180 Degrees, McIver Resort, Conoor

The Colonial Era has always been something magical for me. It takes me back to that age in my life where I was curled up with classics like Little Women, Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights along with historical romance novels. Such a  lovely time in your life where you don’t have a care in the world – the stress of studying, getting a good job or managing a family is non-existent. I would imagine being back in the Colonial/Victorian period, wondered what it would be like to be dressed in corsets and be a part of the ‘Debutante Balls’, eating all the food that was described: pies, hot chocolate, toast with honey along with tea! Luckily for me, I actually had the chance to visit a place that has been so wonderfully restored and maintained to give me just that feeling and let the wonderful memories from my books wash over me.

S, his family and I took a trip to the beautiful town of Wellington, India this Diwali. I had been to Ooty when I was very young and apparently had been to Wellington, but I had no recollection of the place. The Wellington Gymkahana Club is steeped in a different kind of history – a mix of British and Army culture. The food is typical club food with great eggs, sandwiches and South Indian food but does tend to get a little boring, especially if you plan on staying there for 5 days. The 2nd Day, we decided to walk down and explore what was close to us. Wellington is a little way away from the Conoor market and there really isn’t much in close proximity. After a short 20 minute walk, we came across McIver Resort.

What a view! It overlooks the valley and you can seen the colorful houses that cover the Nilgiri mountains. They have the most lovely, colorful flowers planted in the property and that definitely puts you in a sunny disposition. We entered through their dining area and I felt like we were transported back to some other era. The dining area is all wooden, with accents of French decor and has a lovely fireplace. The windows are long and give you an unobstructed view of the valley, the tables are wooden and the chairs are simple yet elegant. We were the only ones in the restaurant and were happy to take up a table that would give us the best view.

The menu has cuisine options of French, European, Thai, Lebanese, Indian and Italian. A very mixed menu usually makes me nervous because the food is always a mish mash of the different spices. Nevertheless, I was quite sure I would enjoy what they had to offer because I had heard such great reviews about the place. We began with a French Onion Soup. As someone who has started eating onions just about a year and a half ago, this was my first French Onion Soup. It was a thin broth, flavored with the sweet taste of Caramelized onions with croutons that were topped with eggs. I personally enjoyed the flavors because it wasn’t very heavy on the onions.

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Next we ordered some ‘bruschetta’ which was actually bread, with a layer of basil pesto and some lovely melted mozzarella cheese. The bread was delicious, freshly-baked, home bread!  In the cool air, the aroma of hot, fresh bread awakened by senses. The basil pesto piqued my interest – I don’t know if it was just my imagination, but I swear I could taste a hint of tea as an end note. The hot, melted mozzarella cheese was a little much in my opinion, but it was piping hot which made it better. The bread came after the soup and the lovely weather just made everything go together heavenly.

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For mains, we decided to get a simple Veggie pizza. This was the only disappointing part of our lunch. We ordered one with olives, and they were charging a good Rs. 75 more for just the olives, and the pizza came with only onions and tomatoes. We did talk to the server who said they would not charge us for the original pizza and just for a simple pizza, but it was a bit of damper. The pizza was a square shaped one, with the dough tasting nice and yeasty. The pizza was not overloaded with cheese, which is something we prefer. The tomato sauce was simple and tasted fresh. All in all, we really did enjoy that piping hot pizza while looking out at the beautiful valley and feeling the clouds enveloping us every once in a while. All I missed was a nice glass of a Cabernet Sauvignon.

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By this time we were both so full but when we heard that the dessert of the day was ‘Apple Pie’ there was no way we could say no. Their version of an apple pie was completely unlike any I have eaten before. The pastry tasted very buttery, a tad salty and I think they did use yeast in the pie pastry. The apple filling consisted of apple slices that were sprinkled with a little bit of cinnamon and they had some absolutely plain, unflavored cream on the side. I personally feel the cream could have been sweetened a little bit, but after such a heavy meal, I was  happy to avoid it completely.

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McIvers Resort has some beautiful, restored rooms that really make you feel like a part of history. There are old style fireplaces, beds with canopies, old style tables, corridors that are decorated with French-style painted plates and fresh, clean air that really takes you back in time. I loved the place and would love to stay here for a night or two whenever I go back to Conoor.

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More information can be found about McIvers Resort here.

After all that delicious food, we needed to stretch our legs and walked around the property. Here are some pictures of the resort.

The French-Style plates

The French-Style plates

The View from the Dining Room.

The View from the Dining Room.

