Sunday, 31 July 2016 | Beauty Is You | Online Personalized Beauty Shopping | Website Review

Thanks be to Gods who are happy with us beauty junkies and fashionistas of the world right now, as we have so many brands, so many options, so many ways of indulging in some sweet shopping therapy. Online shopping has made our lives much easier but then again, some issues persistently plague us, such as - the risk of getting a fake brand or buying a much-touted product that does not suit our skin one bit and then going through a hellish process while returning it. So, it is always a relief to come across any website that promises to be different and proves to be so in action too!

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It was a stroke of good fortune that I got a chance to review Aplava, a name I had heard circulating in my beauty junkies circle for past few months. Expecting it to be just another beauty website, I logged in and was in for a big surprise. It seems to be progressing into one-stop destination for all our beauty +personal care needs, that too personalized!

Need wide range of beauty products,including international luxury brands? Head to Aplava

Need guarantee of only authentic brands? Aplava it is

Quick shipping, tempting sale offers, easy returns policy? Yes, yes, and yes to all at Aplava

Most importantly, want to get personalized recommendation from the cozy confines of home? Aplava at our disposal yet again :)
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Logged onto and was impressed to see their approach to beauty and personal care. They don't just present a bouquet of brands in categories ranging from Skincare to Mom & Baby, rather they have a personalized questionnaire to know exactly what products suit our skin, handpicked by a team of dermatologists and beauty advisors! This questionnaire is pretty detailed and takes into account all the major concerns we face nowadays, whether it be dull skin, dandruff, pigmentation or even high sweating tendency. And Voila, 1 minute spent in filling up the questionnaire and we get personalized beauty recommendations :)

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The brands stocked by Aplava range from drugstore (Pond's, Olay) to high end luxury ones (Natio, Dermalogica) and since they deal directly with manufacturers/ authorized distributors, there is no chance of any fake brand duping us

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We can also chat with professional beauty advisors and dermatologists and ask them questions related to beauty and personal care! 

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One step further, we can use the Follow the Price feature to find the lowest price for any product and wait for the best deal before buying it. 

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I also love their blog with some pretty useful beauty tips,tricks and techniques, it feels like a close-knit community already :) 

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Need something else to sweeten the pot? They have an Aplava Prestige loyalty program where every purchase accrues us points which we can redeem on further shopping. Finally, there are amazing sale offers going on which will warm the hearts of any shopaholic.

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Shopping on the site is easy breezy. The website interface is clean and fast. Easy search options for any brand in any category, a wide variety of brands available in all price ranges and a variety of payment options (from cards to paytm to cash on delivery). We can also buy gift cards which I find to be extremely useful for gifting to my besties so that they can indulge in whatever they want for themselves :)

I was so excited to browse through this treasure trove that it took me a long time to decide what to actually order. I especially browsed through eye cream for dark circles (been plagued with these for some time now), face whitening cream (got to take care of dull darkened skin thanks to regular pollution and sun exposure), a range of shampoos for my dull,dry and frizzy hair and finally some heavy duty hair conditioners! Yup, just ordered a big fat hamper for myself and expecting delivery for same within next 3-4 days :)

  • Aplava has a wide variety of brands from drugstore to high-end luxury
  • Delivery all over India, even to places where no store would stock Natio or Dermalogia
  • Along with beauty and skincare, personal care products ranging from mom & baby products, candles, products for men etc. are also stocked
  • There are attractive sales,discounts and samples offers
  • Follow the Price feature makes it easy for us to get best deals
  • Personalized beauty recommendations make it a unique beauty destination
  • Wide variety of payment options 
  • Aplava Prestige loyalty program rewards customers every time we make a purchase
  • Option to choose gift cards as best presents for friends to let them indulge in whatever they want
  • Speedy delivery and easy returns policy
  • Aplava Blog and ability to talk to professionals regarding beauty queries is a bonus :)

  • More drugstore brands could be included, I believe this will happen with passage of time :)
  • Minimum shopping of 999 needed for free shipping which could be reduced to 500
  • They say 'complimentary samples' on every order, but I know quite a few people who have not gotten any free samples, so this can be fine-tuned :)

