Aalaya by Happy Retreats – A Getaway Destination Amidst the Concrete Jungle

Ever been someplace that makes you think of doing something uncharacteristic? Well, that’s exactly what happened to me a couple months ago, during a staycation at Aalaya by Happy Retreats, a charming property with lush greenery and enthusiastic, well-trained, attentive staff, located off Tumkur Road. Pegged as a venue for weddings and special events, we were invited to experience the property over a weekend, and were lucky enough to have the place to ourselves. After a leisurely walk through the property, with its bountiful fruit (mango, jackfruit, chickoo, papaya), sandalwood and rudraksha trees and multitude of bushes and shrubs, not to mention a darling little gazebo and a stately set of stairs connecting the 1st floor to a wraparound balcony that ran the length of the house, I found myself thinking I could (almost) get married just to be able to celebrate the occasion here!

The very entrance to the property, the car parking area, and the grounds are testament to the love and attention shown to the space to keep it looking verdant, pretty, and event ready, not to mention providing the perfect escape from the concrete jungle, without needing to travel far at all! I am quietly plotting a reason to head back – and no you don’t have to have an event like wedding/birthday/anniversary/bachelorette/team outing/etc to book – they do accept bookings for a little vacation away from home too. Whether you are a group of colleagues, friends, a family with kids, or a couple looking for a romantic spot, Aalaya will be able to cater to your needs.There are, at present, four well appointed bedrooms with en suite bathrooms, two on the ground floor and two on the first, and with additional bedding and spaces across the two floors and a loft space as well, they can actually house 15 plus people comfortably. There is a full dining table and bar, ample living room seating on both floors, and one can’t help but feel like they are visiting a posh but still cozy and welcoming home. With so many knickknacks and objects d’art all over, it was also tempting to keep clicking away at every nook!

During the course of our 24 hours there, we were treated to home style cooking and simple but delicious food, with the spread featuring both veg and non-veg items, served by the ever-smiling and helpful staff. Oh and a shout-out to the excellent masala chai! In the afternoon, we did a little pottery making and for the evening, they really went all out, setting up a space under a canopy of lights, and even speakers so we could enjoy music as we ate and drank and enjoyed the gurgling of the little waterfall (another brilliant touch). I don’t think I have felt more at peace and been in a more chill atmosphere just minutes from the hulaboo of Bangalore city life! And if you are there to party, well, the space is made for that, after all! We all took turns sitting out on the swing on the grounds, a grand old wooden affair, and I also went and sat in the gazebo (which works beautifully as a mandap or central highlight spot) once it had been lit, spending a half hour musing about life and enjoying the absolute serenity and beauty of the place, and counting my blessings!

Details: Pricing and booking details available on their website

The Rise of Experiential Dining

Funny, how sometimes work and hobbies end up going hand in hand. Just recently at work, I wrote about the rise of experiential dining and the trend of adding zing to the dining experience. And then last week, I attended a multi-course meal that two of our city’s passionate chefs, Kanishka Sharma (founder of The Tenth Muse culinary experience) and Pallavi Mehta, had put together based on their personal life experiences and with local ingredients and influences in every dish. Part of an on-going series (of a monthly sit down wine and dine, The Courtyard Food Project) at the lovely space on Double Road, The Courtyard, which serves as an al fresco restaurant and dining space for events such as supper club dinners and dining experiences as well as a community space with performances, on arrival I was greeted by a beautifully set table and a glass of Svami Tonic Water.

 

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These dinners bring together a diverse set of people, who share an interest in experiencing an intimate menu created especially around a theme. NAVU, which means ‘us’ in Kannada, was the name and context for our meal last week. This meant we heard Kanishka and Pallavi’s reasoning for creating a specific dish as well as felt local influences in the dishes, while their storytelling gave us a glimpse into their lives too. Kanishka talked about how a neighbor when she was growing up, would always ask if she drank tiger’s milk, since she was a fearless kid, and this translated into our appetizer course with coconut milk (Ice apple or Ceviche with coconut tigre de leche). And then there was Pallavi’s reminiscence of being the new member of a mainly Bengali staffed kitchen, and their reaction to her throwing out prawn heads rather than using them in her cooking, which led to her serving up the chutney made with prawn head.

 

We actually began the meal with a tangy Rasam and deconstructed Sabudana Vada. This was followed by the Tigre de leches appetizer and then a raw mango rice with mango salsa, topped by a fried papad. The next course was the prawn pickle and head chutney served on an amazing rice cracker that made me think of the rice apalam/papad I would eat as a kid in Chennai. This was one of my two favorite dishes of the night. And then came the other stellar dish, a beautifully cooked and seasoned pork chop served with sauteed local greens – this dish also incorporated 100% Karnataka single origin chocolate. Of course there were veg versions of both dishes, with veggies replacing the prawn and meat.

 

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And then it was time for dessert, which came in two rounds, the first being a jackfruit cremeux with fried cheese on top and black rice kheer topped with puffed black rice. I have never warmed to jackfruit, so left that one after a bite, but the gusto with which another diner accepted my offer of it, proved its appeal! And then out came a caramelized roselle flower and chocolate truffle made from Naviluna chocolate (formerly Earth Loaf – with their little factory space in Mysore). Our entire meal was accompanied by the always delightful wines from Big Banyan Wines. I loved all the local touches, from the chocolate to the wine, and it was a pleasure to spend an evening with a new set of folks. Just proved to me yet again, that a good meal is a great way to get people together, laughing, talking and relishing! Something that the team at The Courtyard and Kanishka have been doing successfully for some months – I met some folks who were on their third such dinners.

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