Yuvraj Singh-Hazel Keech’s wedding: Inside pics from haldi ceremony

Yuvraj Singh and Hazel Keech’s wedding has been a topic of discussion ever since the duo got engaged in November last year. And now, the big day has finally arrived when Yuvi and Hazel will be man and wife.

The celebrations are on in full swing in Chandigarh. The morning started with the haldi ceremony, which would be followed by the Gurudwara wedding. The wedding ceremony will only have Yuvi-Hazel’s near and dear ones in attendance, with as many as 15 bodyguards providing security to the venue.

We got our hands on some pictures from the haldi ceremony as well as from the wedding venue. Take a look.


Gaurav and Akanksha’s starry wedding in Kanpur

Tere Bin actor Gaurav Khanna and Swaragini actress Akanksha Chamola tied the knot at a glittering ceremony in Gaurav’s hometown Kanpur on Thursday night. In attendance were the couple’s friends from the small screen inlcuding Hussain Kuwajerwala and his wife Tina, Puja Bannerjee with her rumoured beau Kunal Verma, Anuj Sachdeva among others.

Dressed in a blue brocade sherwani and weilding a sword, Gaurav also wore a `100 mala and sat prudly on the ghodi as his friends danced in the baraat. Puja, the most enthusiastic of the lot, danced along as the baraat headed towards the wedding venue. She later also a posted a pic of the baraat on social media and captioned it as, “Lo chali mai apne khanna ki baarat leke.”

At the venue, the dulha was greeted by his in-laws Rajendra and Sheela. The short wait for the dulhan to arrive had Hussain, Tina and Puja shake a leg on popular hits on the dance floor. Soon, the bride arrived looking resplendant in a gold lehenga. Meanwhile, Gaurav’s parents Vinod and Shashi Khanna could hardly contain their emotions during the wedding.

On Wednesday, Gaurav and Akanksha’s engagement was just as funfilled with dance performances by almost everyone. Hussain and Tina, who had rehearsed for their performances well in advance, danced on a mashup. They were joined by Anuj on stage. But the best was saved for the last as Akanksha danced to Kaala Chashma.


Monsoon wedding tips

The thought of having a monsoon wedding sounds romantic and exciting at the same time.However, as planners, there are some concerns that you need to tackle to make it a smooth affair.

Here’s highlighting the major issues that people getting married this season face with, along with possible solutions for a hassle-free and memorable ceremony:

-Avoid open venues
Although open air wedding venues like lawns or pool sides look ecstatic, since no one can recreate nature so beautifully like it does for itself. However, with the way the weather is, one never knows just when it starts pouring. Opt for enclosed venues like banquets or halls, as sudden showers are not very pleasant when you are dressed to the ‘T’. You wouldn’t want a wedding where everyone start running helter-skelter in between the ceremony to look for cover.

Tip: To recreate the feel of an outdoor wedding, choose a place that has large glass windows or walls, with scenic exteriors. It will not just get dreamy as it starts pouring, but the guests will thank you for the beautiful arrangement.

-Enough parking space
When choosing the venue, make sure you go for places that provide ample parking for visitor vehicles. This will ensure that your guests comfortably park their cars and need not struggle in the rains, to reach the venue.

-Avoid flower decor
Indeed, floral decoration looks the best when it comes to weddings. A venue decorated with exotic flowers can have an enigmatic charm on the guests. However, flowers make enclosed venues slightly claustrophobic with their fragrance; moreover since a lot of guests will also bring along flowers for the couple. Similarly, flowers also attract small insects and crawlies that are not very pleasant during monsoons, considering they would be confined within the venue and can disinfect the food and drinks.
Tip: Instead, try innovative decor options like origami, curtains, lights, candles, glassware, umbrellas, etc. that can make for some really quirky decor.

-Constant power supply
Monsoons are known to lead to sudden electrical breakdowns due to bad weather. Make sure you have all the necessary arrangements to tackle a power cut since you wouldn’t want a blackout on the most important day of your life. It is very important to have a provision of an inverter or preferably a generator at the wedding venue. Most monsoon weddings have to be supported by an external power supply.

