Let’s Kurumba!

A small town in its own right, this action-packed island in the Maldives has a lot on offer for families.

‘Fancy boat’, I thought to myself as Kurumba Resort’s plush little speedboat picked us up from Malé International Airport for a quick, ten-minute transfer to the resort.

The first resort in Maldives to ever open its doors to tourists, Kurumba proudly celebrates its 40th birthday this year.

Upon arrival, we realised Kurumba was more than just an island – it was a cosy little town, complete with its eight delightful little restaurants, three fancy bars and lots of palm trees. Boasting an impressive accommodation of 180 rooms and villas arranged in a city-street setting, it is a commercial venue, often used by the Maldivian government for state visits and meetings with VIP and royal guests.

A family-friendly destination with plenty of water and adventure activities, Kurumba is a place to plan an action-packed family holiday. From dolphin cruises, deep sea fishing, sea plane picnics to snorkelling safari, sea kayaks, waterskiing and glass-bottom boat rides, there are enough activities to keep one busy.

It really is a small town in its own right. With so much on offer, we were amazed at the versatility of the island. Three flood-lit tennis courts, library, board game stations, internet cafés, spa, nursery, day-care centre for kids and a volleyball court were just a few among the many recreation facilities that were available.

Our Deluxe Room was situated just a few steps to the beach, complete with a breezy private terrace and garden bathroom with an open-air shower. It was an attractive beach, with standard Maldivian white sand and crystal clear water but we wished the maintenance was sharper. The untouched beaches could use a bit of grooming here and there.

Be prepared for a not-so-clear horizon – Kurumba’s close proximity to Malé means lots of city views from the island, plenty of airplanes every now and then and no isolation. No isolation – unless – you opt for a super-romantic ‘Sounds of the Sea’ dining experience, right in the middle of the sea, complete with candles and flowy white curtains. Pure bliss. (Tip – don’t forget to order chocolate mousse for desert. Utterly divine!)

Ralf Schnik is Kurumba’s newly appointed Executive Chef who oversees all culinary specialties in the island. It was a delight to try some of his scrumptious dishes, spread all over the eight island restaurants.

Liz Pangchan, Sales and Marketing Manager of Kurumba, made the short stay all the more pleasant for us. The first night, she took us on a fantastic gastronomic tour where we sampled mouth-watering starters from Kurumba’s very own Lebanese restaurant, Al Qasr. It was promptly followed by main course at The Ocean Grill, a beach-side al fresco setting where we enjoyed watching reef sharks in the crystal clear water while enjoying delicious seafood. A perfect ending to a perfect dinner was planned for us with three small lip-smacking dessert varieties at La Cucina, posh little indoor Italian joint.

Our daily champagne breakfast at The Ocean Grill was a real treat – with lots of fancy items, fruit platters and a beautiful outdoor setting. Lunch at Kurumba Cafe had limited but quality options whereas the buffet lunch in the main restaurant – included in half board – was a tad bit disappointing. Gorge at all other restaurants except the main one and you will have a fabulous time, gastronomically speaking.

Five months pregnant, I also had the privilege of trying a pre-natal massage at Kurumba’s Veli Spa while my partner indulged in their popular signature massage. We were both very pleased with our treatments and were offered generous discounts on our second visit. With highly trained and professional masseuses from Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand, Veli Spa offers unforgettable relaxation treatments to de stress, relax and rejuvenate.

Among the many excursions offered at the island, we decided to try the Dolphin Cruise. Wild dolphins instantly came into view as our speedboat reached its destination around sunset. We whistled and they came closer. We whistled more and they thumped our boat with their bodies. It was an exhilarating trip that ended with everyone enjoying the sunset and complimentary drinks onboard.

A destination to plan an exciting family holiday, Kurumba offers reasonably priced accommodation, excursions and spa treatments, if compared to other 5-star resorts in the Maldives. If you, however, have a romance-filled holiday with tons of natural beauty on the cards, opt for another Maldivian island, designed especially for couples and honeymooners.

Be prepared to be greeted with coconut ice cream upon arrival. After all, coconut is what Kurumba means, really.

 

Some like it at Shanghai Chic

The only time I remember visiting Ibn Battuta Gate Hotel was for their popular nightspot, Diablo. However, having heard much about the delectable cuisine offered at the five-star hotel, I decided it was now time to review one of their restaurants. And so I gave Shanghai Chic a shot.

Offering a dark and romantic decor, my friend and I were greeted by lovely Chinese staff and guided to a private booth. The menu – presented promptly – looked impressive, offering a wide range of Shanghainese and Cantonese dishes.