Fireplace

Fireplace

An outside view

An outside view

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The view of Connoor from outside

The view of Connoor from outside

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And we had to walk through the clouds to go back! A perfect ending!

And we had to walk through the clouds to go back! A perfect ending!

Next up, I’ll be posting about where we stayed – Wellington Gymkhana.

Arthur’ Theme, Koregaon Park – Pune

Do you remember your first independent experience in an ‘adult’ restaurant? I do! We had just entered college and were all of 16 years.  The only places we frequented were small cafés or coffee shops or South Indian restaurants.  That’s pretty much all we could afford with our meagre pocket money. But then, someone heard of this really good European restaurant in the ultra fashionable Koregaon Park neighborhood.  We decided to go there but had to plan. We would have to save for a few weeks to be able to enjoy a good meal. So, we decided on a date, 9 weeks from now which was enough time for us to save up. We were 10 people.  10 very excited people!

The day  arrived.  We got dressed up. The girls put on some  make up. We split into groups of  two and got on our bikes. We reached in time for lunch and were greeted by the very well air conditioned air. The restaurant is some what dark and dimly lit. Lots of wood. We suddenly were aware that we are kids alone in an adult restaurant. Such a wonderful, exciting feeling! Its these small experiences that slowly mould your personality as you grow up. But coming back, we all settled on our orders and were completely bowled over by the food! Such beautiful flavors! Their food presentation was a unique experience. It was still a new concept  then but now restaurants have realised the value of good presentation.

Moving to present day, I still order only the same thing. I have come here maybe 25 times over the year but I love what I order so much I refuse to think of trying anything else. My favorite thing  to order here is “Ferdinand”. I wouldn’t dream of thinking about ordering anything else.  I might try something different from someone else’s plate, but this is what I’m most satisfied with.

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Last week I was back in Pune to  surprise my mom on her birthday. We also had some relatives who had joined us and were keen to try something different. We decided to head to Arthur’s for a nice lunch. The ambience has stayed the same yet, it doesn’t feel old. Lots of dark wood with a stone flooring and three large room air conditioners. The air conditioners are awesome because even in peak summer, the restaurant stays perfectly cool and comfortable. We took a nice table and settled in to  check the menu out. For first time visitors, you will find it odd that all the dishes are named after Kings and Queens but thats just the theme of the restaurant. I love that they have descriptions about  all the food and they can make anyone feel hungry!!

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We started off with the onion rings and a French onion soup. The onion rings were crisp and dipped in a lightly flavoured batter. They didn’t seem oily to eat but I was disappointed that they served it with ketchup. A nice paprika dip would have made it more exciting. The French onion soup is almost like a clear soup and is very different from French onion soups elsewhere.  Its packed with flavour  and is wonderfully light. A good soup to begin your meal because it isn’t very heavy on your stomach. Arthur’s Theme serves a basket of warmed bread rolls at your table and they’re wonderfully  fresh.

For mains, we ordered Princess Jasmine, Ferdinand and a paneer shashlik. My mom’s favorite is the Princess Jasmine which is basically two vegetarian cutlets served with a red  sauce on a bed of potato mash. The cutlets are quite hearty, seasoned well and cooked to a crisp on the outside. The tomato sauce that comes with it is quite tangy and flavored with herbs. The sauce is a little too tangy for me and I would have preferred it if it were a little less sour. The potato mash was smooth and complemented the sauce well.

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The paneer shashlik comes on a bed of herbed rice and is covered with a tomato sauce. I think the tomato sauce of the  cutlets and the shashlik is quite similar. The paneer was slightly chewy but not a lot to complain about. All in all, the dish tasted quite nice and the flavours worked well together.

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Ferdinand is grilled capsicum, tomatoes, mushrooms and paneer in a beautiful orange gravy. It comes with a side of herbed rice.  The sauce is creamy and explodes of beautiful herbs dancing on your tongue. I have tried so hard to  think how the sauce could be made and all I have come up with is that it has a light tomato base and cream in it. Its not spicy at all yet you don’t miss any of it.

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Arthur’s Theme has some of the best staff in tge city. They are polite, courteous and attentive. I can’t stress the importance of having such servers and how they can make or break your restaurant. It also  helps that someone is always behind the counter. I have never had any reason to complain but I’m sure they would  handle all criticism extremely well.

The prices have gone up from when I remember them, but it’s still quite reasonable for such good food.

For providing me with beautiful memories (its also the first place that S and I went to when he came to visit me in Pune) consistently good food, introducing me to new delicious fusion cuisine and for maintaining good service, I give Arthur’s Theme a 4.5/5.