Hotel breakfast buffets are capable of providing some genuine foodie moments. Since I seriously follow the ‘Breakfast like a King’ adage and take my breakfast buffets very seriously, I always look forward to breakfast buffets. Before the international chains had taken over the hotel industry, the uncorrupted Indian hotels would dish up great buffets – even in small towns or small hotels in large cities. So I have had some of the best eggs benedict, alu parathas, adai dosa, and multigrain idlis at hotel buffets while travelling. And the undisputed king of buffet breakfast remains the Taj.
With the best of the international chains coming into India, one would expect their offerings to become better, and of higher quality but alas, it is not to be. Hotels are becoming more inward looking, with the focus being on profitability and efficiency rather than customer delight and service.
When I land up at the Shangri-la hotel to have a breakfast with my visiting sister at 10 in the morning, I am excited about meeting her, and about consuming some good breakfast. It is great to meet my sis, but soon I realize, good breakfast is not going to happen. Shangri-la disappoints in all departments of the breakfast buffet – be it food, refilling of dishes, or the levels of service and responsiveness.
And this is why – there is a long line up of a lot of dishes, but the best of them are not being refilled. I ask for the beef medallions where one solitary overcooked piece of meat stares at me, and the server assures me rather pompously that more will come, which of course they don’t. In a hotel of this caliber, I would expect one to come to my table, but here the stress seems to be getting me out before 10:30 am, the closing time. The story repeats itself with goat cheese which again never arrives. The waffle counter has a disinterested looking server who refuses my request to make a fresh waffle for me, and instead gives me one from a bunch he has made earlier.
Determined to have a good time, especially since this is my sister’s treat, I attack whatever is available. The mysore bonda is a soggy version of a medu vada without a hole, the pork sausages are bland and flavourless, the chorizo is one of the worst I have had, the fresh fruits are wilted and tasteless, and the rest of the food looks simply far too unappetizing for me to touch. The saving grace is the smoked salmon and the bacon – the bacon is the only star attraction of the morning.
The hotel has an elaborate card to order for eggs. I fill it up form diligently and wait for my egg-white omelette with cheese, spinach, tomatoes and mushrooms to arrive. Sometime later, the omelette arrives, but it has no connection to the form I had so laboriously filled up. What they deliver is a simple masala omelette. Distraught by now, I sight a suited gentleman who I assume is the senior here, and explain my angst. So sometime later another small omelette arrives with a few of the ingredients included, but lacking any seasoning. Tired of the entire hullabaloo, and with no server in sight, I take the salt and pepper shaker from a recently vacated table, and try to brighten up my omelette. My efforts are in vain because the omelette is dry and tasteless, and after a bite I decide to abandon it.
I now wonder if it would be a better idea to lower my expectations and focus on filling the tummy, when a server appears (the first time during the morning) politely informing us that if we do not pick up whatever we want to eat in the next five minutes they will be clearing up the buffet – I look at my watch and it is 10:25 am! In desperation I request the server to get me half a bowl of congee with everything. He comes back rather quickly with some dried boiled rice with lots of sauces on top, his explanation being that this how the Japanese eat it. Many thoughts cross my mind – it is very obvious that I am not Japanese and congee is a popular Chinese rice porridge dish etc. I sigh dejectedly and make my way to the congee counter, with the curious server in tow. I pick up a bowl, pour some rice porridge and add toppings. He exclaims ‘oh, this is what you meant’ and hastily disappears. This effort is in vain too, because by now the rice porridge is too cold to have any taste, so I have to leave it too.
I had thought that having been through a case of serious food poisoning just six months ago, where 81 of the staffers were hospitalized, things would have got spruced up here. But that is indeed not the case. What is evident is staff apathy and disinterest. If you are of Japanese or far-eastern origin, my guess is that you are safe here, because the focus of the staff at Shangri-la is to treat these guests well. If you are of Indian origin, my advise will be to avoid having breakfast at Shangri-la hotel if you have to pay for it. If it is included in the room rent, you can get by with boiled eggs, bacon, smoked salmon, and orange juice (not fresh), and bread if you are lucky. Do not rely on any staff to serve you, and you will not face the frustration I felt as a paying customer.
Ratings out of 5
Food: 2.0, Ambiance: 3.0, Service: 1.0| Overall: 2.0
Breakfast for Two: Rs 2200 (Without Alcohol) | Alcohol: Yes | Credit Card: Yes| Timing: 07:00 – 10:30 AM
Address: Café Uno, Shangri-la Hotel, 19 Ashoka Road, Connaught Place, New Delhi, 110 001, India | Phone: 011-4119 1919
Picture Courtesy: Google Images