‘Ma’am, what would you like?’
I was taken aback. It wasn’t a question I was normally asked when at a breakfast buffet in a hotel. Over the years, I have done some extensive travelling. The amazing landscapes of Europe….the dazzling freeways of the United States…and of course, have travelled all over my beloved Australia. During my sojourn in each country, we have experienced a wide range of breakfast delights at the local hotel.And yet, they all had most elements in common. Croissants (warm and melting in the mouth), scrambled eggs, hash browns (golden and crunchy), muesli and cornflakes, orange and apple juice and of course the omnipresent tea and coffee.
India, my dear reader, is another story altogether. During the eighteen years I have lived in sunny Sydney, we have made a few trips to my motherland. Each time, however, having visited mainly Mumbai, we stayed with family and relatives. Staying in a hotel in India was never an option. Whether we visited Pune or Goa in addition to the Mumbai stay, we always inevitably spent our days in a relative’s home.
This trip, however, we factored in a visit to Delhi and the lovely Shangri-La is our abode. Having read much about the breakfast delights in the hotel pamphlets, we decided to go and check it out for ourselves this morning, and see what the hype was all about. I am not really a breakfast person. A nice strong coffee is about all I ask for.
But I must admit, the breakfast buffet took my breath away. As soon as I walked into the cafe, unsuspecting and blase, a bunch of white-coated, aproned staff, with tall white chef’s hats, materialized out of nowhere, bowing low and wishing me a good morning. Saying I was startled is putting it mildly. ‘Good morning’ I smiled back, and started walking towards a table. The first chef smiled broadly and with an airy wave around him asked me if I would like some eggs. ‘Uh…er…no, that’s fine. Thank you’ I said, flustered. ‘Please ma’am….we can make omlettes, fried eggs, scrambled eggs, boiled eggs…whatever you fancy’ he said, the smile firmly in place. ‘Oh, but I want something Indian’ I said, apologetically. ‘Of course, ma’am…..please come this way’. He began walking towards a dizzying array of dishes, all lined up in a row. I stood staring at more silver containers with ladles than I have seen in my entire life. Idli, three types of upmas, vadas, four types of chutneys, gobi parathas, mini spinach pancakes. I thought I was going to swoon. ‘Err….do you makes dosas by any chance?’ I asked, faintly. ‘Of course ma’am…what kind of dosa would you like?’ ‘Masala please’ ‘Certainly, ma’am…please make your way to your table and I will bring it over for you’
As soon as I sat down at my table, another smiling chef hurried towards me. ‘Ma’am…can I get you some tea or coffee? How would you like it?’.
The coffee arrived in seconds. What tickled me the most was that the milk served in a tiny silver jug was piping hot, something I have never experienced in other countries where the milk is inevitably served cold.
Without exaggeration, this breakfast was truly an experience in itself. As soon as i finished one dish, the plate was whisked away and a fresh one kept in its place. The moment I looked around the room, wondering what I should have next, a chef would materialize and ask me what I wanted at that given moment. No matter what I said…orange juice, a fresh spoon, some more chutney…I wasn’t allowed to go looking for it. It was brought, within milliseconds, to my table.
As breakfasts go, this one will truly remain a much cherished memory.
Copyright 2014 Nim Gholkar All rights reserved.