Who & what should you be checking out this month
This Australian-Indian actress is currently stealing hearts in the Netlfix rom-com, Wedding Season. As the ambitious, harassed-by-Indian-parents-to-find-a-husband Asha, Sharda is convincingly cool, vulnerable, and has a relatable screen presence, and her vibe with Suraj Patel is comfortable, entertaining, and fun to watch.
She was also in the Oscar-nominated Lion, and has starred opposite Ranbir Kapoor in Besharam. She also stood out in a diverse cast in The One, an intriguing show about an app that matches people with their soulmates by DNA. Here’s hoping we see Sharda’s solid performances in more projects.
A Bengaluru-origin brand, SMOOR has taken their slices of artisanal chocolate heaven to various cities through outlets and has now opened their café in Bandra. Nestled in a prime location that sees coffee-goers by the bucket, the Smoor Café is a 700 sq. ft Instagrammable space done up in a sober and sophisticated manner with neutral colors, fluted panels, and with marble flooring that has 3D pattern composition. There’s also a Chocolate Lounge and a Signature Chocolate Studio for chocolate and dessert lovers to indulge. The hot chocolates are unmissable, so I’m going to tell you the top 3: for dark chocolate fans, the 55% Belgium Classic is the apt choice, for those who like some flavor, the Hazelnut will not disappoint at all, and if you like spices in chocolate, their spiced hot chocolate hits all the right spots. If you’re looking to go for a full meal, start with a Smoor Delicious Salad Bowl — a healthy mix of salad leaves, pomegranate, olives, cherry tomatoes, with honey mustard dressing.
Crunchy and tangy-sweet, the best option to fill up with some healthy food. Their Double Decker sandwich is my ideal lunch — chicken and a home-style masala omelet in focaccia bread. It is possible to enjoy a sandwich and keep it clean, I learn. I have gorged on SMOOR’s desserts for years now so picking my favorites is so hard, but at this café, don’t miss out on the sesame chocolate tart and the coconut macarons.
Navu Project, Bengaluru
Bengaluru’s restaurant scene is quite happening, but in my opinion, it can also be a bit saturating. And that’s why Navu Project felt like a breath of fresh air to me. With an outdoor and indoor dining section in the cafe at Bangalore International Centre, this is a cozy, quiet restaurant that serves modern European albeit non-fancy, real food (much of it is still Instagrammable, if you’re into food that looks real and not like it was lifted from Pinterest). Nav Project is the baby of chefs Kanishka Mehta and Pallavi Mithika Menon, who host The Supper Club in the city as well, and curate dining experiences. Have you ever had a savoury crème brulee? I hadn’t, and I’m a cauliflower skeptic, so trust me and pick this to start with — the cauliflower and leek creme brulee, with burnt shavings of leek and smooth cream, is a delight. Seafood lovers should not miss the Poached Fish, which comes with a ginger bone broth and sesame bok choy, the perfect main for a lunch afternoon. Blissful and no-fuss- needed, this is one of my most memorable meals this year.
A series of firsts for me, I’ve been watching some intense content back to back. I’ll start with The Most Hated Man On The Internet, Netflix’s docu-series about a man called Hunter Moore and his website, Is Anyone Up?, a pornographic site based on stolen and hacked photos that provides information about the person’s social media accounts as well. When Charlotte Laws discovered her daughter’s topless take-in-private photos on the site, she raged a full battle against Moore, uniting other victims of the website, and actively worked against revenge porn, influencing even the law to stop and think, effectively sending Moore to jail. The story sends chills down one’s spine, and makes you realize the discomfort of the internet and technology that you know of but don’t want to face: what if nothing is private anymore?
This seems like a docu-series month for me, because Indian Predator: The Butcher Of Delhi is another thrilling, gruesome account of a serial killer who murdered his victims and dumped parts of their bodies in different corners of Delhi, including one part at the gate of Tihar Jail. The docu-series not only covers the case, but goes into the killer’s psychological make-up, background, and childhood traumas, and discusses in detail what led to these events. After House Of Secrets: Burari Deaths, this one’s worth a weekend watch.
From reality to fantasy, House of the Dragon on Disney+Hotstar is next. Disclaimer: I didn’t really take to Game of Thrones. PS: You don’t need to watch GoT to watch HoD. But it is a prequel to GoT, so if you’re not a fan like me, you can still enjoy this one. Based on parts of George R.R.Martin’s Fire & Blood, HoD is set about 200 years before the events of GoT and 172 years before the birth of Khaleesi, aka Daenerys Targaryen.
