Kolkata chefs and restauranteurs are adding Bengali rice varieties in modern European cuisines

Kolkata chefs and restauranteurs are adding Bengali rice varieties in modern European cuisines

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A few women from a village in the Sundarbans recently travelled to Kolkata, with sacks full of produce they had cultivated – six varieties of rare, indigenous rice, local leafy greens, condiments and wild honey that they had been taught to extract by their self-help group. In a quiet residential neighbourhood, they set up a temporary kitchen, with a little assistance from food blogger Sayantani Mahapatra, and cooked exactly the way they did back home.
The varieties of rice – Kanak Chur, Chine Kamini, Rani Akanda, Hogla, Hamilton and Kala Bhat – had distinctive flavours, aroma, texture and colour. With homegrown sides of fritters made of foraged greens, curried crabs, fish steamed in edible gourd leaves and mutton, the meal was rustic, and the presentation was rough around the edges. The idea was to make one feel at home. “This is food the way they grow it, cook it and eat it,” explained Sujoy Chatterjee, an agri-entrepreneur who helps small, independent farmers sell directly to consumers through his platform, Amar Khamar (My Farm).
The setting is decidedly different at Salt House, a chic eatery in a younger part of the city. Favoured by expats and well-travelled foodies, the restaurant boasts of an imaginative and eclectic menu that puts local ingredients at the heart of European dishes. The plating is elegant, Instagram-friendly and appeals to those who are open to innovations such as a five-rice risotto.
Head chef Auroni Mookerji says he wanted to create a vegetarian risotto “that was big on flavour and al dente, but less starchy and heavy”. Working with Original Indian Table, a company that promotes indigenous crop varieties, the team came up with a blend of two red rice, two brown rice and one black rice variety. Four of these were from Bengal. In the end, the dish was inspired by the bhoger khichuri that is served at Durga Puja pandals. Mookerji used the five-grain blend to create a risotto with toasted moong dal puree instead of parmesan, and Jharna Ghee (an iconic Bengal brand) instead of butter.
Bengal’s relationship with bhat, or rice, is an emotional one. It is more than a staple that makes for a perfect canvas for the jhol, jhaal, daal, shukto, sheddo, bhaape and other traditional sides from the region. In its many avatars, it is also a snack (chire, muri, khoi), a one-pot meal in summer when left to ferment overnight and tempered with chillies and other spicy accompaniments (panta bhat), an offering to the gods (kichuri, chal makha), and a celebratory dish (pulao, biryani, payesh, pithe). The hundreds of food stalls that line Kolkata’s streets are often collectively referred to as bhater hotel. Run mostly by families or single women, they cater to office-goers, daily wage workers and foot soldiers of the informal economy, who cannot imagine going through a day without at least one meal of rice. The menu at a regular bhater hotel changes according to the availability of the fish and vegetables that day. But you are always assured of a plate of steaming rice here. Five-rice risotto at Salt House.
Rice not only drives the Bengal’s agrarian economy, it also nourishes the Bengali soul. The rice-loving Bengali has often risked the sobriquet of “Bheto Bangali”, meaning someone who loves his rice, siesta and nostalgia. The love affair goes back a long way. The state once boasted an astounding variety of heritage rice varieties, grown by farmers in Bankura, Birbhum, Burdwan and Sundarbans, among other districts, who tilled their small holdings using customary, chemical-free techniques that were gentler on the soil. The rice varieties were famously nutritious, environment-friendly and sturdy. But over time, they lost out to the high-yielding commercially produced rice, which is easier to sell, cook, and looks prettier when served in bone china crockery. A handful remained in cultivation and has re-emerged as a top draw at upscale restaurants, pop-ups and farmer’s markets at five-star venues.
This gentrification of the indigenous rice is fuelled by a new breed of ambitious restaurateurs, chefs, agri-entrepreneurs and a discerning consumer looking for authenticity and novelty. Not to mention a leg-up from the state government, which has been packaging folk grains and art for sale at its slick retail outlets branded Biswa Bangla. At these stores you will be introduced to names such as Tulaipanji, Kala Bhat, Kalo Nunia and the premium Gobindobhog, besides other products such as black rice pops. Cooking up change
According to food consultant Shaun Kenworthy, it may be too early to call this a sweeping trend, but with e-commerce players selling indigenous grains, the time is right for independent restaurateurs and chefs to think out-of-the-basmati box. For his part, Kenworthy is about to introduce two dishes featuring local rice varieties at Myx Bar and Kitchen in Park Street– Sticky Black Rice Cakes with Hoisin Curry, Mayo and Crispy Garlic, and Panko Fried Bengali Fish and Rice Croquettes with Kashundi Mustard Dip. Like him, five-star chefs too are thinking glocal, though with a bit of caution. At Westin and the JW Marriott in Kolkata, the more popular and easily available Gobindobhog, an aromatic short-grained rice, is doing well in risotto and paella, while Tulsi Mukul has made its way to sushi. Sticky Black Rice Cakes with Hoisin Curry, Mayo and Crispy Garlic at Myx.
