MANDARIN ORIENTAL DOHA, QATAR – A CULTURALLY COHERENT REGNANT OF QATARI DESIGN & HERITAGE

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DOHA, QATAR: The main entrance of the Mandarin Oriental, Doha in Qatar.

The Mandarin Oriental, Doha opened in March 2019 in Msheireb Downtown Doha, a planned, smart-city district in Qatar, and the world’s first sustainable downtown regeneration project. The sand-hued hotel overlooks the enchanting Barahat Msheireb Town Square, the largest open-air covered town square in the Middle East, encompassing 7000 sqm with the biggest retractable, climate-controlled cooling roof in the region. The design concept of the golden square references the welcoming and luxurious sitting rooms of traditional Qatari homes, and the backlit onyx cladding at night in translucent honey tones, echoes the inherent spirit of the desert. Msheireb Downtown Doha, developed by Msheireb Properties, whose Chairwoman is HRH Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, adheres to the highest standards in green building in re-creating a way of indigenous Qatari living and culture, in the centre of the capital city. Qatar is not just kicking ball by hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup, it’s venerating its history and heritage through artistic avant-garde advancement in every sphere. This 11,000 km desert kingdom is on its way to becoming a nonpareil cultural capital of the world.

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DOHA, QATAR: The Mandarin Oriental, Doha overlooks the Barahat Msheireb Town Square in Msheireb Downtown Doha, Qatar.

The Mandarin Oriental, Doha is not a glass and glimmer skyscraper tearing into the blue skies, as one is wont to think of luxury hotels in the Middle East, blazoning the apodictic wealth of the country. It confutes the very notion the second your car rolls up the narrow, stone-cobbled alleyways, especially designed thus to give you a feel of old Qatari residential neighbourhoods, but not without a distinct, contemporary finesse befitting of a luxury hotel. Brick, mortar, wood, metal and a whole lot of soul make up the architectural and design language of the Mandarin Oriental, Doha that is culturally coherent with Qatari living and the heritage of the desert nation. The ferej, an intrinsic part of Qatari homes, built to provide shade from the desert sun and for air circulation (a natural air-conditioner so to speak) for respite from the heat, makes its modern-day presence felt in the hotel’s corridors and landings.

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DOHA, QATAR: A street view of the main entrance of the Mandarin Oriental, Doha, Qatar.

The shifting shapes of sand dunes inspired the key design element for the interiors of the property. Right from the imposing entrance pillars to the walls, marble floors and ceiling reliefs, an artistic representation of sand dunes runs through the hotel consummately. The design is as conspicuous and as unobtrusive as you want it to be. If you want to see it, you can see it everywhere and if you don’t, well, then you don’t. But the sand dunes of Qatar are there, hearkening the travelling bedouin origins of Qatar to the current day on your calendar.

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DOHA, QATAR: A general view from the Mandarin Oriental, Doha of the ferej or narrow alleyway sstreets in Doha, Qatar

The fretwork sand dune panels, with a painted eggshell finish on the ceiling, with a brass veil, influenced by the awnings and canopies of Arab dhows and ocean waves, designed by the David Collins Studio and Alexander Lamont’s straw marquetry adorn the lobby of the hotel. The brass veil, alongside the straw marquetry, is a breathtaking design genius.  Lamont used dried straw stems, spliced open and flattened, inlaying them individually on wood, creating a sustainable quintessence of his own. The straw fibres reflect light, changing with the time of day in the lobby and the Baraha Lounge, lending a natural sheen to each panel.

Apart from the fretwork sand dune panels that run through the entire hotel, the rooms and bathrooms resonate with elements from the rich seafaring, maritime history of Qatar, albeit subtly. The metal studs on the walls are a contemporary interpretation of the old wooden beams that extended horizontally from the walls of Qatari homes called danshal, procured with great difficulty by the bedouins due to the lack of natural vegetation in the region, to build sturdy roofs for their clay homes. The beautiful lamp shades are asymmetrically shaped, inspired by Arab dhows and the mirrors in the bathroom hang from ropes that were used at sea for fishing and pearl-diving. The black and white tile work wall behind the bathtub and jacuzzi honours the weaving traditions of Qatari women. I love the heady fragrance the Atelier Cologne Rose Anonyme bath line, a Rose Oud, that’s congruous to the landscape’s Desert Rose crystal formations, used by Qataris as talismans for protection and spirit guidance.

A serene sense of calm envelops you, once you’re inside the pristine and quiet (I loved that!) of your room, and the plush bed is meant for sleeping, especially after an exquisite Oriental Essence treatment at the Spa with its very own indoor swimming pool. Flight fatigue what? Though I worked through most nights on my bed, and that was snug and restful too. Imagine discovering a yoga mat, a jaanamaz and a hair straightener (not just a hairdryer) in your room, not to mention the mini-bar snacks packaged in exclusively designed tin boxes bearing palm trees – this is artistic design commingling with human desires and essentials in a manner most natural and decorous.

