Our friends Mathew and Dhanya own this awesome shack in a small hill-town called Lonavala. Mathew was a video-film maker by profession but the grime and grind of Mumbai made him take an existential leap and start a barbecue shack in this beautiful, sleepy little town. The shack is called The Rainmaker’s, though it reminds me of a rainbow. They have built the place and decorated it themselves. It is such a burst of colors, and my husband and I just love going there on a weekend.
I think that words can’t really do justice to the way the shack looks. So, I am just putting up some pictures. It has three sections; the kitchen, the seating area where the food is served and a small private area where Mathew’s friends hang out and smoke a sheesha, or just listen to music. My favorite part, of course, is the kitchen. That’s where Dhanya conjures up her magical cuisine; Indian tribal food menu, Khati Rolls, Frankies, Tribal Prawn Curry, Herbed Brown Rice, Jungle Chicken Curry, Kerala Parantas, Iced Tea, Lime Peppa Soda, and Cold Coffee! She does most of the cooking herself, assisted only by one local, who helps serve the guests too. The most important feature of Dhanya’s cooking is the way she experiments with classic recipes, giving them a modern, local twist. The ingredients are always incredibly fresh and of the best quality. Which is perhaps why a lot of tourists and ex-pats have made Rainmaker’s their favorite haunt in Lonavala. To watch her in action is just amazing. She is effortless and relaxed, adding a dash of powdered herbs here, checking the gravy there. The results, of course, are deliciously divine.
Dhanya in her kitchen
Next comes the Dining area. Boy, you’ve never seen so much color in your life! And the view can only be experienced, not written about. Though the shack is breathtaking around the year, the best time to visit is during the monsoon months. I love the knick-knacks that the couple has brought in from across the country and used as decorations in the shack. From the moment you step in, the ambience works as a mood enhancer, energizing and relaxing you at the same time. The music is always good and suits the place. And for those who don’t want to go back ever, there are board-games to pass time between repeat orders. Mathew loves photography and his love for it is quite visible in the shack. Framed pictures adorn the walls and add to the eccentric character of the place.
Mathew and Dhanya, and now her brother Francy attend to the guests personally. In between all the chopping and the cooking, Dhanya manages to take out time to chat, making sure that every meal has been made to cater perfectly to the individual tastes of her guests. And the list of Rainmaker’s loyalists keeps on growing. From movie stars, to bikers, Dhanya’s cooking has everyone coming back for more.
No matter how many times we visit, we can never really tire of the shack. Because Dhanya will always have something new on the menu. In fact, I did a stint as a guest chef at the shack and really loved it. More on that later.