Eat Your Way Through August With The Great Indian Restaurant Festival

It has been raining non-stop in most of India, certainly in Mumbai which seems to be flooded every other day. But that is no reason to sulk and eat leftovers every alternate meal. Also, if your typical food scene looks like cereal-for-breakfast, rajma-chawal-for-lunch and soup-for-dinner, you definitely need to eat out! Perhaps, cash-crunch is your excuse for not dining out? However, that shouldn’t stop you from hogging at the top restaurants in your city any more. Here’s why:

GIRF Is Back This August

Eat your breakfast like a king (Photo Courtesy:  Engin Akyurt)
Eat your breakfast like a king (Photo Courtesy: Engin Akyurt)

Thanks to the initiative by Dineout, India’s largest platform for dining out, August is going to be a month of binge eating. After the Great Indian Restaurant Festival (GIRF) in February, earlier this year, they’ve come up with an encore this month. From 1st August to 1st September, you will be able to dine at over 8000 restaurants across India for half the regular price! Read on to know more…

What Is The GIRF?

Instagram your restaurant moments (Photo courtesy: Victor Freitas)

GIRF is the annual Great Indian Restaurant Festival happening in 17 cities across India right now. All of August is now the #MonthOfMore because you get to eat more (twice as much, to be precise) for the same price. Dineout is offering flat 50% off your entire bill on select restaurants in these cities, and Mumbai obviously is one of them. What’s more? There is no restriction on the minimum or maximum amount to be spent, and you can avail the offer on a-la-carte dining, drinks and also buffets. This means you can go out to eat more often and collect more Instagram-worthy pictures while you’re at it!

How Can You Participate?

Reserve your tables before it’s too late (Photo courtesy:

To make the most of the 4th edition of the Great Indian Restaurant Festival, book your tables on Dineout. You can do this by downloading the Dineout app, searching for the restaurants by filtering your city, preferred cuisine and ambience, and finally, reserving your table. Don’t make the mistake of putting this off for later because the seats are limited and the demand is high. Keep an eye on their Flash Sales to buy deals at only INR 11! So, what are you waiting for? Plan all your brunch meetings and date nights for August and prepare yourself to eat your way through August.

Do you have a list of your favourite restaurants ready yet?

Are you working out extra to eat more this month?

Let me know through your comments below. 🙂

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11 Beautiful Rooftop Restaurants in India to Indulge Your Senses

My readers often ask me for recommendations on dining out. I know it has been raining cats and dogs in most parts of India right now, especially in my city – Mumbai. But that shouldn’t mean that you have to stay cooped up in your house all the time. If you can brave the rains, even if it is only to step out for a meal, you’ll be rewarded with some lovely views! Today’s article lists 11 restaurants from across the country that offer rooftop dining, and needless to say, breathtaking sights from above. My foodie friend, Vidya, suggests her picks from Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai & Chennai. Are you ready to be tantalized? 😉


The Potbelly Rooftop Café

Courtesy: The Potbelly Rooftop Cafe

Courtesy: The Potbelly Rooftop Cafe

One of the few places in Delhi to serve Bihari cuisine, this restaurant tops our list. The Potbelly is a great choice for when you want to have a good time with your friends and family. Their flavours are not only authentic but also worth the money. The colours of the interiors enhance the overall ambience and act as mood-lifters. Also, we absolutely love the bamboo decor of this rooftop cafe!

Address: 116-C, 4th Floor, Shahpur Jat


Courtesy: Q'BA

Courtesy: Q’BA

Located in the capital’s posh neighbourhood, Q’BA is a high-end casual dining restaurant. Its distinct spaces let you enjoy a romantic dinner date at the same time as your friends gear up for a loud night of partying. Their rooftop seating offers neat views of Connaught Place. However, we think you’ll be more engrossed in the food on your plate. 😉

Address: E – 42 & 43 Inner Circle, Connaught Place

Parikrama- The Revolving Restaurant

Courtesy: Parikrama - The Revolving Restaurant

Courtesy: Parikrama – The Revolving Restaurant

The high point of Parikrama is its view. This restaurant on the 24th floor revolves and gives you a bird’s eye view of some of Delhi’s most iconic attractions. The classy character aside, you will delight in their service as the staff are quite courteous. Give their Mughlai items a try as that is what they specialize in (think kebabs).

