Roshni Bajaj Sanghvi gets city restaurateurs to share tales of diners for whom even too much isn’t enough.
I can eat 250 rasgullas in 30 minutes, no problem,” says Dhirajlal Savla. “No wait, make that 125. But in half an hour, I can easily have one and a half kilos of jalebis, or a litre and a half of ice cream.” Savla, 60-something, is a regular at Kalbadevi’s Gujarati thali joint The Friends Union Joshi Club (TFUJC). He is skinny, wears white safari suits, and swims for an hour every morning. Yogesh Purohit, the restaurant’s owner, says he doesn't mind the dessert outflow – Savla pays for every extra plate of dessert he has after his thali.
Two years ago, a chartered accountant with a physique like a bodybuilder stopped by TFUJC for dinner and ate enough rice for 20 people. “He took out all the little katoris from the thali, asked the servers to pile in the rice and top it with all the veggies,” says Purohit. “Then he had about 25 or 30 dahi wadas. I told him, “problem
khada kar dega, tu!
A few months ago, at Taste of Kerala in Fort, a customer was on his third helping of rice, when the staff realised that he had eaten over a kilo of the staple already. Manager Imran Malkani went over to the chap and said, “That’s a lot of rice, sir. In fact, it is enough. If you eat any more, I will have to charge you.”
At Chetana restaurant in Kala Ghoda, manager Anil Pawar knows one customer who has three stacks of
eight chapatis each at every meal. The man orders the restaurant’s ‘healthy’ thali, but has seven to eight fruit custards. At the same establishment, a family of 40 came in for lunch and ordered only rice – several times over. The restaurant had to start cooking a fresh batch in the middle of the afternoon.
Excess all areas
The surest sign that we live to eat, and don’t eat to live is the success of Mumbai’s unlimited meals. From Rs 40 thalis to Rs 2,000 brunches, the city affords us a chance to eat (and drink) until the place shuts down or the food runs out. But while the all-you-can-eat deals offer the widest display of gluttony, they’re not the only ways you can indulge in the vice.
At a tony brunch in Colaba, I once watched as the staff went over to a table of 10, put down a bottle of sparkling wine, and said, “That’s it. We can’t serve you any more.” It was 5.30 pm and the group had been guzzling it down since noon, putting away many rounds of bubbly, then wine, cocktails, beer, test tube shots, then more shots, and finally back to bubbly, until they were quite pickled.
Drink and dive
Alcohol’s haze is stronger, sometimes. At the Sunday brunch at Juhu’s Silver Beach Café (SBC), customers can choose three courses (from soups, salads, pizzas, sandwiches, entrées, mains, fondues and desserts) for Rs 1,200. The food is limited, but the sangria flows freely. When meals are done, the staff often finds customers asking, “I still have half a pitcher left, can you pack it for me? You will have to throw it away in any case.”
Restaurant director Dharmesh Karmokar has even stranger stories. Before he started work at SBC, he was part of a company that catered large events. “At weddings, guests would come with dabbas,” he says. “Or they would pack large quantities of the snacks into tissue paper and take it with them.”
At another event, one guest had too much to drink, went to the toilet, threw up and then came back for another round of alcohol.
At SBC, Karmokar talks of the time when a boy who’d fought with his girlfriend decided to “drink himself to death” (through the unlimited sangria, of course). He passed out on the couch, woke up, and asked for more. It only stopped when the girl and the staff intervened and informed him that the sangria had run out.
Also, a few months ago, four guys at a table decided to have a dessert and beer competition. “The idea was that you gulp a pint of beer and then eat a whole dessert,” said Karmokar. “They went through seven rounds each in under an hour.”
Global Fusion in Bandra serves a permanent buffet of Asian food. For under Rs 1,000 a pop, diners can eat over 100 hot and cold starters (like sushi, cheung fun, paneer tikka and som tam), 12 main courses, 20 kinds of pastry, six kinds of cookies, and 12 flavours of ice cream.
Restaurant manager Passang Bhutia cannot forget a couple from last Valentine’s Day. “They picked up every dish on the buffet,” he said. “We had to move the two of them to a much larger table.” Bhutia has noticed that people come for big leisurely meals. They will eat for an hour, take advantage of the restaurant’s large size, stroll for half an hour, and then start another hour of eating.
However, it doesn’t take a format to encourage gluttony. In Eat Around the Corner’s previous avatar, Just Around the Corner, thrifty college kids would make the most of all-you-can-fit-on-the-plate salad bar. “It was a deal for young people,” said Bruno Loosli, CEO of Mars Group, which owns the restaurant. “Two or three people would eat from the same plate. They learned how to apply mayonnaise in between layers to make it stick and keep piling it up.”
Salaried adults don’t necessarily need unlimited deals. But at Bandra’s Bungalow 9, manager Kanishka Kamat had one customer who arrived all by himself for dinner just as the restaurant was closing, and occupied the largest available table. He needed it. He called for a soup, a starter, a main course, a side, another main course, and two desserts. And finished all of them.
Olive’s brunch in Bandra observes the same patterns of behaviour as most boozy brunch-goers. After feasting on pizzas, salads, cold cuts, and more, guests call for multiple bottles of bubbly or pitchers of sangria when it’s time for the last order, then linger until 6 pm, when the staff will request them to leave because the restaurant must be readied for dinner.
But there was once incident that really shook the staff. “We have a regular customer who really knows how to hold his alcohol,” said Ashwin D’Souza, Olive’s deputy general manager of restaurant operations. “He could have six to eight bottles of wine by himself from noon to four, and still comfortably walk out to his waiting car. One day he went into one of the private dining rooms and asked to be served there, and, as usual, had his bottles. At one point, he started a conversation with someone on the phone, so we stopped bothering him. When he didn’t come out until 5 or 6 pm, we got worried. When we went in to see, he was fast asleep.”
From HT Brunch, July 15
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