Bloggers Table

“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.”
Gilda Radner

Breakfast at Olive with the MasterchefsThe Best thing in life is ‘the unexpected’. Pinch me, was I dreaming? This was one of those days. Didn’t think in our wildest dreams that we’d get an opportunity to meet up with Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris of MasterChef Australia. They’ve created tsunami like waves in India on a multi-city visit promoted by the Aussie government. Savouring Indian food from fine dining to street food, rickshaw rides, book signings, farm visits, jalebis & malpuas, chai & much more, miles of newspaper columns ran daily accounts of their India trip! The Bloggers Table was honoured to be a small part of the visit.

Delhi Bloggers Table with George Colambaris, Aussie MasterchefWhat Masterchef Australia has done to food in India is HUGE! Schedules were built around the MC TV slots, dinner appointments cancelled, generations glued to the telly to watch the euphoria and emotional drama unfurl; a strange sense of disbelief as the youngest to the oldest sat united in viewership. Uncanny but true. The show changed the way we perceived food, especially the ability to home cook & create! A generation of young culinary enthusiasts were born, while ‘resident’ cooks became innovative and adventurous!

Astha @ Breakfast at Olive with the MasterchefsSo when we heard the duo were visiting there was a song in the heart, yet a good meeting seemed out of reach. It was Astha’s hesitant call late one evening that nearly had me pass out. She asked if I was free on Friday to meet Gary & George. I almost died! Free? I was already doing a crazy jig. The kids were duly warned not to fall  sick on Friday, the 27th!!

with George ColambarisThis is what dreams are made of. The invite was for an informal breakfast with Australia MasterChefs Gary & George hosted by the folk we love to love –  good old Saby {Chef Sabyasachi Gorai, India’s top chef}, the very sweet Chef Astha at the wonderful Olive – chic, rustic and warm!

Breakfast at Olive with the MasterchefsInformal breakfast with Gary & George strictly by invitation only? You will not believe how I shot up in my teens eyes. Suddenly from screams of “No, you’re kidding, don’t tell me, not possible…”  to “YOU ARE???” Then it was a L O N G list of friends who wanted autographs … 

Olive Beach, New Delhi The day was truly the best in a long time. Love the idea of a breakfast meet where everyone walks in chirpy, bright & happy, tea and coffee are on the boil, good moods bubbling happily and clear headed mindless chatter takes over!

Breakfast at Olive with the Masterchefs‘Olive Bar & Kitchen’ never fails to deliver. The hospitality, the punctuality, the attention to detail, the warmth, the camaraderie … so characteristic of this beautiful place! 

As always, we were greeted by ‘ever charming‘ Astha and nattily turned out Saby who is quite the best. Warm, friendly, funny, chatty, relaxed, hospitable … more about him at the Leonardo Meet & the Blogadda Workshop.

Breakfast at Olive with the Masterchef, George Colambaris Sadly, Gary couldn’t make it as he got hit by the dreaded Delhi belly. George Colambaris was at his entertaining best. Spoke passionately about food, culture, the beginnings of Masterchef, Matt and his 45 minute make-up routine vs Georges own 5 minute make-overs. Oh, his love for the jalebi too, lactic fermentation and all!

Breakfast at Olive with the Masterchef George ColambarisSupermarkets are for toilet paper!” You got to love this man! The audience hung on to every word he said, roaring with laughter at his witty quips. He talked about fresh seasonal produce, home cooked meals, introducing kids to ‘real’ food, growing vegetables in your backyard, how MasterChef changed his life …

Breakfast at Olive with the Masterchef, George ColambarisHe took questions from the audience which included an enviable line up of all the top chefs of Delhi who had turned up in their crisp whites to meet the two. The Ozzie wit shone through, a man passionate about his Cypriot-Greek heritage {reminded of my Greek witty friend Peter @ Kalofogas} yet characteristically Aussie in every way. Laid back, honest, so grounded, he spoke from the heart!

Breakfast at Olive with the Masterchef, George ColambarisHe did get flustered by a short, simple question from Ruchira, “Food or sex?”, she posed rather nonchalantly. That got him rather red under his collar and for once at a slight loss for words. The poor embarrassed guy eventually asked if there was another question! 

Breakfast at Olive with the Masterchef, George ColambarisWe ate … LOTS! Good food once again, and well managed as always. Breakfast IMHO is a difficult task yet Saby & his team made it seem effortless. A sweet man piped delicious churros while masala chai did the rounds in earthen pots {a break from Olive tradition}. There was fresh fruit, cheese platters, varieties of tostadas, pigs in blankets, amuse bouches, financiers, baklava, chocolate fudge cake, nut tarts … and much more.