The location of the Mandarin Oriental, Doha is enviable, given it’s a short 20-minute drive from Hamad International Airport and is adjacent to the Amiri Diwan, Qatar’s seat of government and the Emir of Qatar, HRH Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani’s palace. It is a five-minute walk to the Msheireb Museum and the redeveloped and very lively (not noisy) and alive Souk Waqif, with its Falcon Souks, a Camel Pen and of course, the Gold Souk. The Museum of Islamic Art, designed by the late I.M. Pei and the National Museum of Qatar, designed by Jean Nouvel to look like the natural Desert Rose crystal formations that are found in Qatar, with inward-curving disks, intersections and cantilevered elements, with 1.5 kilometers of gallery space, giving voice to the unique story of Qatar and its people in an immersive and experiential manner in three chapters — Beginnings, Life in Qatar and The Modern History of Qatar are a short drive away and stand testament to the invested vision of the country’s love and liberal furtherance of the arts. The recherché National Museum of Qatar is a must visit. To give you perspective, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York’s annual budget for new acquisitions is USD 30 million and the Qatar Museums’ is USD 1 billion, chaired by HRH Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani.
gettyimages-1188450522-2048x2048The food is exemplary at all the four restaurants in the hotel, and at the Mandarin and Baraha Lounges. My first meal was an Angus Beef Burger at Aqua, the alfresco rooftop restaurant and bar that serves up easy-sharing dishes like Arabic mezze, sliders and pide.  Mosaic, the specialty nine-kitchen restaurant on the eighth floor is where the vibe is relaxed and the sun filters in through the metal grills inspired by traditional windows with intricate lattice panels called mashrabiya. Even the lifts bear a prominent pearl motif on the metal grills in honour of the pearling history of the country. Volcanic Torched Tuna Sushi, the Thai Beef Salad with a Lucha Libre cocktail here are to live for! I had a Turkish Pide (flat bread made of wheat flour) with Beef Pepperoni and Olive with Oregano and Parmesan for the fist time, and it was great. Mosaic is also where the elegant Qatari ladies breakfast and that says a lot about the food. I loved the Malika Honey, a delicious Qatari honey that’s harvested from the Busaif Apiary, of which 15 beehives are owned by the Mandarin Oriental, Doha as part of their sustainability program. It’s something that should really be sold to the guests at the hotel, it’s that good. The cream-filled Pistachio and Red Velvet Croissants, the Apple Detox Water, the Beef Cecina and all things beef honestly made me extremely happy to breakfast at Mosaic everyday.

Izu, the Mediterranean cuisine restaurant facing the Barahat Msheireb town square, with three seating areas – an indoor ground and mezzanine level and the popular outdoor terrace is where the culinary artistry is at, led by Nigerian chef, Izu Ani. Chef Izu is beyond gifted – Fried Organic Eggs with Foie Gras and Truffle Sauce, the Wagyu burger, Slow Braised Beef Short Ribs with Padron Peppers, the Burrata with Cherry Tomatoes and Basil, Watermelon and Feta Salad, the Mandarin Gelato, the Le Verger drink made with fresh basil leaves, lemon and apple juice – there’s a discernible Izu addition to the simple classics, that takes his creations to a whole new level of delectable, and memorable flavours. He’d Izu’d everything I ate and drank, and loved, from the very first bite and swill to the very last! You have to be Izu’d at Izu people.

The English afternoon tea service at the Baraha Lounge, overlooking the Barahat Msheireb town square, and at the Mandarin Lounge from 2-6PM everyday, is immensely popular with the Qataris and locals. Gilded cakes, pink rose madelines and savouries with bespoke blends anyone? Gelato, the frozen dessert and gelato restaurant, also overlooking the Barahat Msheireb town square hits everyone’s sweet spot with its vast array of flavours, from vegan chocolate to Arabic coffee to anything your heart desires. If The Secret Bar at Izu is rather rad whilst Ambar is its sophisticated equal to quaff in at the hotel.

Newer luxury hotels, unlike the Mandarin Oriental, Doha, aim to make you feel like you could be anywhere in the world once you’re inside, and that just does not cut it for me. I have my own bed at home where I can imagine such inanities in my pyjamas on my own time, thanks, but no thanks! I don’t need to take a flight to Doha to imagine that I am in the Seychelles! Every morning, when I woke up and had my morning Nespresso, I knew I was in Doha and not in a ‘home away from home’. I so despise that sell! Everything in the room, and outside my window overlooking the modern ferej, told me so and this is what I loved the most about staying at the Mandarin Oriental, Doha. I felt like I was invited into the luxe confines of a Qatari home that’s most certainly not mine, or like mine, and I am a treasured guest of theirs for the weekend. And that’s how you feel like you ‘belong’ innately to a new place. The Mandarin Doha team is ebullient and professional, led ably by their General Manager, Martin Schnider.

No evening at the Mandarin Oriental, Doha felt complete without looking out at the molten glow of the Barahat Msheireb town square or a ‘cool’ walk around it, literally. Doha will always be ManDOHArin for me!

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@Rubina A Khan 2019

 

 

Italian-American Cuisine At The BlueBop Cafe, Mumbai

Rubina A Khan reviews The Bluebop Cafe, Mumbai: “Italian-American gluttony at its authentic best, with live jazz performances.”

The Bluebop Cafe is a new jim-dandy of a bar cafe in Mumbai, serving Italian-American cuisine along with a musical side of jazz blues and bop, live. Inspired by the musical evolution of jazz, which came to mean jazz music in Chicago, USA, around 1915, and bebop, which is a style of jazz that came to be in the United States of America in the 1940s, Eesha Sukhi, the owner and creator of The Bluebop Cafe, decided to name her first independent culinary space thus.

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The Bluebop Cafe entrance | Photo: Rubina A Khan

The restaurant is located right on Linking Road, Khar, and not on some long-winding inner bylane with the dreaded no-entry signages. As you walk into the inviting, verdure (a rare sighting in Mumbai) courtyard with wrought-iron benches and an old Peepal tree leaning into it, you are instantly drawn in. I can just imagine myself sitting on one of the benches on a December night, breathing in fresh oxygen from the Peepal tree that it produces at night.