The new-kid-on-the-food-block is Ekdalia Rd in Ballygunge. The tiny eatery has been set up by Surojit Rout, a former finance consultant, who has been getting a lot of media love for his liberal use of indigenous grains in classic European dishes. Rout’s black rice pasta, black rice cookies and red rice risotto (made with red variant of the Dudheshwar rice) seem as cheeky an innovation as the man himself, who admits to hitting upon the idea by accident. He has put small packs of Bengal rice on sale, for that one in ten customers who is impressed by his black rice payesh (a dessert) and wants to try some at home.
“Indigenous rice is an acquired taste,” said Rout, who is happy that his customers have seemingly acquired the taste that is driving his business. New flavours
The gathering curiosity about traditional rice varieties is also tied to the rise in Bengali-themed restaurants that are reviving lost recipes and cooking techniques. The menu, featuring popular classics such Daab Chingri and Kosha Mangsho, or the rarer Dakbungalow chicken for instance, is the perfect stage to put the spotlight on Bengali rice varieties – particularly the aromatic Gobindobhog and Tulaipanji. At Sonar Tori, a restaurant designed to invoke nostalgia with a Zamindari flourish, waiters will urge you to savour your steaming mini mound of Tulaipanji with dollops of ghee and Bengali-style fritters made with seasonal vegetables. This, they say, helps bring out the delicate aroma of the rice.
At the East India Room, an elegant restaurant at a newly opened boutique hotel, the menu is inspired by the stylish banquets of the Bengali aristocrats from the colonial era. Among the many dishes that have been included is the Dhakai Morog Pulao, a chicken and rice dish in which the distinctive flavour and firmness of the rice is as important as the taste of the desi morog (rooster) and the beresta (golden fried onions). Chef Bikram Das went to great lengths to procure the Chini Gura variety of rice that was used in the original recipe. “It was tough because Chini Gura is available with only some suppliers and that too in Bangladesh,” he said. “But we had to get it because we wanted to be as historically accurate as possible.” Interestingly, while the rest of India associates biryani and pulao with fine, white rice, Chini Gura is stocky, almost granular, like sugar, hence the nomenclature.
A quirkier take on the Kolkata’s favourite food is offered by Motor Works and Brewing Company, set in the heart of the city’s IT hub, Salt Lake. Named Maa Maati Manush, the biryani is cooked with Tulaipanji and served in clay pots. Maa Maati Manush biryani at the Motor Works and Brewing Company. Photo credit: Rashbehari Das. Rich in lore
This newfound love for the unpolished and non-commercial rice is not just about a trendy concern with healthy eating. Yes, these varieties are rich in minerals, fibre and have a low glycemic index, making for a great desi substitute to the faddish quinoa. But for a generation of culinary enthusiasts, food also tastes better when it comes with a story. And the folk grains are as rich in their lore as they are in minerals and vitamins.
“Any product sells better when you have a strong story,” said Rout. When you are told that the pretty, aromatic Kamini rice you have been served can educate a child in the Sundarbans, you may reach out for another helping. When you are told that the nutty-flavoured kheer or payesh that is creamy in texture and coloured in berry shades is made of rice that is rich in antioxidants, you feel less anxious about your waistline. Or the Radha Tilak you have just had at a quaint Bengali restaurant comes with charming folklore – this was apparently the Hindu goddess Radha’s favourite rice – you look at the grains a little more closely.
Still, the real test of the indigenous grain lies in its acceptability in urban homes. Villagers in Bengal have been living healthier lives thanks to their diet, which is still rooted in tradition, respects seasonal cycles and the nature of the soil. For instance, in many rural households, Heera Moti rice is offered to pregnant women, for its high iron content. Stomach ailments are routinely dealt with a fistful of some varieties that are rich in both iron and zinc. But there is no way a modern household will substitute the pill for a fistful of rustic rice. Kopurkanti rice. Photo credit: Amar Khamar.
While the evolved, niche consumer is evincing an interest in the local, rare rice grains, it is the middle-class kitchen that entrepreneurs and cultivators wish to get into. “Health cannot be the prerogative of only a handful,” said Chatterji of Amar Khamar, talking about the final and toughest wall that the humble Dudheswar, Kalabhat, Kalo Nunia, Bhootmuri need to breach.
More than creating awareness about the health benefits of the unpolished, non-commercial rice varieties, the rustic rice is also up against a social and cultural prejudice.
Thanks to the aggressive marketing strategy of mass brands, polished, fine and long rice has been a marker of affluence and class. Add to it the easy availability of basmati and other commercial grains, and you know why the grocery scales have been tipped in favour of the white and fine grains produced en masse. There are other challenges as well. Commercial kitchens may produce enough heat to cook the tough, granular, unpolished grains, but for most time-starved homes, cooking time is a matter of concern.
Till the time health and history takes precedence over convenience, we may just have to keep ourselves amused with the occasional trip to a nostalgia restaurant for a comforting meal of aromatic Bengal rice and hilsa. Or learn how to tell the grains apart in a five-rice risotto. Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here . We welcome your comments at .