All in all, I think there are quite a few wonderful reasons to get hooked to and I am waiting to see how this pans out into a full fledged beauty/personal care movement :)

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Twist of India Pop Up Restaurant Preview | Yiamas The Experimental Space | The Gourmet Kitchen & Studios

Having been a huge fan of Masterchef Australia, I have been fascinated with the idea of Pop Up restaurants for quite some time now! Amalgamation of creativity and science ensues as brilliant Chefs conjure up something unique for gastronomes and aesthetes. Food Gods smiled as I got the chance to be a part of a sneak peek of 'Twist of India', a pop up restaurant at Yiamas The Experimental Space, a brainchild of Chef Harsh Shodhan of The Gourmet Kitchen & Studios in the august company of some food bloggers and gourmands of Mumbai :)

This was an experience to remember for ages for the idea behind it, the ambiance it was conducted in and of course, the food itself. Chef Harsh Shodhan was kind enough to have a personal session with us explaining his vision behind the event. He is most comfortable with vegetarian cuisine and aims to present something unique while preserving the traditional roots of every dish. We often think that Indian cuisine is not experimental enough and go all ooooh and aaah over contemporary fusion food from the rest of the world. It is to Chef Harsh Shodhan's credit that he has adapted classic Indian recipes to modern culinary experimental phase in such a way that we cannot help but love the twist behind it all :)

Yiamas is actually one of the most soul satisfying ambiances one can come across. Situated in Mumbai's art heritage district, Ballard Estate, it instantly transports one to another era. We walked in to be greeted by grand wooden staircase, followed by vintage balcony with hanging bougainvilleas, Corinthian pillars supported by wooden beams and beautiful white walls with colonial windows. All together a pretty classic British-era minimalist piece of art in itself which can be used for any event,be it wedding, engagement, birthday party,fashion show or indeed,a pop up restaurant :) Unlike traditional banquet places that serve a cut-and-dried ambiance to conduct events in a set format, Yiamas provides us with an empty canvas that can be painted with any color of festivity, hence proving to be a true experimental space!

Twist of India thus is the perfect event to be a part of at this outstanding place in the heartening monsoon amidst art, music and delicious food shared with loved ones. While the actual event is happening on 6th and 7th August, we were offered a preview of the same with a Masterchef worthy menu of the day. We started off with the spicy and refreshing Masala Soda in cute little bottles that would make anyone's day. 

Arrabiatta & Burrata Dosa with Sambar Reduction & Chutney drizzle brought a new sour-y twist to the usual dosa, I loved the Sambar, very dense and flavorful. Caramelized Kanda Bhaji on Soft Shell Taco was the unanimous favorite among the starters, absolutely rich flavors and crispy texture, perfect for monsoon!

Kacha Kairi Jello Shot came in as a palate cleanser before the soup & main course, an interesting concoction followed by Ribbon Salad with Gunpowder Gremolata where the salad in itself was crunchy enough but turned into something else with the accompanying dip, very much recommended!

When it comes to soups, we don't really know of many options beyond the usual tomato/minestrone or mulligatawny, we were thus so glad that Chef thought up of mixing the refreshing and tangy lemongrass with Mung Daal to create a brilliantly warm, satisfying and herbal-y soup served with Cracker & Chilly Butter. Anyone fearing that they might be coming down with cold or cough in the monsoon? Feed them this. Works just like grandma's remedies :)

My personal favorite was Lasooni Fada Khichdi with Tuver Daal Reduction & Phool Makhana, something to rival all those famous risottos is here with this homely yet gourmet level dish. I could have this all day long and not get bored, oh Khichdi, my Khichdi :D

Wondering what was there for dessert? Thandai Panna Cotta. Smooth,not too sweet, fragrant, mildly cold, very creamy, just a hint of Thandai, refreshing, lovely :)

Chef explained to us how he has tried to present India's essence while giving them an exciting twist and in the process, tried to do away with all the misconceptions that vegetarian Indian food is boring or non-progressive and we say, he has succeeded completely. This is some hearty food with full on textures, flavors, top-notch ingredients and beautiful presentation. In short, this is a dining experience worth having :)

