On a rainy Monday morning, as the rest of Mumbai goes to work, my husband and I head out of the city. Less than 90 minutes later, I am sipping on a tall, cold beer as rain patters down on the lush greenery all around. We are at Oleander Farms, a sprawling 170-acre farmland-turned-resort in Karjat that promises a peaceful, close-to-nature escape from the humdrum of city life.
The Ahuja family bought the farm in 1990, largely for weekend getaways and family weddings. After it became a temporary home during the pandemic lockdown, they decided to convert it into a getaway destination—beginning with Saltt Restaurant in early 2021, which has proven to be a big draw for travellers from Mumbai and Pune. Other dining venues have come up since then, and just last month Oleander Farms has opened 46 rooms and one villa. Most of the rooms are close to the reception and restaurants, each room overlooking either the landscaped lawns or gardens or the large swimming pool. All rooms are tastefully done up with vintage-style wood and cane furniture (made at their own workshop on the farm) and eye-catching design elements like ikat-print lampshades and Pierre Jeanneret-inspired chairs.
One of the things that really sets apart Oleander Farms from other resorts in the area is the high quality of food across its restaurants. We begin our day at the breakfast buffet, which features organic fruits grown on their farm along with the works—eggs to order, a dosa station, hot and cold breakfast dishes, bakery items, etc. For lunch, we head to Common House, a microbrewery and resto-bar that opened earlier this year. Their Rauchbier-style mild smoked lager is my favourite but the recently introduced farmer’s rice lager is also refreshing—the rice is grown on an on-site paddy field making the beer truly farm-to-pint. The expansive menu has everything from chilli cheese toast and thick-cut fries to wood-fired pizzas and wraps, but I highly recommend the litti chokha (roasted gram flour dumplings served with assorted accompaniments) and succulent mutton adana kebabs (with flatbread and hummus). Round it off with a ‘beeramisu’, a beer-infused take on the classic tiramisu (done properly with Savoiardi biscuits, not sponge cake).
If you’re feeling peckish during the day (or night), the 24X7 Saltt Coffee House is at your service with pancakes, waffles, salads, pastries, etc., not to mention excellent coffee sourced from Ahmedabad-based Korebi Coffee. For dinner, we head to Saltt, the most popular dining venue with a crowd-pleasing menu of Indian, European and pan-Asian fare; don’t miss their craft cocktails. We sign up for a wine-tasting session at Vintage Wines, a retail space where you can buy Indian and international wines.
Being a nature getaway, Oleander Farms offers outdoorsy activities such as cycling and nature trails within the property and hiking in the nearby hills—the latter can be customised to your comfort level, from easy to expert trails. There are plenty of opportunities to get your hands dirty at Kensho Greenery, the in-house nursery where you can pot your own plants to take back home. Or perhaps plant a tree, under supervision, of course. I am offered a choice of guava and amla saplings, but it’s the champa (frangipani) that catches my eye. For shopping enthusiasts, there’s Akashii Clothing with a range of garments and accessories (all handcrafted by Indian artisans) and Coco-Cart to stock up on international branded chocolates.
For space-starved Mumbaikars, this is a getaway that holds the promise of both relaxation and fun. I can’t wait to return, if only to see my champa tree blossoming in these lush environs.
Oleander Farms is a 65 km / 1 hr 45 min-drive from Mumbai airport; doubles per night from Rs. 12,000.