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Coeliac Awareness Week 2019: Best gluten free restaurants in London

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Despite the incredible breadth of London’s dining scene, those with an intolerance of gluten have traditionally had it tough.
For a long time, gluten-free dining options have either been leaden or liable to fall to dust (here’s looking at you, Genius bread) but things are looking up with restaurateurs, bakers and supermarkets widening our choice with game-changing new dishes and products.
Although a dietary choice for some, for the one per cent of population diagnosed as coeliacs, gluten is a health risk that’s crucial to avoid. Very few London establishments are fully certified by Coeliac UK and many come with a menu caveat warning of cross-contamination risks.
Yet according to Coeliac UK’s Norma McGough, the number of restaurants, pubs and cafés serving gluten-free dishes is on the rise. “An increasing number of people follow a gluten-free diet for other health reasons and the trend looks set to continue,” she says. “In addition, there are still over half a million people with undiagnosed coeliac disease in UK so as diagnosis rates increase, the demand for gluten-free is set to stay.”
And while we look to the skies for passable gluten-free croissants (someone… anyone?), the past few years have seen Londoners blessed with more gluten-free options than ever before. So be you Gwyneth-lite or a full-blown coeliac sufferer, go against the grain with our guide to the city’s best gluten-free dining options. Niche, Angel
This bustling, award winning space sits just around the corner of Sadler’s Wells and has proved a pioneer as London’s first Coeliac UK-accredited restaurant. Owners Adrian and Marc have spent years perfecting flour mixes and pastry recipes and now serve a 100 per cent gluten-free menu sure to make coeliacs jump for joy. Delicately coated buttermilk fried chicken , parmesan beignets and a hearty pie and rosemary potatoes sit alongside gluten-free burgers, salads, specials and a full brunch offering, making it a destination dining spot regardless of intolerances. Dairy-free and vegan diners are also well-catered for – Niche is definitely a name to remember.
Try it: Handmade pie, served with roasted winter vegetables, rosemary potatoes and a port wine reduction.
197-199 Rosebery Avenue, EC1R 4TJ, nichefoodanddrink.com Leggero, Various locations
Putting pasta back on the plates of gluten-dodgers, Leggero serves a sophisticated gluten-free, Italian-influenced menu. With a central London spot in Soho as well as a site at Mercato Metropolitano in south London, Leggero’s most popular dishes include sandwiches served on foccacia, small plates – including fluffy ricotta gnudi – and a strong pasta selection made by hand daily. With traditional Aperitivi too, Leggero is helping set the benchmark for gluten-free dining in London.
Try it: Pink ravioli with gorgonzola cheese and beetroot.
W1 and SE1, ​ leggero-london.com Indigo, Aldwych
Part of the sleek One Aldwych hotel, Indigo is an elevated take on free-from dining. Celebrated chef Dominic Teague has created a high-end menu sourced from across the UK that – by focusing on fresh meat, fish and vegetables – makes it a popular choice for the non-gluten crowd and beyond. Fully accredited by Coeliac UK, Indigo’s plush surrounds make it a sophisticated destination for special occasions while a series of tasting menus make it a worthy spot for dining without compromise.
Try it: Tenderloin pork with white onion puree, merguez and chanterelles.
1 Aldwych, WC2B 4BZ, onealdwych.com Beyond Bread, Various locations
First opening in Fitzrovia in 2015, this 100 per cent gluten-free bakery has since expanded to Islington’s Upper Street and a concession at Selfridges. Through continued experimentation with alternative flour types, Beyond Bread’s team of chefs and bakers have developed a fantastic selection of breads, pastries and sweet treats – think muffins, pancakes, waffles and sponges. Proving a go-to for brunches and lunches as well, Beyond Bread serves dishes ranging from homemade granola and toasties through to its own take on a full English, although expect a fight for a table at the weekend.
Try it: Smoked salmon and avocado on pumpernickel toast.
Two locations in W1, N1, beyondbread.co.uk Mommi, Clapham
This Clapham hotspot is flying the flag for free-from dining in south London. While jazzy decor, lively music and late hours make it a popular after-dark destination, it’s the 100 per cent gluten-free menu of Peruvian -meets-Japanese cuisine that makes it stand out. Featuring zingy ceviche and sushi through to Andean staples, grilled meat and seared fish, Mommi’s range of dishes are protein rich and low calorie, while a set menu serves up a vibrant culinary journey. Plus, a lengthy cocktail list provides plenty of reason to linger after dinner.
Try it: Braised short rib of beef, quinoa lime picante and teriyaki padron peppers.
44 – 48 Clapham High Street, SW4 7UR, wearemommi.com Le Merlin, Clapton
A welcome addition to Lower Clapton Road’s evolving roster of sophisticated diners, Le Merlin has created a French galette-sized niche for itself that’s proved incredibly popular. Within a stylish setting – complete with a small garden – Le Merlin’s chefs use gluten-free buckwheat flour throughout a small but perfectly formed menu of sweet and savoury crepes, to be washed down with a suitably Gallic selection of wines, beers and Breton cider.
Try it: Savoury galette with Bayonne ham, sautéed potatoes and cheese.
78 Lower Clapton Road, E5 0RN, lemerlin.co.uk Yeotown Kitchen, Marylebone
A successful spin-off from Yeotown’s Devon-based wellness brand, the Yeotown Kitchen on Chiltern Street has a strong gluten-free offering to fuel visits to central London. Although still perfecting its gluten-free wraps and burger buns, Yeotown has plenty on offer throughout the day, from overnight oats through to vibrant salads and a wide range of baked treats including brownies, muffins and oat bars. Plus, Yeotown’s comprehensive selection of life-affirming smoothies and boosters – spiked with adaptogens, collagen and algae – make more than worthy accompaniments.
Try it: Empathy salad with soba buckwheat noodles, smoked tofu, shiitake mushrooms and sprouts.
42 Chiltern Street, W1U 7QT, yeotownkitchen.com Zia Lucia, Various locations
One of the restaurants behind Holloway Road’s rising foodie reputation, Zia Lucia has staked its claim as a creator of some of London’s best pizzas . Offering a fantastic 48-hour fermented gluten-free dough (in addition to the eye-catching vegetable charcoal base), it offers lighter-weight pizza bases for those on gluten-free diets, although its solo pizza oven raises the risk of cross-contamination, making it unsuitable for coeliacs. A range of charcuterie starters – paired with a deliciously doughy gluten-free foccacia – and stunning homemade desserts mean it’s a must for pizza fans.
Try it: Centurione pizza with tomato, mozzarella, Parma ham, rocket and parmigiano
N7, W14, HA9, zialucia.com ​Aprés Food Co, Clerkenwell​
Helmed by accredited nutritional therapists, Clerkenwell’s Aprés opened in 201 and is not only 100 per cent free of gluten but also of refined sugars. Having developed their own gluten-free flour blend, Catharine Sharman and her business partner Danny have set out to redefine comfort food with a healthy spin. Beyond a sterling selection of baked goods – including brownies, bakewell tarts and standout banana bread – expect to find curries, hashes, risottos and an Aprés cooked breakfast on a menu that’s both delicious and nutritious.
Try it: Breakfast frittata muffin with a choice of fillings.
72 St John Street, EC1M 4DT, apresfood.com Plus… Eleven completely vegan restaurants in London