I fell in love with the Asparagus and Polenta that set the tone for the Italian-American food gluttony ahead – the crunch of the freshly sautéed green asparagus spears, along with the polenta and the manchego cheese was beyond delicious. There’s grits of the American South, and then there’s the vegetarian, Indian version, of the classic Italian polenta right here in Mumbai at Bluebop. I’d order two the next time around!

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Asparagus & Polenta | Photo: Rubina A Khan

The Spaghetti Aglio Olio was flavoursome, right down to the last spiral and chilli flake as was the creamy Mushroom Risotto, accompanied by a delightful cocktail called the Citrus Spritzer. The New York style pizzas, and I’m not a pizza person at all, as I owe all my indulgent allegiance to burgers and fries, were delicious. I tried the Goat Cheese and Spinach as well as the Jerk Chicken pizza and the dough was so good that I never thought I’d say that except of course when I’m talking money! Bluebop bakes all their breads in-house and that made all the difference to the pizza crust really.

The desserts are innovative, particularly the Matcha Mousse with fresh Blueberries. The Tiramisu, with a caramelised head with dustings of coffee powder, served with a wine biscuit is as good as it can get outside of Italy. Bluebop sources all its produce locally, all the time staying true to the  regions of Italy and America that the dishes originate from. 

The wine walls, patterned flooring, cane-backed chairs with arm-rests and seating booths lend a 70s vibe to the cafe, but not entirely, as the illuminated bar breaks away with its contemporary design, with mixologist Dinesh Mondkar concocting and crafting the heady cocktails. The culinary team is led by Chef Saurabh Raturi, who interestingly, also moonlights as a musician (a guitar hangs above the kitchen entry) when he’s not developing and perfecting a new dish for the cafe. As I see it, the Bluebop team is poised for culinary greatness as it is knowledgeable, curious and willing to adapt, without a trace of the “I know it all” affectations, in an ever evolving and extremely competitive business.

You might slip up on the ‘gram at this swingin’ cafe, diving into the Italian-American cuisine at its authentic best as soon as the dishes are placed on your table, overcome by the gluttony of it all. But then again, it’d be sinful not to give in! 

The BlueBop Cafe is open all days, from 12:00PM-1AM.
Sunday Brunch: 12PM-3PM.
The BlueBop Cafe
318, Linking Rd, Khar West,
Mumbai 400052 India
+91 22 62366444 | 93 722 02586

Disclaimer: Any part of the content on the rubinaakhan.com website cannot be reproduced without prior permission and crediting the website and the author.

@Rubina A Khan 2019

RUBINA’S RADAR | FASHION DESIGN COUNCIL OF INDIA’S QUATERNITY FINALE AT LMIFW SS 2020

The Spring Summer 2020 edition of India Fashion Week, presented by the Fashion Design Council of India, culminated with a grand finale on the 12th of October, 2019 at the Dhyan Chand National Stadium in New Delhi. Rajesh Pratap Singh, Manish Arora, Schulen Fernandes for Wendell Rodricks and Anamika Khanna made up the finale quaternity that was as disparate a show as it was a rousing one.

All four designers showcased lines that were quintessentially reflective of their unequivocal fashion nucleus. Actor Kangana Ranaut broke Rodricks’ tribal whites and blues, Khanna’s embroidered conglomerations, Singh’s effervescent fluoro pops and Arora’s pink-dominant psychedelic synchronisation, in a black and white number, with leather accessories. Ranaut’s runway strut in the crisp ensemble lent the very coveted Bollywood sheen to the inherent shimmer of the polki diamonds around her neck.

Getting them to close an inclusive week (four days actually!) of fashion together, was spearheaded by Sunil Sethi, President of the FDCI. “I feel it worked out well. It is difficult to please everyone but LMIFW SS 20 was definitely a success. I am very happy,” said an obviously elated Sethi from Bhutan, where he’s keeping royal company with the ruling family of the mountain kingdom.

NEW DELHI, INDIA – OCTOBER 12: Schulen Fernandes, Anamika Khanna, Wendell Rodricks, Kangana Ranaut, Sunil Sethi, Nitin Passi, Manish Arora, Rajesh Pratap Singh and Dipin Passi at the Lotus Make-Up India Fashion Week Spring Summer 2020 Finale presented by the FDCI on October 12, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

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NEW DELHI, INDIA – OCTOBER 12: Kangana Ranaut at the Lotus Make-Up India Fashion Week Spring Summer 2020 Finale presented by the FDCI on October 12, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

Inclusivity, with the hashtag MyFashionMyTribe sent out an assured energy to everyone that fashion is really about you exercising your power to express yourself just the way you are, and want to, without any fear or inhibitions. Every kind of person was celebrated by the designers on the runway in their collections – acid burn victims, curves, transgender… and that is really what the world is rightfully leaning in towards, steadily.

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Here is the FDCI presented Lotus MakeUp India Fashion Week Spring Summer 2020 finale in pictures:

SCHULEN FERNANDES FOR WENDELL RODRICKS

RAJESH PRATAP SINGH

ANAMIKA KHANNA

MANISH ARORA

Disclaimer: Any part of the content on the rubinaakhan.com website cannot be reproduced without prior permission and crediting the website and the author.

©Rubina A Khan 2019

RUBINA’S RADAR | INDIAN FASHION’S NEW CURRENCY – COUTURE CARATS

This month has been rather august for Sabyasachi with his jewellery line pulling in some colossal coin for the fashion house. And, I am not using the word ‘colossal’ airily here. An exhibition of heritage and fine jewellery by Sabyasachi, comprising of gold, uncut and fine diamonds and coloured stones was held at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel (a favourite Taj of mine!) in Mumbai on the 13th & 14th of August, 2019. Over the two day exhibit, the jewellery sales brought in an unexpected and staggering double digits for the label. “We had good sales at the jewellery exhibit, but it’s not dignified for us to flaunt figures and it’s not a good business practice either,” says Sabyasachi.