Address: 22, Antriksh Bhavan, Kasturba Gandhi Marg, Connaught Place


The Tao Terraces

Courtesy: The Tao Terraces

Courtesy: The Tao Terraces

Craving for Far Eastern cuisine? Tao Terraces has got your covered! In addition to the hugely popular Chinese and Thai food, they serve Korean, Burmese and Japanese. This zen-themed restaurant scores high on ambience. The place looks decadent after sunset with its dimly lit space. If you are a family with a baby in tow, ask them for a high chair.

Address: 5th Floor, 1 MG Mall, opposite Vivanta by Taj, MG Road

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Fenny’s Lounge & Kitchen

Courtesy: Fenny's Lounge & Kitchen

Courtesy: Fenny’s Lounge & Kitchen

These guys are really popular in Bangalore and that is why they are always busy serving their customers. The music in the background is not too loud, so you can enjoy your meal at peace. Prepare to be mesmerized by the greenery around you as there are plants all over the place. This is a nice lounge to sample some Mediterranean food and a wood-fired pizza.

Address: 115, 3rd Floor, Opposite Raheja Arcade, Koramangala 7th Block

The Local – Terrace Drinkery

Courtesy: The Local - Terrace Drinkery

Courtesy: The Local – Terrace Drinkery

With earthy interiors and quirky furniture, this terrace “drinkery” steals our hearts. Even though the items on their food menu are limited, you can choose from steamed, smoked or stir-fried starters. Thanks to the roof over this rooftop eatery, you can visit here even when it’s pouring. After a tiring day at work, this is the perfect place to chill with your friends.

Address: 467, 80 Feet Road, Opposite BMTC Bus Depot, Koramangala 6th Block


The Dome

The Dome (Courtesy: InterContinental Marine Drive)

The Dome (Courtesy: InterContinental Marine Drive)

The InterContinental hotel provides a beautiful way to enjoy South Bombay at its terrace restaurant – The Dome. This is where you can take your romance a notch higher, thanks to the gorgeous view of Marine Drive. The Arabian Sea ensures that your time here is always breezy. They mostly serve finger foods and nibbles to go with your drinks.

Address: Hotel InterContinental, 135, Churchgate

Sheesha Sky Lounge

Sheesha Sky Lounge Gold Juhu (Courtesy: Sheesha Sky Lounge, Lower Parel)

Sheesha Sky Lounge Gold Juhu (Courtesy: Sheesha Sky Lounge, Lower Parel)

This lounge is known for its tandoori preparations. Enjoy a refreshing mocktail with some kebabs. The open-roof ambience adds to the charm of this place. Sheesha Sky Lounge now has several outlets across the Maximum City. If you can’t make it to the one in Bandra, head to Juhu or Lower Parel. (You can also compare their service and let us know if there is consistency. 😉 )

Address: Bandra Link Road, Above Shoppers Stop, Bandra West

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The Cult

Courtesy: Peninsula Grand Hotel

Courtesy: Peninsula Grand Hotel

Not too far from the airport, The Cult is where you should go for your last party before you fly out of town. They only open after 4:30 pm, so this is definitely for the night owls. They play their best music after 10 in the night though. So if you plan on dancing, fill your tummy with some grub to fuel your moves on the dance floor.

Address: Hotel Peninsula Grand, Rooftop, Opposite Sakinaka Metro Station, Andheri Airport Road, Sakinaka


Above Sea Level

Above Sea Level (Courtesy: The Raintree, St. Mary's Road)

Above Sea Level (Courtesy: The Raintree, St. Mary’s Road)

Couples in Chennai searching for a romantic place for a candlelight dinner look no further. Above Sea Level on the 14th floor of The Raintree hotel will enchant you. Their rooftop seating is by the poolside and dinners here are undoubtedly memorable. The restaurant specializes in seafood and the place is quite popular. So, make a reservation before you reach.