Beyond London’s independent gluten-free diners, there’s a growing list of restaurant chains accredited by Coeliac UK, including Côte, Pho, Pizza Express, Carluccio’s, Chipotle and Domino’s. As coeliac awareness continues to grow, expect an increasing number of high-street diners to follow suite. Fingers crossed. Where to eat vegan food in London 12 show all Where to eat vegan food in London 1/12 Genesis It’s pretty rare that you find vegan Malaysian food anywhere, never mind as delicious as the Char Kway Teow at Genesis. Commercial Street’s latest 100 per cent vegan haunt specialises in ‘healthy’ junk food, which basically means you can pig out without feeling stodgy or over indulgent, and their Malaysian street noodles are a real highlight. Make sure you try the excellent tacos and the chocolate milkshake too — it’s the best vegan shake you’ll find anywhere in the city. 2/12 222 Veggie Vegan If you’re really serious about your vegan and vegetarian eating in London, then you’ll know all about North End Road in W14. The high street has gained a reputation in recent times for it’s great meat-free options. As well as being home to London’s only vegan supermarket, you’ll find a large selection of well-regarded restaurants dotted along the street. 222 Veggie Vegan is one such establishment offering some of the freshest vegan food you’ll find in the area. 3/12 Biff’s Jack Shack If you’ve jacked in the animal products but find yourself pining for a bit of meaty satisfaction, did you know you could find it in a piece of fruit? Biff’s Jack Shack specialises in “filthy AF” vegan junk food made with jackfruit, which has a texture akin to pulled pork when cooked. The deep fried fruit is served as “wingz” or in well-stacked burgers, dripping with chipotle slaw, smokey bacun jam and burger “cheese”. Find them at Boxpark Shoreditch everyday, and at street food markets and residencies across the capital. 4/12 Sugar The four branches of Indian restaurant chain Sugar, found in Hammersmith, Covent Garden, Harrow and the West End, offer a huge range of vegan curries, as well as vegan lentil pizzas or Uthappams. All four boast accessible menus, making it good for group trips with vegans and meat-eaters alike. 5/12 Mildreds Mildreds has become a veggie institution since opening in Soho in 1988 and few chains in the city offer such a wide range of delicious vegan dishes either. With locations in Soho, King’s Cross, Dalston and Camden, this is a great option for meat-free diners all over the city. 6/12 Club Mexicana Club Mexicana has been throwing meat-free fiestas since 2013, serving up tantalising vegan tacos filled with jackfruit carnitas, baja tofish and more at Dinerama in Shoreditch. The street food stalwarts have also joined forces with a pair of publicans to open The Spread Eagle, the city’s first 100 per cent vegan pub. Fried “chicken” torta burritos washed down with vegan beer? Don’t mind if we do. 7/12 Govinda’s Tucked away in Soho Square, just around the corner from the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street, Hare Krishna restaurant Govinda’s is known for serving a wide range of delicious vegan curries. It’s location makes it a pretty ideal lunch spot for shoppers in the area and the healthy, affordable menu is one to try out. 8/12 Vanilla Black Sophisticated Holborn eatery Vanilla Blank is one of the smarter restaurants in the city, serving exclusively meat-free dishes. The vegan five-course dinner with wine pairings will set you back £87 per person but for an exclusively meat-free dining experience this good, it’s well worth it. 9/12 Honey & Co Yes, we know honey isn’t vegan, but Honey & Co in Fitzrovia offers up some of the best vegan meals you’ll find in the city. Husband and wife team Itamar Srulovich and Sarit Packer run and own the three branches of Honey & Co, serving delicious and precise dishes in clean, bright dining rooms. 10/12 Ethos Ethos in Fitzrovia takes a very unusual approach to the dining experience, with customers serving themselves and paying for their food by weight. Quirkiness aside, the kitchen offer up fresh, feel-good vegan and veggie food, as well as a good selection of gluten free options. 11/12 The Gate The Gate has been serving fantastic vegan and veggie food since it opened way back in 1989, and serves clean, healthy eating menus across three branches in Finsbury Park, Marylebone and Hammersmith. The brunch menu, with vegan pancakes and vegan full English, is particularly strong. 12/12 Gauthier Gauthier’s made history when became the first Michelin star restaurant in the UK to offer a vegan tasting menu in 2015. It’s been providing vegan fine dining ever since, and for £126 diners can enjoy a full eight courses with wine pairings. If you really like treating yourself to a luxurious vegan dining experience, this is the place to do it. 1/12 Genesis It’s pretty rare that you find vegan Malaysian food anywhere, never mind as delicious as the Char Kway Teow at Genesis. Commercial Street’s latest 100 per cent vegan haunt specialises in ‘healthy’ junk food, which basically means you can pig out without feeling stodgy or over indulgent, and their Malaysian street noodles are a real highlight. Make sure you try the excellent tacos and the chocolate milkshake too — it’s the best vegan shake you’ll find anywhere in the city. 2/12 222 Veggie Vegan If you’re really serious about your vegan and vegetarian eating in London, then you’ll know all about North End Road in W14. The high street has gained a reputation in recent times for it’s great meat-free options. As well as being home to London’s only vegan supermarket, you’ll find a large selection of well-regarded restaurants dotted along the street. 222 Veggie Vegan is one such establishment offering some of the freshest vegan food you’ll find in the area. 3/12 Biff’s Jack Shack If you’ve jacked in the animal products but find yourself pining for a bit of meaty satisfaction, did you know you could find it in a piece of fruit? Biff’s Jack Shack specialises in “filthy AF” vegan junk food made with jackfruit, which has a texture akin to pulled pork when cooked. The deep fried fruit is served as “wingz” or in well-stacked burgers, dripping with chipotle slaw, smokey bacun jam and burger “cheese”. Find them at Boxpark Shoreditch everyday, and at street food markets and residencies across the capital. 4/12 Sugar The four branches of Indian restaurant chain Sugar, found in Hammersmith, Covent Garden, Harrow and the West End, offer a huge range of vegan curries, as well as vegan lentil pizzas or Uthappams. All four boast accessible menus, making it good for group trips with vegans and meat-eaters alike. 5/12 Mildreds Mildreds has become a veggie institution since opening in Soho in 1988 and few chains in the city offer such a wide range of delicious vegan dishes either. With locations in Soho, King’s Cross, Dalston and Camden, this is a great option for meat-free diners all over the city. 6/12 Club Mexicana Club Mexicana has been throwing meat-free fiestas since 2013, serving up tantalising vegan tacos filled with jackfruit carnitas, baja tofish and more at Dinerama in Shoreditch. The street food stalwarts have also joined forces with a pair of publicans to open The Spread Eagle, the city’s first 100 per cent vegan pub. Fried “chicken” torta burritos washed down with vegan beer? Don’t mind if we do. 7/12 Govinda’s Tucked away in Soho Square, just around the corner from the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street, Hare Krishna restaurant Govinda’s is known for serving a wide range of delicious vegan curries. It’s location makes it a pretty ideal lunch spot for shoppers in the area and the healthy, affordable menu is one to try out. 8/12 Vanilla Black Sophisticated Holborn eatery Vanilla Blank is one of the smarter restaurants in the city, serving exclusively meat-free dishes. The vegan five-course dinner with wine pairings will set you back £87 per person but for an exclusively meat-free dining experience this good, it’s well worth it. 9/12 Honey & Co Yes, we know honey isn’t vegan, but Honey & Co in Fitzrovia offers up some of the best vegan meals you’ll find in the city. Husband and wife team Itamar Srulovich and Sarit Packer run and own the three branches of Honey & Co, serving delicious and precise dishes in clean, bright dining rooms. 10/12 Ethos Ethos in Fitzrovia takes a very unusual approach to the dining experience, with customers serving themselves and paying for their food by weight. Quirkiness aside, the kitchen offer up fresh, feel-good vegan and veggie food, as well as a good selection of gluten free options. 11/12 The Gate The Gate has been serving fantastic vegan and veggie food since it opened way back in 1989, and serves clean, healthy eating menus across three branches in Finsbury Park, Marylebone and Hammersmith. The brunch menu, with vegan pancakes and vegan full English, is particularly strong. 12/12 Gauthier Gauthier’s made history when became the first Michelin star restaurant in the UK to offer a vegan tasting menu in 2015. It’s been providing vegan fine dining ever since, and for £126 diners can enjoy a full eight courses with wine pairings. If you really like treating yourself to a luxurious vegan dining experience, this is the place to do it.

