The Viceroy Hotel, as it was previously known, has always held a special place in my heart and memory dating back from the old days in Hyderabad. An impressive quality hotel looking over the great Tank Bund. The Bund didn’t reek back then as it does now, so the Viceroy was even more appealing.
The Viceroy is now called the Marriott, and the Marriott has an even more impressive hotel to boast of. The decor is classy and clean, not overwhelming anywhere, the lounge is cosy and the staff are smart and well dressed as you walk in. We went to Okra, their International restaurant, which was open for lunch with a buffet that was run of the mill. We decided to go for Á la carte since neither of us wanted to eat much.
Now to begin with, it was hard enough finding a table since no one came to help us. We took over 3 minutes wandering around, shuffling past scurrying waiters, customers making their way to and from the buffet, etc. We finally found a table and sat down, and a rather overworked waiter came to our table. We asked for the menu and some water to start with. He bowed hurriedly and rushed away. Five minutes later (I’m serious), no menu, no water. The same waiter went scurrying past our table several times and he didn’t get us either the menu or the water we wanted. One of the bearer stations was pretty close to our table so two or three waiters would quickly bring used trays carrying dishes or glasses etc. and they’d stop at that counter to put it away or get cutlery or what have you. As you can imagine, it was already pretty noisy listening to all that clitter clatter. 7 or 8 minutes later, we ambushed the first waiter while he was scurrying past our table again as if we were part of the restaurant furniture. He looked at us for the first time and my companion said,
He bowed once again and scurried away. This time he got us both water. He was professional with helping my companion decide what soup she wanted based on what she wanted in her soup and a chicken manchow soup was ordered. I decided to go for the Grill chicken with mash and some butter mushroom sauce. Strangely enough, our waiter informed us that the soup would take 25 minutes to reach since it wasn’t on the menu and wasn’t part of the buffet. Since when did a typical super common chinese soup take 25 minutes to make? Anyway, since we weren’t in the mood to argue (we’d only just got water haha), we agreed and I informed the bearer to get my main course along with the soup.
“Of course Sir”, he said and scurried away.
They kept up to their promise of 25 long minutes alright. Oh and before I forget, while we waited for our order, my companion wanted some ice in her water. This is usually a 30 second request, even in the Secunderabad club, where the bearers are pretty relaxed when they do their thing. 5 minutes later, no Ice. We tried getting the attention of almost 3 waiters, who were not less than 3 feet from our table scurrying to their station and back, serving some mysterious customer. They ignored us like we were people offering free pamphlets at a traffic light. While our tempers worked up, the soup and chicken never came. 25 minutes remember?
This particular incident I remember clearly, where a waiter came zooming past our table and went to work on some mysterious chore at his station.
“Excuse me” my companion said.
(A little louder) “Babu!”.
He’s putting used glasses away.
She stretched her arm far out, almost within 3 feet of him.
He’s now turned his back on us and carrying empty plates somewhere really important, like it was a secret letter carrying nuclear launch codes.
“EXCUSE ME!” she shouted.
He looked at us as if he’d only now noticed the furniture can talk.
“We asked for ice five minutes ago?!”
He nodded and went and got us ice. Now, we’d long lost the hope of having a nice relaxed lunch at the Marriott. At this point I’d like to bring to the reader’s notice, that the din in the restaurant was deafening. The waiter station’s clitter clatter was persistent, people at every table were loud and insensitive about others wanting to have a quiet meal. Oh wait, the others were in on it too. There was a printing kiosk located at the other end of the restaurant near the far tables and they kept printing bills on what sounded like a dot-matrix printer from the 90’s. You know, the one that printed with the harsh repetitive scratchy electronic noise. Why would you want to have this where customers want to eat? Why couldn’t the waiters clear all the dishes in an ante room or in the kitchen area? I wouldn’t bother if I was at a roadside dhaba or small busy restaurant, but I’d want to emphasize that the Marriott is a 5 star hotel. This goes without saying that this is the epitome of a fine dining experience. The ambience, the decor, the cleanliness and hygiene (one of the most important parameters for me), the quality of food, and most importantly, the service, is supposed to speak louder than words. Okra unfortunately, had already lost on a majority of those parameters, and we hadn’t even got our food yet. Why did the designer not think of sound dampening architecture and design for this place? Sure there were exotic paintings and vases and lighting, but the noise! Another place I had been to was this restaurant in Jubilee Hills called the Flying Spaghetti Monster, where we couldn’t sit inside just because of the MASSIVE echo from each and every sound inside! The cutlery, every word!!! Just resonated against every wall and made sure every word was heard clearly at every table. The finer details please restauranteurs?
The soup finally came. The grill chicken didn’t. Remember? The grill chicken? The one I said I wanted with the soup? So my companion sat and waited as her soup grew a nice thick malai type layer on top. The chicken arrived a good while later, but it looked gorgeous.
But at this point, did I really care? Well yes I did. Being an ardent foodie, my heart and stomach leaped with joy at the sight of the chicken. So here’s where I say, the food was downright delicious. Ok fine, it looked like the waiter had to brave a mild storm through a garden in spring to get to our table, but it was delicious.
The chicken was juicy and tender, and it even had a bit of skin on it a wee bit crisp and juicy, just the way I like it. I tucked in happily while my companion wasn’t too happy about her soup. She ended up leaving about a quarter of it. I cleaned up my plate all shiny shiny and we asked for the bill. It didn’t take long for the bill to reach our table. Surprise surprise.
Now while it isn’t in the habit of my companion to go through the bill in detail, she did notice one rather peculiar discrepancy. Both the chicken grill dish and the soup were priced the same. Both were listed as Rs. 575 /- in the bill. This didn’t make sense to me at first, just because of the relativity of things. Ok, if the chicken was Rs. 1,100 /- and the soup was Rs. 575 /-, I might’ve passed it off as the Marriott’s pricing and moved on. But this was just weird. We asked our waiter buddy whether this looked alright to him and he said.
“Yes ma’am, non veg soup na, all same same”, and walked away.
I really wasn’t going to take that so I called one of the captains. She walked over all suited booted and said she’d look into the matter. They huddled near the screechy printer kiosk and a few violent hand gestures and heated words later, a fresh printed bill was given to us with a quick “sorry”.
I stared into the bill. The soup was now Rs. 475 /-. Now the reason why I didn’t blow my top was because this was what the soup was listed as in the menu. But really Marriott? For a SOUP? Again, your main course dishes are in the region of the 600’s and 700’s, but 500 for a SOUP!?!
We walked out rather unhappy with the whole experience, but strangely with my stomach full of tasty food. In fact, I only tipped the valet guy and not the waiter. I’ll say again, only the food was good for me. The rest of the experience was a disaster.
I really wasn’t happy with this whole affair. Thank you Marriott.
Here are some quick other points, which may prove I’ve got OCD, but I still think this is expected of a star hotel.
- I went to use the rest room, which was absolutely spotless and well lit. This is always encouraging. Remember that point about cleanliness and hygiene?
- The lock on the door didn’t work in the private cubicle. It was one of those buttons in the rotating knob devices and the button got stuck and wouldn’t come undone with a twist of the knob. I sort of panicked and rushed into the other cubicle, which worked fine.
- As I was washing my hands, the restroom guy, possible the janitor was wiping the sink areas. He stank. I mean literally. I cringed my nose up and hurried out of the loo. Marriott. PLEASE. Emphasize on staff hygiene. It matters.
- The bread basket didn’t have fresh bread. It was crumbly and tough. On being told about the situation, the waiter pointed at the brown bread bun and retorted, “Vo aisich rehta”.