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.

IMG_2612

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!

IMG_2618

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 | THE FIRST WEEK OF 2018

RUBINA’S RADAR 

2017 ended with a thunderous affirmation of Salman “Tiger” Khan being more than just alive with ₹300 crore and counting at the box office with Tiger Zinda Hai. 2018 opened with a worldwide reverberation of Oprah Winfrey’s acceptance speech, in Atelier Versace in Time’s Up black at the 75th Annual Golden Globe Awards in Los Angeles. Add a celebrated Sri Lankan/Japanese masterchef to that and the first week of 2018’s been all about film, fashion, food and fiercely female.

Sri Lankan chef, Dharshan Munidasa of the famed Ministry Of Crab in Colombo, Sri Lanka, is finally bringing his restaurant to Mumbai in May 2018. Munidasa, of both Sri Lankan and Japanese descent, owns Ministry Of Crab, one of the World’s Top 50 Restaurants 2017, alongside business partners and cricketing legends, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakarra in his home country. The masterchef was in the city for a day with Jayawardene to announce the opening of the restaurant, in collaboration with Gourmet Investments Pvt Ltd at the newly opened, The Runway Project, in Phoenix Mills. The signing of the partnership amidst flashbulbs was rather unfashionably Trump-esque, but aside from that, it was a mirthful evening. There’s always a story behind everything and everyone famous today, including Munidasa. India’s best known wine connoisseur, Sanjay Menon, chanced upon Munidasa’s culinary skills at his standalone Japanese restaurant, Nihonbashi in Colombo, about a decade ago, when Ministry Of Crab did not even exist. Menon is a friend Munidasa values highly as his word of mouth, and a private pop-up dinner at the ITC Parel that he organised with Munidasa in the kitchen some moons ago, created the Munidasa magic that subsequently led to the opening of the first Ministry Of Crab. Mumbai will be the second outpost of the restaurant, the location of which still being a classified secret, and the third is slated to open in Bangkok, Thailand later this year. Mumbai is ready for some “crab excellence” Munidasa style, this summer.

A new resto-bar, Mashhad is opening this January at a first-of-its-kind location in Mumbai. Mashhad is situated right inside the entrance corridor of the Taj Santacruz hotel at the city’s domestic airport in Santacruz. Comprising of Persian-Lebanese-Indian cuisine, it is an unusual spot to open a fine-dining, only by reservation, restaurant and lounge. Mashhad was scheduled to open on Salman Khan’s birthday on December 27th, with him as the guest of honour, but it had to be postponed to January due to unforeseeable circumstances. Khan will be at Mashhad on opening night, supposedly on the 10th of this month, alongside a smattering of celebrities and wannashines who’d like to reaffirm their own existence in the presence of the elusive Tiger.

And the United States created fiercely female history that stands testament to the fact that America is a land where dreams and aspirations come true. Oprah Winfrey received the Cecil B. DeMille Award Lifetime Achievement Award at the 75th Annual Golden Globes in LA with an acceptance speech that will reverberate for years to come, not to mention the long standing ovation she received from everyone in the room at the Beverly Hilton. Winfrey is the first African-American woman to receive this award, bestowed by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for “outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment”. “In 1964, I was a little girl sitting on the linoleum floor of my mother’s house in Milwaukee watching Anne Bancroft present the Oscar for Best Actor at the 36th Academy Awards. She opened the envelope, and said five words that literally made history: ‘The winner is Sidney Poitier.’ Up to the stage came the most elegant man I had ever seen. I remember his tie was white and, of course, his skin was black. And I’d never seen a black man being celebrated like that. But all I can do is quote and say that the explanation in Sidney’s performance in Lilies of the Field, ‘Amen, amen. Amen, amen’. In 1982, Sidney received the Cecil B. DeMille Award right here at the Golden Globes, and it is not lost on me that at this moment, there are some little girls watching as I become the first black woman to be given this same award. I’d like to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press Association because we all know that the press is under siege these days, but we also know that it is the insatiable dedication to uncovering the absolute truth that keeps us from turning a blind eye to corruption and to injustice, to tyrants and victims and secrets and lies. I want to say that I value the press more than ever before as we try to navigate these complicated times, which brings me to this: what I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have. And I’m especially proud and inspired by all the women who have felt strong enough and empowered enough to speak up and share their personal stories,” said Winfrey on stage.