Ever since he launched his jewellery line, it has compelled every fashion designer in India to view diamonds and precious stones with a design perspective, never mind the naysaying and economic slowdown whinging all around. Sabyasachi brides and grooms now have the added luxury of getting their bridal dreams realised in totality, in both fabric and stones, at any one of his flagship stores across India. And with the high numbers that the Mumbai jewellery exhibit brought in, it goes without saying that Sabyasachi definitely knows how to pull his weight not just in khadi and chiffons, but in molten gold and diamonds too! And his loyalists are only queuing up for more.

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Sabyasachi Heritage Jewellery | Photo: Sabyasachi Instagram 

Emboldened by the response to his private jewellery viewings over the past two years and the multiple city exhibits across India this year, the couturier is now ready to open his first jewellery store, situated on the third level of his flagship store in Kala Ghoda in the festive quarter of 2019 in Mumbai. If the bejewelled whispers are anything to go by, the store will be a blinding sight to behold.

Manish Malhotra, fresh off Maahrumysha, a shimmering velveteen of an alluring show, that kicked off Lakme Fashion Week’s Winter/Festive 2019 edition, is launching his new jewellery line this year. Malhotra’s show on August 20th at Famous Studios, Mumbai had models wearing Raniwala 1181 jewels on the runway, including his showstopper, actor Katrina Kaif, and some of his favoured Bollywood front row regulars and social lights. It was a lucent teaser of what is to come from his jewellery design board.

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Katrina Kaif in Manish Malhotra’s Maahrumysha line | Photo: Katrina Kaif’s Instagram

“I have been carrying a Raniwala 1881 line, curated by me, in my Mumbai store since August 3rd, 2019, with some pieces at the Delhi store. But our next collection together will be the one I am designing for them. I chose to collaborate with Raniwala 1881 as they have years of expertise behind them, making genuine, good quality jewels,” says Malhotra of his upcoming jewellery line that will be available come November 2019.

Not one to conform to perform, Tarun Tahiliani is not launching an eponymous jewellery line this season, but he intends to. Having had a peripheral jewellery collection in the past, not a full-fledged one per se, he is serious about launching one going forward.

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Tarun Tahiliani’s Tarakanna couture collection | Photo: Rubina A Khan

“I am always wary of selling things that I can’t verify unless there is a buyback guarantee. I’ve heard too many horror stories of people who are buying things that are not what they claim to be. The problem lies in the quality of coloured stones and heating versus natural and the like. So I approached the World Gold Council as they took the guarantee, and they also have a buyback guarantee with the person I dabble and work with. Only if the World Gold Council and the Gold Standard have certified something, will I lend my name to it. My reputation and brand integrity are of paramount importance to me and if I don’t have the necessary tools to verify something, I don’t want to sell it bearing my name,” says Tahiliani.

As far as jewellery lines go, not surprisingly, Rohit Bal has been there and done that. “I’ve done a jewellery line before, though it wasn’t an entire collection. And I am not saying no to launching one either in the coming months,” says Bal of a possible jewellery collection.

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A model in Rohit Bal couture | Photo: Rubina A Khan

Given that India’s biggest couturiers have successfully launched their own jewellery collections, or are planning to soon, it won’t be long before every designer in the country will be selling a bridal outfit, replete with its own essential accoutrements in couture carats. No doubt some of them will be decidedly questionable on the couture and carat fronts, but it definitely won’t be a deterrent for any designer aspiring to follow the successful business expansion models of India’s biggest couture houses in a bid to rise up in the fashion ranks.

Jewellery collaborations have always been a part of India’s bridal business, but couture carat collections seem to be the new fashion currency for Indian designers. In a business that is as plagiarised with a knock-off on every street as it is, designing couture carats is a fiscally viable way forward, complementing their couture collections. Couture and carats designed by your favourite designer is a win-win for everyone. Brides and grooms couldn’t ask for more now or could they?

Disclaimer: Any part of the content on the rubinaakhan.com website cannot be reproduced without prior permission and crediting the website and the author.

©Rubina A Khan 2019

India Gets An Updated Model Tenancy Act 2019 | Gulf News

India’s rental housing market, trammelled by archaic laws and ambiguity, is adapting to the pragmatic ameliorations outlined by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her inaugural Union Budget 2019 speech. Sitharaman’s proposed regulations in the Indian realty market have since made way for the Model Tenancy Act 2019, drafted by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, that addresses the relationship between the lessor and lessee realistically and fairly.

The new tenancy law limits the security deposit to two months’ rent and lists heavy penalties for tenants overstaying and not adhering to the contractual terms of their rental agreements. An overstay will cost a tenant twice the rent for the first two months, that quadruples in the subsequent months. However, during such a period, the landlords are not allowed to cut off essential utilities like water and electricity. The Act also talks about creating special courts to deal with disputes between tenants and landlords and puts the obligation of carrying out repairs, maintenance and upkeep of the property like painting on the owner. While the landlord can’t increase the rent during the middle of the tenancy contract, the tenant can’t sublet the premises without prior consent of the owner. The Act aims to increase accountability in alignment with the government’s equitable development plans in the housing sector. The Centre has left it to the states to implement the Act or to amend it in accordance with their existing rental laws.

