I'm sure we can all agree that summers have been extra harsh this year and it's hard to deny the scorching, energy-sapping season that just went by with India reeling under a heat wave that seemed interminable. So I jumped at the thought of escaping from the city, even though it was for work, especially when I was lucky to have gorgeous mountains and hill stations just hours away.
Approximately 200 kilometres northwards from Delhi, the plains fall away and the landscape begins to change and so does the AQI (Air Quality Index), of course. The air is noticeably more breathable, the weather is cooler and the concrete jungle is replaced by lush greenery as the road starts to climb towards the Shivalik's. As you enter the picturesque city of Mussoorie, you'll find yourself standing over 6000 feet above the sea level as you stare into the glorious and majestic Garhwal Himalayas. The scenic drive meanders through forests and pine-clad hill roads to reach the JW Marriott Mussoorie Walnut Grove Resort & Spa. To appreciate the true beauty of nature here, I'd strongly recommend you skip that flight and take a road trip.
Go (Wal)Nuts! As the name suggests, this marvellous property prides itself on its walnut grove—made evident with the treats that await every guest in their room, alongside artisanal cheese and some champagne. As a part of the walnut trail experience, guests are welcome to take a walk in the walnut plantations, watch the accruing of fresh walnuts and even plant their own sapling, as part of their tradition, giving them a reason to keep coming back to this paradise-on-earth. Cute isn't it?
The resort houses over 115 rooms and suites, which all come with their own private balcony, which most definitely is a plus point, giving me a chance to enjoy Mussoorie weather, the sunrise (or the sunset, if you aren't a morning person) in my PJs. Most of these look out to their gorgeous lawns, greenhouse and scenic views of the valley beyond, and as is now customary, even my big, beautiful bath came with a view.
Coming to the most important part of this story: the food! The Marriott Walnut Grove has four restaurants employing state-of-the-art equipment and an assorted range of drinks to elevate your dining experience. If I may walk you through them, we have the JW Café—an all-day multi-cuisine café, Teppan—a Pan-Asian restaurant serving an authentic Oriental fare for dinner, Trout House Grill & Bar—offering a genuine Himalayan fare, frequented by many localites and Wisteria Deck—an open-air Mediterranean brunch and lunch spot. The menu at each restaurant is many buzzy things: sustainable, locally sourced and ingredient-forward.
With chef Amitesh Virdi at the helm, he heads a team that is well-versed with their respective cuisines ranging from continental and Oriental to local flavours. My personal highlight was the authentic and elaborate Garhwali Thali at Trout House Grill & Bar. All its components had such big portions that I could only make it halfway through (petit people pains). And while my stomach did eventually give up on me from all the extensive eating, it's safe to say that it was all worth it.
Every dish in the Thali was prepared with locally sourced Himalayan ingredients like gahat (horse gram), bicchu ghaas (nettle leaf), and the jakhiya (dog mustard or wild mustard), which is a real primer in Garhwali food. There was a lot on the menu here to leave you suffonsified, but if it's not local fare that excites you, you might need to re-check your priorities as a traveller.
The evening kachdi sessions—or you could also call it a traditional evening high tea—out in their lawns also give you a glimpse into the Garhwali get-together traditions. They have other tailor-made experiences, like serving breakfast in their JW Farm, or in the middle of an actual stream if a little nature trail excites you. A much needed break from city life is what JW Marriott offers you. So if you would like a combination of the Garhwal landscape, hearty meals, and a learning experience about the local history and culture, this journey is one that you should definitely embark upon.
Sanya is the Social Media Manager at India Food Network. While her background certifies she’s a chef by degree, only her close ones have had a taste of her culinary quirks. She swears by her 12am experimental cook out sessions and always cleans up as she goes.