My Fiance (now my dear wife) and I, hereinafter referred to as the Love of My Life or LOML for short, felt like trying some place new in Hyderabad for a meal. Our minds did the usual scan of the area we live in, i.e. Banjara Hills and decided it had to be one of the several new places that have spawned (like acne on an adolescent child’s face) in the Banjara Jubilee area.
Ciclo, location wise, is unbeatable. It has great parking both in the front and on the side of the establishment. As I pulled up in my SUV towards the front, the valet aggressively approached my vehicle and asked me to stop. I saw an empty parking and decided to park my car myself and gestured towards the non-smiling aggressive valet that I did not need his services to park. He didn’t seem too pleased.
Walk into the restaurant (I use this term loosely), and you wonder if you’re hallucinating and walked into a pro biking store instead. There’s cycles. Cycles and bicycling equipment and paraphernalia as far as the eye can see. It’s at this point I’d like to talk about the decor. It’s like taking two mutually exclusive concepts of business out of a straw hat and deciding to bring them together for a business idea. All the press coverage that this place boasts of is generally along the lines of “India’s first cycling cafe” and “India’s first cycle themed eatery.” Strangely enough, none of them actually spoke of the culinary prowess, variety, or taste of the actual food served by this establishment.
For me, innovations that involve the merging of two separate ideas generally means they need to be a hand-in-glove sort of a relationship (see what I did there?) For example, fixing an eraser on the back of a pencil, or fixing a light on the top of a miner’s hat. It’s symbiotic. It works together. It works well together. Come buy a cycle and also drink lots of cocktails and cycle out of here with perfect balance seemed a bit chaotic in my mind. Sure one can walk around looking at cycles and then decide to get a bite to eat, but I fail to see the USP of this whole idea. Cycling enthusiasts and pro bikers, you know, the guys who really get into the stuff and end up spending lakhs on cycles and cycling equipment, will feel very happy in here. This way I can think of several “first in India” type restaurant concepts. How about a 4×4 offroading cafe? India’s first hat store and restaurant? India’s first fishing equipment themed restaurant, India’s first shoe themed restaurant, India’s first pet store themed restaurants (buy a pitbull while you sip on a martini?), India’s first music instrument themed restaurant, India’s first matrimonial themed restaurant? (browse through potential spouses as you eat Biryani?). What I’m trying to say is, without the hype, it’s just A + B and no one’s ever combined A + B before. It’s basically two different businesses with some aesthetic trade-offs in terms of décor and the usual trivia and history lessons embedded in the menus and stuff. You know, the first cycle came in 1817, word tour on cycle, benefits of cycling, and all that sort of thing.
Call me old fashioned, but we went to this restaurant to eat. So let’s get down to the food and beverages, service, and decor. The ambience was alright and the place is exceedingly well lit with natural light during the day. The tables aren’t spaced too close to one another. This is such a plus in today’s world where restaurants are cramped for space and restauranteurs try to fit as many tables as possible in tight small areas. The cutlery was dirty and put me off immediately. There was old dried food and sauce stains and crusty bits of yucky looking remains inside my table mat (in the weave) and the menus given to us were absolutely filthy on the front page itself. Wonderful varying colours of green, red, and yellow stained dried sauces met my eyes as I carefully used my finger to find a clean spot on the damn thing to turn the page. I lost my appetite a little.
The LOML ordered a white wine based cocktail while I chose a Kinley mineral water. We both were quite hungry so we decided to just get mains instead of dilly dallying over appetizers and what not. The LOML ordered a soya, green apple and plum veggie burger and I ordered a flame grilled fillet mignon with confit garlic mash, sautéed spinach, jus, and blue cheese butter. We both felt so la di da ordering this stuff. It was nice to see new food to order in a restaurant in Hyderabad.
The wait time was slightly long, but that encourages conversation so we bickered and quarrelled over petty things as any couple does, until the food arrived. But first, the cocktail. A rather small measure of wine with what seemed to be an entire chopped fruit salad stuffed into a wine glass was served to the LOML. The LOML took one sip and murmured “that wine tastes really cheap.”
“But is the drink nice my darling?” I asked.
“It’s kinda meh. The wine’s really cheap tasting.” She replied sort of morose.
“Ah shucks babe, just eat the fruit, its good vitamins and fiber”. I said and turned my attention to my massive massive rectangular plate of steak.
The fillet mignon, was basically this. One ginormous bed of mash potato, two small chunks of meat, covered with some more mash and lots of soggy wilted spinach leaves. This whole sordid cacophony of goop was made even more goopy swimming in a lake of jus. The quantity was huge, but what I ideally would’ve liked is this: Double the quantity of meat (increase the price of the dish if you have to), one fourth the quantity of mash placed separately on the plate, spinach next to it, and sauce in a little cup. The proportions and presentation were all wrong and the flavour of blue cheese was so overwhelming that I gagged in the first mouthful. Blue cheese is very very powerful stuff my friends. It’s not for the faint hearted at all. Please don’t dump everything one on top of the other like Jenga and call it a fillet mignon.
The meat was well done like I asked and was soft to eat. Props there. That’s about it. I couldn’t finish that mountain of mash and I ended up wasting some. I really don’t like wasting food. I felt bloated after eating so much mash. The price of the steak was 475 which is comparatively cheap, but with all the wrong helpings and servings and presentation.
The LOML wasn’t entirely happy with her burger either. The bun she said was extremely nice, it seemed to be toasted fresh bread, which was nice. There was just the patty inside with the plum and apple sauce on top. No vegetables. There were some lettuce leaves on the outside on the plate, which I observed was outside to not make the bun soggy. That’s very thoughtful indeed. But how about a slice of tomato and maybe a choice of salad for the burger chaps?
Lastly came the bill. Ciclo seems to be completely unaware that there are rulings by the Hon’ble Consumer fora in Hyderabad that restaurants cannot overcharge for mineral water. Ciclo however, seems to have furiously pedalled away from the rulings and decided to bill me Rs. 50 for a clearly printed Rs. 20 Kinley bottle of mineral water. Since I am a practising lawyer in the city and my eyes usually scan fine print for discrepancies, I instinctively asked the server why I was being overcharged for the bottle as it clearly has Rs. 20 printed on it. “It’s cooled water na sir” came the sheepish reply. Gone are the days where the local kirana store uncle/aunty would take 1 Rupee more for ‘cooling charges’ but voila! Ciclo has brought it back! Congratulations!
I would definitely go to Ciclo to buy a cycle. The range of bicycles and equipment is very impressive indeed! I wouldn’t go there to drink and/or eat again though. Also, please correct your water overcharging to be in consonance with the recent rulings of the court. It’s very simple to file a consumer case with just the bill copy and a couple of photos and the restaurant ends up getting bad press and paying damages and compensation to the Complainant to the tune of Rs. 20,000!