For most of my childhood, monsoon meant a weekend visit to Malshej ghat and a marathon drenching under the countless waterfalls that dotted the journey. At the time, the Maharashtra Tourism resort (spectacularly located but shabbily managed) was the only piece of real estate that one could inhabit on a usually wet weekend, and one never complained.
So this year when Saj by the Lake threw open its doors to those who valued comfort and fine dining, it called for a visit. It is a boutique resort with 15 rooms, most of which have a panoramic view of a lake, mountains and a farm (with livestock happily grazing).
After a 155-km drive from Mumbai on the Kalyan Ahmednagar road that offered a scenic view of the Sahyadris, we reached Saj, garlanded by manicured lawns and a big gateway. The rooms are airy and well lit, and open out into balconies, overlooking the lake and farm. The bathrooms are charming with their attached gardens. The foyers and corridors are tastefully done up with pebble art, rice paper lamps and funky cow installations that get kids interested.
Their restaurant Maati Bani serves elegant Maharashtrian, Kashmiri and Rajasthani vegetarian fusion meals (eggs are a new entry here) with organically grown local produce. For lunch, there was bharleli vangi, mushroom masala and paneer and methi tikkis with bhakri and their special thencha. The nachani kheer was a nice soulful sum-up of a great repast.
On a less cloudy day, this would have made for an amazing night of star-gazing. Or perhaps, a bonfire.
Dinner had slow-cooked local delicacies methi pithle, biryani, mushroom masala, doodhi in green masala and the Bengali style cold bharta with mashed potatoes. Most meals are cooked in earthenware, and you can tell from their smokiness, especially the rice and jowar bhakris, and the thalipeeth.
The menu packs a punch in terms of flavours and pricing too, with all the dishes capped under `300. It’s even worth driving down from Mumbai just for a meal.
For our ride back home, I was handed a goody bag, with farm fresh vegetables. But it didn’t taste the same when I cooked it at home. Maybe it was missing the lake. Or the clouds. Or the waterfalls.
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