-Ensure quality food
Monsoons bring along a brigade of food allergies; hence it is of utmost importance to check and recheck the quality of food being served. You need to ensure that the hotel or catering service is using top quality products. Also, make sure you avoid including dishes that have leafy veggies as ingredients like palak paneer, green chicken, hara bhara kebabs, etc as leafy veggies are high on infections due to the conditions they are grown in. Avoid risky sea foods like shrimps and an overdose of non-vegetarian preparations, as meat too leads to a lot of stomach infections this season.
Tip: Do not over order, as the attendance at monsoon weddings is usually low, due to the weather and inconvenience to commute.

-Keep rain wear handy
Make sure you are ready with your rain-gear; be it umbrellas, raincoats, wind cheaters, etc. Even if it is an enclosed venue, a lot of weddings involve things like the pheras in an open space; in fact a lot of churches and their peripheries are not completely covered. Even if it is as small a distance as 10 meters till you reach your car or the aisle or the mandap, make sure you have umbrellas and raincoats handy since you don’t want even the rain to spoil things around you.

-Stay healthy
Monsoons are that time of the year when everyone’s prone to various seasonal affected disorders. Be it a common cold, flu, hay fever or something as serious as pneumonia or jaundice; make sure you stay away from all these. You need to be healthy for your wedding, hence take care of yourself in every possible way to make sure you are in the pink of health on your most special day. Don’t ignore a cold or cough, avoid street food, stop drinking cold water, etc. These small lifestyle changes before your wedding will help you stay healthy and fit.

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Good wedding venues hard to get during ongoing marriage season

If you or your dear ones plan to tie the nuptial knot in the state capital during the ongoing winter marriage season and haven’t yet finalized the venue, you have a tough task ahead even if you have deep pockets. For, almost all the community halls, banquet halls, hotels and playgrounds of schools and various localities are fully booked till December 15. Even though charges for the same and related services have gone up substantially compared to last year, no one seems to be complaining about having to spend big bucks for the once-in-a-lifetime event.

Hotel Maurya remains the most favourite address for the elite of the society for marriage purposes. All its seven halls and two open spaces meant for the event are booked till December 15. “We have taken 100% advance payment and have no scope for further booking. Our package includes food, service and venue,” said PB Thapa, food and beverage manager of the hotel. For bookings, the hotel needs a minimum of 18 guests, while the maximum number can go up to 1,500 at its biggest space. A substantial increase in the cost of food – the charge for vegetarian and non-vegetarian ‘thalis’ having gone up to Rs 1,290 and Rs 1,400 from Rs 1,150 and Rs 1,250 respectively – has had no impact on people wanting to hold the event at the most posh address of the city.

Hotel Chanakya is also fully booked till December 15. “All our four halls with the capacity to accommodate up to 300 guests have been booked till December 15,” said Nalini Dayal, assistant manager of the hotel. It has introduced Bengali and Rajasthani dishes especially for the wedding season, and increased the cost of its ‘thali’ by Rs 100 compared to last year. Here non-veg and veg ‘thali’ is available for Rs 870 and Rs 750, respectively.

For those hard-pressed to find a good venue, there is a little bit of good news. The city’s only revolving restaurant, Pind Balluchi, has scope for booking in December at its banquet hall, having a capacity of 500, located at the 16th floor of Biscomaun Tower. “We are booked only on December 9 and December 11. We are charging only Rs 650 and Rs 800 for veg and non-veg ‘thali’, respectively. Along with snacks, desserts and main course, this restaurant is also providing barbecue, Chinese dishes, pasta and chaat.

Though there is no scope for tying the knot at the floating restaurant, this venue has become the first choice for exchanging rings. “We are booked throughout December for holding engagement ceremonies,” said Gajendra Singh, public relation officer, Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation. For booking the floating restaurant, one has to shell out Rs 10,000 for every two hours.

