There are 2 acres of the property. There are 2 ways to reach there. There are 2 USPs to the resort. There are 2 types of rooms. There are 2 meal preferences. There are 2 things you can enjoy at its pub, drink and dance. There are 2 ways of looking at Palm Beach Resort, you hate it or simply love it!
The first thing you’d experience upon reaching Palm Beach Resort, Manori, is the breathtaking sea breeze swaying the palms as if in a tree dance. The scent of the sand and sea is prominent. A breezy promise of a cool stay pre-booked with no advance payment! Yes, paying no advance is a relief to customers who change their uncertain minds to not lose out on a prepaid payment made in a moment of enthusiasm.
There is a reception structure at the entrance, one that looks like a chips store in anticipation of picnickers wanting some “time pass”. You are handed tokens of varying colours, labelled “Dinner”, “Breakfast”, “Lunch”, “Drinks”. In exchange for the tokens, you are entitled your respective meal/drink package as chosen at the time of booking.
As we lay foot on the sprawling two-acre property, our mood switched to jaunty. With a skip in the step, we ambled to or should I say cavorted to our rooms. The magic of being by the seaside does the trick, to get the mood uplifted … naturally.
Our double occupancy air-conditioned room @ Rs 6,400 per couple per night was sparse. The F&B package @ Rs 1,600 per head was part of the above cost; however, the rates are not bifurcated for room and meals. To my dismay, there were no towels supplied until we asked for them. There was a large cast-iron bed with a stiff mattress, a white bed cover that served as counterpane but no covering sheets except thin blankets. A black and white box stood high above the door, almost kissing the ceiling. Wait, did I say that the box wasn’t a security camera but a TV?
It’s customary of me to check out the bath-toilet first and for good reason. The commode leaked as I tried its flush. Did I ask for a change of room, but of course! The next room was in better shape, the bathroom equipped with a plastic bucket and mug as well.
Hot water is available between 8 am and 9 pm but my bet is that you’d have to wait 15-30 minutes to actually get the hot water run through the taps in the wee hours. This oughtn’t to be an area of concern as it would be hard to wake up by 9 am after an unlimited drinking spree the night before. My suggestion is to bring a towel along even if they are provided, get your own toiletries if you are as fastidious as I am about quality gel and foam on your skin and hair. Well, that’s for the flip part of the resort; the only flip part by a mile.
Well, after the room inspection was concluded and our bags partially unpacked we locked the door to go out on a brief spin of the property. You’d better get a hang of how to strategically thrust the doorknob upwards to lock it. For larger groups, there are dormitory type rooms on an eight and fourteen occupant basis @ a tariff of Rs 2,600 per pax which includes meals and stay.
There was a tall guava tree bending to kiss our door, so we shook it to free it from the burden of holding on to guavas. A few ripe guavas fell into our eager hands, some fell to the ground. We sampled some, the guavas from trees are delightful to eat. I mean guavas do grow on trees but you know what I mean about eating organic fruits right out of a tree rather than from what could possibly be force-ripened and sold from baskets in a fruit market.
As we strolled along concrete slabs on the walkways, we admired the palms and plush green foliage that led us to a semi-open bar.
A spot where gentlemen hover for a serving, nay servings, of beer, wine and spirits. The tap beer kept the barman occupied for stretched hours, literally between 7 pm and 12 am except for a brief spot when dinner was served between 10 pm and 11 pm. There’s a catch here though, in that you are required to pay a refundable cash deposit of Rs 300 for a glass of drink. I endorse this idea of a deposit, as glass breakage is minimalised if only to save the deposit. The alcohol spans a decent assortment of Port wine, Beck’s Ice tap beer, White Mischief vodka, Old Monk dark rum, Royal Challenge whiskey and Blue Riband gin. That the drinks are served in unlimited quantities makes a happier customer. The package cost for food and unlimited drinks is @ Rs 1,600 per head. This food package pricing is among the salient USPs of the resort.
With a beer in hand, I entered the dance pub with our group of friends in tow. I bumped into acquaintances whose pratter made it a vibrant evening. Music played lustily indoors, to which we shook a leg before we returned to our bar stools for a swig of beer and taste of bar snacks. They comprised potato chops, boiled peanuts, channa chaat and steamed ladyfingers stuffed with cheese and pepper.
With good food, drink, pure air, music, dance and psychedelic lights what more could one ask for! Why, that’s practically a formula for a happy life!
Back again we came for a second helping of beer and wine, and when we were surreptitiously served Bombay Duck Fry we were exultant. It was fried just the way it’s supposed to be, and the way we all liked it – crispy on the outside but soft and pulpy inside. Bombil moments are heart-stopping moments, at least to bombil enthusiasts. They need to be cherished till the last fishy crumbs are swiped off the dish. Our group had a blend of Middle Eastern and Canadian Indians hence cross-country conversation was inevitable. I always maintain that there is nothing like a good conversation with interesting minds. Hadn’t we been beckoned to dinner whose counter stays open for just an hour we’d have continued to sip and nibble, nibble and sip.
Dinner was a surprise, a pleasant one. Being a food critic by nature, or should I say food pessimist if there ever is such a term, I braced myself for a below-par food experience. However, my pessimism was soon alleviated when I popped in morsel after tasty morsel of the buffet spread. The shark gravy cooked in traditional East Indian style and paneer kadai done the North Indian way were the highlights of dinner. In addition, the menu consisted of salad, steamed rice, chapatis, dal tadka, alu flower and dry chicken. The spread was good enough for a fitness enthusiast to tuck in. To me, it wasn’t the extent of the spread but the smacking taste of food that was impressive. It’s no wonder then that the cooking is overseen by the owner’s wife, and cooked to specific measurements. Dessert came in the form of dudhi halwa which was delicious, and even saying that would be underplaying the adjective.