Breakfast at Olive with the Masterchef, George ColambarisAs you can see we really enjoyed the ‘event’ and loved the company too. Thank you Saby & Astha for thinking of us. It was truly wonderful …

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda

The Best thing in life is ‘the unexepected’ as I said in the beginning. A good day got even better as I got an early Christmas from a friend and food blogger in Belgium as her sweet hub flew into Delhi for a music fest the same night. Thank you Finla for this HUGE surprise ‘sack’ of goodies you sent for me. I am at a loss for words, but brimming with ideas! I also unexpectedly won a Phillips Air Fryer at the Philips Foodathon the next day … lucks looking up!


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Also find me on The Rabid Baker, The Times of India

“You can complain because roses have thorns, or you can rejoice because thorns have roses.”

Rose Café, New DelhiIt was the high after an excellent and pampered dinner at The Leela, Gurgaon that carried the Bloggers Table to a supposedly fun filled and leisurely brunch to the Rose Café, Saket, New Delhi the next noon. Not a bunch to miss out on a fun Sunday afternoon together, even though a few of us were eating more than we could accommodate in a single weekend, we were game. Good company is always a promise for good times … Rose Café, New DelhiThe folk at the bloggers table delivered the promise as always … giggly, enthusiastic, chatty and click friendly. Rose Café, New Delhi, however didn’t!  We failed to see the writing on the wall several times, willing to overlook glaring shortcomings, ready to forgive a lacking service standards, ever ready to accommodate an upcoming new venture which showed some promise, even forgave a bit of hair in a glass of water. Maybe we shouldn’t be so large-hearted after all!Rose Café, New Delhi The first impressions were quite nice, but they didn’t last long. They were put to a brutal end by a rather obnoxious young man from the cafe, who, other than using physical force, accosted a few of us women verbally and rather nastily. Catch the horror story at the end … it was something that shouldn’t have happened!Rose Café, New DelhiThe place had this nice English rose look about it, distressed furniture that I love, a play of pastel pinks and blues that gladden the heart. Good overall feel to the place though the seating appeared a little cramped. I had happy thoughts of another good Pinktober blog postshort-lived though!Rose Café, New Delhi It was pretty pink alright, though the stewards in pink shirts were a bit much for me. The other thing about the staff was a lack of any personal touch, eye contact or ‘café warmth‘. They were very robotic from word go … and didn’t get much better as the clock ticked!Rose Café, New DelhiWe were  about 14 of us. That was definitely not too many for Rose Café to completely mess up the orders, more so since we had called ahead. A few got food, the chatty women especially {thank heavens I’m chatty}. Not so the poor men, and that got them rather hot and bothered. 40 minutes without a meal wasn’t happening at lunch time. Also, have you ever been served jacket potatoes with dessert? ROFL … that happened too!Rose Café, New Delhi To be fair, the thin crust pizzas were good. But then again, there are many more places that offer really good pizza with outstanding service, so would rather head there. Try Olive which is a stones throw from Rose Café, else head for Amici in Khan Market. For me, cuisine is the entire ambiance and hospitality experience. I’m certainly not heading back to this pink place in a hurry!Rose Café, New DelhiThe bruschetta was good too with a generous topping of goat cheese and caramelised onions. The spicy chicken bits were very overcooked and hard though the dipping sauce was zingy good with vinegar and green chili. Still, what’s a dip if the ‘main player‘ is bad news? The bunny chow was soft and the baked beans complimented it well.Rose Café, New Delhi The only other thing that deserves some mention was the shepherds pie! The rest of the food was very mediocre. What was really noticeable was service standards, or rather, the lack of them! There was large scale mixing up and slip ups on orders. Drinks either came in doubles, or didn’t come at all. The staff were unable to recall who asked for what, which meant quite a few goof ups. I also heard that the eggplant parmesan was a disaster.Rose Café, New Delhi Dessert was by far the biggest disappointment, especially for the baker in me. Can you possibly serve frozen cake at a table? The macaroons were cold {from the fridge cold}, and so was the lemon cake. The tiramisu was meh! The espresso cake with whipped cream and a caramel sauce was the only saving grace. The grand finale was a cake baked specially for the table, a layered raspberry cake I think. In many ways it looked like it was all dressed up with nowhere to go because it was served frozen. Knives and forks battled the slices which should have been melt in the mouth tender. Quite disastrous and a huge let down. Time for a new pastry chef maybe?Rose Café, New Delhi Time for adieu … and that’s when the drama unfolded. An angry young man from the cafe decided to display his very inhospitable side over a matter which was bothering him. To add injury to insult, he almost physically asked us to step back in. He’d do well with a crash course in hospitality, addressing women, public dealing and social relations. The industry is clearly unsuited to his aggressive personality because this line is not just about food. It’s about the entire experience.Sri Sathya Sai Baba The few happy good memories we packed to take away were rudely snatched away from us just as we left. NOTHING ‘ROSE-Y’ ABOUT IT, nothing worth going back for! The apology that followed did little to douse the fire as it came on demand, and carried on the inflame the situation a wee bit more. Thank you but NO THANK YOU Rose Café!