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BBC – Travel – The world’s oldest vegetarian restaurant

It’s lunchtime in the historic heart of Zürich, Switzerland, and just off the bustling shopping street of Bahnhofstrasse, the bright and airy interior of Haus Hiltl restaurant is buzzing with activity. Tantalising aromas fill the air as diners line up at the 100-dish buffet to savour homemade vegetarian and vegan dishes from around the world.
I load my plate with a layer of crisp greens, spiced legumes and dollops of richly spiced paneer and chickpea curries. I add chilli-marinated tofu and a crunch of cashews, but am sure to leave room for my personal favourite: the jalapeño poppers, moreish bites of chilli heat and velvety cream cheese encased in crunchy breadcrumbs. By the end, my plate is a mountainous platter, with every morsel of its textured ridges and herb-seasoned peaks bursting with distinct flavours that the Hiltl family has been perfecting for more than 100 years.
View image of Haus Hiltl has been serving vegetarian fare in Zürich, Switzerland, for more than 100 years (Credit: Credit: Haus Hiltl)
Haus Hiltl’s boundary-pushing menus have introduced generations of Swiss and Europeans to a rich ratatouille of vegetarian options
Today, Haus Hiltl isn’t just one Zürich’s most popular dining options; it’s recognised by Guinness World Records as the world’s oldest continuously run vegetarian restaurant – a gourmet temple of ‘healthy indulgence’, founded in 1898 and operated by the fourth generation of the Hiltl family. Combining Indian, Asian, Mediterranean and Swiss influences, Haus Hiltl’s boundary-pushing menus have introduced generations of Swiss and Europeans to a rich ratatouille of vegetarian options beyond potatoes and root vegetables since it first opened its doors.
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Downstairs, Haus Hiltl’s informal pay-by-weight buffet is a hubbub of activity, while its first floor à-la-carte restaurant, with its white tablecloths, expansive windows and an entire wall filled with shelves of cookbooks, offers a more refined space to soak up the ambiance. In the past decade, the Hiltl brand has expanded to eight branches across Zürich. Yet, in a meat-loving country, the idea of opening a vegetarian restaurant required decades to take root.
View image of Haus Hiltl is recognised by Guinness World Records as the world’s oldest continuously run vegetarian restaurant (Credit: Credit: Haus Hiltl)
Zürich’s German-influenced cuisine has always been characterised by hearty pork and veal dishes, of which Zürcher geschnetzeltes – a creamy veal and mushroom ragout that translates as ‘Zürich-style sliced meat’ – is perhaps the most famous. When the restaurant opened in the late 19th Century, vegetarians were often mocked by Swiss elites as ‘herbivores’ and ‘grazers’. According to journalist and author of Das Kulinarische Erbe der Schweiz (The Culinary Heritage of Switzerland) Paul Imhof , meat was typically the most desired element of each meal throughout Central Europe – a trend that was linked to income as much as culinary preference. And meat-free ingredients were limited to little more than potatoes, cheese and root vegetables.
In fact, were it not for a travelling German tailor named Ambrosius Hiltl with a bad bout of rheumatism, Switzerland’s veritable garden of gastronomy would never have sprouted. Several years after the Bavarian-born tailor settled in Zürich in the late 1890s, a doctor diagnosed him with severe rheumatoid arthritis. Not only was Ambrosius no longer able to sew, but the doctor told him that unless he gave up meat he’d likely die prematurely. In those days, meat-free meals were hard to come by, so the 24-year-old wandered into the one place where he knew he’d find them: the Vegetarierheim and Abstinence-Café, Zürich’s only vegetarian restaurant – dubbed the ‘root bunker’ by locals.
Not only did Ambrosius fall in love with the vegetarian dishes, which he claimed led him to a rapid recovery, but also with the woman making them. He jumped at the chance to take over ownership of the ailing restaurant in 1904; married the cafe’s cook, Martha Gneupel, shortly after; and renamed the place Haus Hiltl.
View image of Haus Hiltl’s buffet features 100 different homemade vegetarian and vegan dishes from around the world (Credit: Credit: Haus Hiltl)
That same year, as the ‘life-reform movement’ – which proposed that vegetarianism brought one closer to nature – was beginning to sweep through Switzerland, the charismatic Dr Maximilian Bircher-Benner opened up a health sanatorium in the foothills outside Zürich. An advocate of the healing powers of nutrition, Bircher-Benner also championed a meat-free diet and invented the now-iconic Swiss breakfast food, muesli.
This increasing public interest in healthy living, coupled with Ambrosius’ outgoing personality, helped bring in a few more customers, but the restaurant struggled financially in its early years, according to the current owner Rolf Hiltl. “My great-grandfather was a man who loved people; a man who attracted important people… but [vegetarianism] wasn’t mainstream at that time,” he said.
Indian cuisine is an ‘El Dorado’ for vegetarians
It wasn’t until 1951 that the current restaurant really took shape. That year, Ambrosius’ daughter-in-law Margrith travelled to Delhi as Switzerland’s official delegate to the World Vegetarian Congress and fell in love with Indian flavours. Returning with bags of spices like coriander, cardamom, turmeric and cumin, Margrith began to cook some of Switzerland’s only Indian-accented dishes for diners by special request from her private kitchen in Haus Hiltl.
As Margrith taught her kitchen staff how to prepare her dishes, a steady stream of Indian guests and celebrities started flocking to the restaurant – including former Indian Prime Minister Morarji Desai, years later. Swissair even approached Haus Hiltl to become the official provider of vegetarian meals for its passengers (the airline, now known as Swiss, still serves vegetarian meals in collaboration with Haus Hiltl to this day), which further increased the restaurant’s reputation beyond Zürich.
View image of Haus Hiltl struggled financially in its early years despite increasing public interest in healthy living among the Swiss (Credit: Credit: Haus Hiltl)
Today, many of the dishes Margrith pioneered that were once believed to be too exotic for a Swiss public used to boiled potatoes, cheese and salads, are still served at Haus Hiltl. One of which is her thali platter: a variety of curries served with ginger raita, mango pickles, coconut chutney and helpings of rice, crispy poppadum flatbread and naan. The restaurant also serves a signature dish of banana madras, which comes with a zing of mango and a sprinkling of cashews.
“[Margrith Hiltl] realised that Indian cuisine is an ‘El Dorado’ for vegetarians,” Imhof said. “That was surprising for the society at that time.”
By the time Rolf’s father, Heinz Hiltl, was running Haus Hiltl in the 1960s, Zürich had changed so much that the restaurant, once surrounded by a small forest, was now firmly in the city centre. Zürich hadn’t just transformed physically, but people’s ideas towards vegetarian food were evolving, too. To keep pace and help attract younger diners, in 1973 Heinz launched a modern vegetarian concept at the restaurant called Hiltl Vegi, which included a salad bar, takeaway counter and a range of pressed juices – which were all firsts for Zürich, according to Rolf.
“Everybody knows Hiltl and the amazing things they can do with vegetarian or vegan ingredients,” said Lukas Fueglister, editor and publisher of the city guide Zürich In Your Pocket . “The fact that it seems to be the oldest vegetarian restaurant in the world is certainly good for them to market the place, but for today’s Zürich, I think it’s more important that Hiltl keeps being an innovative player in the city’s gastronomy scene.”
View image of Once Indian flavours were introduced to the menu 1951, Haus Hiltl really took shape (Credit: Credit: Haus Hiltl)
More than a century after first opening its doors, Haus Hiltl is still offering new takes on vegetarian cuisine. “We have our roots and our values will stay, but we have to do things in the ways of 2019, not 1898,” Rolf said. “We’re always trying new things.”
According to Rolf, a flexitarian himself, roughly 80% of the restaurant’s diners aren’t vegetarian, which speaks to the broad appeal of its internationally inspired menu, as well as the creative interpretations of Swiss classics, like their vegetarian version of Zürcher geschnetzeltes made with organic seitan. “The greatest appraisal we can have is that people come who aren’t vegetarians, and don’t even realise that [the dishes are] vegetarian,” Rolf said. “That’s our mission, actually.”
To further the restaurant’s philosophy of ‘healthy indulgence’, Rolf opened The Hiltl Academy on the fifth floor of Haus Hiltl in 2015, where food-lovers and professional chefs can take vegan and vegetarian cooking classes. There’s even a course dedicated to Margrith’s Indian-inspired dishes. Rolf has also released a series of vegetarian and vegan cookbooks, and opened Switzerland’s first vegetarian ‘butcher’ next door to Haus Hiltl, which serves slices and slabs of tofu, seitan and tempeh, as well as popular Haus Hiltl delicacies like their Zürcher geschnetzeltes and aubergine tartare. There are even plans to open a flagship restaurant in either New York or Los Angeles in the future.
View image of According to current owner Rolf Hiltl, roughly 80% of the restaurant’s diners aren’t vegetarian (Credit: Credit: Haus Hiltl)
By the time the lunch rush ends, I’ve savoured a veritable world atlas of vegetarian delicacies. I wonder what Ambrosius would think of the trendsetting restaurant today, and how far it’s come. Then, like a true ‘grazer’, I wander over to the dessert tray and place a slice of Haus Hiltl’s classic tangy lemon cheesecake on my plate.
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Cork eateries among those honoured at Irish Restaurant Awards

