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One sin, seven days

india Updated: Jan 28, 2011 22:09 IST
Ruchira Hoon
Ruchira Hoon
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

I love a good bargain. A great sale is obviously hard to resist, but harder yet, I find, is to pass up on a good food deal. And as Delhi’s first ever restaurant week begins this Monday, the deals on some of the most high-end restaurants seem quite sweet, at least at first sight.

At Rs 1,000 plus taxes per person you could eat at seven high-end restaurants in Delhi such as Sakura at the Metropolitan Hotel, Tapas Bar at the Aman and Taipan at the Oberoi on a pre-fixed menu.

But are these deals on a par with the international restaurant weeks in London, New York or Melbourne? Apparently not.

At the New York restaurant week, which began in 1992, the deals are stellar. A pre-fixed lunch costs $ 25 (R1,150) while dinner is $35 (R1,650) a pop. And this is at Michelin-starred restaurants like Nobu or Daniel where meals would otherwise cost about $100 (R4,500). “The deals are awesome,

the food incredible and you can even get a glass of wine for about $5 (R200),” says New Yorker Riddhi Shah, who writes for Salon.com. “And even though they don’t normally have a vegetarian entrée on their pre-fixed menu, they do a special one for on request on no extra charge.”

Here in Delhi, however, participating restaurants will offer a three-course set meal (vegetarian or non-vegetarian) at Rs 1,000 excluding taxes. The same menu can be paired with wine (three glasses) at R2,000.

Restaurateur Ritu Dalmia, who lived in London, recalls how she used to collect coupons from newspapers during the Restaurant Weeks so that she could eat a £50 (R3,600) meal at £5 (R360). “It became a sort of a thrill that we could eat a fancy meal at an ordinary man’s price.”

Which is where the basic discrepancy lies. Dalmia goes on to add that the places that have been selected for the restaurant week are really not giving as big a discount as they should. “People are only saving about 15-40 per cent, on an average meal. Plus it all depends on what’s on the pre-fixed menu. But if it’s fancier it’s always better.”

Too few deals

Spaghetti Kitchen’s Chef Bill Marchetti, who was part of the Restaurant Week launch in Melbourne, echoes almost the same thoughts as Dalmia. While he’d have loved to be a part of the whole Restaurant Week, he’s a bit surprised at how underplayed it is. He believes that the idea of a restaurant week is about promoting food to people who would otherwise feel that their pockets would be very stretched if they ate out at certain restaurants.

“This way the restaurants run to packed houses, the customers are satisfied and there’s plenty of publicity. A win-win situation for all,” says Marchetti, “And let’s face it, Punjus love their food and seven is too few a number for them to appreciate it all.”

But isn’t the average Delhiite looking forward to this week? Food blogger Sid Khullar certainly is. What he’d have preferred, though, is a bigger choice of restaurants to head out to. “Perhaps if there was a voting system where we could choose our venues it would really make a lot of difference.”

Organiser Mangal Dalal certainly hopes that Delhiites are going to be receptive to this concept. “We’ve started out small only because we’re testing the waters, next year we’ll go bigger and better.”