Others at brunch who shared the ‘not such a pink experience‘ that afternoon…
Sid @ Chef at Large
Sangeeta @ Banaras ka Khana
Sushmita @ My Unfinished Life
Rituparna @ Chocolate & Dreams
Charis @ Culinary Storm
Himanshu @ The White Ramekins
Ruchira @ Cookaroo
Rekha @ My Tasty Curry

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Also find me on The Rabid Baker, The Times of India

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
Eleanor Roosevelt

The Leela, GurgaonThe Bloggers Table was privileged indeed to be hosted at the award winning Leela Kempinski, Gurgaon for a memorable Italian meal at Zanotta a few nights ago. It’s one thing having a philosophy of “Atithi devo Bhava – Our Guest is God”, and it’s another thing delivering it in every sense of the word. The Leela did just that! Hospitality and culture so seamless that in many ways it felt surreal!The Leela, GurgaonThe Leela culture is noticeable in every employee. You can see the deep rooted Indian tradition, the entire team that works seamlessly to deliver the promise. Enter  the lobby and look around, magically a genie appears; helpful, polite yet completely unobtrusive. It’s a beautiful hotel but more importantly run by outstanding folk!The Leela, Gurgaon  That was pretty much the ‘experience’  through the evening enjoyed in excellent company – GM Leela Roger Wright, Head – PR & Marketing Communications Vinay NarangF & B Manager  Shisheer Manohar and Exceutive Chef  Emmanuel Guemonl from France.

The Leela, Gurgaon
Photo courtesy Rekha @

It was a pleasure to share the table with Roger Wright. His stories that ranged from Fiji, Down Under {a New Zealander}, his family, his commitment to staff training and motivation … and of course his tempting invite for a dosa Sunday brunch the next day {We sadly declined as ‘the table was off to Rose Cafe the next afternoon. That turned out to be another story altogether}The Leela, Gurgaon

The Leela Kempinski Gurgaon was presented the Best 5-Star Deluxe Hotel (India) award, March  2011 & 2012. Zanotta was Times Food Award’s pick for Best Italian in the Region in both 2010 and 2011. If they hadn’t picked it for its outstanding Italian cooking it would have won awards for architecture and ambiance. The open display kitchen and private dining rooms are surrounded by the  see-through wine cellar of breathtaking proportions. 

The Leela, Gurgaon

Zanotta did not disappoint. From the welcome drinks served in the retro lounge that adjoins the restaurant on the 6th floor, to the company, the evening was delightful.The Leela, GurgaonWhat a memorable meal. We found ourselves reaching out for the bread basket time and again. I opted for the  vegetarian selection and absolutely LOVED it! The soft mozzarella and arugula salad with tomato, orange and basil pesto had everything right. The Minestrone alla Zanotta with pumpkin and rice was amazing too. I am not ‘soup person’, but was transformed rapidly into one! The Leela, GurgaonThe next course was common for both  vegetarians and non-vegetarians. Home made ravioli stuffed with wild mushrooms floating in a silky smooth tomato sauce. A sprinkling of freshly ground pepper and you could sense how nicely the flavours married! Perfect again. The Leela, GurgaonThen came the show stopper, something Roger introduced to Leela from Down Undera sorbet but not just any sorbet! It was dramatic sorbet served in a snow globe of sorts, sitting on a bed of ice. You could hear a loud collective gasp when the very delicious sorbet appeared. A work of art!The Leela, GurgaonCrespelle with spinach & ricotta {♥♥♥} followed. These were  ‘Florentine style’ pancakes stuffed with ricotta and spinach, served with tomato and parmesan. Amazing, cheesy and to die for! The portion sizes were just right and fresh produce brought out the best flavours in each dish!The Leela, GurgaonExcellent wines were paired with each course. They included Chardonay from New Zealand and another from France, Allegrini from Italy, and a Cabernet Shiraz from Australia. Time for dessert and once again a winner! Bitter chocolate semifreddo with candied orange peel. Really nice!! {I had to finally abandon the camera because the light was really low!}The Leela, GurgaonThe NCR has some beautiful luxury properties, and The Leela is one of the finest examples. The group takes pride in it’s people, the ‘bedrock of the organisation‘. Warmth, positivity, camaraderie; the ease of relationships up and down the hierarchy is so visible and so comfortable.

Couldn’t have asked for anything better! Thank you Roger Wright and your wonderful team!









The other bloggers at The Leela that night were

Sid @ Chef at Large
Rekha @ My Tasty Curry
Himnashu @ White Ramekins
Charis @ Culinary Storm
Parul @ Shirazine
Sangeeta Khanna @ Banaras Khana
Ruchira @ Cookaroo
Antara @ Antypasti

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Also find me on The Rabid Baker, The Times of India

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