Mumbai | Rubina A Khan

Bandra-Worli Sea Link | Photo: Rubina A Khan

The Maharashtra government has decided to enact it for new constructions and introduce an amendment that protects properties governed by the Maharashtra Rent Control Act 1999. Landlords have domineered the rental business in India, and how, for far too long, especially in Mumbai, the only Indian city to feature in a top 20 list of expensive prime residential markets in the world recorded in Knight Frank’s Wealth Report 2019. In Mumbai, a real estate agent’s opening and closing has always been about what the owner wants, demands rather, barely skimming the surface of what a tenant wants, barring the monthly rent and astronomical security deposits. The broker is almost always submissive to an owner’s preferences, despite the tenant being as much a paying customer as the landlord. This parti pris dynamic needs to change along with the Act towards a balanced equation between tenants and landlords. Tenants need to rent and owners need their money – it’s a simple business deal and it’s about time it’s conducted like one.

The realty business in India is inescapably going to change with the Act, giving impetus to luxury rentals at the expense of buys. The biggest incentive in the rental sector is the security deposit being restricted to two months’ rent, allowing a tenant to utilise and invest the money for herself/himself, rather than blocking it with a landlord that earns interest off it. The Mumbai rental market stands to gain the most from the new Act.

Luxury rentals are far more fiscally appealing and viable with the new Act coming into play than ever before. The Act increases the confidence and security for both, landlords and tenants, getting into rental agreements aligned with the new norms, leaving minimum room for legal discord. Landlords will have to desist from imposing delusional demands on a tenant like sky-high security deposits and maintenance of the property and tenants will be legally bound to pay the weighty fines for overstay and misuse of a rented property.

This feature first appeared in Gulf News on August 3, 2019

©Rubina A Khan 2019

India’s Property Market Rides Election Wave | Gulf News

The triumphant win of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister of the Indian subcontinent for a second term, in the world’s largest election, has lent maximal credence to the country’s realty business in a manner most exceptional. The ruling government’s first term, contentiously driven by infrastructural development and financial realignments like Demonetization, RERA (Real Estate Regulation and Development Act) and GST (Goods & Service Tax) hit the cash-rich realty business particularly hard. Predictably, it was met with uproarious dissent. But, luxury realty seems to have taken a real turn since the legalized reorientations in the business, with antagonism giving way to smarts.

The luxe life is an addiction like no other. As long as there is human desire to live like royalty and be an in-your-face show-off, luxury real estate in India is headed forward. It stands at a profitable vantage point today, espousing all three acts, advantageous to both, builders and buyers. Indian realty expects investments to double to $10 billion in 2019. The paper trail and financial transparency accorded to the business is dominant, making it a streamlined, and somewhat trustworthy experience today. But there’s no denying that the business is devoid of the robustness and speed it once basked in, languishing ever so often in protracted sales.
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RERA seems to have had the most impact so far, not so much on newer developers as it has on the bigger players with large, unsold inventories, given it is now mandatory for 70 percent of the money to be deposited in bank accounts through cheques, restricting unaccounted money being flushed into the realty business. Aside from its financial transparency, a RERA requisite that’s very conducive to prospective buyers, is that builders are obliged to quote prices based on carpet area (inclusive of usable spaces like the kitchen and bathrooms) and not super built-up area. Having said that, RERA needs to hasten the pace, and frequency, in providing aggrieved buyers who need long overdue compensations from unscrupulous developers across India. The clean-up in the business has only just begun. It is anything but cleaned up, as far as realty racketeers are concerned, despite the new regulations and progressive revamps of archaic Indian property laws like Insolvency & Bankruptcy Code and the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act being in place. For the business to regain the implicit trust of consumers and hit immediate sale highs, compensating buyers for their losses is vital, and it should become a regular occurrence as compared to the rarity it is today.

Luxury residences and serviced luxury residences make for accelerated buys and sells in India, and rightly so, as time is a luxury the wealthy can’t afford to indulge in. Newer developers in Mumbai like Aditya Kilachand, Partner at Innovation Estates LLP, seem to be on the right beach of luxury realty, building villas by the sea in Alibag, a mere three-hour drive from Mumbai. Tapping into Alibag’s infrastructure, the improved connectivity and proximity to Mumbai, its existing community and fairly undervalued land prices is just realty forethought and judiciousness. Seven luxury serviced villas called L’Hermitage, custom-designed by Sussanne Khan of The Charcoal Project, will be ready for some serious selling upwards of 10CR by Sotheby’s International Realty India, come July 2019.
villWith all the luxury constructions and developments, there is a new shift in the market of late, that of “aspirational luxury” residences that aren’t remotely luxurious, barring their price points. Priced at 7CR upwards for a 3BHK in the business suburb of the Bandra Kurla Complex in Mumbai, these residences allude to a luxurious lifestyle with cleverly scripted and assertive marketing hype. The insides of these residential towers are at most basic, with a garden path, a swimming pool and some semblance of a gym thrown in, with views of the city’s under-construction skyline off a balcony, masquerading as luxury amenities. Needless to add, it’s a “white elephant” investment for owners as resale inventory is at its lowest and unrealistic rentals dictated by the builder’s team, with few takers, stand testimony to the “mimic luxe” gimmick it’s established on. These kind of constructions need to be reined in, as these will lead to a catastrophically high, over-priced, unsold inventory in the country that will affect consumers far more than the builders.