If the rumblings of Winfrey running for the US Presidency 2020 are true, and she does run, I will be the happiest girl in the world. I too, was once a little girl, watching The Oprah Winfrey Show every chance I got, being mesmerised by her work, her kindness, her humour and laughter and her unflailing faith in the fabric of humanity. I learnt a lot from her talk show – right from serious issues plaguing the world, exposes on the macabre practices of mankind, every fun fashion and makeup item on her favourites list, what books to read, Maya Angelou poems, her philanthropic work across the world and every celebrity I should know of, and wanted to meet, through her show. She made me believe I could do anything I wanted to, and in the greater tomorrows to come.

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 2018

Christmas Brunch At Tiqri, Taj Santacruz Mumbai

Rubina A Khan reviews the Christmas Brunch at Tiqri, Mumbai: “the delectable turkey, carved beautifully, turned a sunny Christmas Day brunch into an exceptionally merry and indulgent one.”

IMG_9792

Roast Butterball Turkey

What’s Christmas without roast turkey, plum cake, mulled wine, gingerbread houses and Santa Claus bumbling around with merry ho-ho-hos? Tiqri, the all-day dining restaurant at the Taj Santacruz Hotel in Mumbai had all that and more. Watching the turkey being carved onto your plate in the sun-dappled restaurant, with its glass ceiling rising 60-foot upwards into the airport skies, alongside an inlayed mural of the Tree of Life was delightful, with the anticipation of it all adding to the excitement. The bird was succulent, with just the right amount of crackling and glaze with accompaniments ranging from the classic Brussels sprouts and carrots to panko-crust fried haricot beans and snow peas. The cranberry sauce and turkey gravy was exquisite in taste and texture, enhancing the intrinsic flavours of the roasted butterball turkey, a definite star of Christmas Day Brunch. Joy to the world!

Only in India can a Christmas menu comprise of Indian favourites like Mutton Biryani, Keema Kaleji, Appam and Vegetable Stew, Dahi Kebabs and Multi-grain Chillas, alongside Oysters, Cold Cuts, Caviar and Beetroot Ravioli and holiday essentials. But everyone seemed to have a favourite from the expansive menu. The fluffiest and most delicious appams, like clouds on a plate, made by Chef Subodh Katre, distracted me from the turkey so much so that I made a little Christmas Turkey Appam Wrap of my own. It was so good!

The dessert station, which was literally a mile long, was sinfully sweet. The Stollen, inspired by the traditional German holiday bread, was wonderful with a marzipan centre akin to Niederegger Lübeck, a favourite of mine. The Christmas Plum Cake was extremely addictive, and you just couldn’t stop at a single slice. That would be a travesty in itself to the hard work and innumerable hours put in to making it, along with the rest of decadent sweet heaven by Pastry Chef, Pankaj Chauhan.

Tiqri’s band of chefs did justice to a bird that most often than not, goes cold turkey in India, turning it into a memorable part of the decadent feast. With all that food and hotel staff warmer than the Mumbai sunshine, it was the happiest place to be on a Monday afternoon celebrating a joyous holiday with food, laughter and a fit and cheerful (albeit carb-starved) Santa.

Tiqri is open 24 hours, except Monday when it is closed from 11.30PM – 6AM
Taj Santacruz Mumbai
Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (Domestic Terminal)
Off Western Express Highway, Santacruz (East) Mumbai 400099 India
+91 22 62115211  Tiqri 

@Rubina A Khan 2017

Shaken, Not Stirred Martinis At The House Of Nomad

Rubina A Khan reviews the House Of Nomad, Mumbai: “this is where the wandering liquorists are at, conversing and laughing up a storm over shaken martinis, cocktails and wines.”