Besides hotels, almost all the clubs, community halls and banquet halls of the city are running full during this wedding season. New Patna Club, which allows booking for members and their relatives, is fully booked this year even though it increased its rates from Rs 7,500 for members and Rs 25,000 for member’s relatives to Rs 10,000 and Rs 35,000, respectively. This covers veranda, lawn, guest room, kitchen space and parking. “No booking is given to non-members,” said, Shakeel Ahmed, manager of the club.

Similarly, Shagun banquet hall at Dak Bungalow road charges Rs 1 lakh for booking. Amrapali banquet hall at Beer Chand Patel Marg charges Rs 500 for non-veg and Rs 475 for veg ‘thalis’ and has also been booked for the wedding season.

Chetan Jha, a resident of Kankarbagh whose wedding is on December 4, failed to get any suitable space. Thus, he has been forced to organize his wedding at a playground near his house. “Date for my wedding was finalized quite late, so when I went looking for space at various hotels and community halls, I was told that they were all booked, hence I decided to make arrangements at the open space in front of my house.”

Shivam Singh, a resident of Buddha Colony, who is getting married on December 6, is holding his wedding ceremony at the parking lot of his apartment. Similarly, many other people who failed to get booking for a good venue, have chosen playground of various schools in the city for the purpose.

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Rs.10 lakh on wedding venue decor

When it comes to setting up a stunning decor for their wedding venue, Bhopalites surely love taking the pricey route.

Wedding planners are busy thinking of new and exotic themes to set up the shaadi venue. Various themes such as waterfall, lord Krishna, peacock, moon, and Rajasthani, are much in demand. From cranes and hydraulic stages to exotic flowers – a lot of elements are being used to get the desired effect for the posh and affluent Bhopalites. And for high-profile guests, the welcome has to be equally grand, no? So, special performers and ushers are also being hired to escort the guests inside the venue. All this and more add up to apan ki big fat Bhopali shaadi!

Lavish themes in demand: Bhopal’s wedding planners
People are going out of their way to ensure that their wedding is the talk of the town. Says Syed Mohsin, a wedding planner at Rings And Roses, “People are shelling out big bucks for getting a decked-up thematic wedding venue. Lavish themes are in demand, according to which the entire venue is decorated. Themes such as water fall, lord Krishna, royal decor, peacock, etc, are very popular. The overall expenditure depends on the area of decoration. The cost starts from `5 lakh and can exceed according to the demands of the clients. This time, I have got orders for thematic decoration costing up to `10 lakh. When it comes to flaunting their classy taste, Bhopalites are not far behind their metro counterparts.”

A trend seconded by Nitigya Mehta, an event planner at Infanite Events, who adds, “The thematic decor involves the baaraat welcome, milan, entry of the bride and groom, along with lights and sound synchronised with the theme. For the varmaala, the stage is designed like a lotus or any other flower, and is a hydraulic one so that it can rotate. We use fireworks, colour-paper and flower shots that burst out in the entire surrounding. For flower shower, we also have a remote-controlled mini-airplane showering flower petals on the couple. The overall expenditure on such theme-based decoration can shoot up to `10 lakh, but Bhopalites are ready to pay that much to jazz up their ceremony.”

Kamal Bhandari, a wedding planner at Kreative Events, says, “Nowadays, colour-based themes are also in demand. In a single-colour theme, the lights, flowers, pandal, furniture, costumes of the artistes – everything reflects the same colour. All this can cost around `7-10 lakh, which is not a big deal anymore.”

Palace theme for a royal look
So what if kingship doesn’t exist in India anymore? One can always feel like a king and queen at their wedding! Says Akbar Khan, a wedding planner at Showcase Wedding Planners And Decorators, “Royal theme is a hit with Bhopalites this time. The budget of this theme shoots up to `8 lakh, which includes transforming the venue into a palace. Props are used accordingly for the required effect.” Vishal Ajmera, a businessman who got married recently, shares, “I spent around `10 lakh on the venue decoration. I wanted my venue to look like a palace, with everything as regal as possible. I especially called wedding planners from Indore to get the desired result. All my friends and relatives were to attend the wedding, so I wanted things to be as grand as it gets. Elephants and camels were also brought in to add some royal touch to the shaadi!”