This feature first appeared in Gulf News on June 9, 2019

©Rubina A Khan 2019

RUBINA’S RADAR | ISHA AMBANI PIRAMAL IS INDIA’S NEWEST FASHION FORCE IN THE MAKING

Fashion keeners are still effusing over Sabyasachi’s Kashgaar Bazaar runway presentation in collaboration with Christian Louboutin earlier this month. But more so, because they can’t have, rather can’t buy, what they saw! Sabyasachi’s stores in Kolkata, New Delhi, Hyderabad and Mumbai are inundated with requests from Sabyasachi enthusiasts everyday, for the beautiful Kashgaar Bazaar resort collection, only to be told that none of the 125 pieces shown on the runway will ever be made. Not even the green toga sari that Bollywood’s actor extraordinaire, Alia Bhatt wore to the show, or the bandhni lehenga (fresh off the runway) she wore soon after.

But guess whose natural beauty and poise, wearing a custom black sari made by Sabyasachi especially for the show, has been causing an anomalous fashion delirium since? None other than Mukesh and Nita Ambani’s daughter, Isha Ambani Piramal! Innumerable, not to mention persistent demands, are being made to the couturier for the black sari Isha had worn. “I do not do any merchandise change on client pressure. The black sari was always going to be a part of our production,” says Sabyasachi of the sari, that will soon retail a little over INR 1,00,000 for those desiring it. It sure ain’t easy overshadowing anything or anyone in Bollywood in India, particularly when it comes to fashion, but Isha seems to have done just that, by being herself. As I see it, Isha is India’s newest fashion force in the making. Black Sari Woman anyone?

Isha Ambani Piramal in a custom Sabyasachi black sari | Photo: Vijit Gupta

Pinky Reddy hosted a celebratory lunch for her birthday on Saturday, April 20th, at Townhall, the latest restaurant on Mumbai’s ever-evolving culinary landscape for her friends in the city. Given Pinky’s convivial essence, it was an ebullient afternoon, well-attended by Mumbai’s beautiful women – Poonam Dhillon (who also had a birthday on the 18th) Rita Dhody, Poonam Bhagat, Rashmi Thackeray, Lali Dhawan, Laila Khan, Gayatri Oberoi, Madhoo Shah and Queenie Singh amongst many others.

Pinky Reddy | Photo: Rubina A Khan

The afternoon made me wonder if Cyndi Lauper’s classic track, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, should be reprised, and swiftly, as Women Just Wanna Take Selfies! Pinky’s husband, Sanjay Reddy, vice-chairman of the GVK conglomerate, was seen, given he’s taller than Amitabh Bachchan standing at all of six feet and five inches, but barely heard. But he made sure everyone was well taken care of, in quintessential Reddy style, disarming smile et al. This is what a real marriage is all about, rare, but there.

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©Rubina A Khan 2019

Unmasking Sustainable Food At Masque, Mumbai

Rubina A Khan reviews the Chef’s Tasting Menu at Masque, Mumbai: “an indulgent and wondrous night of sustainable culinary artistry, Indian style.”

The ‘it’ word right now, worldwide, is sustainable, making it lit to use it in any parlance. Sustainable and sustainability is used rather loosely by most fashion and food companies to sound evolved, aware and green-conscious, making the veracity of their sustainable credo rather questionable, but not at Masque, a wilderness-to-table restaurant in the erstwhile mill lands of central Mumbai. Masque’s ingredient-driven sustainable food experience is real, and how! Together, as owners of Masque, Chef Prateek Sadhu and entrepreneur Aditi Dugar have created an indigenously Indian culinary experience that is inimitably theirs, since September 2016, incomparable to any in the country.

Fern Mallis, creator of New York Fashion Week and the host of Fashion Icons With Fern Mallis at the 92Y, believes “sustainable is the new black”. A well-travelled, food enthusiast like Fern, not to mention fashion legend, made for the best company, unmasking sustainable food at Masque, starting the night off with a round of cocktails. She went with The Calabura, from their Wind series, made with Grey Goose Vodka, Aperol, Lemon, Panama Berries and Sweet Lime and I had the heavenly Aquacollins cocktail, from their Earth line, also made with Grey Goose Vodka, Rose, Fennel Seeds and Saffron Soda, which took me back to my time in Kashmir, watching my grandfather see off dinner guests at home with a box of the elusive saffron strands.

Masque’s 10-course chef’s tasting menu, a first for an Indian restaurant, comprises of seasonal dishes made from ingredients sourced locally and sustainably in India. The restaurant’s first course is always served on their pristine white kitchen counter, which is very conducive for the ‘gram. We chose to have all our courses atop their bar stools, amidst the harmonious and seamless action in the kitchen with a Harvey Specter (Suits) quote of the day courting us through the night. No screaming or flying pots and pans here – just a very decorous and synergised team alongside Sous Chefs, Kamlesh Negi and Rahul Sharma, creating art on our plates, taking us through the finest dining experience in Mumbai.

The first course kicked off with a sweet and savoury explosion of flavours with Kanji, made from seasonal black carrots usually found in Northern India, but are being grown on a land patch outside of Pune, especially for the restaurant. Next up was fresh Barramundi fish, not flown in from Australian waters, but from our very own Andaman Islands, with Raw Mango and Cucumber, followed by Masque’s version of a Caesar salad on a bed of ice – Romaine Lettuce with Garlic, Shrimp and Cured Egg Yolk which was beyond delectable. I had the the Eggplant Gujiya – twisted on its sweet ‘Holi’ head into a savoury creation akin to a Latin American Empanada, with Beetroot Yogurt and Fern had the Carbonara Gujiya. The Pani Puri was accompanied by a Cherry Tomato Tart after which the fresh Mackerel on Buckwheat Toast just blew me away! I have never had mackerel that didn’t come out of a tin, and definitely not one as delicious as this. By the time the Lobster Tzir Czot (Kashmiri style) with Gooseberry, the Katlam with Buffalo Tongue, Brain Butter, Salsify (a root vegetable I’d never heard of, let alone ever eaten) with Garlic Chive Butter, another round of Barramundi in a Curry Leaf and Coconut Broth and the Duck Liver with Gutti Aloo, Morels and Seaweed Butter came up, we were both overwhelmed by the culinary artistry of the chefs at Masque. “I could be anywhere in the world right now – it does not feel like Mumbai at all. This food is just unbelievable!” said Fern and I couldn’t agree more. The night ended only after four rounds of desserts (yes, four!) were washed down with the most deliciously warm Kashmiri Kahva (tea) with almond slivers.

