Not another Review!!

Not another review! What makes this different? Well, for starters, the person(s) reviewing stuff here are people who grew up in a world thats far removed from "the Reviews on Gruyere cheese and Asparagus..." In other words,
1. We love Amul butter - the salted yummy thing better than all the 'sophisticated' imported butter in the world!
2. We love the gooey, drippy sweetness of Indian sweets
3. We have, at some point in our lives, ate spoonfulls of Milkmaid conensed milk - right out of the can
4. We understand food and wine pairing (Courtesy the persistent lecturers in Hotel mgmt college), but would rather have chilled beer or the exotic looking potent cocktail with our spicy chicken tikkas or fish fries
5. Prefer to use words like 'delicate' for silks and 'sharp' for tools... NOT food!
6 Are dying find product which make lives easier for working mothers, wives, girlfriends or considerate (also read that as hen pecked) husbands and boyfriends!

So go on... pour your heart out about stuff you liked or hated!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Big Chills

Firstly, I have to thank Ritu for taking me out for lunch - thank you buddy! You have compelled me to write about the restaurant we went to. And so here is my first review on a food place!

Its called the Big Chills in a lovely little market called Kailash Colony Market. Very different from the GK market. Climb up a flight of (steep!?) steps to reach an amazingly quaint little place that looks right out of a postcard. We were directed to the best spot in the restaurant (which, I suspect is because my friend is a regular who knew more about the menu than the steward himself!). Our table was near a window and a nice view of the market.

First, the ambiance : The place, like already mentioned, is quaint. It has an old world trattoria kind of charm, with green wrought iron lamp posts, and little tables and chairs. (I wouldn't say the chairs were the most comfortable ones, but that fact slips into oblivion when the food arrives!!). The restaurant also had a healthy amount of noise inside. The kind that one would associate with happy get-togethers among young groups. People chatting, laughing and ofcourse, eating! The checkered table linen added to the trattoria feel.

The food : I have to warn you - you better be very, very hungry......... or be prepared to shamelessly pack up more than half the meal to carry back with you. Because the portions are HUGE... and you will not want to leave behind anything. We did exactly that - we asked for the servers to pack whatever we couldn't polish off. And for a person with very clear restaurant etiquette, an act like that speaks volumes on the quality of the food.

I had ordered a fuselli with a tangy tomato sauce and inspite of the repeated warnings my friend gave herself, she went ahead and ordered a creamy pasta for herself. We were hungry, and we were getting hungrier by the minute. (Maybe the smells from the kitchen had something to do with it). The food arrived, and we were short of drooling into the table linen.

The pasta had a nice, homely look. A big bowl almost to the brim with steaming pasta, generously sauced, and a no nonsense approach to the garnishing. Least hindrance to gobbling of the food, I say! Well we dug in, and the feeling can only be described as bliss! Did I care that the plate presentation was a tad untidy? Honestly, No!

We couldn't finish our pastas. But we were getting greedy, and blueberry cheesecake was what took our fancy. And I am glad it did! Crumbly base, lovely texture of the cheesecake, which did an amazing duet with the blueberry layer on top. I really couldn't stop closing my eyes while eating it.

The service : Quick boys, with an expression that cannot be identified. They were all over the place, rushing in and out, and the worst thing I can think about the service is that it gets difficult to identify your server - they all look alike! The niceties are there. You get escorted to your table, you are asked for your order pretty soon, you are even suggested dishes if you ask them. They obviously don't believe in the frills of classic restaurant service. But again, negligible factor when you start warming up to the place.

My take on the place? An ideal place for an afternoon out with an old friend. A fantastic place when you are hungry enough to eat big. Most of all, a nice place to feel young again. Average price for a meal for two very hungry people is around Rs.1500.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Clockwise or anti-clockwise?

Flashback to 16 years ago........I am a student of hospitality management, trying to pack in all the information of 2o different subjects into the small human organ called the brain.

I am standing with a hot platter of rice in one hand and service gear (thats hotel lingo for a comparatively large pair of spoon and fork used in classic service) in the other, frantically looking at clock on the wall. No, I am not late for a date. What I am trying to do here is to understand how to serve everyone on my table in an anticlockwise order!

