We escaped to the hills last weekend – to a family resort in Lonavala. Expecting to suffer the gastronomical ignominy of factory-style buffets where all gravies taste the same and the fine line between roti and papad disappears: little did we know, that we would instead be subjected to the heavenly delights of fillet-mignon (cultured with wasabi) and delectable Spanish Paella. No, Avion resort doesn’t have new management which aspires clean towels and Michelin stars. This happened after visions of an evening spent in buffet lines and tragical puppet shows, drove us to drive down 61 km to aamchi-garden-city…Pune.
Under the expert guidance of localite/foodie/friend R – we decided to head to a new joint in town – called The Stone Water Grill. It was dark as I pulled into a long dusty driveway leading to the restaurant. Dusty road or not – nothing could have prepared me for the sight of the beautifully lit, architected and manicured 12000 sq.ft property that is The Stone Water Grill. I dribbled like a teenager and somehow lost all vocabulary except the frequent emissions of “wow”. After we announced rather sheepishly, “We don’t have a reservation”, we were seated temporarily in the outdoor area, while the helpful management rushed off to find us a dinner table inside.
While we were wondering over a sparse menu about what to order for starters (and I kept mentioning excitedly to Dee how awesome the prices were for such a place), suddenly a voice rang out, “You should try the bombil (bombay duck).” The owner of the voice was a lanky pony-tailed man – who we later found out, was the “Executive Chef” of the place. “How predictable!” I thought to myself. “Can these Maharashtrians not think of anything else?”
“We just had Bombil the other day” I said truthfully.
“Ah…but this is something different” Mr. Pony-tail said…and proceeded to explain how their Bombil was first marinated for a long time and then wrapped in Zucchini and baked slowly… and all my ideas of the traditional Bombil Fry disappeared. I looked at R and Dee…unanimously agreed that we were suckers for food talk…and said yes to the Bombil. And ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure to announce to you that the Bombil at Stonewater Grill – is the best goddamned fish preparation that I have had in my life. It was definitely gourmet in quantity – three pieces wrapped in Zucchini like Sushi, which just melted the moment it hit our palates. Sigh.
While we waited for the other dishes to arrive – we were kept busy by an instantly replenished delicious bread-basket, served with heavenly garlic butter. We dug in shamelessly…and our greed was constantly fueled by the courteous and well-dressed staff. Dee decided to stay focused on the starters which included Norwegian Smoked Salmon…while R ordered the Filet Mignon (Medium-Rare obviously – “I want to see red” he had announced while ordering…) and I decided to bring back memories of Spain with the Paella with Spanish Chorizo (a smoked pork sausage with a distinctive taste). The Paella was as authentic as any I have ever had…but it held no candle to the Fillet. Though R was kind enough to offer us an introductory piece…he quickly proceeded to polish it. Understandably. It was just the right texture and taste and the Wasabi gave it a great zing at the end. Yummy!
Finally it was time for dessert – R pointed at a Creme’ Brouillet crème brûlée (thanks Dee) , Dee chose an Orange Mousse…and I – having a limited taste for desserts – stuck to Chocolate Fondant. All were world class. Especially the Fondant – from which copious quantities of hot chocolate liquid burst forth when the crust was broken. It was rich, creamy and just perfect. At the end of it – we lay back in our respective chairs, sated and with silly grins on our faces. Though we were wondering what the monetary damages would be like…these worries were mostly drowned in the happy tidings of good food. And guess what? The damages were nominal. For a place with such class, with such high quality of service and world class food – one could have expected to pay atleast two to three thousand per head in a city like Mumbai, Bangalore or Delhi. Here – it came up to Rs.3000 for everything – 12.5% vat included.
The Stone Water Grill at Pune is a must experience for lovers of food beyond regular Indian fare. I did see (for the sake of pure academic interest) a decently populated veggie section in the Menu too. I will definitely be visiting Pune more often – and next time I shall dress better. 😉 Bon Appetit.