Twist of India Pop Up Restaurant is a pre plated 6 course Fusion Vegetarian Meal happening on 6th and 7th August 2016 at Yiamas The Experimental Space. There will be a different menu for each day so there are surprises galore for all! Tickets for the same can be booked at Townscript Twist of India and do check these out for more details :)

Friday, 29 July 2016

Cream Centre | Lower Parel Mumbai | Food Review | Restaurant Review

Cream Centre Veg Restaurant is one of Mumbai's iconic brands. Yes, despite being pure vegetarian :P I know a lot of people find it impossible to fathom that there are people who choose to follow a vegetarian lifestyle and a pure vegetarian restaurant can actually be superhit. Without getting into a veg vs non-veg debate, let us see why cream centre works. In a nutshell, they work because they provide perfect environment for families (including utterly noisy children!), soul satisfying calorie laden food and staff that treats everyone like family :) I have been to Cream Centre multiple times over the years and this visit last weekend was thanks to a gift voucher they had kindly sent over for a complimentary meal.

Cream Centre is all about comfort and everything from the ambiance to food proves that comfort is paramount. Plush seating, spacious, apt for conducting huge Rajshri productions style family gatherings, elegant color combination and use of mirrors plus art works on the walls, walk in and sink in.  One look at the menu and it has got something for everyone -from Nachos, Pizzas, Pastas, Sizzlers to Tandoori Items, Chaats and Brownie Sundae. Bolo, kya khaoge? :D Everything is made with an Indian twist, full emphasis on taste, so don't walk in expecting wood-fired-oven pizza or authentic pastas! Almost everything has cheese and/or tomato sauce in excess, making it quite impossible to resist = danger for calorie counters but heaven for the rest of us foodies who treat every day as cheat day :P

We started with Mint Mojito and Strawberry Ice Cream Soda both of which were refreshing. Ice Cream Soda is actually a meal in itself,so watch out. 3 people are needed to finish off 1 tall glass that they serve :D Spring Vegetable Soup with loads of crunchy Veggies & Paneer cubes was a good beginning to the meal, actually hadn't expected soup to be this good here :) 

Tandoori Subz Wonton and The Big Nachos were chosen by my sister,both of them lovely starters. There was nothing even remotely chinese about the wontons with them being slathered in cheese but as I said, do not look for authenticity here :P It was melt in mouth,good enough for us. The Big Nachos is one of the bestsellers here and is a complete meal for a light eater. Filled to the brim with huge Nacho chips, Cheese, Beans, More Cheese, Tomatoes, Bell Peppers, Onions, More get the point. This one is drool-worthy. Both were a bit on the sweeter side (most of the dishes,especially starters here are!)

Main Course was Hyderabadi Hare Masale ke Kofte with Lachha Paratha, chosen by my mom. Absolutely amazing soft Kofte made with Paneer and Veggies dunked in this rich creamy spicy green gravy (just like Palak Paneer) that went perfectly with crispy thick Lachha Parathas. My mom was happy,this was her favorite combination of the night. 

We were stuffed to the brim with all this and decided to end our delicious supper with Brownie Fudge Sundae which was another meal in itself! Take a note peoples-anything that comes in a glass here is HUGE so order 1 if there are 2 people to share it :D Well, when it comes to dessert,I never need any help and so I did have the most here too, what with Vanilla Ice Cream, crumbled soft Brownies and Chocolate Fudge Sauce making me happy with each bite. Yummy!

Prices here are a bit on the expensive side, but since the quantity is so generous and quality so good, it doesn't pinch at all. I have been here so many times and never once has a hearty meal for 3 people crossed Rs. 2000. That is pretty awesome especially because I always love seeing the children run around, families talk without any care in the world (you might even see some LIVE marriage talks in progress :D) and great personal service. On this particular day,we reached a bit late so our reserved table was gone, still the staff went ahead and opened up a portion of the closed section for us (it was reserved for a big party later on) and never made us feel rushed. So, when the food is good, ambiance is good, service is good, why won't we make a visit here again & again :) Absolutely recommended

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Kiehl's Ultra Facial Cleanser | Iconic Beauty Brand | Product Review

