For busy Mumbaikars

Want a sandwich, The Kite Runneror a window seat for your Volvo ride to Goa? Now you get it all online. Malay Desai goes site-seeing to test whether you should sign up or simply press Alt+F4

   
Order food    

www.mealtree.com
Taking a cue from their daily food-ordering habits, citybased professionals Ashish Agarwal and his brothers conceptualised Mealtree. Albeit not a novel idea (many western cities, for example Durban, have centralised helplines and ‘menu directories’), Mealtree attempts to bring in all major restaurants and fast-food chains under one roof. UPSIDE: We placed an online order (rolls from Wraps and Rolls), and promptly got a call for confirmation. The delivery took the usual time it would have had we ordered directly. What impressed us was the user-friendly menus, where you can easily order from multiple places. There was also the option of mentioning exactly how spicy we wanted our chicken roll.

DOWNSIDE: We didn’t find McDonalds on the site and all items under Garcia’s were dysfunctional.
   
Look up a book    

www.librarywala.com
Our ‘time-less’ city life coupled with the love for books prompted IT professional Hiten Turakhia and his buddies to kickstart India’s first online circulating library last year. It is ideal for professionals with five-day weeks who tremble at the prospect of visiting a library or buying expensive books. UPSIDE: We shelled out Rs 2,398 (out of which Rs 500 was refunded because of a new special offer) to opt for a plan which gives three books per month, for a year. After ‘queuing up’ for The Kite Runner online late one night, we received it the next afternoon.

DOWNSIDE: Its collection is all-English. It won’t have Stephen King’s On Writing — which your nearby raddiwala may have. Nor will it have recently-published books (like Binoo John’s Entry from Backside Only) which your bookshops will have. Also, some popular books like Maximum City, which are always in circulation, may take longer to arrive.
   
Book movie, play or    concert tickets    

www.bookmyshow.com
Unlike some ventures of the Network18 stable, this one doesn’t seem like a strategic investment. In fact it is promoted by Bigtree Entertainment, an info-solutions provider. Good for us, we thought, since almost all the multiplex websites require boring registrations and bug you with emails forever.

UPSIDE: The portal also offers play and concert tickets. It is really simple now to make it to a play at Prithvi or Anoushka Shankar live. And we don’t even mind the extra charge. DOWNSIDE: We decided to test-drive Jodhaa Akbar and found that there were hardly any Fame cinemas on the list. Also, the site only accepted payments through credit card and not direct net-banking. However, it hurt most when they levied a Rs 15 ‘con’venience charge on each ticket. Why on earth should we pay that if the multiplex helplines were ready to book tickets via a phone call?
   
Book bus tickets    

www.redbus.in
This one, too, has an interesting history: it was born out of the frustration of a bunch of Bangalore-based IT professionals who always suffered before travelling due to overbooking and unpredictable schedules. Today, they’ve quit their well-paying jobs and their portal boasts of a tie-up with over 250 operators across India’s smallest towns.

UPSIDE: We pretended we wanted to head to Goa overnight, logged on and printed an e-ticket in no time. We also tried the delivery, which lived up to promise and was cheaper than it’s competitor. As for cancellations, they can be done online, 24 hours before departure. What’s most impressive? You can select the boarding point nearest to you after looking up the route online.
DOWNSIDE: If only they would let us select the movie to be shown en route! We won’t have to watch films like Partner.

No good!

www.ticketvala.com
We checked out another site – which lets you rents cars and book hotel rooms too, but found it’s not half as good.Ticketvala’s site promises more and delivers less (we’re still waiting for a call for a request we made last week). It charges more for delivery and cancels tickets only 36 hours before departure.

   
Grab a DVD    

www.clixflix.com
Mumbai’s cinema lovers have never had it better. Today, we have many international fests, a classic movie club and a just-launched world cinema channel. This portal is among many side-effects of a booming entertainment industry in India. It says its powered by ‘hardcore couch potatoes’, but we found it does little to encourage the movieviewing habit.

UPSIDE: Still looking…
DOWNSIDE: On registration, we found out that its online store stocks only DVDs. We regret this sorely, since Moser Baer sells VCDs at a throwaway 28 bucks! Secondly, they didn’t deliver on a Sunday and shockingly showed up zero results when we searched for common retro movies like Anand and Guide. All this, after a security deposit of Rs 2,000! Not worth your while, we say.

Better options

www.seventymm.com
It’s one of the better-known DVD rentals and deservedly so. It offers a million things for the film buff. It has an impressive regional-language stock and lets customers keep their DVDs as long as they want.Another DVD rental site, www.cinesprite.com, is as good and cheaper.

Watson’s Hotel

Watson’s Hotel, currently known as the Esplanade Mansions, is India‘s oldest surviving cast iron building, located in the Kala Ghoda district of Mumbai (Bombay). It was named after its original owner, John Watson. The building was fabricated in England and constructed onsite between 1867 and 1869. It was designed by civil engineer Rowland Mason Ordish (1824–1886), who was also associated with the St Pancras Station in London. Its external cast-iron frame closely resembles other high-profile 19th century buildings such as London’s Crystal Palace. The main façade of the hotel is distinguished by building-wide open balconies on each floor that connected the guest rooms. The rooms in Watson’s Hotel were built around the atrium in a courtyard arrangement.

