.
Friday, September 18, 2009
What: Mobile Camping on the Konkan Coast, Quest Adventures, call 9820367412 or visit www.quest-asia.com, Rs 3,000 per day/per head.
Why: Give Jehan a buzz, and within hours he’ll send you an SUV loaded with camping gear, equipment for your chosen activity (body boarding, waterfall rappelling, kayaking) and a team leader/driver/chef. They can also arrange shorter trips, treks and more.
When: You want to be a happy (s)camper.
What: Tote on the Turf, Mahalaxmi Race Course, call Indigo at 66368999 for details.
Why: A new venture from the Indigo stable, this one promises to be a winning bet. Featuring a bar, restaurant and banquet facilities, Tote on the Turf is rumored to have yummy tapas on the
menu, and doesn’t go public until next week. For a first look, try sneaking into the opening party tonight.
When: You’re looking for a taste of things to come. BPB review out soon!
What: Electric Feather: The Tranquebar Book of Erotic Stories, in bookstores next week, Rs 395.
Why: Bollywood stars, sexually inexperienced men, pillow talk and body fluids live unapologetically between the pages of this new anthology, deftly edited by Ruchir Joshi.
When: You want to enjoy multiple climaxes.
What: Tornado Beer Glasses by Hot Muggs, buy online here, Rs 495 for a set of two.
Why: Because these twisty glasses are guaranteed to shake up your straight-laced bar.
When: You’re leaning towards a drink.
What: Cupcake face mask and Cynthia Sylvia Stout Shampoo at Lush, Grand Galleria, Phoenix Mills, Lower Parel, Rs 480 and Rs 430 respectively.
Why: Made with organic Irish stout beer and lemons, this shampoo bottle may as well have a “drink me” sign on it. And while you’re getting a beer at Lush, gorge on the cupcake face mask for fresh skin.
When: You need tasty treat(ment)s.
Event Round Up: Simultaneous global screening of The Age of Stupid by Franny Armstrong at Blue Frog, Indian folk music and dance at NCPA and Bramfatura at Zenzi Mills.
Friday, September 11, 2009
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bREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S
What: Vintage perfume bottle with metal puffer, International Antiques, 7 Vaswant House, Colaba, Rs 1,500; Pylones @ Taabir, Grand Galleria, Phoenix Mills, Rs 200 onwards.
Why: This glamorous bottle is perfect for experimenting with your favorite fragrances to create a signature perfume. Go soon, though, as we spied only a couple of pieces at the dusty little antique store. Also, for more contemporary but equally whimsical accessories, check out the new Pylones collection.
When: You want to put your two (s)cents in.
What: Rouge Volupté Lipstick by YSL, available at Pantaloons, Phoenix Mills; Lifestyle, Oberoi Mall; and Shoppers Stop at Bandra, Juhu and Inorbit Mall, Rs. 1,730.
Why: Because not only does this just-launched lipstick come in a range of delicious colours (we especially love the Orange Shiver and Divine Mahogany), it’s also sinfully creamy and long-lasting.
When: You want to shoot from the lip.
What: Sampan, Novotel Mumbai Juhu Beach, Balraj Sahani Marg, Juhu Beach, Juhu, call 66934444.
Why: The old favourite is back, with delicious food on the plates and Chinese clichés on the wall. Call it fin yang - you’ll have to slurp your Pan Fried Noodles with a live gold fish staring at you from the table centerpiece. Read the full bpb review here.
When: You’re looking for wanton indulgence.
What: IPRT Poker Tournaments, Floating Casino, Goa, visit www.iprt.in, buy in starts at Rs 5,000.
Why: Because chances are that this is one of the few legal poker game you’ll attend. Plus, membership to the India Amateur Poker League is free, and with the Diwali season coming up, you need all the practice you can get.
When: Ante up from Sept 23 – 26.
What: Alanis Morissette home collection at Mobius Strip, Pali Hill, Bandra (W), Rs 250 onwards.
Why: If you have One Hand in your Pocket, get out some cash for these super cool coasters, shot glasses, clocks and lamp shades with Alanis face prints.
When: You want to do up your apartment for a song.
Event Round-up: Jalebee Cartel is back at Blue Frog, raising awareness for Gaia Conservation Foundation Initiative on Friday, Sept 11; Naseeruddin Shah’s Motley Theatre Group will perform a revival of Waiting for Godot at the NCPA on Saturday, Sept 12; and on Thursday, Sept 17, Luke Kenny, Neha Sunitran and Arjun S Ravi are at Zenzi Bandra’s Indie Night.
Sampan has changed considerably from its old avatar that used to be housed in The Holiday Inn. The restaurant is rife with Chinese clichés – a dragon on the carpet, China silk on the seats, lanterns on the ceilings – but even that we were able to digest. What really made swallowing our food difficult was the dull silence that hung heavy in the air. The staff told us that the music will be sorted by next week, after which the prospect of sitting at the centre round bar didn't sound so scary.
Old Noodles in a New Bowl
Creepy gold fish, uncomfortable silence, listless families…things weren’t going so well for Sampan. Until the food arrived, that is. The Wanton Soup was piping hot, and the Shredded Crispy Lamb was just the way we remembered it – deliciously comforting. We’d started to warm up to the place, and by the time our main course arrived – house favourites Pan Fried Noodles and Chicken in Black Bean Sauce – we were at the Sampan we knew and loved. The lemon iced teas needed sweetening, but the dessert, Apple Toffee with vanilla ice cream, was flawless.
But as always, hooking up with old flames comes at a price. A bare-minimum meal for two without alcohol cost us about Rs 2,300. Ah, never mind! It was our weekend wanton indulgence.