We decided to start with steamed dumplings of seafood and chicken. Although they looked rather exciting – complete with their soft succulent texture and scrumptious presentation – they tasted just about average.

Next came the hot and sour soup. I have to say, without any exaggeration, this was the best hot and sour soup I have had in Dubai. A big soup fan, this spicy little bowl made my day and I was ready to order more – until I realised I might not have room for the main course and dessert that were to follow later.

My main course, sweet and sour chicken, arrived in a bowl of deep-fried noodles, accompanied by sticky white rice. Instantly won over by the creative presentation, I crossed my fingers and hoped it tastes just as good as it looks.

And it did.

The chicken was soft and cooked to perfection. The sweetness was just right and the sourness couldn’t have been better.  My dining partner’s crispy chicken with dry chilli and Szechuan pepper was satisfying and well-liked by her.

Our desserts arrived – my favourite part – and as I rubbed my hands together with happiness, the friendly Chinese waiter smiled and placed my herbal Chinese jelly on the table with a grand swoop. My grin slowly faded. The dessert looked rather ‘odd’ – gooey green with a black centre – and tasted pretty odd too. As I swallowed the pungent jelly, I couldn’t help but feel utterly dissatisfied.

If you like cardamom , this dessert is for you. Those who don’t, steer clear of this one.

My dining partner’s mango pudding was ‘safe’ – there was nothing exciting about the taste or the presentation.

With not many authentic five-star Chinese restaurants in town, Shanghai Chic has the potential of ranking among the best ones – only if it pays a little more attention to their dessert and dim sum menu.

I am definitely going back for the hot and sour soup.

Classy dining at Indego

Probably the classiest Indian restaurant I’ve ever been to in Dubai, Indego by Vineet at Grosvenor House oozes pure sophistication and impeccable service. The first Indian chef to be awarded a Michelin star, Vineet Bhatia’s scrumptious food is a must for every Indian Cuisine fan.

From their palak paneer to daal makhni, all the vegetarian dishes I have tried at the restaurant so far have been lip smacking. With just the right amount of spice and consistency, the main course portions are large, enough for three adults. The impressive selection of breads is very light and highly addictive whereas the appetizers are plenty to choose from. Although their portions are rather small in comparison, nevertheless, the main courses definitely make up for it.

The five star service is truly remarkable and the ambience is exciting, to say the least. From gorgeous bronze goddess sculptures to traditional Indian wall hangings and bronze platters, the dim lighting and soft Indian music complete the setting. Unique presentations, super-scrumptious desserts with a vast selection of cocktails and mocktails, I was – in particular – taken aback by the celebrity-like service the staff bestowed on everyone.

The perfect place to dine on a special occasion, Indego may be pricey, but it’s definitely worth it.

Chewing plastic at Butcher Shop & Grill

It was just another day at Mall of the Emirates as we decided to stop at Butcher Shop & Grill and try one of their delicious, much-talked-about steaks. Having spent the day shopping, we were starving to death and couldn’t wait to sit down and eat. The ambience was lively, with lots of people, music and super-friendly staff.  The decor was interesting, with plenty of comfortable seating and gigantic crockery. We watched as fancy-looking, steaming hot dishes were carried on enormous platters across the room onto one table after another. Stopping the urge to attack one of the platters and wolf everything down, we quickly grabbed our menus and scanned them.

The variety was plenty and the steaks were much cheaper than most places in Dubai. Having ordered a medium-rare beef steak, I sat back and waited. And waited. After 30 minutes, my steak – that looked fairly juicy and welcoming – arrived.  I began slicing through – and kept slicing through for several annoying seconds. It was rubbery and the taste was no good. There was no end to the chewing and I had to wash it down with my drink.

A good medium-rare steak is non-rubbery, full of flavour and soft. It is usually warm with a hint of red in the middle. By no means should it be rubbery and taste like plastic.

Barely half-way through, I decided to simply head to Mc Donald’s instead, which happened to be right across the restaurant.

The steaks at Butcher Shop & Grill may be cheap, but that’s just about it. Try one of their chicken dishes instead.

Colourful Indian experience at Rangoli

One fine Monday night, after hours of shopping in and around Meena Bazaar, I decided to stop by Rangoli and try their dinner buffet, priced at an unbelievable AED 17 only – or so the colourful posters outside the restaurant read. Situated right in the middle of Meena Bazaar in Bur Dubai, the location of the popular Indian eatery was perfect for tired, hungry and visibly drained-out shopaholics.