John Watson opened the hotel as an exclusive whites-only hotel, and it was the swankiest hotel in the city in those days. The five storied structure housed 130 guest rooms, as well as a lobby, restaurant and a bar at the ground level. The hotel also had a 30 metre by 9 metre atrium which had a glass skylight. The atrium was originally used as a ballroom. The common joke at that time was: “If only Watson had imported the English weather as well”. At its peak, Watson’s hotel employed English waitresses in its restaurant and ballroom.

Among the hotel’s notable guests was Mark Twain who wrote about the city’s crows he saw outside his balcony in Following the Equator. It was also the first place in India to screen the Lumière BrothersCinematographe invention in 1896. However this was witnessed only by Europeans.

According to rumours, Indian industrialist Jamsetji Tata was denied access to the hotel. In retaliation he opened the Taj Mahal Palace, a hotel that stands near what is now the Gateway of India in 1903.

After Watson’s death, the hotel lost its popularity to the Taj Mahal Hotel. In the 1960s the hotel was closed and sold to a private owner. It was subdivided and partitioned into small cubicles with independent access and let out on rent. Over the years apathy toward the building by the residents has resulted in it being in a dilapidated condition. The atrium was subsequently used as a dumping ground and has several illegal constructions. The building currently has 53 families and 97 commercial establishments. Most of the commercial establishments are chambers of lawyers catering to the adjacent Bombay Civil & Session Courts and to the nearby Bombay High Court.

The building’s poor state of affairs has been remarked time and again, and efforts by Heritage activists to persuade its present owner to invest in restoration have been stymied by his refusal to spend from his own pocket, and without tenants’ contributing. The condition of the building was publicized by Italian architect Renzo Piano, as a result of whose efforts, the building was listed June 2005 on the “100 World Endangered Monuments” by the World Monuments Fund, a New York-based NGO. Just a few days after its nomination, part of the building’s western facade (not seen in the picture) – originally balconies developed into tiny offices, collapsed, killing one person and crushing several cars and motorcycles parked in the street below. The building is currently listed as a Grade II-A heritage structure.

SAHARA STAR

  • Projects Residential & Commercial

  • Sahara Star: Probably going to be India ‘s best hotel situated near Mumbai Airport

  • Over 350 rooms ( including Exclusive Suites & Presidential Suites)

  • Structural Glazing with 2 lac sq.ft glass

  • The Central Courtyard covers an area of 55,000 sq. ft is the world’s biggest pillar-less Dome made out of tensile membrane , a marvel of mechanism of Stainless steel

  • Cuisines include Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Malay, Sea Food, Continental, Lebanese, Arabic cuisines & Indian

  • The business center has spacious conference rooms, business lounge & exclusive chambers

  • A Preview Theater with capacity of 100 people

  • The hotel shall also have a spa, Gym, Restaurant, Card Room, Snooker, Pool Table, Squash, Saloon, Yoga room, Aerobics, Floatation Tank rooms etc.

  • Sahara Club Royale room & private dining room

  • 3 level basement parking, accommodating more than 650 cars

Posted in Hotels. 1 Comment »

To beer, or not to beer

Sportsbar Express – Colaba

As the name suggests, this Sports Bar has a large LCD screen and a lovely pool table coupled with some baskets for basketball. And in case you’re not a sporty person, the music will surely cheer you up. The ambience is perfect for downing those beers, and the seating arrangement is also pretty neat. All in all, the price of the drinks is definitely cheaper compared to the other food/beverages their menu offers.

Beer-o-meter – 8/10 (Rs 199 a pitcher)

Pamposh – Bandra, Linking Road

Normally a hang out for collegians, this place has it all. From the uptight-sophisticated crowd to the ghaati-singing-pelvic-thrusting college kids. Though you won’t get great music here, it gives some tasty snacks to go with the beer. The plus point here is, the beer is so cheap that you end up having more than you expected. Oh wait, that’s not a plus point.

Beer-o-meter – 8.5/10 (Rs 140 a pitcher)


Pop-Tates – 7 bungalows, Andheri

The most ‘happening’ of them all, Pop Tates’ has the best happy hour deal you can find. From 3pm to 8pm, two pitchers are served for the price of one. Of course, post-8pm, the place is so full that you’d be better off coming back the next day. But who cares! Happy hours! Woo-hoo!
Beer-o-meter – 9/10 (Rs 199 a pitcher)

Fluid Spice – Lokhandwala, Andheri

Even though it’s the most expensive of the lot, Fluid Spice offers the best service and ambience among all the other places mentioned above. An insanely huge bar and equally huge TV screens make this place an obvious choice for a guys’ evening out.

Beer-o-meter – 8/10 (Rs 240 a pitcher)

Alps – near Leopold Café

The favourite place among the lot. Located two minutes from Leopold café, Alps is relatively unknown. If you’re around town, this is a must visit. It’s a small place, no music, good crowd and most importantly, it has the cheapest beer, at prices you won’t have even imagined. This one’s a nice place if you’re the kinds to talk things out over beer.

Beer-o-Meter – 10/10 (Rs 110-130 for a pitcher)