Rajasthani theme for a king-size shaadi
Sandhya Bothra, an educationist, whose son got married recently, says, “I wanted my son’s big day to be a grand affair. I asked the planner for a Rajasthani theme for the venue decor. The sangeet, mehndi and baaraat were all based on Rajwada theme.” Ashok Pariyani, a businessman, adds, “I had my son’s wedding recently that was based on the palace theme. The entire venue was decorated with chunari, bells, artefacts with mirror work, and lots of other Rajasthani elements. The ushers were also decked up in Rajasthani style to welcome the guests.”


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Go geeky with a wedding website

It’s nuptial season and several young couples, other than printing the obvious invitation cards, have got down to
creating wedding websites for friends and family. These joyful online properties usually include the loveydovey story of how the couple met, ‘awww so cute’ pictures of them as kids, ‘not so cute’ pictures of them as grown­ups, funny
anecdotes, embarrassing videos – and, of course, serious stuff such as details of the wedding date and time, veiled
threats asking guests to be on time, and even a Google map of how to get to the venue. Many also add a contact page
for the RSVPs and an online Guestbook.

So how do you create one of your own that will announce your special day? Well, just follow the steps…

Step 1: Content…
What goes onto a wedding website also depends on the amount of time you have before your big day. Besides the usual stuff—‘lovey­dovey’ story, photos et al—you can also use the resource to find volunteers for important jobs: Someone to pick up the varmalas from the florist, a trusted teetotaller to handle the booze counter during the festivities (hic!), or someone to make sure that your wedding car is decorated just like how you wanted it. List these tasks out and invite friends to play a bigger role on your special day. The more the merrier, what say?
Alternatively, if you just need to make an announcement of the date and time, a single web page—(again) with a
lovey­dovey picture of you two—along with the necessary details will suffice. Of course, an RSVP page or a Guestbook
feature is always a good thing to have…
Step 2: D­I­Y or outsource
If you and your better half are—or either of you is—tech­savvy, creating a wedding website can be a fun activity for
those ‘together’ weekends. Heck, it could be your first ‘joint venture’. Just remember, if you’re doing this by yourself, you might have to search for a good hosting service and even register a domain name like SunilandRekha.com or
MitulwedsResha, before you can upload your website to the internet. A few services you might want to consider for this could include www.godaddy.com, www.bigrock.in and www.domain2host.in. 

Alternatively, google ‘domain registration + web hosting’ and take your pick from the results.

The second option? You could do what western economies do: Outsource. A simple Yellow Pages/internet search will
help you find a decent web/graphic designer in your vicinity. An advantage of professional help is that your site could be designed on your wedding theme.
And there’s a third option. Check out the box in this piece for a list of services that offer you a step­by­step approach
to creating your wedding site. Most of these are simple to use, and are free. For that little extra, however, you might have to pay. But still, these are not expensive propositions, and most of them charge you by the month, thus allowing you to decide for how long you want the site to be online.
Regardless of the option you choose, be as hands­on when creating your site. It’s your wedding, after all.
Step 3: Announce your site
So the site is done. Next step, announce it. Put it on Facebook, blog and tweet about it, make it your status message on chat programs, send emails to friends and relatives, spam colleagues. And hey, don’t forget to print out the address on your wedding cards. Have fun!
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E-wedding invites now trending, cards passe


Waiting to have a glimpse of albums of a memorable marriage or missing out a wedding is a thing of the past as the technology and social networking sites are providing a bunch of services right from digital wedding cards to broadcasting the rituals online.

While the wedding cards are normally designed by designers, the bride and the groom are using innovative ideas with animated wedding cards, which are easily sent on social networking sites or applications.

“This had immensely cut down the costs and the manual work to go around distributing cards. It has eased the process of inviting someone who is thousand miles with a click of a button. I made an animated video,” said Sapna Kandari, who recently got married.
Even social networking sites are used by people to send invitations to their friends and relatives.