It shows the beginning of the end for House Targaryen and everything that led to the Targaryen war of succession. Expect a GoTesque screenplay — a sex fest, blood, and deaths. Fantasy at its finest.
A show that really won my heart this month is The Bear (Disney+Hotstar). When you start watching it, it looks like a story about a gifted chef who has worked at restaurants like Noma and now has given up his career to run the family’s sandwich shop in Chicago due to his brother’s death. Overworked, clearly fatigued, dealing with the everyday troubles of money and family problems. But there’s so much more. What lies under are stages of grief, the burden of life, and being a suicide loss survivor. From the portrayal of masculinity to addressing mental health and suicide, the show warms up to you, leaving your heart full, and mind running.
After all the docu-series seriousness, reading this month was a bit emo. It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover is a book about trauma bonds, surviving abuse, and ending generational cycles. When Lilly, a child of an abusive marriage, finds herself in a predicament with the perfect guy who has ‘just this one flaw’, she is torn. She grew up knowing exactly what she doesn’t want, but what if it comes to her in the one she loves? It Ends With Us makes you uncomfortable, and shows how easy it is to make tough decisions for someone else than for yourself, but also that ending a trauma cycle is in your hands. Keep your tissues handy, it’s going to be a ride.
Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong, on the other hand, doesn’t quite prepare you for its journey. 30-year-old Ruth quits her job and moves back home, only to realize that the situation, namely ‘forgetfulness’ by her father, is more complicated than she thought. Her fiancé just left her for another woman, and with no plans in hand but a priority, Ruth is tired but ready to see what life has in store. Her father is losing his memory, and her mother is hyperventilating, the first sign of which, you read, is everyone taking vitamins with celery juice, all processed food going out of the window, and other motherly paranoia. A comically written story that edges towards grief and other parts of love and loss, Goodbye, Vitamin is more relatable than one can imagine.
I recently spent a few days gauging Chennai’s developing restaurant scene (more on that in next month’s column) and was pleasantly surprised to find this 8-month-old resort right outside the city that not only works as a getaway, but is worth making a trip from another city for, thanks to its luxurious offering of privacy, exclusivity, and proximity to nature. It’s you, the breeze, and the beach. Nearly an hour and a half outside Chennai city and along the Coromandel coast is The Alampara, a luxury resort housing four luxury tents and focusing on all things slow, and sustainable. The resort has its own private sandbar against the backdrop of the waters of Marakkanam, and when I say private, I truly mean it — you ask for a time slot and get the beach all to yourself, and as they take you across the lake to access the beach, you can see The Alamparai Fort, which the property gets its name from.
This is what travel trends call glamping, as the four luxury tents are rustic yet artistic, and open out to private lakes, so the view from your bed will be to die for. But, well, get out of bed, because the place has a plethora of activities to try, especially with the lake right there. Go cycling around the property to start your day, before a grand breakfast at their restaurant. For meals, the resort has a mix of cuisines ranging from South Indian to European, and I recommend sampling their grilled tiger prawns and the prawn risotto, given that all seafood is freshly caught at the beach.
For those who love exploring on foot, go for a guided tour of the Marakkanam salt pans. If you’re into water sports, they have an expert crew that will take you stand-up paddling, kayaking, wakeboarding, knee-boarding, kitesurfing, snorkeling, jet skiing, and windsurfing. I tried my hand at kayaking at their internal lake for the first time, solo, and it was an exhilarating experience to have, the best upper arm workout with a side of water anxiety that was supported by the fact that their crew is efficient, and makes sure you’re safe and you enjoy your time. Looking around and taking in the versatility of this place, I see how it triples up as a family vacay, a romantic getaway, and a solo traveler’s much-needed time off.
The Alampara is also half an hour from Pondicherry, which means if you want to spend a day visiting the town for a meal or for some shopping, it’ll be two birds with one stone. So if you’re into feeling glam in a checkered floored, flat screen, and WiFi-supported camping experience or if you’re looking for some serious downtime (shut the gram), this is where you should head, next.
(Featured Image: It Ends With Us (Book), The Alampara (Travel), House of Dragons (Show)