Masque aims to use ingredients and produce that is locally grown and sourced, with exceptions like the duck, that doesn’t fly in from a freezer in China, but fresh off Gayatri Farms in Gurugram, Haryana or the Barramundi fish from the Andamans. The owners travelled across India to bring back the country’s forgotten ingredients, specifically from the Himalayan belt and it shows. There is no hard-selling of the food at Masque – it is all about the food you want to experience, with every dish telling it’s own flavourful story – from the roots it was made of to the salt sprinkled on it. The mountainous berry, Kaafal, a favourite, found in the Tehri Garhwal region, is what the chefs are working on to make desserts from, for their summer menu. The menu does not have any pretentious names for the dishes – just the ingredients, with the chefs expanding on how, and why, way they came to be. Informed chefs leading an engaged team is what makes for a memorable culinary experience at Masque. Occasionally, the restaurant hosts pop-ups with Michelin-star chefs, the next one coming up in May with Chef Jordy Navarra of Toyo Eatery in the Philippines.

In a world afflicted, and unfortunately accepting of mediocrity, Masque is unparalleled in India in every aspect of hospitality – right from the reservations team, to its owners, bartenders, mixologists, management team, chefs and the star of the restaurant – its incredible food! Masque was an indulgent and wondrous night of sustainable culinary artistry, Indian style.

Masque is open Tuesday-Sunday, with 7:30-8:00PM and 9:00-9:30PM seatings for dinner. Closed on Mondays.
Sunday Brunch: 12:30PM onwards.
Masque Restaurant
Unit G3, Laxmi Woollen Mills, Off Dr E Moses Road,
Mahalaxmi, Mumbai 400011 India
+91 22 4973 7431/32 | 98 190 69222

Disclaimer: Any part of the content on the rubinaakhan.com website cannot be reproduced without prior permission and crediting the website and the author.

@Rubina A Khan 2019

RUBINA’S RADAR | A VERY FASHIONABLY YOURS APRIL

India’s couturier extraordinaire, Sabyasachi’s nonpareil fashion métier makes him an exalted being in the world of fashion. Today, the enviable designer ceases to be just about khaki, silks, embroidery, jewellery and his L’Oréal Paris x Sabyasachi Calcutta (a non-negotiable term when it came to his historic collaboration) makeup line. Sabyasachi Mukherjee, of the eponymous label Sabyasachi, is a vibe, and a very desired one at that.

NEW DELHI, NEW DELHI – MARCH 04: Indian fashion designer and couturier extraordinaire, Sabyasachi, opened his first flagship store in the capital, and his fourth in the country, spread over 13,500 square feet with two separate wings housing bespoke bridal wear, jewellery and accessories for women and men at Kutub Serai, Mehrauli on March 5, 2016 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

From Bollywood actor Anushka Sharma and cricketer Virat Kohli’s wedding in Tuscany in 2017 to Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh’s ceremonies in Lake Como in 2018 to Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas’ coupling in Jodhpur in 2018 to the Ambani twins – Isha Ambani and Anand Piramal in Udaipur in 2018 to Akash Ambani and Shloka Mehta in Mumbai in 2019, the fashion artistry at all these extravagant weddings was designed and orchestrated by Sabyasachi. In a country where bridal wear, our equivalent of the West’s haute couture, is of supreme importance when it comes to the big spend, all these celebrated brides and grooms from diverse worlds of film, sport, music and business wanted Sabyasachi to “do” their clothes and jewellery on their big day. And that’s saying a lot because there certainly is no dearth of designers doing bridal collections in India. For someone who is on a no-sugar health plan, he sure is taking the biggest bite from giant wedding laddoos, India’s sweetest business!

Sabyasachi celebrates 20 years of his fashion story this year, with Kashgaar Bazaar – a runway presentation, in collaboration with the world’s most famous red-soled cobbler, Christian Louboutin on April 6th in Mumbai. The fashion extravaganza has international guests flying down especially for it and it’s already blowing up everyone’s minds with expectations of Sabyasachi’s grandiloquent style. Mumbai’s temperatures are soaring, but the anticipation of what Sabyasachi’s bringing to the city in April is taking it to another level of fashion heat!

NEW DELHI, INDIA – JULY 29: Indian fashion designer and couturier, Sabyasachi checks in on models and last minute fittings just before his opening show for the Fashion Design Council of India’s (FDCI) Amazon India Couture Week 2015. Sabyasachi and Lebanese shoe designer Christian Louboutin collaborated on the couture line together with his famous red-soled shoes adding glamour to the shimmering regality of the couturier’s designs at the Taj Palace Hotel on July 29, 2015 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

Pharrell Williams makes the world a very happy place with his music, but he wants to make it happier with his fashion and design aesthete with a colourful collection for Parisian fashion house, Chanel. Williams is the first ever guest designer for the fashion house, having collaborated on it with the late Karl Lagerfeld, Chanel’s creative director for 36 years. It was Lagerfeld who named the collection Chanel Pharrell.

