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Food for thought: Restaurant trends that need to go

From ridiculous plating to unimaginative interiors, four food lovers call out the Indian restaurant scene on trends they want done away with.

more lifestyle Updated: Mar 04, 2017 09:13 IST
Roshni Nair
Tofu carpaccio with a soya sauce drizzle and edible flowers, served on slate or stone.
Tofu carpaccio with a soya sauce drizzle and edible flowers, served on slate or stone.

Tired of being served on shovels, slates, and anything but plates, British businessman Ross McGinnes started the Twitter handle #WeWantPlates in March 2015. It quickly went viral and has since racked up 123,000 followers, with many sending in snapshots of their own pet peeves.

Read: Why is food no longer served on plates?

In India, we’ve only recently begun to see exposed brickwork and piping all over the place, food served in miniature shopping carts and Ferris wheels, on planks of wood or stone — and perhaps worst of all, in scalding skillets.

We still don’t have orthodontic moulds, shoes or dog bowls on our tables, but we do have prison-style plates and tumblers, so we could be getting there.

While it’s all very entertaining once in a while, it’s got to the point where #WeWantPlatesToo.

So we spoke to a restaurateur-chef, a TV host, a food critic and a food historian for their picks of the plating and décor disasters they’d like to wish away.

‘TAKE YOUR TINY BATHTUB OFF MY TABLE’

Rahul Akerkar, restaurateur

Truffle fries and truffle oil: There is too much ‘truffle oil’ on our menus, especially given that most of it is synthetic truffle essence mixed in s**t olive oil.

Also, enough of the unoriginal tuna tartares and carpaccios. And stale or soggy sushi. For heaven’s sake, use fresh fish. Frozen tuna in sushi just tastes like blotting paper. And I’ve even seen sushi with mayo!

Tacky presentation: There’s more focus on shock and awe than the food itself. Miniature rickshaws, bathtubs, mason jars, and the like? Gimmicky. Keep it simple.

When restaurant plating goes overboard: this dish is served on what looks like... a miniature barren tree?

‘Themed’ decor: I’m not a fan of themed restaurants. In most instances, the décor has little or nothing to do with the food served. And once the novelty wears off, your customers aren’t going to want to come back. If your eatery is more about tamasha than good food, you’ve lost the plot.

‘I’M TIRED OF PAV BHAJI CONES, TIKKAS IN CIGAR BOXES’

Roshni Bajaj Sanghvi, food critic and columnist

‘Modern Indian fusion’: More often than not, these are just lazy takes on the multi-cuisine menus that are the norm in Indian eateries. What began as a sincere way to present familiar food with an edge has gone on to clutter the restaurant scene. For instance, Desiklub has a dhokla pizza and something called ‘Do Dil Mil Rahe Hai’ – a fusion of sizzling hakka noodles and pav bhaji! I’ve also eaten dreadful things like butter chicken cannellonis and biryani risotto.

Read: Sambhar risotto, dhoklizza: Has modern Indian cuisine gone too far?

Weird presentation: Thanks to Instagram, plating is more about theatrics than doing justice to the dish. 145 Kala Ghoda serves ‘shawarma’ on hooks, pav bhaji in cones, and chicken tikka as ‘cigars’ — in a cigar box. Farzi Café serves fried chicken in a mini truck and bread in a miniature telephone box!

Is this a crescent moon? Or an improvised horseshoe? We’ll never know. (HT Photo)

Tasteless decor: Like plating and menu trends, restaurant interiors have also become a ‘me-too’ race. Every second bar, pub and brewpub has exposed brick walls, corrugated pipes and distressed interiors. Why not do something original?

Exposed brick, pipes on ceilings, and distressed everything has become a safe bet for all too many restaurants in Mumbai.

‘KILL THE SMEAR AND THE DRIZZLE’

Kurush Dalal, food historian

Microgreens and edible flowers as garnish: At a fancy pizzeria in south Mumbai, not only was the pizza below-average, it was covered in microgreens. Who the hell puts raw microgreens on a pizza? I’m also tired of molecular gastronomy messes. The worst was a restaurant that mashed peas into puree and then jellified it into little spheres, turning them into peas again! Wow, you took peas and made them look like peas again. Congratulations!

The smear and drizzle: If these are elements with strong flavours, that’s fine. Chocolate syrup out of a bottle is just cheap.

Smears and drizzles, feels Kurush Dalal, are pointless and should only be used for introducing strong flavours. (HT Photo)

Dim lighting and blaring music: Are you so scared of having us see your food? And why can’t you let us have a simple conversation without having to yell at one another?

Most bars, pubs, and brewpubs play music so loudly, you can barely hear anyone talk. (HT Photo)

‘THERE SHOULD BE MORE ART ON RESTAURANT WALLS’

Kunal Vijayakar, author and TV food show host

Indian food ‘with a twist’: Bombay Canteen and Masala Library do it well, but so many are on the bandwagon, the head hurts. Novel combinations and ways to make the familiar exciting are welcome, but we don’t see much of these. Don’t randomly open a restaurant serving street food ‘with a twist’. It’s uninspiring and lazy.

Stop with the mason jars: They’re everywhere now. They are not pleasant to drink out of — and even worse to eat from.

The jam or mason jar is ubiquitous across restaurants and is used to serve everything from drinks to desserts. (HT Photo)

Small spaces, overdesigned: I’d like to see less crockery and bicycle wheels, and more art on restaurant walls.