“I not only sent invitations to people through messaging application but had even sent an invite as an ‘event’ on Facebook. By doing so, I came to know how many are surely coming for the wedding and how may are not or are unsure that they would make it. Also, the invitation helped many as on the day of the wedding they got a reminder about the invitation,” said Sayali Chavan, resident of Tembi Naka.

Many are even broadcasting their weddings live so that their relatives or friends could see them.

“My childhood buddy recently got married and unfortunately I couldn’t be a part of his big day, as I was miles away in USA. So he made it a point to show me all the wedding ceremonies live, from his phone. Though it was around 2am in US when he was getting married, I made sure to stay awake the whole night to be a part of his special day. I really appreciate the efforts his family took to make all of it possible,” said Abhishek Desai.

Some are even taking the trend of hard copies of wedding albums into making them online.

“Even though I am not fond of keeping albums, my relatives want to make sure that I get all my pictures printed. So I thought why not make both mine and my relatives’ wishes come true. I am not only going to make the album but also a soft copy of it and send the links to relatives who stay overseas and even to friends. By doing this I would not have to carry the heavy album around and also the pictures would be nothing different than seeing an album online,” said Abhijit Vedpathak, a groom-to-be.

I had even sent an invite as an ‘event’ on Facebook. I came to know how many are surely coming for the wedding and how may are not. Also, the invitation helped many as on the day of the wedding they got a reminder about the invitation


The best meals

 I always intend to do a list of the best meals I have had each year. But so poor is my rapidly ageing memory that by the time I get around to actually writing the piece, I’ve usually forgotten what I ate and where.

So, thank God for Instagram. It not only preserves my food photos, but it also provides a date and location. So based on my posts, here is a list of my best meals of 2016 from around the world.

Soam: January 31, Mumbai
My favourite South Mumbai restaurant! There are many styles of bhelpuri in Mumbai. My favourite is the one that Gujaratis make at home with just the right balance of sweet and teekha chutneys. Soam does the best version of that style that you will get outside a private home. There is also a menu of great Gujarati food but it’s the chaat that does it for me, every time!

Noma-Australia: March 3, Sydney
Rene Redzepi took his famous and influential restaurant to Sydney for a pop-up and created a new menu based on local ingredients. The dishes I remember were a plate of local shellfish, covered with a thin solidified layer of chicken broth (brushed with crocodile fat) and fresh snow crab flavoured with egg yolk and a condiment (like the Thai nam pla) made from fermented kangaroo meat. The most famous dish was the abalone schnitzel but it’s the crab that lingers in my memory.

Bennelong: March 4, Sydney
The best meal I had in Australia was at the counter at this restaurant at the Sydney Opera House. The owner is Peter Gilmore, one of Australia’s most famous chefs and the food was sensational: Wagyu tartare, bresaola made specially for Gilmore and a take on the Lamington, Australia’s national dessert. There is a proper restaurant too, but I like the idea of sitting at the counter and watching the chefs at work.

Gaggan’s creative menu never ceases to surprise one

Gaggan’s creative menu never ceases to surprise one

Gaggan’s creative menu never ceases to surprise one
Firedoor: March 6, Sydney
Another of Peter Gilmore’s ventures. The chef, Lennox Hastie, uses specially bred Angus with a marbling of 5, ages it for 221 days and cooks it over an open fire to create one of the world’s best steaks. Once again, I sat at the counter, felt the heat from the fire and watched Lennox cook the meat.

Farzi Cafe: March 28, Dubai
This is the first Farzi outside India and I was startled by how different the food was. There are fewer gimmicks, the access to international ingredients means there are many new dishes and the ambience is reminiscent of a cafe in London.

Meatlicious: April 1, Bangkok
Gaggan Anand’s steak house does not have Firedoor’s ambition, but Gaggan sources the finest Miyazaki Wagyu from Japan and then sells it at ridiculously low prices. If you like steak, this is where you should go (also try the foie gras crème brûlée). Gaggan is hardly ever there himself but the kitchen team is young and enthusiastic.