There’s a splendid new drinkery in Mumbai that’s shaking and stirring things up, in and out of the Bandra zip code. It’s called House Of Nomad at the Taj Lands End hotel in picturesque Bandstand. This is where the wandering liquorists are at, ensconced in its mellow confines, conversing and laughing up a storm over shaken martinis, cocktails and wine. An intimate space, designed on the lines of a 19th century British private club, it is just the place to kick back a few, away from the endless human footprint at the astir hotel. The Taj Lands End is a quintessential Bollywood sighting spot in Mumbai, with Shah Rukh Khan’s residence, Mannat situated a mere second away from the hotel and Salman Khan’s apartment a minute further down at Galaxy, not to mention an events calendar that has celebrities walking in and out of the property almost every single day. It is also the Khans’ preferred choice of venue for most of their work commitments, making fans gravitate to the hotel in a bid to catch a glimpse of them, or better still, score a selfie with the indomitable Khan’s or Bachchan’s or Kapoor’s.

House of Nomad’s Guava Martini, which is not on the menu at the moment, is delectable and you just can’t stop at one, or two or six! Be sure to request for at least one. The Slap & Tickle cocktail crafted with Aperol, peaches, mint, lemon tea syrup and bitters on cracked ice is just as heady as it is refreshing. The julep tin it was served in took away from what I like to call a flaming orange sunset in a glass, but none of its divine flavours. The Chanel No 6 vodka martini with lychee, coconut and bitters makes a pomp and show of an entry on your table, replete with an edible lipstick made of raspberries and an atomiser, and it tastes great! A floor to ceiling wine wall stocked with wines from India, South Africa, Argentina, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, France and the United States of America has wine aficionados and connoisseurs enthralled.

House of Nomad serves up tapas and small eats like Lamb Sliders with Spiced Potato Wedges,
Peri- Peri Popcorn, Jalapeno and Cheese Popcorn that are delightful, my favourites being the Wasabi Popcorn, the Burrata Focaccia Croutons and the Bandra Sheermal Lamb Seekh Rolls. You can never go wrong with smashing cocktails and kebabs, ever! The Lamb Pie with Tomato Chutney didn’t quite cut it with its dry pastry and overdone lamb filling.

Not everyone likes to hang out at the hotel’s very popular atrium for the very abused “coffee catch-ups”, and the disinterested “Hi’s” you have to engage in for politesse.  House of Nomad, however, feels like your very own private bar, with a playlist that ranges from progressive to house to pop music, where you can have a good time with friends or be deeply engrossed in a business conversation, even on a busy Friday night.

House of Nomad is where Scandal Water happens, except it is not in olde England, but in modern Mumbai over Tea Punch and Slap & Tickle and not English afternoon tea!

House Of Nomad is open everyday Monday-Sunday 3.00PM – 1.30AM
Taj Lands End
Byramji Jeejeebhoy Road, Bandstand, Bandra West, Mumbai 400050 India
+91 22 6668-1234 House of Nomad 

@Rubina A Khan 2017

The House Of Medici Nightclub & Lounge #PartyingInPune #MediciMagic #WestinWeekend

Rubina A Khan reviews The House Of Medici, Pune: “a nightclub that takes the hashtag #PartyingInPune to an all time dazzling high”

There’s always a party in Pune, but Saturday nights in the city’s haute new nightclub and lounge, The House of Medici, is where the party is really at! The House of Medici is the Westin Pune Koregaon Park’s Florentine inspired nightclub and lounge, with a dominant Renaissance theme playing out a seductively glamorous vibe. It has people queuing up on weekends outside the imposing brown door, in anticipation of drinking and dancing the night away (yet again!) under the light of glimmering chandeliers, taking the hashtag #PartyingInPune to an all time dazzling high.