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 24: Pharrell Williams arrives at the 91st Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood and Highland on February 24, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)

To coincide with the launch at Chanel’s flagship in Seoul, Korea on Friday, March 29, the Grammy winning artiste released a behind-the-scenes video of the collection. In it, the multihyphenate talks about gender-fluidity, meeting Karl Lagerfeld and the importance and influence of the number 5 in the collection as well as Akira and motorcycle gangs.

Yellow bathrobes, brightly-colored hoodies and embroidered graffiti sweatshirts, terry-cloth bucket hats, sunglasses, T-shirts, opulent diamond jewellery and the double C bags make up the Chanel Pharrell collection, dedicated to both men and women. And, sneakers with hand-drawn text and doodles, but of course, and loafers and sliders. After the Seoul launch, the complete Chanel Pharrell collection releases worldwide on April 4.

A very fashionably yours April indeed!

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©Rubina A Khan 2019

RUBINA’S RADAR | CHIVAS 18 ALCHEMY 2019 IN NEW DELHI

A touchdown in New Delhi fires up all five senses of sight, sound, smell, touch and taste in a human, instanter, sensus communis (common sense) be damned. And the night of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16 was no different. Chivas 18 Alchemy’s majestic third edition traversed the sixth sense at The Pavilion, DLF Emporio, belying Aristotle’s postulations of the non-existence of it with inimitable ardour. The five virtuosos playing host to a splendorous evening of the undefined and the very refined, were actor Malaika Arora, fashion designer Manish Malhotra, artist Sudarshan Shetty, fashion designer Rahul Mishra and jewellery designer Siddharth Kasliwal. They interpreted the senses of Fantasy, Intuition, Love, Memory and Déjà vu, with their muse being the award-winning Chivas 18 whisky blend.

NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: Fashion designers Ashish N Soni, Rahul Mishra and Manish Malhotra and Malaika Arora, jewelry designer Siddharth Kasliwal, artist Sudarshan Shetty and Chivas India’s Pulkith Modi attend the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

Malaika Arora sets off flames of fantasy wherever she goes, so turning into an illusionist of fantasy, alongside fashion designer and curator of the night, Ashish N Soni, came naturally to her. She created an immersive and polychromatic world of the real and imagined, using the Chivas whisky drop, brimful of 85 notes. Arora (soon to be Kapoor) looked stunning in a white ensemble by Soni, accessorised with an emerald and diamond necklace from Siddharth Kasliwal’s Gem Palace, as she took guests on a tour of her fantasia wonderland.

NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: Malaika Arora at the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: Malaika Arora and her installation are seen at the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: Malaika Arora attends the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: Fashion designer Ashish N Soni at the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

Manish Malhotra created an amber-toned Chivas 18 bar, in what is now recognised as the Chivas Alchemy blue, to instantiate his sense of intuition. It was a glimmering mirage of mirrors, with glamorous people all around it, drinking to the night, and into the night.

NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: A general view of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: Fashion designer Manish Malhotra attends the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: A view of the bar at Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

Sudarshan Shetty interpreted the sense of love, by juxtaposing a shattered chandelier on a dining table against a celluloid version of the same table and chandelier, set to Indian ragas. The eight-minute odd film spoke of love in different languages, expressed by diverse people. It was as evocatively beautiful as it was unnerving.

NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: Artist Sudarshan Shetty attends the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: Artist Sudarshan Shetty’s interpretation of love with an immersive celluloid experience at the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

Siddharth Kasliwal designed an arresting Chivas 18 bottle in gold with precious stones, over period of three months. Just looking at it in all its golden glory was enough to tempt a heist among the women, ala Oceans 8. The bejewelled masterpiece was an ode to the lost art of Indian craftsmanship through generations – a revival of lost legacies so to speak. Needless to add, but it was the most photographed installation of the night.

NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: A bejewelled Chivas 18 bottle designed by jeweller Siddharth Kasliwal for three months to evoke the sense of deja vu, at an estimated value of $50,000 at the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: Parag Gupta with jewelry designer Siddharth Kasliwal and his mother Kalpana Kasliwal and brother Samarth Kasliwal attend the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: A view of the bejeweled Chivas 18 bottle designed by jewelry designer Siddharth Kasliwal at the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

Rahul Mishra’s installation for the sense of memory saw tambour frame hoops, creating a chandelier of memories in a play of light and shadows, blending layers of time with the ingredients found in Chivas 18. The unfinished embroideries on the ivory organza fabric was intentional to elicit one to add an element of one’s own memory to the pattern. To elucidate something as intimate and fleeting as memory, not to mention intangible, with something as simple as embroidery hoops was astounding.

NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: Fashion designer Rahul Mishra’s embroidery patterns on organza are seen at the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: Fashion designer Rahul Mishra’s embroidery patterns on organza are seen at the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: Fashion designer Rahul Mishra poses with his work at the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: Fashion designer Rahul Mishra’s embroidery patterns on organza are seen at the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

Pulkith Modi – Chivas India with wife Teena, Samarth Kasliwal, Kalpana Kasliwal, Parag Gupta, Guillaume Girard-Redyet – CEO Pernod-Ricard India MD South Asia and his wife Cecille, Schulen Fernandes, Rajesh Pratap Singh, Nida Mahmood, Rajiv Makhni and Ruchi Malhotra and Vikram Baidyanath were just some of the fashionable guests in attendance at Chivas Alchemy 2019.  “This is undoubtedly the most sophisticated and refined luxury event in India with the most genteel guests,” said Schulen Fernandes, Creative Director of the fashion label Wendell Rodricks. Touché!

Disclaimer: Any part of the content on the rubinaakhan.com website cannot be reproduced without prior permission and crediting the website and the author.

©Rubina A Khan 2019