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As silly as it is expensive

There is nothing more offensive than food that is famed, not for its taste, but for its price. Vir Sanghvi wonders why any chef would put together caviar and Indian spices...

india Updated: Aug 26, 2009 21:46 IST
Vir Sanghvi
Vir Sanghvi
Hindustan Times

There is nothing more offensive than food that is famed, not for its taste, but for its price. All over the world, chefs try and get into the newspapers by inventing absurdly expensive dishes usually featuring such luxury items as truffles or caviar.

When even these ingredients don’t push the price to a level that is stratospheric enough, they fall back on precious metals, adding gold and silver to the dishes.

None of this has anything to do with good food. It has everything to do with a thirst for publicity. Now, the Bombay Brasserie, the influential Indian restaurant in London, run by the Taj group, has joined the list of shameful places that engage in this kind of third-rate publicity stunt.

The Brasserie has a new dish on the menu. It’s a curry made with lobster and caviar. That alone should make you stop and think: which fool would use caviar along with Indian spices? But it also uses edible gold to push up the price.
The new dish has been press released as the most expensive Indian dish in the world, which it may well be because it is rare for anything on an Indian menu to cost Rs 1.5 lakh per portion.

But it may well also be the silliest dish to ever feature on an Indian menu.

Why do chefs do this? Surely they know that they are ruining the reputation of Indian cuisine? Surely they know that they end up looking ridiculous in the process?

The answer, I suspect, has to do with the need to drum up business during the recession. The Brasserie, once hailed as London’s finest Indian restaurant, has now fallen behind in the race and has been overtaken by several newer places.

The Taj has commissioned an expensive refit to try and regain the Brasserie’s lost glory. My theory is that some press agent told the Brasserie chef that if he came up with an outrageously expensive dish, newspapers would write about the Brasserie and give it much-needed publicity.

It has worked. The Brasserie has got plenty of publicity. But what kind of chef wants publicity for the cost of his food and not for its taste?

First Published: Jun 05, 2009 16:55 IST