It was when I was in college that I finally started using drugstore cleansers, having spent my whole childhood using Sandalwood & Turmeric powder mix from mom's kitchen to cleanse and hydrate. The daily bout of pollution makes it mandatory to use something to completely wipe it off our skin. Add to that my confusingly weird skin-sometimes dry,sometimes oily,always super-sensitive and prone to acne or rashes and I have had a horrible time finding a cleanser that does not completely dry my skin or has no effect on dirt at all! Most of the time, I stick to my favorite Narangi & Tejasvi Ubtans to take care of cleansing part. Sometimes though a product like Kiehl's Ultra Facial Cleanser comes along, perhaps the best face wash for sensitive skin in India :)

Kiehl's Ultra Facial Cleanser Review

I saw it at Palladium Mall about 2 years ago and was instantly attracted to Kiehl's outlet. They have a fun,quirky way about them and most importantly, they give free samples to try before buying a products. Good strategy since these products are so pricey! Kiehl's Ultra Facial Cleanser is priced at Rs. 900 for 75 ml and available in their stores, on their website or on Amazon or Nykaa.

Claims to maintain skin's natural balance while removing dirt & debris with Ingredients like Glycerin and a boatload of chemicals I cannot pronounce! It is basically a sugar-derived glycoside foaming agent that does the cleaning without drying the skin. Remember those childhood chemistry classes? :P Packaging is standard tube, very clean with ingredients,instructions for use and all other details clearly mentioned. Quantity is ample enough to last 2 months even on using everyday as very little is required.

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Now, not only the Kiehl's outlet but even the products give a very chemistry-lab-like feel :D Everything is clean,precise, direct. Quite impressive. While I am on a natural products bandwagon, have to respect Kiehl's brand for being one of the foremost iconic ones,used even by celebrities and especially its Ultra Facial Cleanser is an award-wining beauty product gracing the 'Best Of Beauty' lists in many renowned beauty magazines. So obviously,I was very excited to try it. Suffice to say it did not let me down and I have bought it more than once in past year :)

Comes across as a mildly thick, medicated, colorless liquid that foams delicately on contact with water. Just a little amount (a blob as big as half of Rs. 2 coin) is enough! While massaging it on my face the first time, I felt as if the small amount I had taken was doing nothing and was actually sinking in my skin! So I washed it off and used it again. BIG Mistake! It dried my skin completely! Then I realized we are so used to products that lather a lot and we have this misconception that more lather = more cleaning action :D This Ultra Facial Cleanser does not lather a lot but once I wash it off, I do find clean bright skin without a tinge of dryness :) 

It does what it claims and that is more than enough. I never have to put on moisturizer after using this (unless it is winters) and my skin glows while being squeaky clean. I wish there was some add-on,like mild exfoliation or even skin tone inherent in this cleanser but I am being greedy :P It is difficult to find a good cleanser that really digs out debris of the day while keeping it soft and moisturized and this ones does it perfectly. While I am sticking to my Ubtans for the most part, I don't mind taking a break from them and using this once in a while to keep my skin balanced. The clean & smooth skin this provides is a good base for using face masks to help them penetrate the skin better :)

One note though-if you are removing makeup,take a bit more quantity and let this sit over makeup for sometime so that it is dissolved completely :) Kiehl's Ultra Facial Cleanser is really mild so it is fit enough to be used by all skin types, even my sister has used and liked it (and she has horribly acne prone oily skin), my mom has also used it and loved it (she has mature normal skin type) and I have too. 

  • Iconic Beauty Brand and Product
  • Extremely Mild on all types of skin
  • Cleans Dry, Oily, Normal as well as Combination skin types
  • Leaves skin moisturized while removing dirt,which is a difficult task as most cleansers either dry out skin or are not effective enough
  • Lasts a long time since just a little is required every time
  • Dermatologist tested, has no reaction on super sensitive skin too
  • Expensive. It is just a cleanser after all. Same effects are observed with my Ubtans which also add on exfoliation,brightening effects etc.!
  • Not available easily enough
  • All chemicals in Ingredients list! I am used to seeing ingredients lists with Saffron, Sandalwood etc. while here it is all chemicals :D

Recommended- YES! Personally,I am into multi-functional products so I am not that big a fan of simple cleansers but I understand why this is an iconic product so for those who want to try it despite hefty price tag,sure,you will not be disappointed :) Rating is 4/5 :)

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Opa Bar & Cafe | The Peninsula Grand Hotel Mumbai | Food Review | Restaurant Review

OPA! A word denoting celebration perfectly describes the exclamation sighed by a motley bunch of foodies as we entered Opa Bar & Cafe at The Peninsula Grand Hotel Saki Naka on a Friday evening for review :) It was time to relax and welcome the lazy weekend by indulging in some Mediterranean feast here. This was one place on our radar for quite some time and we were glad to be here at last.