Wicklow GAA Cork eateries among those honoured at Irish Restaurant Awards Peter Everett, of Everett’s Restaurant, won Best Chef in Munster, while Everett’s itself won Best All-Ireland Newcomer at The Irish Restaurant Awards 2019. 13/05/2019 – 23:03:00 Back to Food Ireland Home By Ryan O’Neill
Five restaurants in Cork have picked up awards at the 2019 Irish Restaurant Awards, which honoured the best of Ireland’s culinary talent at a ceremony in Dublin.
Two outlets from the city and three from the county were among the regional winners at last night’s black-tie gala dinner at the Clayton Hotel Burlington Road.
Indian street food restaurant Iyer’s on Popes Quay in Cork City won Best World Cuisine in Munster, while the sustainable foods café Good Day Deli, located in the grounds of Nano Nagle Place, picked up Best Café in the province.
In the county, Levi’s Corner House in Ballydehob, which is well regarded for its live music programme, won Munster Pub of the Year, Ballyvolane House in Castlelyons picked up Best Customer Service, and The Black Pig wine bar and café in Kinsale scooped the regional award for Best Wine Experience.
Levi’s Corner House in Ballydehob
The winners were picked from more than 90,000 public nominations, which the Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI) said was the highest in the awards’ 11-year history.
All Munster counties were represented across the awards’ various categories, with wins for outlets in counties Limerick, Kerry, Clare, Waterford and Tipperary.
Galway’s Loam Restaurant was the big winner on the night, winning the All-Ireland Best Restaurant Award.
The Tack Room at Adare Manor in Co Limerick took home the prize for All-Ireland Best Cocktail Experience.
The All-Ireland Best Chef award went to Graham Neville from Dax Restaurant in Dublin. — IrishRestaurantAward (@restawards) May 13, 2019
Everett’s Restaurant in Waterford was named All- Ireland Best Newcomer, while All-Ireland Pub of the Year went to Doheny and Nesbitt in Dublin.
Chef Gautham Iyer, who along with his wife Caroline opened Iyer’s on Popes Quay at the end of 2012, said he is “absolutely delighted” to win the award, which they also won in 2016.
“I didn’t think we would get anywhere because I had been away at the time the vote was going on, so I had been worried that we had not promoted it enough. So for us to win is absolutely fantastic, we cannot believe it,” he said.
Confirming that plans are currently in the works for Iyers to move to new, larger premises in the city, he added: “The signs were there when we first opened six years ago that vegetarianism was the way to go. READ MORE Visitor season to Skellig Michael delayed
“But even saying that, it is a great feeling to know that vegetarian food on such a small scale can be a success with the people of Cork.”
Commenting on the winners, RAI chief executive, Adrian Cummins, said: “Ireland may be a small country, but it boasts everything from fine dining to high-quality gastropubs.
“From the comfort of traditional Irish food to exploring the world through exotic world cuisine, the Irish restaurant industry has much to offer.
“We have an appreciation for what we eat and where our food comes from, as well as the dedication of those working in the food industry.”
See below for the full list of winners.
Proprietor Enda McEvoy of Loam Restaurant, Galway, which won the All-Ireland Best Restaurant Award at the 2019 Irish Restaurant Awards. Best Restaurant – Sponsored by Tindal Wine Merchants
All-Ireland: Loam Restaurant

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National Vegetarian Week – 10 vegetarian and vegan restaurants around Newcastle

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You’re well catered for in Newcastle if you want to try out a meat-free meal on National Vegetarian Week.
Newcastle’s first vegetarian restaurant – Supernatural – was mocked as a fad when it opened in the 1970s , but its legacy lives on. Another cafe, Super Natural opened in Grainger Street six years ago. The original Supernatural’s owners gave the new business their blessing to adopt the two-word version of their name.
And Super Natural is certainly not the only plant-based player in town.
In the age of the record-breaking Greggs vegan sausage roll, it’s safe to say the meat-free diet is here to stay.
In Newcastle, there are plenty of cafes and restaurants specialising in vegetarian and vegan food.
So, if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, or just want to try it out, you could head to one of these veggie havens this week. Super Natural – Grainger Street The new vegan lasagna on the menu at Super Natural in Newcastle (Image: Super Natural)
Vegetarian cafe Super Natural paid homage to veggie pioneers Supernatural when it opened six years ago under a similar name.
The cafe recently recruited a new chef, with Michelin-star experience, who has added a host of new dishes to the menu, as S uper Natural moves closer and closer to becoming fully vegan .
The new vegan lasagna is proving to be a big hit, say owners Andrew Bloomfield and Mark Rogers.
Super Natural is in Grainger Street, Newcastle. It opens 8am to 6pm Monday to Thursday; 8am to 8pm on Friday and Saturday; and 10am – 5pm on Sunday. The Ship – Ouseburn The Ship Inn, Ouseburn, Newcastle
Ouseburn’s The Ship is so good at being vegan that some customers do not realise it is at all.
The pub serves a completely vegan menu, with plant-based takes on shawarma and fish and chips proving popular with diners, even those who usually eat meat.
The Ship, in Stepney Bank is open daily, and usually serves food until 9pm from Monday to Saturday and until 5pm on Sundays. Sky Apple – Heaton Sky Apple Cafe on Heaton Road, Newcastle
Described by one reviewer as “the best vegetarian restaurant in the North East of England”, the Sky Apple is a trendy eatery in Heaton popular with students and locals alike.
Sky Apple, in Heaton Road, does not run an evening bistro anymore, due to the chef’s family commitments, although there are occasional ‘special nights’ and a weekly Friday evening ‘chip shop’ menu, with both vegan and vegetarian takes on fish and chips.
Sky Apple is open 10am – 3.30pm from Monday to Friday; 10am – 4pm on Saturday and 11am to 4pm on Sunday.
Sky Apple’s Friday chip shop opens at 5pm on Friday through until 8pm. Grumpy Panda – Gateshead The Grumpy Panda American-style vegetarian and vegan diner in Gateshead (Image: newcastle chronicle)
Gateshead’s Grumpy Panda recently won acclaim at Wylam Brewery’s burger competition , impressing judges and customers alike with their vegan burger.
The American style yet vegan diner specialises in meat-free versions of Stateside classics.
Grumpy Panda has a sit-down diner in Regent Terrace, Gateshead and a weekend stall at By The River Brew’s HWKRMRKT.
Grumpy Panda is open 11am – 8pm from Wednesday to Friday; and 11am – 7pm on Saturday. Karma Kitchen – Bigg Market Karma Kitchen Cafe (Image: Online)
Last year, Karma Kitchen opened up in the Bigg Market.
The family-run vegan restaurant specialises in Indian food, but also arranges regular theme and fusion nights with vegan takes on a variety of cuisines.
Karma Kitchen also has a midweek ‘Thalli for a tenner’ offer, with a mix of dishes, rice and naan, for £10 each based on two people sharing.
Karma Kitchen is open 4am – 10pm from Monday to Friday; and from 2pm to 10pm on Saturday and Sunday. The Carriage – Jesmond
Like its sister pub The Ship, Jesmond’s the Carriage now has a fully vegan menu, similar to the food the Ship serves in Ouseburn.
The kitchen is open until 9pm Monday to Saturday and until 5pm on Sunday. Junk It Up – Pink Lane Junk It Up’s new restaurant, on Pink Lane, Newcastle
While vegetarianism and veganism are heralded by followers for their health benefits, it doesn’t mean meat-free diners do not like a bit of junk food too.
Junk It Up, in Pink Lane, fills that role.
They serve, burgers, pizza and even a soya-based version of fried chicken, AKA ‘Fricken’.
Junk It Up is open noon to 9pm, seven days a week. Soul Shack Vegan Grill – Stack
This shack sells soul food for those who don’t want to eat animals. Soul Shack serve up vegan twists on kebabs, burgers, ribs, mac and cheese and more from a new pitch in Newcastle’s Stack container village.
Soul Shack is open in Stack, from 11am to 10pm daily. Little Green Social – Sandyford Sarah Cochrane owner of Little Green (Image: Newcastle Chronicle)
Family business Little Green Social opened in Goldspink Lane last year.
Little Green is open throughout the day, with an evening menu served until 9pm on Tuesday and Wednesday; and until 10pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
The cafe offers a brunch menu between 11am and 3pm (from 10am on Saturday and Sunday). Vegano – Blandford Square
One of Newcastle’s newest animal-free restaurants, Vegano was launched by two former meat eaters who switched lifestyles and embraced veganism.
They opened a restaurant in Blandford Square earlier this year, after success as a Quayside market pop-up .
One of Vegano’s aims is to highlight that a vegan diet can be more than lentils, and lettuce.
Vegano’s menu includes breakfast, lunch and evening meals – with a focus on Vegan twists on Italian cuisine. Read More

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Robot Waiters in South Indian Restaurant !