Narisawa: April 7, Tokyo
Yoshihiro Narisawa is the best modern Japanese chef in the world and the French-Japanese food is mind-blowing. Simple dishes, such as a lobster tartare, are elevated to levels almost beyond perfection. It’s not traditional Japanese and the service style is European, but I don’t think that there is a single chef anywhere who can bring out the flavours of Japan with such international flair. The thinking man’s Nobu!

Foie gras at Silvio Nickol in Vienna

Foie gras at Silvio Nickol in Vienna

Gaggan: April 10, Bangkok
I’ve eaten at Gaggan’s main restaurant quite often now. But he never ceases to surprise me. On this occasion, I had his faux lamb chop (now called a shami kebab), his fish khichdi and the world’s lightest idli. (I went back several months later and over half the dishes on the tasting menu had changed; the mark of a creative chef!)

Tian: April 29, Delhi
Vikramjeet Roy’s skill with showy molecular techniques should not distract us from his brilliance as a chef. For this meal, the standout was a large chilli stuffed with ground lamb and served in a Thai sauce. Long after we have tired of his smoke and his spheres, we will remember that, even without the molecular trappings and the imported Japanese ingredients, he is among the best chefs of his generation.

La Colombe d’Or: May 11, St. Paul-de-Vence
This is one of the French Riviera’s most famous historic restaurants, so famous, in fact, that it is a bit of a tourist trap now. But there are still some things they do very well: fresh asparagus in a classic hollandaise and a heavenly hot Grand Marnier souffle. And the history makes it special.

Goila Butter Chicken: May 20, Delhi
I have still to go to one of Saransh Goila’s butter chicken places, but he organised a tasting in Delhi before he opened in Bombay and I thoroughly enjoyed early versions of the butter chicken that would make him famous later that year.

Shami kebab at the Delhi Pavilion

Shami kebab at the Delhi Pavilion

Shami kebab at the Delhi Pavilion
Delhi Pavilion: June 7, Delhi
The shami kebab is the humble kebab that most great chefs don’t bother with. Full marks then to the Delhi Pavilion at the Sheraton, New Delhi, for recreating the Delhi original and making it with chopped (rather than minced) meat along with other Delhi dishes, including a terrific butter chicken made with desi tamatar.

Bank: June 18, Vienna
Rare is the restaurant at a European hotel that is any good unless it has been outsourced to a famous chef. One exception is Bank, the huge brasserie at the Park Hyatt in Vienna. The room is stunning but the food, though simple and classic (think wild boar sausages with potatoes or roasted bone marrow), is the real star.

Sacher: June 19, Vienna
Opinions differ on the best Sacher torte in Vienna. Most foodies prefer Demel’s version. But I stick to the original at the hotel that invented it: delicious chocolate, cherry and unsweetened cream.

Silvio Nickol: June 22, Vienna
The consensus is that Steirereck is Vienna’s greatest restaurant. But I prefer the lesser known Silvio Nickol, which is smaller, classier and does complex food i.e. foie gras with chocolate, cherry, milk crisps and God alone knows what else! Like Steirereck, Nickol has two Michelin stars. Unlike Steirereck, he deserves three.

The Clove Club: July 3, London
For my money, the most exciting London restaurant at the moment. It only has a tasting menu at a Shoreditch location and you have to pay in advance. It serves superb European-style food which defies description. Eat it and see. This is the next generation of great British restaurants. You will hear more of the chef, Isaac McHale. (The restaurant can be hard to get into, but the bar does food from the same kitchen.)

Masala Library: July 10, Delhi
Among the chefs of his generation, Saurabh Udinia (who is only 28) is the man to watch. His food at Masala Library is breaking free of his old influences (Indian Accent, Gaggan, etc) and with the encouragement and support of a foodie boss (Zorawar Kalra), Saurabh is finding an original voice. I loved the Mizo and Naga-influenced dishes and a south Indian prawn with curd rice puree was a triumph of spicing. The tasting menu is full of tricks and surprises but I prefer to go a la carte.