An extremely busy, 104 feet long bar, the longest by far in India, withstands a whole lot of champagne, whisky and cocktail and what-have-you libation serve-ups through the night by an affable bartending crew as the music thumps on. The music is contemporary world with a smattering of Indian and international DJ’s playing at the club, and Bollywood music is not on Medici’s playlist. The horse-shoe shaped bar seamlessly amalgamates the three bifurcations in the club’s space, each echoing the luxe vibe it’s going for. The House Of Medici unabashedly takes inspiration from the life and styles of the original Medici family from Florence, Italy that gained prominence with the Medici Bank, the largest in Europe in the 15th century and went on to become a political dynasty and a royal house subsequently. An inanimate pig called Lorenzo occupies a place of pride in the nightclub, and even though I’m not quite sure of its significance during the Medici era, it does lend a comic flair to the design, with its head full of delicious cocktails and maybe even Coldplay’s dreams! There are many reasons why the couch next to Lorenzo the bartending pig is a favourite with the club’s crowd, but one of them has got to be that it has the best light, adding virtual photoshop, making you look good, for real, not just in pictures!

The House Of Medici’s contemporary world cuisine bar eats comprises of delectable favourites like Lemongrass Prawns with Raw Papaya Salad and Sweet Chilli Sauce, Mushroom and Spinach Ravioli with Feta Salad and Potato Wrapped Tilapia with Jalapeno and Caper Tartare under the culinary expertise of Executive Chef Rahul Kaushik and Sous Chef Rishi Verma. It is a rather impressive menu and the presentation of the food is as beautiful, as it is contemporary. The House Of Medici’s Live Pantomime Acts add a novel excitement to the pre-dinner drinks ambience in the club.

You must hit up The House Of Medici when you’re in Pune next – it’s got the vibe, the music, the food, the drinks, the crowds AND the best service. There is no way you can call it a night here once you’re inside, but only in the wee hours of the morning. And that is how you get THOM’d! And if you’re still up for another round of partying, then surface at 3PM, whether you’re a Westin hotel guest or not, get some coffee into your bloodstream and head over to Mix@360 for a raging Sunday Sundowner to shoot some cold ones in this beautiful weather.

This was my fabulous #WestinWeekend with unforgettable #MediciMagic thrown in!

The House Of Medici is open for drinks:
Tuesday-Saturday 7.30PM onwards
Sunday 5PM onwards

Westin Pune Koregaon Park
36/3-B Koregaon Park Annexe, Mundhwa Road, Ghorpadi, Pune 411001 India
+91 97654 93216 The House Of Medici

@Rubina A Khan 2017

Taking In London From The Highest Bar In Town, Gong, At The Shangri-La!

473399194

London has never looked as spectacular as it did from the 52nd floor of Gong, the bar with THE view at the Shangri-La hotel at The Shard that opened in May earlier this year. Well, unless you flew over in a chopper earlier, but now all it takes is an elevator ride up to the bar and a cocktail of your choice to take in the London views, right from the St Paul’s Cathedral to the Big Ben to the London Bridge. The drinks at Gong are just as stellar as the views and the staff is very friendly and ever ready to snap your pictures for you as selfies are just tedious here as they cut out the background completely. And even if you do manage a good shot, by the time you get the light and angle right, you’d look a bit looney to the rest of the cool crew. And it might be a tad disrespectful to your waiting drink on the table too. Everyone was flying on those tangy and sour cocktails, but the question that remains unanswered though is, how high will YOU get at London’s highest bar?

IMG_6465

Photo: Rubina A Khan

©Rubina A Khan 2014

Partying Inside The World’s First Underwater Nightclub – SUBSIX At Niyama Maldives!

The sun has just set on the island, after a theatrical flourish of colors stretching across the Maldivian skies in all imaginable shades of the big fireball. The indigo waters of the Indian Ocean are awash with a golden gleam till dusk takes over with a dazzling display of twinkling stars, dancing and sparkling around an incandescent moon above in an unorchestrated symphony of the skies. It’s the perfect evening to go out dancing, and the elegant group of people waiting for their ride at the Niyama, Maldives jetty know that. The excitement is palpable as the speedboat docks in to the jetty and everyone gingerly boards the boat, all the while maintaining the poise and glamour of seasoned fashion forwards. With all its beautiful people aboard, the boat then heads 500 metres north of the island to Niyama’s exclusive and the world’s first, one of a kind, underwater nightclub – Subsix.