Getting there: Sampan, Novotel Mumbai Juhu Beach, Balraj Sahani Marg, Juhu Beach, Juhu, call 66934444.
At Brown Paper Bag, we review restaurants anonymously and pay for our own meals.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
A foray into Pylones is like falling down Lewis Carroll’s rabbit hole and right into the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. The store’s whimsical toasters with bright floral prints would certainly fit in there, as would kooky cake cutters, slant-eyed rice bowls, satirical salad tossers and demure espresso cups, sitting pretty with a set of angle wings in lieu of handles.
As we circled the little kiosk, we imagined the Queen of Hearts grooming herself with a Pylone buxom-babe nail file, enamel hair brush and crazy-cat pin, tapping her long-stemmed cigarette against the portable ashtray and commanding “Off with her head!”
And just as visions of a gruesome beheading by the ferocious-looking staple remover started swimming in our brains, a helpful clerk jerked us out of our reverie with a polite “Can I help you, ma’am?”
That’s the effect Pylones, a French design store, has been having on customers in Europe, United States, New Zealand and more for over two decades, and it’s finally in Mumbai. The little kiosk at Phoenix Mills doesn’t have the jumbled charm of Pylones’ Paris store, or the vast inventory of the two-floor outlet in Midtown Manhattan, but it’s a welcome splash of sunlight in the otherwise blah space. Starting at Rs 400 for a pair of hair clips, you’ll find the prices steep, but won’t be able to resist the happy designs.
Also, watch out for fresh stocks of the jewelry (the Mumbai outlet only has a couple of rings right now) and handbags that are favorites at Pylones globally. We’re especially hoping that the transparent carry-all with pressed flowers and dried leaves, which we spied in New York recently, reaches the Mumbai store soon.
But for now, we’re content with the kabuki-headed umbrellas, and are sure that you will be too.
Getting There: Pylones @ Taabir, Grand Galleria Mall, Phoenix Mills, Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel, call 66626704.
Friday, September 4, 2009
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What: Customised bar set (price on request) and cocktail workshop (Rs 3,500), call Ankit Negandhi on 9773133220.
Why: The international Martini Grand Prix winner is launching a bar kit that packs quite a punch, complete with a Boston shaker, zest remover, muddlers and more. He’ll even come over before your house party and teach you how to mix drinks with ingredients lying around the kitchen - jeera, orange peel, etc.
When: Your serve’s up!
What: Art Jammin’ by Art N Ash, email Aarti at email@example.com , price on request.
Why: The newly introduced Art Jammin’ will transform your party venue into a fun art studio, stocked with easels, paint, brushes and funky aprons, and cue up a music playlist that’ll make your guests stroke out. They also arrange menus, wine, etc.
When: You want to draw a crowd.
What: Tangerine and Lemon Syrup cakes by Babycakes, call 9820120098, Rs 150 for 200 gms.
Why: Because Pallavi Sheth’s brand new citrus sponge cakes are non-fussy, frosting-free, and zestily delicious. Plus, the x-small size means that you can order a bunch of different flavors (we also love the banana bread and marble cake) for your next tea party.
When: You don’t care for the icing on the cake.
What: Toubé Bäs’ Run-Veer dry fit running T-shirts, visit the website here or call Chaupaati Classifieds at 922 222 1947.
Why: Released on September 1, these kitschy, cool T-shirts sport a sprinting superhero, and claim that running is a battle. Anyone who’s ever gotten onto a treadmill will agree. Only 500 pieces are available, so get yours now!
When: You don’t want to sweat it.
What: Screening of Oscar-nominated animation film, Waltz with Bashir, PVR Phoenix Mills, Senapati Marg, Lower Parel, Rs 240 per ticket.
Why: Former Israeli soldier Ari Folman uncorks repressed memories of the Israeli-Lebanese war, transferring deliriously brilliant images from his subconscious onto the screen.
When: Don’t miss this dance. Opens tonight, Sept 4, 9:15 pm.
Event Round-up: Shaair and Func at San Qui, Four Seasons on Friday Sept 4, Double Decker at Zenzi Mills on Sept 5, Caricature Exhibit by Hemant Morparia on Sept 7, and Al Pitcher's Comedy Show on Thurs Sept 10.
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Akshai released his first album at age 16, and has been wreaking havoc in the music industry ever since. A vagabond by nature, he takes off in search of inspiration to places as diverse as Egypt and Malaysia, and grows stranger with every journey.
One of the first Indians to collaborate with the likes of Yahel and Minstry of Sound, he is the founder of AXYZ Music International. He’s currently conceptualizing Red Bull’s Culture Program for India, and takes some time off to dig deep into his electronic collection for gems:
RJD2’s Deadringer marked a new era in Hip Hop; kitschy opening track The Horror would make your mom’s head bop. Was quality company on my LA-San Franscisco-Vegas road trip.
I felt instant affinity for their glitched-American roots/folksy music. The Lemon of Pink album is particularly awesome. Perfect for a dimly lit room, friends and the good stuff…
Scott Herren’s production is genius, but doesn’t being to compare with his incendiary two-drummer-turntablist-keyboard live performance (which I attended at Barden’s Boudoir in London). Everything She Touched Turned Ampexian features the quintessential “Prefuse 73 stutter effect” and time signature switch-ups. I’ll stop wasting my breath, please just go hear him!
Using “instruments” like spoons, broken guitars, shoes, Fourtet weaves a sonic tapestry that covers genres like Blues, House, Hip Hop and experimental electronica. Check out his remix of King of Convenience on Remixes as well as the albums Pause and Rounds.