Wild boar sausage at Bank in Vienna

Wild boar sausage at Bank in Vienna

Wild boar sausage at Bank in Vienna
Social Eating House: Aug 1, Hong Kong
You won’t find this unless you know where to go. I only went because the HT’s editor Bobby Ghosh, who has lived in Hong Kong, sent me. It is a vast, reasonably priced restaurant with amazing food. The standout dishes, for me, were the Sichuan fish in chilli oil and the beef with cucumber and wasabi peas in a mustard sauce. The pigeon – its most famous dish – had finished on the day I went, alas.

8½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana: Aug 2, Hong Kong
This is the only Italian restaurant outside of Italy to get three Michelin stars and it is easy to see why. Superlative cooking, no poncy presentation, and no Frenchified touches. The chef Umberto Bombana is the truffle king of the east, but I also had his wonderful beef cooked two ways (sirloin and short rib) and his world famous Limoncello soufflé. Easily the best European restaurant in Hong Kong, way ahead of Joël Robuchon’s L’Atelier and the more hyped Amber.



The best meals I had in 2016



Gajalee is famous for its large crabs, which are brought to the table while they are alive and then cooked in the masala of your choice
This is the second part of my series on the best meals I have had this year. As you will see, the list comprises restaurants from all over the world, but there are some surprising omissions. I was in London for only three days this year, so only one restaurant (The Clove Club, which was in the first part of this series) is included. I would have liked to have named restaurants in the food cities of Singapore, Paris and New York. But despite my crazy travelling schedule over the last 12 months, I was not able to visit any of those cities.

We covered the first half of the year last week. This list begins in August and covers the meals I had in the months that followed.

Peking Duck at The China Kitchen

Peking Duck at The China Kitchen

The China Kitchen: August 19, Delhi

The Peking Duck at The China Kitchen in Delhi
If you eat Chinese food abroad, then it is always a little difficult to reconcile the Indian version with the real thing. The only restaurant where I have no problem enjoying authentic Chinese in Delhi is the The China Kitchen at the Hyatt. These days, I don’t order from the menu but leave it to the chef. The famous Peking Duck is always perfect but the chef’s dishes never disappoint. And this option is open to everyone who likes authentic Hunan or Sichuan food. Just tell your server that you leave it to the chef.

Kyung Bok Kung: September 4, Seoul

South Korea has an amazing cuisine and some fancy restaurants, which I have always enjoyed. But I loved this barbecue place because of the quality of Korea’s Hanwoo beef. The Koreans are justifiably proud of its well-marbled quality but nobody else seems to give the beef its due. I thought it was amazing: upto Japanese Wagyu quality.

Albora: October 1, Madrid

Caramelised bread pudding at Albora in Madrid
This is a wonderful lunch place with a wine bar downstairs and a more formal restaurant upstairs. The food is Spanish but modern and simple. I had a silky tartare followed by freshwater crayfish with green beans. The best dish, however, was the dessert: a juicy chunk of caramelised bread pudding with cinnamon ice cream. The Spanish don’t always get haute cuisine or serious food right. They are at their best with this kind of casual place.

Los Asturianos: October 4, Madrid

There are many famous Michelin-starred restaurants in Madrid but frankly, they bored me. As I wrote at the time, the legacies of Ferran Adria and Santi Santamaria have begun to get tiresome. My best meal was at this little dive in a downmarket area where I had meaty fava bean stew, prawns fried with garlic, chorizo and a killer creme caramel filled with cheese.

Portland Steakhouse & Cafe: November 12, Bangalore

Steak is a difficult business in India. Even if you are in a state that allows you to serve beef, the Indian cow is not perfect for steak. The meat has very little fat and so no marbling, and dry-ageing does not improve it. But this owner-run restaurant gets around all those obstacles and apart from the steaks it is famous for, it also manages some of the best baking in India. I put it on this list because of its apple pie, a miracle of air-light baking technique.

Atelier Crenn: November 24, San Francisco

Chestnut eggs at chef Dominique Crenn’s restaurant Atelier Crenn in San Francisco
Dominique Crenn is a French chef who has lived in California for years and has suddenly become a media star. Despite her PR-friendly nature, the food at her two Michelin-star restaurant was outstanding. All of it was precise, with complex flavours perfectly managed. I won’t recommend anything because the tasting menu is the only option offered. I found Crenn’s decision to offer a poem rather than a list of dishes a little too precious but everyone else seemed to rave about her poetry. A third star must surely be on its way.