Upon entering the not-so-glamorous restaurant, I discover – to my utter delight – that the buffet was indeed an unbelievable 17 Dirhams per person. Quickly dumping my dreadfully heavy shopping bags on a chair, I grab one of their many bright pink plastic platters (gaudy but cute) and begin scrutinizing the buffet table. The menu definitely looked interesting – three types of daal, curry and rice, bhindi, pickles, deep-fried coconut cutlets, stir-fried spicy carrots and soft, light bread. For dessert, popular Indian mithai called chum chum was included.

With my empty, rumbling stomach urging me to fill up the platter, I quickly do so with a little bit of everything (do not judge – I was hungry!) and sit down to eat. The daals were delicious and so was the accompanying spicy mint sauce. Not so impressed with curry and rice, I found the bhindi rather bland and tasteless. The stir-fried carrots were to die for and the accompanying bread was just perfect – not too heavy on the stomach. Although there was no room left for dessert, I still managed to enjoy two very generous portions of chum chum before finally giving it a rest.

Rangoli may lack a swanky decor and your typical stylish Dubai crowd – with their Louis Vuittons and everything – it did, nevertheless, serve some good Indian food and is definitely one place I will visit again. On my next stop, I’m trying their light snacks – either chaat or dosa, or maybe both. Slurp!

 

The Buddha Bar experience

Having been to Buddha Bar a dozen times for bites and drinks, I decided it was now time to go for a proper dinner at the super posh, super smoky restaurant cum bar. Dressing up to the hilt – which is a requirement for BB – I put on my fanciest stilettos and head to Grosvenor House, where it is located. Having made reservations earlier in the day, I am lead to a nice table with a gorgeous view of the Marina. Pretty.

The menu is placed in front of me and I begin scrutinising the items on the list – it was surprisingly small compared to other fancy restaurants. I skip the appetizers and go straight in for the kill – the main course. Forty tough minutes later, my green Thai curry with steamed rice arrives. The portion is average and the presentation is alright – nothing impressive.

I am, however, pleasantly taken aback by the delicious, mouth-watering taste. Very authentic with just the right amount of Thai spices, the consistency was thick and creamy and the vegetables were surprisingly crispy. The rice was steamed to perfection and well, before I knew it, I had finished everything. It was only after I was done that I realised that I didn’t exactly have room for desert. Oh, but how could I not? A small scoop of vanilla ice cream will certainly do no harm.

And so my small scoop of vanilla ice-cream – which was pretty small, I have to say – arrives and I eat it slowly, enjoying the ambience and the music. Those looking forward to a quiet, romantic dinner, here is a warning for all you lovebirds. Buddha Bar is anything but quiet after 10pm. The volume keeps rising dramatically and before you know it, you have to yell to be heard. It is definitely not a club but does get clubbish on weekends, usually after midnight. Price range is high but the experience is worth every dirham spent.

Eating at Asha’s

Asha Bhosle is a popular Bollywood playback singer with an extensive career spanning over six decades. This talented lady is also known for her scrumptious cooking and often gets flooded with requests for biryani or curry by Bollywood celebrities. It was only a matter of time before she launched her own chain of restaurants, specialising in contemporary Indian cuisine. The new block of Mall of the Emirates has one of her highly-praised branches, where I first decided to test her mouth-watering dishes.

Aptly named Asha’s, the interior of the restaurant was fresh, lively and very welcoming. Sharply uniformed hostesses were quick to lead us to a table and present the menu. Every dish on the menu was detailed with interesting facts – when it was first created, which Bollywood personality’s favourite it is and what are the different variations available in the restaurant. There were several appetizers, vegetarian meals, meat kebabs, biryani, daal and various funky mocktails.

A big fan of Indian vegetarian food, I tend to avoid their meat dishes. I believe India’s specialty lies in vegetarian food – unlike Pakistan, where hard-core meat dishes such as nihari , lamb, korma and delicious beef ribs reign supreme. Keeping that in mind, I decided to order grilled paneer with vegetables and dahi puri.

The service was quick and my food arrived in no time. The grilled paneer was cooked to perfection but I just couldn’t help compare it to Sanjeev Kapoor’s version of the same dish, which, I have to say, is far more delicious. My dahi puri looked great – and tasted just the same. It was sweet and tangy and very light.

After much deliberation, here are my ratings for Asha’s:

Food: Three stars

Presentation: Five stars

Ambience: Four stars