Robot Waiters in South Indian Restaurant ! May 13, 2019 at 12:20 pm The World of Food undergoes a major change from Time to Time. From cuisine to modes of cooking, everything has changed and the latest change that social media is gushing over is the introduction of ‘Robots’ as waiters. Though the trend started in Japan way back, recently a restaurant in Karnataka introduced the concept of the robot-themed restaurant. Located in Shivamaogga’s Darshini Hotel, the restaurant has robots to greet guests, take orders and serve the food. The Chennai-based ‘Robot’ restaurant is known for introducing the trend in India. Formerly known as MOMO, the restaurant is founded by Venkatesh Rajendran and Karthik Kannan. With the introduction of 4 robot waiters, the owners had relaunched the restaurant to attract the audience. Experts state that restaurants today offer more than just lip-smacking food, the ambiance and experience matter a lot and such trends attract customers for gaining unique experiences. Related Posts

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Bring out the antacid and eat

Tuesday, May 14, 2019 Bring out the antacid and eat Madhur Jaffrey is interviewed for the FLOP podcast. Her books on Indian cooking are great. Lauded as the “queen of Indian cooking” (Saveur), Madhur Jaffrey is largely credited for bringing her home country’s cuisine to America with 1973’s An Invitation to Indian Cooking. She has since authored more than a dozen James Beard Award–winning cookbooks. Also an acclaimed actor, Jaffrey won the Silver Bear for Best Actress at the 1965 Berlin Film Festival for her role in the Merchant Ivory film Shakespeare Wallah. With more than 70 easy-to-replicate recipes, her new cookbook offers a guide to making Indian cuisine with one of America’s new favorite kitchen gadgets. Join us to hear stories from her long and varied career. my best friend when I was in training was from Southern India, so I ate and learned to cook mainly vegetarian dishes. Jaffrey however is not vegetarian so includes meat in some of her dishes. here she explains how to cook Tandori Chicken. more at the BBC FOOD website if you register to internet archives, you can borrow some of her cook books LINK Posted by

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A Gay Guy’s Weekend Guide to Amsterdam

Bloglovin Slim, colorful houses, with dozens of peoples on bikes or sitting in a café, contemplating the soft movement of the water in the canals. There are many scenes like this in Amsterdam, and the city is without a doubt one of the best of Europe’s many LGBTQ-friendly destinations . Immortalized in many paintings by the Dutch masters, A’dam – how locals call it – Amsterdam is both classic and modern, a city of culture and some might say of decadence, and the home of some of the friendliest people in the world. THE WEEKEND GUIDE TO Amsterdam Things to Do
Amsterdam is particularly famous for its Red Light District with promises of sexual pleasure or for its coffee shops with magic brownies and hallucinogen mushrooms. But beyond this hedonistic atmosphere, Amsterdam is surprisingly diverse and a place where there is always something to do. Amsterdam has hundreds of canals throughout the city Amsterdam’s Neighborhoods
Indeed, much of the city’s life occurs outdoors. Walk around the Jordaan neighborhood , for example, to discover trendy shops, street art and great coffees (especially for foodies, try the apple tart). Another option is to wander around Westergasfabriek, a former industrial complex now dedicated to art galleries, shops and cafes. The De Pijp neigborhood , and the traditional Albert Cuyp market , invite the visitor to try new exotic foods and to wander around the many old-school pubs and hip restaurants.
And in the north of Amsterdam, the Noord neighborhood is especially hip and cool—the heart of hipster Amsterdam . In the East, the Oost Amsterdam neighborhood is a new thriving district of the city—a great place to discover quality restaurants and many budget hotels, too. Take a walk through the Jordaan and De Pijp neighborhoods to discover cool antique shops and other quirky buildings More things to do in Amsterdam….
Join the perpetual flow of bikes by renting one and driving it around the many canals and parks, and both the Vondelpark and the Frankendael Park offer great scenic views, whether for contemplation or to share them in your Instagram.
Of the many small and big museums and galleries, some are definitely a must: Of course, the Van Gogh Museum and the Rembrandt House are in the top list of every Amsterdam travel guide , and the Rijksmuseum is in my opinion the perfect introduction to the Dutch art tradition. For those interested to learn about the saddest and cruelest moments of European history, the Anne Frank museum is a place for reflection about peace, hate, and war politics. Inside the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam where you’ll find works by the Dutch masters, most notably Rembrandt Related: 5 Ways to Visit Amsterdam
Also inspired by the WWII conflict, the Homomonument remembers the LGBTQ people who have lost their lives in campaigns of hate and bigotry. Indeed, many locals and tourists bring flowers to show solidarity with LGBTQ issues. Every August, during Amsterdam Gay Pride , the Homomonument also becomes a place of party, together with the many canals that are used for the parade, with sexy boys, pop music, feathers and decorated boats. Amsterdam’s Homomonument is a unique site to see—and an important historical marker for LGBTQ travelers Where to Eat, Drink and Party
Amsterdam’s gay nightlife is pretty well focused on a single street in the city center, Reguliersdwarsstraat , where some of the city’s more popular bars are located. Sex shops and some other gay bars are located in and around the Red Light District, mostly on Warmoesstraat —just follow the rainbow flags. 🏳️‍🌈
Spijker Bar , in Kerkstraat, is considered the oldest and friendliest gay bar in A’dam, because it combines good music with a pool table, pinball, and a fireplace. For cocktails, hit one of the favorites for local and visitors, the disco-bar PRIK in Spuistraat, a venue that frequently host top DJs and with many themed parties. Amsterdam Gay Pride
Also great with DJs and with regular drag shows, The Queen’s Head located in Zeedijk is one of the most welcoming gay bars, and it offers a striking view over the famous Amsterdam canals. For those who want to dance and enjoy the music scene, both the Club NYX and the ChUrch host themed parties, going from electronic nights to fetish themes. (Visit ChUrch on Thursday nights for their most popular and tourist-friendly gay party.)
The Jordaan neighborhood is famous for its food and you can find practically every culture there: Indian, Italian, Spanish and also traditional Dutch cuisine are among the many options, both fast food, veggies and gourmet. Walking distance from the Red Light District, the Chinatown in Amsterdam is another neighborhood worth to visit, with its many Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese restaurants, being the perfect place to find steamed veggies, dumplings and ducks. Chinatown is also famous for the tattoo parlors, acupuncture and its Buddhist temple.
Fast food is also really popular in Amsterdam, and you can enjoy grease ribs and good burgers and fries almost anywhere in the city center, and both local and visitors frequently visit sport bars for cheap beer and American football. Coco’s Outback (an Australian sport sbar in Thorbeckeplein) and the Saloon Smoking Bull are there to indulge your fast food sins. Amsterdam Hotels
One of Amsterdam’s coolest hotels isn’t in the exact city center—but that’s a good thing. In Amsterdam’s Oost neighborhood, the Volkshotel is a trendy, affordable option that’s surprisingly convenient. And even more convenient because there are so many things to do in the hotel itself. From a rooftop bar (with an awesome city skyline view), to a hip club in the basement, and a popular café with local freelancers in the lobby—there’s little reason to leave the Volkshotel . Plus: the rooms are pretty cool, too! Check Volkshotel room rates
Another great hotel option in Amsterdam—especially for those looking to be close to the city center—is the Room Mate Aitana . The hotel is located a short walk (under 8 minutes) from Centraal Station, and it’s an especially gay-friendly hotel option. The Room Mate hotel collection is famous for their LGBTQ-inclusivity and close partnership with many gay pride events and LGBTQ rights initiatives. Rooms at the Room Mate Aitana Hotel are all uniquely designed, making it an attractive choice for a beautiful weekend in Amsterdam.