Taj Campton Place: November 23, San Francisco

I’ve written about Srijith Gopinath at length recently so I won’t repeat myself. This is the world’s only two Michelin-star Indian restaurant and the food is a giant leap for Indian cuisine. The Taj is finally bringing Srijith to India next year (but only for pop-ups), so more people will get a chance to enjoy his extraordinary food.

Stones Throw: November 27, San Francisco

Eggs with potatoes at Stones Throw in San Francisco

This is not a Michelin-starred restaurant or anything. In fact, it is determinedly unfancy. But I had one of the best meals of my trip to San Francisco here. It is deceptively simple food (eggs with potatoes, a burger) put together with flair and skill and flawlessly executed. There’s a great wine list with minimal markup. A real gem.

Sühring: December 3, Bangkok

The Sühring brothers (identical twins actually) made their reputation at Mezzaluna before breaking away to start this, their own restaurant in a cosy bungalow hidden away in the backstreets of the residential part of the upmarket Sathorn area. This is a secret destination; you won’t stumble on it. But because the restaurant is so lovely and the food is so good, it fills up anyway.

The twins attempt fine German cuisine which sounds like an oxymoron. But they pull it off, taking the simple food of their country to a refined level I have rarely encountered.

Gajalee: December 12, Mumbai

Gajalee is my favourite restaurant in suburban Mumbai (defined, in food terms, as anything north of Worli). I’ve been going there for years and though it is now a chain with six different restaurants, I like the original in Vile Parle best. It is a simple restaurant with an air-conditioned and a non-air-conditioned area, packed out with couples and families who regard it as their weekly treat. There are always people waiting for tables outside and though the Juhu branch has an extensive bar menu, I still prefer the no-alcohol policy of the original. (Drink sole kadi instead.)

Gajalee is famous for its large crabs which are brought to the table, while they are still alive and then cooked in the masala of your choice. This time I looked around the restaurant and was intrigued to see that only a tiny proportion of the diners had ordered the (relatively expensive) shellfish options. Most stuck to the simpler and cheaper dishes. In a sense, this is to Gajalee’s credit. Rare is the restaurant where people are prepared to queue up for hours to eat a fish curry or a mutton sukka.

Just Missed The List:

There are some notable omissions here. I thought of including Mumbai’s Vetro, which is easily India’s best Italian restaurant. But then, I thought to myself, “Does it really belong on a list where the only other Italian restaurant is the three-star 81/2 Otto e Mezzo Bombana?” Reluctantly, I decided that it did not.

The same is true of Delhi’s Megu, in my view, India’s best modern Japanese restaurant. I like it a lot but you can’t put it on a list that includes Narisawa as the only other modern Japanese place.

I should have included Dum Pukht (the Delhi original), but while going through my pictures I discovered that the last time I had been there was late last year.

The other glaring omission is Indian Accent, but once again, I realised that I haven’t actually been there for the entire year. But that’s my loss. Chef Shantanu, who mans the pass when Manish Mehrotra is at the New York outpost, has kept the flag flying.

I last ate at Amaranta 13 months ago and I thought that this modern Indian restaurant at the Gurgaon Oberoi had really hit its stride. Unfortunately, I haven’t been back this year, but everyone tells me that the food is spectacular.

There are other restaurants that could well count on any list of great places to eat but did not make this cut. My local is the excellent Swagath in Defence Colony and I eat at its sister restaurant, Sagar, nearly every week. But there was no single meal that stood out in my memory so sadly,

I was unable to include either.

This is an entirely subjective list. In the course of the year, I ate at many of the world’s more famous restaurants with their Michelin stars and their places in the world’s top 100 restaurant list. A surprisingly large number turned out to be disappointments.

This means one of two things. Either I am a man with a very limited palate. Or, many great restaurants don’t really live up to the hype.

I’ll stick with the latter explanation!