Markaiz in the buzzing hill township offers a relaxed vibe with Continental and Parsi gate, fudge-inspired desserts and an arresting view
Chicken dhansak; (right) Chicken cutlets
The overcast sky caused a slight nip in the air, inspiring us to drive down to Lonavala. En route, we spotted tiny streams rolling into crevices of the green-topped ghats along the Expressway. The drive is scenic but we had an added incentive this time; the family responsible for creating the popular Cooper’s fudge since 1940, has now opened a new restaurant called Markaiz, and is a recent addition to Lonavala’s growing list of eateries. The name comes from Marzia and Kaizaan, the young members of the Cooper family who helm this new venture. A student hotel management and pastry baking from Le Cordon Bleu, London, Marzia, London, Marzia partnered with her sibling who pursued business studies from RA Podar College in Mumbai. The attractive standalone structure constructed by the family also offers a large open parking space. The signboard on the ground floor mentions the fudge shop that opened at this new address on Navroze last March. The restaurant followed this June.
Markaiz, located on the first floor is bright, airy and roomy and has been designed by architect Bomi Irani. The space is divided into three: A cosy coffee shop that serves baked goodies; a lavish indoor dining space with a large bar and an oven where you see your pizza baking. Our preferred table, though, lies in the al fresco section. The lush green interiors as well as the soothing view of the rolling hills make for a therapeutic get-away.
Burrata bowl; Cooper’s chocolate fudge cake; Khandala keri-keri collin
The menu is a mix of continental and Parsi fare. “We always wanted to try continental and European food, but since we are Parsi, there was a certain expectation. Even when we opened the shop on the ground floor and were getting work done upstairs, patrons would ask us what was coming up. They would say, ‘You’ll serve Parsi cuisine, right? We want to eat dhansak.’ So we felt we must serve Parsi food as well. We don’t have an extensive Parsi menu; just a few select dishes. The recipes have been sourced from my mother and grandmother, and our executive chef Jenny Mooken has done a great job with both kinds of cuisines,” Marzia tells us, when we catch up with her after our meal.
We try a bit of both, but lean towards the Parsi fare. We ordered a burrata bowl (R650) where fresh burrata is drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, balsamic caviar and pine nuts in a pesto base. It’s fresh, creamy, and almost luxurious on the palate. The crunchy chicken straws (R600) are crisp, elevated by the spicy mango ketchup they are served with.
Our drinks are refreshing. The Khandala keri-keri collin (R600) with gin, raw mango, soda, lime, salt and ginger and the Khandala cooler (R600) with rum infused with cardamom, lime, mint, bitters and ginger beer are perfectly balanced in a manner that no ingredient overpowers the other. The Parsi fare is delicious and overpowers the other. The aromatic and flavourful chicken dhansak (R600), mutton cutlets served with saria (R600) and the salli gosht (R750) where succulent mutton is cooked in a tangy gravy and served with with potato salli and pav, turn out to be our favourites. While its café ambience and laid-back vibe won our vote, we found the pricing steep. Similar authentic Parsi fare is available at economical prices back in Mumbai’s Irani cafés.
The menu also features wood-fired pizzas, pasta, soups, salads, savoury and sweet bakes, gourmet sandwiches and a long list of specialty coffees. The dessert menu is extensive too. Some of them also use the Cooper fudge as the star ingredient. There’s fudge cake, fudge croissants and fudge macaroons. While we tried the Cooper’s fudge chocolate cake (R380) the one thing we will keep coming back for is the moist, boozy layers of the tiramisu (Rs 428).
We chose a weekday afternoon to visit Markaiz with the intention of skipping the busy Lonavala traffic over the weekend but we learnt later that the restaurant invites live performers from Lonavala, Mumbai and Pune every weekend; take your pick.
At Cooper’s Fudge, 1st floor, Ryewoods, opposite Viner Resort, Thombrewadi, Lonavala.
On Daily; 10.30 am to 11.30 pm
Call 9373339099 (for reservation)
4/4 Exceptional, 3/4 Excellent, 2/4 very Good, 1/4 Good, 0.4/4 Average. Markaiz didn’t know we were there. The Guide reviews anonymously and pays for meals