480226200As the breeze sprays you with the salty, ocean water, you cannot help but wonder if partying in a nightclub in the Maldivian archipelago is really happening, that too one that has a dress code. From flip-flops and cut-offs and sunscreen, it’s quite the departure for the party on board to evening dresses, heels and makeup! After all, the islands are best known for their pristine, sunny beaches, crystal blue waters, spectacular spas, world-class cuisine and wines, state-of-the-art water sports and incredibly stunning vistas. Of course, all these relaxing activities are limited largely to the island resort you are visiting. In other words, all the action is on the island. So, naturally, one simply cannot fathom the very idea of a nightclub in the Maldives. Sure, there’s dancing and music in beach bars, sunset view bars and even restaurants (if no one’s looking) on the island resorts, but an actual nightclub? Sounds absolutely incredulous and unbelievable! But Niyama by Per Aquum, seems to have changed the game globally, by offering the world a getaway on its vast island playground with Subsix. As the boat approaches Edge, the over water bar and restaurant, swathed in a fluorescent pink hue, near the landing jetty, everyone’s ready to get this party started!

480226190After getting off the boat and sipping on some welcome cocktails, a wooden staircase to the left of Edge, takes you down under. A large door swings open and there it is – Subsix – the world’s first and only nightclub underwater! Nothing you have ever imagined can compare to what hits you when you are inside it, aside from gasps of sheer wonder and amazement. ‘You are in a nightclub underwater’ is a sentence that keeps whirling around in your head as you take in the interiors of the club. The club is built six feet under the surface of the Indian Ocean and spins the term ‘partying’ on its head, giving a whole new meaning to shaking things up under water. Floor-to-ceiling windows on three sides of the structure allow unparalleled views of the marine life that swim by from the inner depths of the blue – Manta Rays, Parrotfish, Turtles, Clown Fish and many more exotic underwater inhabitants. A myriad shades of blue bounce off the ocean, straight into the club, and seem to change colour by the minute, set off by the glimmering lights inside. Fishes and sea creatures swim up to the windows and it all seems like a very ethereal dream!

480226206The design and décor of the club and the bar is on trend and no different from any hip nightclub anywhere in the world, except the fact that Subsix is underwater. The structure was built entirely on land, before being sunk into place, making sure no corals on the house reef were damaged. Niyama encourages people to adopt corals to protect and enrich the environment and since they started their Coral Regeneration Program in 2007, 3000 corals have been added to the house reef. Everyone soon turns into paparazzi mode, taking pictures of the fishes that even hold a pose sometimes! Imagine the delight of one guest who managed to score picture of a fish French-kissing her through the glass! Needless to add, that’s her Facebook profile picture for at least a week, if not more! Just sitting by one of the windows enjoying a signature cocktail, watching the fishes come up to the glass and blow kisses at you, is a sublime experience. It is almost as if you are one with the ocean and its colourful inhabitants. Dancing to the resident DJ’s tunes and burning up a dance floor six feet under water hits you harder than any cocktail made in any bar in the world! International rap star Tinie Tempah, was the first to perform at Subsix when it opened in the last quarter of 2012, followed by DJ Poet who is the official DJ of the band, Black Eyed Peas. Night divers and snorkellers, are often surprised when they see the glittering lights of Subsix on their explorations and feel the pulsating rhythms of the music, but the ocean life seems unperturbed by the humans dancing and swaying to the music. The underwater nightclub experience is definitely the reason Niyama’s residents swing by for a good time, but it is Subsix’s extraordinary view that is far more heady than any of the exotic cocktails on the expansive menu.

