Sundeep Bhutoria

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ess bee

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Sunday, June 15, 2014

In London

June 15, 2014: I arrived here in London on Tuesday June 10, 2014, from Kolkata via Dubai. The weather, at 16 degree and no rains, is simply excellent and the forecast for the whole week is that it would rise to 26 degree max during the day time, which is indeed a very good weather London is looking forward to.
As always, this time too, I am staying at the St James Hotel. This hotel, which was earlier managed by The Crown Plaza, has now become a wholly-managed Taj Group property and that change is also very much evident in terms of service confirming to the Taj's standards.
London summers are always very busy and you don't miss India in London at all. From the very day I arrived here, there has been a series of events, lunches, dinners and get-togethers organized and hosted by the Indian community here. In fact one is spoilt for choice. Also, there are many Indians who spend their summers in London.
On June 11, Baroness Verma and her husband Ashok Verma invited us for a dinner at a restaurant in London called La Porte des Indes (meaning Gateway to India). This restaurant, operational since 1996, specialises in Indo-French cuisine. The decor is inspired by the culture and style of Puducherry, formerly known as Pondicherry, which was once a French colony in India and famous for spiritual gurus Aurobindo's and Mother's ashram.
This restaurant is housed in a former Edwardian ballroom spread over two floors adorned with antique Indian artefacts and a white marble staircase, flowering plants, waterfalls, jungle bar and private rooms.
On June 12, Thursday, I had lunch at the House of Lords after witnessing the ongoing session from the visitor's gallery. A discussion on English churches was on at that time. I had lunch with Lord Swraj Paul and his wife Aruna Paul.
With Spiritual guru Dada Vaswani and Ashok Verma at the Hindujas' function in London
On Thursday evening NRIs brothers Sri Chand and Gopi Chand Hindujas, one of the most famous of Indian families in London, hosted a dinner and a spiritual evening that was graced by spiritual leader Dada Vaswani. 
Dada ji has a huge fan following here and in India. Dada ji has spoken at House of Commons, The Global forum for Spiritual Leaders in Oxford, the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago, and the Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders at the UN in New York. He has written over 75 books.
Cherie Blair, Mr Srichand Hinduja, Baroness Verma, Lord Gulam Noon and Lord Hameed
The guest list also included Cherie Blair, the wife of Prime Minister Tony Blair, who also runs an NGO called Cherie Blair Foundation for Women. I met many other known to me including Lord Gulam Noon and his wife Mohini Noon. The Indian High Commissioner, Ranjan Mathai and also the Pakistani Acting High Commissioner, Mohammad Imran Mirza, who were also there.
I also went to the CPA office at Mill Bank.
At Sangeeta Dutta's residence. From left Mr Mohta, Nabaneeta, Monika Mohta (Ambassador of India to Poland and Lithuania), Sangeeta, Mira Misra Kaushik (Director, Akademi South Asian Dance, UK)
On Saturday evening I went to the residence of Sangeeta Dutta for a small cozy gathering and dinner. There I met Monika Mohta, the Indian ambassador to Poland. Monika has served as the director of the Nehru Centre London and, during her tenure, had initiated quite a lot of activities and programmes. The London's cultural fraternity miss her a lot. Monika and I have many common friends. I also met her husband Madhup Mohata who is also an Indian Foreign Service officer.
Today afternoon there was another lunch at Dr Kartar Lalvani's restaurant Indali Lounge -– The Art of Healthy Indian Dining at 50 Baker Street. This restaurant is often described as the healthiest curry house in the UK. Dr Lalvani hosted the lunch to meet and greet Madhup and Monika who are also visiting London.
Dr Lalvani opened this restaurant as a hobby and to serve healthy Indian food. He happens to own and operate one of the biggest biotech company in UK called Vitabiotics. Indali Lounge was listed by Channel4 Food as UK's number one in their “Top 10 Healthy Restaurants”.
He has banned the use of ghee (clarified butter) in his restaurant. Almost all the ingredients are organic and only a minimal amount of sunflower oil is used in the cooking. His recipes, a closely guarded secret, instead use exact measurements of different types of probiotic bio-yoghurt to create the same results. Indali food are neither over spiced nor over cooked and contains an all natural ingredient approach. Indian coastal cuisine, low-fat lamb biryani are very popular.
During lunch at the Indali Lounge, I met up with a number of other people who were known to me, including Lord Hameed. Today evening there is a annual charity ball of Indian women association and also an art function at St James Court hotel.
ess bee

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