If you have ever read Arabian Nights or seen any of those Turkish serials on TV recently (Fatmagul is worth watching by the way :D) then this place will instantly transport you to that land! It extends till infinity with extremely relaxing couches, intricately carved chairs, colorful curtains and cushions creating a perfectly dreamy ambiance. A beautiful fountain bang in the middle of the Arabic bazaar set up,snazzy lanterns from another era coyly illuminating the environs, the unmistakable tipsy smell of Sheesha and Kebabs in the air. Make sure you dress well (don't dress up for the Oscars, but don't go in a hip-hop garb either :P) as the crowd is classy all around and the place fills up quite well after 7 PM.

Expectedly, the drinks are good as all my alcohol loving friends vouch for that, one of them going as far as to say that the Sheesha here is the best he has ever had. EVER! I am going to take a different route and say that forget everything else,go straight to coffees section and indulge. I know, the word 'Bar' comes before 'Cafe' in its name but trust me, once you go the Cafe route, you will agree that they serve some of the best coffees in the city :) My sister and I absolutely loved Cold Coffee with Vanilla Ice cream as well as their Hazelnut and Caramel versions. Absolutely mindblowing. Compared to these, mocktails seem a bit weak even though they were decent enough on their own :) Wanna be a bit adventurous,then go for the Ferrero Rocher or Belgian Chocolate shake which look like those freak shakes so much in vogue nowadays and taste heavenly too.

Food menu has all the regular suspects plus some unique ones from Mediterranean spread, a bit higher priced looking at the quantity (but absolutely understandable given the location,the ambiance and the star category of the hotel itself) as focus is completely on quality.

Absolutely recommended for all sweet jaw-holders like me is Double Dates (dates stuffed with cheese and pistachios), little sweet and sour balls of deliciousness. A kick of flavors, but not for everybody. Only if you love dates and have a mind for experimentation :D

Similarly, mushroom lovers should go for Mushrooms on Multigrain Toast, very creamy dense and flavorful :)

For all foodies, Brie Fritters and Focaccia Bruschetta are must-haves. Fritters are deliciously crispy from outside, fabulously cheesy from inside and served with Jalapeno Relish while Bruschetta is a wild spread of fresh veggies with melted cheese. Both lip-smacking.

Star dish among the starters is Cottage Cheese Aglio Olio with melt-in-mouth cottage cheese and flavorful herbed garlic chilli sauce,impossible to resist or share with anyone :D 

We have heard good things about the mezze platters here too but keeping that aside for some other day, we went on to Turkish Pide (Flat bread, just like a pizza) with Bell Peppers and Feta Cheese. Sounds delicious? Tasted even better :) 

Finally we were stuffed enough to zero down on Pink Sauce Pasta & Ratatouille with Cottage Cheese for our final main course dishes. Pasta was just like pasta should be while Ratatouille was my personal star dish of the night with a mouthful of fresh veggies, spices and softest Paneer making me fall in love with it with every bite :D Not sure if this is authentic ratatouille or not, but as I have repeatedly said, if it tastes good, if it is good enough to call me back, it is my favorite, authentic or not!

Among the desserts, we chose Chocolate Fudge with Ice Cream which was dense and decadently delicious while for authentic middle-eastern food lovers, Baked Arabic Umm Ali (a sort of bread pudding) might be a good option (I personally don't like bread puddings at all!) Next time, I will be sure to order a Baklava, that's on my wish list :D

A dining experience that made us go OPA! with happiness, Opa Bar & Cafe does complete justice to its name when it comes to ambiance & food and we will surely be back for more Opa-ness soon :)

All Photos Credit : Prachi Shailendra Photography