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For all your curry cravings…

For all your curry cravings… Warm, authentic Indian dining spices up this autumn. 12 hours ago
From the moment we stepped into the newly opened Thava Indian Restaurant at Montecasino, we knew we were in for an authentic dining experience.
The restaurant’s opening night took us on an exotic journey to the eastern subcontinent… On arrival, we were treated to an infused Indian cocktail and straight-off-the-street-style panipuri … YUM! Website
Dancers enhanced the atmosphere, enveloping the venue with their colourful moves. The venue’s decor is a real eye-catcher … the artworks are sourced from India and some paintings represent different dance forms.
The highlight of the event was the blend of flavours that are prominent in the food … Thava specialises in Indian cuisine and uses fresh local ingredients. The lamb ulathu is succulent and packed with flavour – a real stand-out dish. With winter well on its way in Jozi, why not spice up a cold night by visiting this special gem. Main course prices range from R90 to R190.
Details: 011-465-1306.

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Calm and confidence in Sri Lanka tourism recovering rapidly

Calm and confidence in Sri Lanka tourism recovering rapidly
9 May 2019
By Srimal Fernando and Kirtan Bhana
Sri Lankans are more resolute than ever to continue building a peaceful nation. They are all too aware that the cowardly suicide bomb attackers have no ideology and are carried out by a faithless few. They have belief that their over 300,000 strong tri-forces have the knowhow, support and will to extinguish any threat and bring about normality once again.
The past decade has been a boon for this teardrop-shaped island nation lapped by the waters of the Indian Ocean. Millions of people who have travelled to the country since it has found peace with itself, to encounter its abundant natural beauty, describe it as a paradise. They are sharing their experiences with others advising them to place Sri Lanka on their bucket list of places to visit.
As Sri Lankans mourn the victims of the dastardly attacks, many children among the dead, they also have to come to terms that the perpetrators of the sickening act were Sri Lankans. They coordinated a series of suicide bomb attacks that targeted Christian churches and five-star hotels across Sri Lanka. Perpetrated on Easter Sunday, 21 April, indicates that the deadly acts were timed to inflict maximum casualties, shock and awe.
The senseless assault was unexpected. In the decade that followed the end of the 30-year civil conflict, Sri Lankans were enjoying the benefits of the peace dividend. Efforts for reconciliation and rebuilding a unified country were proving successful. It is a progressive society with human rights at the core of its constitutional democracy. The vibrant and dynamic political landscape is open to debate and discourse.
New laws were passed to create a free and just dispensation which spurred the growth and development of the country. Trade, tourism and investment levels increased exponentially. Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital city, has developed into a modern-day metropolis. State-of-the-art skyscrapers and property developments glisten in the backdrop of a tropical horizon.
Sri Lanka’s location in proximity to India and China, two of the largest economies in the world, the nations of ASEAN, Africa and the Middle East makes it attractive for trade and investment. It is positioned in the heart of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.
Tourism is up 5% (Gross Domestic Product, GDP) and growing. The tropical island with its coconut palm tree lined and pristine white sandy beaches is the ideal getaway for some rest and recreation. The over 1,000km coastline also offers opportunities for adventure sport enthusiasts. Scuba diving, surfing, kayaking, kite boarding among other activities are available to get the adrenaline pumping.
Ceylon Tea is Sri Lanka’s world-renowned commodity. The many tea estates in the cooler hill stations inland provide informative tours of the meticulous production of tea. Some also provide accommodation among the manicured plantations and unique tea spa health and beauty treatments. Its cuisine is a culinary expression of its tropical vegetation and the bounty of the majestic ocean that surrounds it.
Sri Lanka’s ancient history goes back many thousands of years. Its many temples and historic sites are linked to the epic story of the Ramayana and Buddha, enchanted by gods and demons and the triumph of good over evil. Its recent history of ousting the oppressive colonialist and building a modern independent state is testament to the determination and resilience of its people. The solidarity and support expressed by the international community once again places the spotlight on the ordinary innocent people of the planet. The overwhelming majority who wake up every morning to put in an honest day’s work with reasonable expectations of decent accommodation, good food on the table, sensible education, affordable healthcare and a holiday getaway every now and then.
People travel; they move everyday crossing streets, neighbourhoods, cities, continents and even oceans. Be it just going to work, visiting friends and family, professionally for business or sport, recreation or leisure, people travel and always will. Research shows that people will easily spend time and money on an enriching experiences and exploring new destinations, learning new languages, indulging in exotic food and encountering unique cultures and traditions.
Even the trauma and humiliation caused by airport security and Customs checks has not deterred travellers, in fact more people are travelling more and more. The innovation in communication and technology has made travel accessible. Travellers are better informed; the online booking marketing and promotion systems have created a platform to make excursions affordable or bespoke and sophisticated as is desired.
The Sri Lankan authorities are hard at work to stabilise the situation in the country and bring about order and routine once again. Special concessions are being made to restore calm and confidence in the tourism sector.
Emergency laws will grant security officials extra powers to seek out, investigate and extinguish any credible threat. Assurances are being made that measures being put in place will effectively and efficiently bring the situation under control in a relatively short period of time. Remaining vigilant will remain a challenge without infringing on human rights or hampering economic development.
The natural feeling of sadness of the memories of lost loved ones will always remain as the effects of the shock and bewilderment wane, but will never be completely forgotten. Sri Lankans will have to keep their anger in check and move beyond the circumstances that seem so unfair.
This article also appeared in the Daily FT, Sri Lanka
[Srimal Fernando is a Doctoral Fellow at Jindal School of International Affairs (JSIA), India and a Global editor of Diplomatic Society for South Africa. He won the 2018/2019 Best Journalist of the year award in South Africa and Kirtan Bhana is the Founding Editor and Travel Envoy for the Diplomatic Society of South Africa.]

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