480226154Such is the popularity of Subsix’s spectacular ocean life views, that Niyama has started a Prix Fixe lunch menu on Wednesdays and Saturdays to accommodate their guests’ requests. It is an exceptionally well-crafted menu that caters to a global palette, paired with some of the best wines from around the world. From the best grass-fed beef to the best seafood the ocean has to offer, the Subsix menu is created to entice the most discerning patron. The food is prepared by the chefs at the Edge kitchen above and brought down to the diners by the very congenial and charming staff on the days that Subsix hosts lunches.

Partying underwater has so far been the realm of avid scuba divers who love the depths of the ocean and its fascinating inhabitants and each dive feels like an underwater party to them. But when there’s a man-made wonder like Subsix, you don’t need to be a swimmer or a scuba diver to enjoy the marvels of the ocean. In fact, you can drink to that!

©Rubina A Khan 2014 

The Kingdom Of Enchantment – Velaa Private Island, Maldives

480038488
An alluring new resort in the Maldivian archipelago officially launched this weekend – Velaa Private Island. The island resort’s been built as an ode of love by Czech businessman Jiri Smejc for his wife Radka, who fell in love with the Maldives on the couples’ numerous trips to the land of the blue. The premise of creating a beautiful structure for a loved one is almost akin to that of Mughal emperor, Shahjahan’s, who built the magnificent Taj Mahal in India in memory of his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Velaa too, is reminiscent of a vintage romance in the modern world. The Smejcs desire to create a magical space for themselves and share it with the world, gave life and form to a barren island on Noonu Atoll with no vegetation and absolutely none of the wondrous elements of splendor and luxury that stand on it today. Designed by Czech architect Petr Kolar and landscaped by Alla Kohoutkova over an arduous period of two years, with an investment well over 230 million Euros, Velaa is now ready to enchant the world with its beauty and hospitality. Kohoutkova used approximately 500,000 plants from 200 local species, including 1600 coconut palms that green the island and allow for the privacy of its residents.

Velaa in Dhivehi, the language of the Republic of Maldives, means turtle, and the property was named thus, given the atoll is home to a large population of turtles in the waters surrounding the island. The design elements work around the turtle theme, from the mesmerizing black and white art on the walls to the glass windows and doors and the resort’s logo. The eyes of the turtles on the wall art, follow you around the room, in a friendly, welcoming manner.

The minute you disembark from the steps of the aircraft at Male airport and are whisked away in a sedan from the runway to the seaplane that takes you to the idyllic and exquisite island, you are a VIP – Velaa’s Important Person.

Landing onto the island, the jetty belies all the bespoke enchantments that await you as you soak in the island’s alchemy with the beach and the “oh-so-blue” ocean. Every moment from then on is whatever you want your experience to be – relaxed, romantic, familial, nothingness, sublime – it’s yours.

With Velaa aiming to provide unprecedented luxury to its guests, the rooms befit royalty, to say the least. The comfort of the bed is unquestionable, as you’ll know the morning after. The electrical switches are not complicated and frustrating as in the norm in luxe resorts, and are as easy as All On / All Off, as are the entertainment systems. The mini bar has some of the best chocolates from Ghana and a favourite, the Organic Australian Beetroot Chips, with no Nasties added! The tea and coffee menu entices you to try out new flavors each morning. Whatever your mood, there’s a shower plan to match it!

The view from every kind of accommodation on the island, be it the Deluxe Beach Pool Villa, Ocean Pool House Villa, Private Residences or the dreamy Romantic Pool Residence, is its own, but never the same, with every sunrise and sunset more magical than the last. It’s a pleasure to wake up and watch the first rays of the sun hit the ocean and then, your eyes.

Velaa has three restaurants – all day dining at Athiri (Beach) with a wood-fired pizza oven, Teppanyaki at Tavaru (Tower) and the fine dine Aragu (Essence) and two bars – CRU Champagne lounge and the Avi Bar and an impressive wine cellar with a thirty-page wine list! A 1956 Domaine de la Romanée Conti “Romanée Conti”, rare vintage Salon Champagne or a 200-year-old fortified wine 1870 Blandy “Verdelho Solera” are just a request away. Every meal is an indulgence especially when you are spoilt for choice!