Address: The Raintree, 120, St Mary’s Road, Alwarpet

The Crown – The Residency Towers

The Crown (Courtesy: The Residency Towers, Chennai)

The Crown (Courtesy: The Residency Towers, Chennai)

A premium fine-dining restaurant, The Crown wins hearts with its terrace views that look over an infinity pool. Their selection of European and Indian dishes are gourmet and a tad heavy on the pocket. But they get full marks for their superior service and ambience. Live music is another reason to lavish on a meal here.

Address: The Residency Towers, 115, Pondy Bazaar, Sir Thyagaraya Road, T. Nagar

Been to any cute rooftop restaurant lately?

Send in your recommendations in the comments!

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How Stops Hostel Is Making Delhi Feel Like A European City

Walking tours through interesting neighbourhoods and ancient ruins; mixed dorms with bunk beds and lockers; a shelf full of travel guides in the common room; and running into friendly backpackers in hallways from a dozen different countries – these are experiences I would typically associate with Europe. But here I was, in Delhi – a city arguably better known for its bungalows and boisterousness.

Is It Foolhardy To Be Fearless In Delhi?

Delhi's Feroz Shah Kotla has stories that attract many curious listeners to this haunted fort complex.

Delhi’s Feroz Shah Kotla has stories that attract many curious listeners to this haunted fort complex.

I had been in Delhi several times before. Yet, this was the first trip that showed me this old city in a new light. Interestingly, this was the first time that I was exploring India’s capital as a solo traveller. I was no longer driven around in my aunt’s sedan, nor did I have my cousins’ expert advice on navigating NCR or avoiding the city’s stalkers. I had also decided not to heed my (overprotective) friend who made me swear I’d carry an electric taser or at least a pepper spray everywhere I went. Was I pushing my luck? Or had I let news reports paint a grave picture in my head? Whatever be the case, I rediscovered Delhi in a way I had never expected to know it.

Stops Hostel – A New Concept In Old Delhi

Embracing my new life as a full-time traveller, I decided to stay with Stops Hostel. The moment I entered, it felt like I’d left the red and brown Old Delhi behind to drown in bright colours. My video above will show you how vibrant the common room is. The hostel aims to attract both the right-brained creative explorers and the left-brained startup-workers. There is free wifi in all the areas, complimentary unlimited breakfast (although basic) in the dining-room-cum-kitchen and plenty of things to keep oneself occupied with – a small collection of books for those who like to cuddle up with a paperback and lie on the floor-cushions; a billiards table for those who can’t get away from perfecting their game; 3 guitars and a djembe for the musically gifted; and some board games for the laidback lounger. I can’t help but wonder whether the founders of this hostel are big fans of European hostels.

Not Too Far From Anywhere

Tuk-tuk - Delhi's only green mode of transport in a road full of cars, buses and bikes.

Tuk-tuk – Delhi’s only green mode of transport in a road full of cars, buses and bikes.

Located right in front of a Metro station, Stops Hostel is easily accessible from most places. Feroz Shah Kotla is a short walk from the hostel, and a few minutes in a tuk-tuk will take you to some of Old Delhi’s famous food streets. Walking around is also a good idea, but Delhi’s afternoons can be a little too hot for comfort, especially in the summers.

A Terrace Garden For Some Fresh  Air

Stops Delhi has a terrace for hostellers to enjoy some sun.

Stops Delhi has a terrace for hostellers to enjoy some sun.

Unlike any of the hostels I’ve stayed at abroad, Stops Delhi has a neat little terrace with potted plants and colourful chairs for the hostellers to chill in the evening. This is a nice way to help your lungs recuperate after they’ve felt the assault of Delhi’s pollution.

Food Tour In Chawri Bazaar

Kuremal's famous stuffed mango kulfi in Old Delhi's Chawri Bazaar.