For one who watches her weight, it is practically sin to help herself with two servings of halwa which was made from homegrown dudhi. Give a man (or woman) good food and (s)he will be loyal forever. For sure, this adage holds true for the food of Palm Beach Resort. I decided instantly that the quality of food was yet another of the resort’s USPs.
After a heavy spot of dinner which couldn’t obviously be helped, we stayed outdoors in a stilt-like area continuing our chat from where we left off. We returned to our respective rooms well past 3 am only because we knew we had to wake up to a sumptuous breakfast the next morning. Sleep quality was decent, with no gusty singing or whoops from the neighbouring rooms.
That my expectations had risen after the bar and dinner experience was but natural. True to my expectations, breakfast was the best part of my stay at Palm Beach Resort in Manori. Served between 9.45 am and 10.45 am, I gorged on two servings of ussal-pav which thankfully didn’t reek of garam masala typical of cheap ussal centres in the city. This dish was cooked in Maharashtrian style said the owner. There was chicken kheema in green masala, semi-dry and gooey. It could jolly well have been homemade or cooked with plenty of TLC. Batatawadas, omelette, sandwiches, aloo parathas, rice bhakris filled up the counter but the ussal and kheema topped my favourites. Not forgetting the smacking sheera divinely cooked in pure ghee! Tea and coffee were served in the stilt area outside the restaurant. The tea could have done with a better tea maker but with a brekky as good as it was, who cared about beverages! The F&B package is charged @ Rs 1,600 per head which is significantly low and value for money.
The breakfast area cleared out faster than lightning but soon knew why. Because the bar opened up for the day round of unlimited drinks, from 11 am to 5 pm! It was a sight to observe picnickers slug beer after fiesty beer or rum after mellow rum. More mid-morning snacks came along, a loaded platter of French fries, chicken kebabs, masala stuffed ladyfingers and pickled raw mango slices. We were their pet customers I guess, which probably bagged us some red masala stuffed pomfret fry as special “chakna“. Like the stuffed fish we were stuffed too, as if there was no tomorrow.
It makes sense to go for a dip in the swimming pool on the property. With friendly picnicking groups, it was exciting to play ball outside one’s group. Or paddle your feet in the water if you didn’t feel like a swim. Or sit with a cooler under the shady canopy, watching the others at pool play.
Most of the resort’s clientele comprised families or societies who lounged in the stilt area indulging in a full-throated exchange of “antakshari” singing, dumb charades and karaoke music. I struck a conversation with the owner, Ashley D’Souza, whose face won’t reveal the multiple projects he oversees. Not a frown on his brow, just an affability personified. It was a throwback conversation, as we both recalled the names of mutual relatives and friends from our respective residential colonies. Palm Beach Resort in Manori isn’t his only baby; he runs a restaurant named JB Dynasty at Malad of which I remember having read great reviews. He runs Malwani Kkalwan, a coastal cuisine restaurant at Versova. This restaurant is apparently patronised by Chef Sanjeev Kapoor himself. The food must sure be delish for chefs to dine here. What was new to me was that Ashley’s daughter runs Burrow Cafe at Malad and that she has a disposition for hospitality isn’t new given the family leaning.
It was interesting to note that no managers are employed here, but stewards with responsibilities. A good idea to upgrade a waiter’s charge and to be the manager of one’s own enterprises. After all, only an owner would best know how to optimise his paybacks from this strategy. At least this owner knows best.
It was a rainy spell of a day hence conversations lingered longer, as palms swayed to the pitter-patter of the raindrops. He pointed out to a farm in the far distance, one where ladyfingers and dudhi are planted and perhaps more vegetation. That would account for the ladyfingers that dominated the weekend menu and the dudhi too. The ladyfingers are organic and long, unlike the variety available at commercial markets. I hadn’t seen this variety except in the vegetable markets of Goa.
It was lunchtime by the end of our chat; some more spread of steamed rice and prawn curry which again was cooked in local style. The prawns were unshelled, to render an added flavour. There were two chicken preparations, in red and green masala. For vegetarians, there was dal fry, paneer mutter and bhendi bhaji. Looks as if the farm had a bumper crop of okra this season as it found itself in the evening snacks menu, mid-morning starters and lunch as well. For dessert, there thankfully was just a single one in the form of gulab jamun which was too much for some of us to venture to tuck in. A sweet dish swimming in sweetened syrup is what fire is to hell.
It’s incredible how some made “paisa vasool” coming back to binge more on alcoholic drinks after lunch. Ashley sure has analysed his clientele’s behaviour and cravings to make it into a rolling business. Food diversity and quality definitely have an edge over its lodging merits. No one who comes here would consider not returning. In fact, we have planned to spend the New Year’s at Palm Beach Resort what with dancing to DJ music, food and spirits in abundance, ambient surroundings and more!
As indicated in my introductory lines, there are 2 acres of property which the owner had a vision when purchasing for a few lakh rupees nearly three decades ago. As I indicated, there are 2 ways to get here. While we arrived via Mira-Bhayandar by road, we made our way back home via the Gorai by ferry. There are 2 varieties of rooms, double or dormitory types. There are 2 types of meals, vegetarian and non-vegetarian. Mind you, the Jain vegetarians won’t have a place here. There are 2 singular USPs, its food and drink. I’d like to retract my earlier contention that there are 2 ways of looking at Palm Beach Resort in Manori. No, there is just one way; you will adore it!