Michelin-star chef Adeline Grattard from Paris looks into the culinary diversity at Velaa along with Executive Chef Bruno Contreras, who specializes in Mediterranean and European cuisine and Executive Sous Chef Gaushan de Silva from Sri Lanka who creates exceptional tasting menus with innovative presentation, marrying the finest produce with molecular gastronomy.

Velaa has a unique recreational facility, so far the only one in the Maldives, in a resort – Velaa Golf Academy by Olazabal. Swinging has never been as much fun as on the 170m of green in a swing studio carefully crafted by Masters Champion Jose Maria Olazabal. If your swing impresses the island’s golf pros, Peter Anthony Holland and Martin Dewhurst, you might get your swing analyzed on a split screen video with Rory McElroy and even get a custom made Velaa golf ball set present from them! Apart from golf, there’s Yoga, Squash, Tennis, an extensive array of Water Sports, Jet Skis, Semi Submarine, Snorkeling, Diving, Fishing, cruises on the Prestige Yacht or the traditional Bahtheli boats to keep you fit and active on your holiday. Staring into the blue, with a Coconut Vodka cocktail works just as well!

And after all that sun and water, a spa treatment is just what the body needs – My Blend by Clarins Spa has partnered with Velaa, and features exclusive My Blend facial products and body treatments by Clarins, created by Dr. Olivier Courtin, for a relaxing experience.

480038522“You are unique. And so in your skin, just like your fingerprints. The story of your life, whether biological or emotional, can be read on your skin,” reads the opening page of the spa menu. You can choose from a range of therapies of Indian origin to Asian to Tibetan. Not only does the spa offer bespoke massage treatments, it’s a full service salon with Manicures, Pedicures, Blow Dries, Hair Cuts and Styling, Epilation – the works. Velaa scores big with the ladies on this! And it’s not just about the adults; the spa has a Junior Menu too for the little ladies and little men on the resort! That is, if they haven’t tired themselves with all the fun and games at the Kid’s Play Zone whilst their parents enjoyed romantic lunches and walks on the beach. The Clarins team of therapists, as you’d expect from a brand that renowned, are exceptional. Your skin is in paradise as are you with pure harmony resonating within your mind, body and soul! And the treatment beds have a wonderful window into the lagoon below that gently lull you into an even more relaxed state.

The spa also has a special room for its Cloud 9 experience – created by Viennese artist and Perception Researcher, Sha, Cloud 9 is a comprehensive and holistic relaxing experience that has a multi sensory blend of color therapy, mental acoustic therapy, lighting-video-spatial concept and a reclining swinging pod which sways and cradles you into deep relaxation. A twenty-minute session does leave you lighter from the thoughts racing through your mind. A definite to-do on the island!

img_3823

Cloud 9 | Photo: Rubina A Khan

Velaa has 45 varied accommodations that range from $1,500 a night for a Beach Pool Villa to $1,900 for a Deluxe Beach Pool Villas to $6000 for a 2 Bedroom Ocean Pool House in the Turtle Season (1 June-31 July, 1Sep-30 Sep) to $14,000 per night for the Romantic Pool Residence and $30,000 per night for the Velaa Private Residence in the Celebration Season (24 Dec-12 Jan).

Velaa’s rooms are spotlessly clean, just like its white sand beaches. Everything is perfect. Yes, perfect. The staff share an easy camaraderie with each other, that is key to the island maintaining an amiable and harmonious environment overall. The butlers assigned to the villas are the wizards of your dreams – they actualize them, like Aamir. The staff is knowledgeable, pleasing and just wonderful to be around, as they all seem to love their jobs. The pools attached to the villas are not plunge pools, but full size. And when you book a Romantic Pool Residence or a Velaa Private Residence, they come with their own private Gyms, Spa Rooms and round-the-clock Chef services. All elements on the island strive to perfect the guests’ day in every way, everyday! Bespoke, most definitely!

From the time you are its guest, Velaa is the Kingdom of Enchantment and you, its imperial sovereign, albeit a paying one!

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 2014