Kuremal’s famous stuffed mango kulfi in Old Delhi’s Chawri Bazaar.

Stops Hostel offers some walking tours (which even non-residents can join) – this immediately makes me think of those old-town-walking-tours in Europe. I decide to have a light lunch one day to stuff my face during the Food-gasm tour in the late afternoon. I have 2 other travellers who join me for this walking tour through Chawri Bazaar. Perhaps not as well known as Chandni Chowk or Parathe-waali Gali, Chawri Bazaar hides some of Old Delhi’s best preparations – kulfis stuffed in deseeded apples, pineapples, oranges or pomegranates and fruit sandwiches, for instance.

Coming Home To Dogs & Cats

Stops Hostel's pet dogs - Ginger, Gennie & Pepper nap next to their feeding bowls.

Stops Hostel’s pet dogs – Ginger, Gennie & Pepper nap next to their feeding bowls.

Travelling of late has made me quite fond of pets. The hostel has 3 cuddly dogs and some cats who are mostly in their own world but entertaining to watch. Despite these furry friends around, the hostel premises are squeaky clean. (No cat hair on the cushions! 🙂 ) These pets are not allowed inside the dorms though. After we play with them, we are to leave them in the common room or terrace.

Myths And Mysticism

The imam watches over the coffin of Khwaja Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki at the eponymous Islamic shrine.

The imam watches over the coffin of Khwaja Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki at the eponymous Islamic shrine.

I spent my first evening learning why Delhi is called “The City of Djinns” as our walking tour leader, Mayank, took us to some spooky places during the City of Mysticism walking tour. We strolled through the abandoned precincts of Feroz Shah Kotla and encountered an old woman who uttered unintelligible words aloud, as if possessed by a spirit. We walked past underground rooms full of bats as we heard stories of how a royal family was killed there many years ago. We later visited a temple where (shockingly) alcohol is served to the idol. It took me a while to fall asleep that night.

Colours In The Common Room

Charging sockets hang from the ceiling of Stops Hostel's common room.

Charging sockets hang from the ceiling of Stops Hostel’s common room.

Stops Hostel does its bit to go green by turning off the air conditioning in the dorms during the day. They encourage guests to spend time in the common room or the terrace. This is a great way to meet new people! The commmon room is inviting and warm with its coloured wooden tables, benches and couches. And there’s always some music in the background – a great accompaniment to good conversations! 😉 While I stayed with Stops, I made friends with:-

  • a blue-haired girl whose fetish is to change her hair colour to match the mood of every place she visits
  • a Gujarati diamond merchant from Russia who is spending this year travelling around the world
  • an Egyptian solo traveller who never forgets to kneel and pray before she hits the sack
  • two medical students from the UK who are stoked about mehendi and spicy food in Delhi
  • a Nepali roommate who lunches on smoothies so she can drink all night

I’ve always met interesting people whenever I’ve stayed at hostels in Europe. I honestly underestimated the scope of meeting quirky backpackers in Delhi. I’m glad I was wrong!

Take A Taxi To Tibet

One of the narrow alleys of Majnu Ka Tila - Delhi's Tibetan ghetto.

One of the narrow alleys of Majnu Ka Tila – Delhi’s Tibetan ghetto.

Not many are aware of Majnu Ka Tila – an area exclusively reserved for Tibetan refugees. This (almost) secret little hangout has the best places to get your Tibetan food fix! A couple of the night tour experts at Stops took me to this food haven in an Uber. Barely a 30-minute drive from the hostel, Majnu Ka Tila offered me a bowl of laping (a Tibetan street food made of mung bean flat noodles with a spicy paste), a tingmo (Tibetan steamed bead), sha phaley (vegetable stuffed fried savoury shaped as gujias) and some fried wantons. I was elated to find that the restaurants here serve Korean, Japanese and even Bhutanese cuisine!

Crash In Your Comfy Bed

My bunk bed is cosy, with cushions, a duvet and a wall full of mythological comic strips.