As a student, it was of course, natural to blame the system, the institute, the faculty, and the entire world of hospitality on creating such crazy rules! We couldn't care less if the fork was on the right hand side or if the cutting edge of the knife was facing the roof!! We really couldn't understand how it mattered that the server served water from the right, but food from the left; or that food when it came on a plate was served from the right and when it came in a platter, was served from the left - confusing isn't it?

It took 3 years and half a dozen committed faculty members to get the basics of what we call "Silver Service" engraved into our memories. It didn't make much sense to us, but we could rattle off the sequence, the direction and even the angle to bend forward to do the service with aplomb!

So, how important is it to know EXACTLY which wine goes with roast chicken, and which one with tenderloin? I mean does it really make a difference if you clear plates from the left or do it anti-clockwise? (For the non hotelier - clearance of plates is done from the right side of the guest and the server moves clockwise around the table )

I am about to disappoint many who are potential hotel managers by stating that it is imperative that you know these seemingly unimportant trivia. Moving through college after college, meeting with so many students, has brought out this very unpleasant fact - technical know-how is the least concentrated upon when preparing for interviews! And irrespective of what you may, as students think, the basics that are learnt during the three years you put in during college are going to be your friends for life.

It also shows the interviewer how interested and passionate you are about this industry (because you can bet your last penny that the interviewer is a passionate hotelier!), and also if you take his company and him seriously. There is nothing an interviewer hates more than someone who wastes his time.

Please understand, the interview panel has put in a lot of effort in planning, and executing the interviews. Its not as easy as it looks, and the seeming indifference that shows through when a candidate is unprepared only makes it tougher for the interviewer. Every interview panel will beam with joy when that spark comes into vision out of a candidate who has genuinely put in effort to make an impression! Nothing wrong in trying to impress the panel - only shows you value the company and the panel enough to do so!

So by all means do impress them - with the passion that you share with them on common topics - especially the world of hospitality.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Campus Circus - part 1

The fog made sure I was there much later than I would have liked. Drove like the possessed to reach at least 10 minutes before the presentation was due. Not that it really mattered....

I was part of the team my organization trusted to get in the "creators of the future" through the campus placement interviews at a prestigious Hotel Management Institute. It was the third time I have been visiting this very same campus, and I was looking forward to an enlightening time.

Us hoteliers are an obsessive lot. The presentation has to be just the right style, with exactly the perfect pictures and the immaculate ambiance we are known to create in our own worlds namely, the hotels. Maybe that explained why my senior colleague was there fidgeting with the wires, and checking for the umpteenth time, whether everything was "just perfect". This walking-talking brand ambassador of the hotel industry would not take any slackness too lightly. But today, the smile said it all - we were rolling as per schedule and we were looking forward to it - just like the many times we have done before.

The presentation was our stage - and if we were a movie, we would have been a blockbuster hit. The students (some of who started out looking bored, skeptical, and amused) were now eager to see themselves crack the interview code... success round 1!

Finally, we were meeting the students one by one. I am tempted here, to quote a few statements made by the "creators of the future".

My favorite : "I would like to be in Front Office because I think my personality is best suited for that." Ask why again, and you get a winning answer - "Coz I like to interact with guests" A couple more 'Why's from the interviewer, and the end result looks something like the statement below

"I think I look good, and all I like doing is standing and looking important. I dont like to roll up my sleeves and get going. I would prefer just picking up a phone and having someone else do the dirty job. Ofcourse, when its time for the guest to leave, I would be more than happy to ask him if the problem was rectified (by some one else!!)"

Another favorite : "I am appearing for the Management Training Program, as I want to be a manager" Now, this is a tricky one. Ask why and you get answers ranging from clichés to shockers!

Cliché : "I am a person with leadership qualities, can learn fast and... blah blah"

Shocker : "My parents have spent way too much money on my education and hence I can only work as a Manager."

The hospitality industry prides itself on dignity of labor. Tenacity and the ability to innovate are the medals every proud hotelier wears on his heart. As one of my senior colleagues painfully stated - "We went hunting for second hand books which would give us a picture or two of hotel lobbies to stick on to project reports. Our books were too few and too precious to be actually of much use to us and We didn't have the internet to do our assignments. What we did have, was the love of the hospitality world, and the passion for everything that had anything remotely to with Hotels"

Are hoteliers slowly becoming a vanishing breed? More on the same thoughts later!