Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Lunch at Apollo Gleneagles

What do Kolkata and Bengali's remind you of? If this question were to be randomly administered by a market researcher, I would surmise that eight out of ten respondents will say "sweets". If the horizon of the respondents could be broadened, I would say the answer is "food". Before Bongs take offence, let me inform those who do not know that I am also a Bengali or Bong, as my friends say. And I should know (about food). Even as we (Bongs) eat one meal, around the table the discussion usually turns to the menu of the next meal. As anyone knows, the success of any expedition rests on proper planning. See where President Bush and Donald Rumsfield landed USA in with hasty action and lack of proper planning. And for the Bong, every meal is a major expedition worthy of planning by Napolean or Rommel.

But the importance of food for the Bengali was brought to me - as if I needed a reminder - in a most unusual place. I stayed three nights at the Apollo Gleneagles Hospital in Kolkata (near EM Bypass and next to Swabhumi). The first morning I went down to get some tea at the cafeteria on the ground floor. What greeted me was surprising to say the least. It was a veritable feast. What was available is the following: masala dosa, plain dosa, medu wada, vegetable sandwich, cheese sandwich, chicken sandwich, fish roll, fish fry, vegetable samosa, chicken wings, chicken lollypop, chicken legs fried with corn, chicken tikka, chicken malai kebab, buns, sweet buns, vegetable fried rice, mixed vegetable curry, four varieties of pastries, chocolate brownies, fruit muffin, chocolate muffin, plain muffin, chocolate mousse, vegetable patties, chicken patties, loochi-aloo (Puris and potato curry), chicken pakoda and I am sure I have missed some more delicacies. This was not the menu, it was what was available on the shelves.

In drinks, apart from tea, coffee and aerated drinks, a reasonable variety of milk shakes were available. While waiting for my hot cup of tea, I noticed a sign board – mouth watering and your favorite delicacies now available in the multi cuisine restaurant at the Day Care Centre (part of the hospital). The accompanying pictures were of biryani, pasta and noodles. The Day Care Centre was opposite the main hospital building where OPD patients are seen. In the evening a friend dropped in to see me. He said, "Don't go to the cafeteria for meals. The restaurant at the Day Care Centre is better and the choice is much better." Apparently a consultant doctor at the hospital, I was told, invited his extended family for lunch one afternoon after this restaurant opened. And I happen to know that the story is not apocryphal.

On the second day my friend insisted in bringing me lunch from his home. My pleas that the hospital food being served was perfectly palatable fell into deaf years. And the lunch arrived. To call it lunch will be to do it grave injustice. It was a feast fit for a king. The menu was something like this: rice, dal, sukto (a mixed vegetable preparation), pat paatar bhaja (fried pat leaves), potol-potato curry, hilsa fish curry (a couple of large pieces with one of them being the peti, the most sought after part of hilsa) with jhinge (ridge gourd). No, there was no dessert! That was missed in a hurry. Bless my friend's wife who conjured up all this and offered to follow up with more at dinner time. I made some excuses. And now let me tell you a secret - while I protested and absolutely forbade them from getting me more meals, I thoroughly enjoyed the meal and wouldn't have minded some more of that hilsa fish (hilsa from Bangladesh – paddar ilish, as Bongs would say - at Rs1,000 a kg).

I have reached the end. And it would be unfair if I do not mention the lunch on the first day at a doctor friend's house who lives a stone throw away from the hospital. The menu was: rice, sukto, dal, potoler dolma (potol stuffed with shrimps and coconut), chicken curry, lobster curry (with the head and tail of the lobster in tact) and mango chutney (the Bong variety) bringing up the rear. This on a perfectly normal working day. Now you know what I miss in Mumbai. And next time you are driving to Kolkata airport and want to have some quick snacks or a meal, do drop in at Apollo Gleneagles. It will not disappoint. I do not know if the same can be said about the other departments at the hospital.


Sudipta Chatterjee said...

Damn.. damn damn!!

It is criminal of you to make another Bong miss all that!

Moi seriously unhappy now... will be cribbing all day :( :(

Mishti said...

Thanks, Sudipta...I hope you had some good food during the day to make you happy.

Anonymous said...

You're serious? Wow! In the Apollo Gleneagles?

And tell you what, the names themselves made my mouth water. Ah, luchi-aalu! shukto! potol!
Potol, come to think of it, was detested by me when I was in Kolkata... Distance gives one perspective. Who could believe I would miss dear ol' shukto and potol so much?

Mishti said...

Hi, Retrosexual: I am serious...Next time you are in Kol, check it out as you drive into or from the airport.

All my non-bong friends in Kharagpur used to hate potol and never understood why bongs love potol. But then they never had potol in a bong houselholds. The cooks in KGP used to be all from Andhra!! And distance and absence doesmake one long for the stuff gone by. But the ilish...well nothing to beat that.

Nomad said...

Mishti, you are turning into a Busybee for Kolkata! Your article reminded me of old Busybee 'Round and About' columns first in Midday and then in ADC where he used to review restaurants in Mumbai.

You reminded me of the good old days in Jampot and of course the 'sasural' but that's like thousands of miles away. What really surprises me is the lack of Bong entrepreneurship so far as running restaurants is concerned. How come there aren't any Bong restaurants (good or otherwise) outside West Bengal? The Udupi's could do it, the Punjabi's could do it; why not Bongs? All that a typical non-Bong knows about Bong delicacies is 'Rasagolla' and at the most 'Sandesh'; which is kind of sad.

Mishti said...

anirudha.duttaNomad: Thanks for your comments...Koyee, busybee nahin ban raha hoon. Talking about Bong entrepreneursihip (an oxymoron?)- ad professional Anjan Chatterjee has started a series of restaurants of which Mainland China and Oh Kolkata are very popular. He already ahs outlets in Mumbai, Pune, Kolkata and Bangalore. There are plasn to go to UK soon. Next time you are in Mumbai, lets go to Oh Cal...or u can always sample bong food at home.

Anonymous said...

Reading about food and watching the food network makes me hungry always. Its funny that you mention Oh Calcutta in one of your comments, I was watching "Bizzare Foods with Andrew Zimmern" and he was in Delhi and ate at Oh Cal and interviewed the Chef Joy Bannerji. The preperations on the show were stuff I am not fimiliar with, Banana flower subji and Banana Stem subji. But sounded very delicious. - Mushira

Mishti said...

Mushira: Thanks for ur comments.while we bongs are known for our fondness of fish and sweets, the veg delicacies are quite unique and yes, delicious. Next time you are in Mumbai, we must go to Oh Calcutta.

Larissa said...

i grinned all through your piece....my goodness, you actually remembered what was available...and i never knew you were in hospital :(