My bunk bed is cosy, with cushions, a duvet and a wall full of mythological comic strips.

After my day-long adventures in haunted forts and eclectic eat-streets, I would be glad to come back to a cosy room, a soft bed and a comforter to keep me warm. The reading lights for each bed are quite convenient to stay up without disturbing your fellow roommates. Our room had an ensuite bathroom which was also very clean and furnished with premium bath fittings. This bit felt luxurious in a hostel which is so pocket-friendly.

Where do you stay on your budget trips?

Ever backpacked in Delhi?

Share your thoughts below! 🙂

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Disclosure: I was hosted by Stops Hostels. Nevertheless, all views are entirely my own.

Gurdwara Etiquette – Observations from My First Visit

I had often heard stories of Sikh benevolence from my friends who visited Gurdwaras. These friends were not just Punjabi Sikhs but also Bengali students who looked forward to the free langar in Rome when they found Italian restaurants a tad too heavy on their pockets.

I first visited a Gurdwara last winter on my trip to New Delhi. Delhi was just a stopover destination on that trip and I did not intend to do much sightseeing in the capital. While I scrolled through Foursquare for suggestions of good eateries in the city, I came across Gurdwara Bangla Sahib. I was surprised to see a house of worship on a list that otherwise only had restaurants and cafes. Instantaneously, I decided to visit the Gurdwara. This was my chance to unravel a mystery I was often fascinated with as a child.

The majestic Guru Bangla Sahib Gurudwara throws its resplendent reflection in the pond

The majestic Guru Bangla Sahib Gurdwara throws its resplendent reflection in the pond

Gurdwara Bangla Sahib is a palatial structure built of white marble with gold finishings. Four of its largest domes are wrapped in gold and exude the brilliance of the sun in the daytime. I learnt later that this opulent edifice was indeed a palace four hundred years ago – the abode of Raja Jai Singh.

Gurdwaras continue to welcome visitors without questioning their faith or religious loyalties

Gurdwaras continue to welcome visitors without questioning their faith or religious loyalties

The Gurdwara experience is quite an interesting one, especially for first timers. There is a sequence to how you proceed once you are inside a Sikh house of worship:-

Step One – Deposit Your Bags at the Luggage Counter

The first thing you do at a Gurdwara is take the weight off your shoulders. When your body is light, you focus better on taking the weight off your mind.

Step Two – Deposit Your Shoes at the Shoe Counter

In India, most places of worship will require that you remove your shoes. It is the same with Gurdwaras. Guru Bangla Sahib has several counters for devotees to hand over their shoes for safekeeping. Remember to collect your token and keep it safely. Your shoes will be handed back against the token.

Step Three – Cover Your Head

It is mandatory for everyone to cover their head inside a Gurdwara. Women generally wrap a dupatta over their head and men are expected to knot a headscarf to cover their forehead. You will usually find baskets of reusable headscarves which look like large handkerchieves in various colours and prints. Be mindful of this custom. Your headscarf or dupatta must never slip off as that is considered disrespectful. If it does, the volunteers point it out to you.

Step Four – Wash Your Feet

Washing your feet is an important step before you climb the stairs to the Gurdwara. I thought it was particularly intelligent of the builders to place a shallow water-tank right at the foot of the staircase.

Step Five – Buy Prasad

Guru Bangla Sahib has a structured way of accepting sponsorship for prasad (holy food). Prasad is usually a halwa – a sweet dish. You can buy a coupon for a nominal price and hand it over to the Gurdwara-worker designated to collect it. This step is optional, so those who cannot afford to pay can just skip this one. I suggest that you buy prasad if you have a big heart. Gurdwaras work mostly on charity and do a lot more charity in return!

There are queues for everything inside a Gurdwara and the proceedings are highly organised. After you collect your prasad-coupon, you exchange it for a bowl of prasad. But you cannot eat it just yet!

