Friday, April 23, 2010


King's Cliff is an old colonial house that has been revamped into a charming little hotel with an old-world ambiance. The old trees along the driveway and well manicured garden add to the charm of the hotel. A leisurely lunch in the glass house or a relaxed evening by one of their fireplaces is an excellent option for a meal out in Ooty. Families with children will thoroughly enjoy this place as there is ample space and good service to go with it.

Earl's Secret, the restaurant at King's Cliff offers a wide range of dishes spanning Indian, continental and Asian cuisines. The During my first few visits to the King's Cliff I was hesitant to experiment with different cuisines and mainly ordered only Indian dishes. The kebabs are excellent especially the ones involving chicken. Rotis were soft and the gravies were mild and tasty (without oil floating on the surface). When I did try the continental dishes, I was not very satisfied and have refrained myself from ordering continental food from then on.

Over many visits to King's Cliff we have come to enjoy and relish a few dishes in particular like the Butter chicken masala, Vegetarian Thai red curry, Chicken Reshmi kebab and the simple Chicken hakka noodles. My son in particular is very fond of the Butter chicken masala and was talking about it even a day before we could visit King's cliff during our last trip to Ooty. I am sure he dreamt about it in sleep that night! And he thoroughly enjoyed it when we did order the dish the next day.

The management at King's Cliff is very friendly and efficient and would be happy to organise a bar-be-que for your family and friends in the evening. Lounging around the fireplace is also a fantastic option in the evenings. Since they do not take reservations for the seats around the fireplace it is better to get there early in the evenings. Over the weekends they have a one-man band playing music mostly from the 60's and 70's which seems to pair well with the setting and mood around the place.


Anybody who has been to Ooty more than a couple of times will know about Shinkows and its food. And those that were in boarding school in Ooty have fond memories of eating in Shinkows during their outings. Shinkows is an institution in itself.

Although I have never been to China myself I feel its the closest thing you can get to real chinese food in this part of the country. Most of the food thats served in chinese restaurants are desi-chinese. Only the star hotels in big metros seem to serve authentic asian food in their specialised restaurants. A trip to Ooty is never complete for me without a meal in Shinkows.

Shinkows has been around in Ooty for over 30 years or so (may be longer, I am not so sure). Its been run by the same person all these years and most of the people who work there have been around for years. Service can be better and the place definitely has a lot of scope for improvement when it comes to cleanliness. The food there has been consistently good that a lot of people tend to overlook these setbacks. The menu is reasonably simple and straight-forward.

My favourites there are Young Chow Fried noodles, Chicken with pineapple and Chilly Beef. The Young Chow fried noodles is very similar to an American Chopsuey except the sauce on top is very mild (not sweet and sour) and is loaded with vegetables. The chicken with pineapples is again a very mild dish with loads of onions and pineapple in a mild sauce with chicken (which is not deep-fried). Most chicken dishes on the menu are very similar except for chilly chicken. They all come with a mild gravy, loads of onion and the vegetable the dish is named after.

The chilly beef is a deep-fried spicy dish. The other beef dishes are again similar to the chicken dishes, mild gravy with onion and the vegetable the dish is named after. The quality of beef is very good, always soft and cut very thin. The pork dishes are subject to availability and I have never had the chance to try any. Vegetarians will find limited options on the menu and may not be as satisfied as the meat-eaters.

Another aspect what I really like about the restaurant is the little vegetable plot they have in the same premises where they grow a few greens thats consumed in the restaurant itself. Its a really small area but I like the idea that they trying to grow whatever is possible for their own consumption.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


About 10 years ago, a friend of mine told me about her excitement in finding Zucchini in one of the restaurants in Chennai. And I had no clue what a Zucchini looked like or tasted like. My first experiences with Zucchini were when I lived in the US for 2 years. My neighbour and I used to rent little plots from the university and grow vegetables in it during the summer months. I could hardly get anything out of my plot while my neighbour managed a big harvest of Zucchinis. She was using her Zucchinis in Indian-style subzis and hence I tried to use it the same way in Indian cooking according to her recommendations.

Over the years of watching a zillion shows on food and reading a few books on cooking, I have come across fried Zucchini flowers. They are meant to be a delicacy in Italy and its really hard to come across Zucchini flowers here in India, atleast for me. They looked quite delicate and I assumed that they don't travel well.

I was in Coonoor, Nilgiris, visiting an organic farm yesterday. And I could see Zucchini growing in little shrubs. When I asked my farm guide about Zucchini flowers, he wanted to know whether I wanted the male or the female flowers. I had no clue what he was talking about. The female flowers are the ones that go on to develop into Zucchinis. The male flowers just wither and fall after a while. So my son and I decided to pick only the male flowers and managed to collect about a dozen and bring it home.

Heres the recipe to what I made with the Zucchini flowers:


8 Zucchini flowers
30 gms Mozarella Cheese
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1/2 cup drinking soda
1/2 tsp oil
and oil to deep fry

Gently open out the petals of the Zucchini flowers and remove the filaments from the inside. Cut the cheese into thin slivers that'll fit into the flowers. Stuff the cheese in to the zucchini flowers and secure the petals around it. Make a batter out of the flour, salt, egg, oil and soda. Immediately dip the zucchini flowers into the batter and drop them into heated oil in a pan. Fry until golden brown and drain on absorbant paper. Serve hot.

And as you can see even my 2-year old couldn't keep his hands off it. The melted cheese, crispy batter and the delicate flower made a wonderful combination. This recipe is a must-try if you can lay your hands on fresh, organic Zucchini flowers.