Step Six – Share Prasad and Enter the Shrine

This step is perhaps the highlight of my Gurdwara experience. There are two queues right outside the main building – one for those who have bought prasad, and another for those who haven’t. If you are in the first queue, you are supposed to hand your prasad-bowl to the Gurdwara worker. He scoops half of your prasad off your bowl and transfers it to a large drum of prasad (collected from more devotees like you). You take your half-filled bowl back and enter the building.

The people in the second queue (who come empty handed) are given a bowl of prasad from the same drum. This ritual brought tears in my eyes. Never before had I seen such a beautiful and structured way of sharing food. If only we could emulate this technique in our daily lives! This would solve the problems of hunger and poverty in the world.

At the centre of the gilded shrine, the Granthi reads the Sikh scripture

At the centre of the gilded shrine, the Granthi reads the Sikh scripture

Step Seven – Listen to the Granthi

The interiors of Gurdwara Bangla Sahib is even more grandiose than its exterior. The central place of worship gleams in its gold coloured carvings. The hall is large and peaceful with a high ceiling. The Granthi sits at the centre and sings prayers into the mic or reads the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book for Sikhs. I am told that the Granthi in Sikhism is unlike a priest as in other religions. He has the same status as any other person visiting a Gurdwara. Anybody can be a Granthi and Granthis keep changing. This is a strong lesson in equality ingrained in Sikhism.

Hundreds of devotees either stand outside the railings that surround the Granthi’s pedestal, listening to the prayers, or sit under one of several hanging fans. The floor is either carpeted or there is cool marble to sit on. There is a separate seating area with chairs and sofas for the aged and those with problems of arthritis or mobility.

I watched a pair of pigeons quench their thirst as I ate the halwa

I watched a pair of pigeons quench their thirst from the Gurdwara-pond as I sat in the courtyard, quenching my thirst for peace.

Step Eight – Walk About the Gurdwara Courtyard as You Eat Your Prasad

You can either finish your prasad inside the main building or carry it outside into the expansive courtyard. I found me a nice shaded area on the white marble to sit on. The suji-ka-halwa, a semolina preparation, is the best I have had till date. Perhaps because it is generously swathed in ghee, or maybe because it is made with love…

The courtyard borders a serene body of water and I see the reflection of the impeccable Gurdwara floating on the deep blue waters of the pond. This pond is out of bounds for people. It is not meant for holy dips as I imagined it would be. I realize how my Hindu upbringing has conditioned me to expect things to be a certain way.

Step Nine – Relish the Langar

Gurdwaras are arguably best known for their langar. Langar is the main meal which is served all afternoon to every visitor, irrespective of their social standing or religious affiliation. Everyone assembles in a spacious dining hall – the langar hall, and takes a place on the floor in one of the multiple queues. Steel plates are provided to all and several volunteers (also known as Sevadars) take turns to serve all the dishes for lunch.

During my visit, I remember enjoying a wholesome meal of khichdi with ghee, makke-di-roti, aloo-subzi, papad and tomato chutney. These meals are cooked by volunteers and anybody can choose to volunteer. You need not be Sikh.

The meals served at gurdwaras are delightful not just because of the culinary skills of volunteers but also their devotion to serve

The meals served at Gurdwaras are delightful not just because of the culinary skills of volunteers but also their devotion to serve

Step Ten – Quench Your Thirst

There are water stations at several locations and you can drink to your heart’s content from bowls of water. My Gurdwara served water in bowls and not tumblers, which was very interesting.

Step Eleven – Collect Your Things and Spread the Love

After your visit is done, don’t forget to deposit the headscarf (if you borrowed one) and collect your shoes and bags from the designated counters. I know this is a long list of steps to remember. So, when you are confused, just do as the Sikhs do! Before I left the Gurdwara, I dropped some money in one of the donation boxes and took with me memories of a wonderful afternoon.

I was an observer throughout my experience inside the Gurdwara. If I have misunderstood any practice or gotten any step wrong, kindly correct me by leaving a comment below. If you too have had a Gurdwara experience, share your account with me. I am all ears! 🙂