Saturday, September 28, 2013

Breaking Bread At Le Pain Quotidien

A few days back, chance had it that I happened to come across a website,, that claimed to offer culinary experiences in the best of the restaurants the city has to offer. 
I just had to, had to experience the "experience" they promised and that did have to be what's considered to be the Holy Grail in the culinary world, French cuisine. And as luck had it, had an offer going on at the Le Pain Quotidien in Bandra Kurla Complex's tony office space, Maker Maxity.
The drive to BKC was smooth, given it is a Saturday. The bright afternoon sun had a warm and uplifting feel and it was the perfect time to savour a gourmet experience!

Just as we were being ushered into Le Pain Quotidien, I was struck by a BEST double decker on display.... a dying breed, once these double deckers were the icons of Bombay, as Mumbai was known then!
Times change, names changes and icons fade....

Ah, well, the menu gives me the correct pronunciation!

The rush was a bit low and waiters took a few moments to share a laugh!

The communal table, replete with rustic charms!

And our menu comes!

Sea salt, coarse pepper, vinegar and olive oil... condiments for our meal!

And there come our first course, a thick broth minestrone soup with classical French breads!
The minestrone was hearty and uplifting!

And then came our second course - Neeti's vegetarian option was red bean hummus with grapes and cheese served on bread....

But for me, it had to be five spice chicken skewers with tomato aioli!
The chicken was chewy and flavourful - just the way I like it!

That's my third course - a smoked chicken and cheddar tar tine - an open faced sandwich!

The salad course began - for me it was grilled chicken salad with bits of bacon, egg and Danish blue cheese.
The waiter was considerate enough to caution me that the salad has bacon....
Little did he know that anything that crawls, that walks, that flies or that swims is kosher for me.... 
The salad was nice and crunchy!

Neeti chose the vegetarian option - Caeser salad with grilled vegetables and Parmesan shavings!

And then it was time for the pièce de résistance - I went in for the seared basil chicken served on a bed of mushroom risotto with a very earthy herb sauce....
The chicken was succulent and juicy, the sauce was was lip-smacking!

Neeti chose spinach and ricotta ravioli with sun-dried tomatoes!
I had a bite and it was  mmmmm heavenly!

Next was our dessert platter.... with some tea!
Indeed this is a Saturday afternoon well spent!

And as we paid our bill, I got to read the story of LPQ!

Founded by Alain Coumont, the first Le Pain Quotidien opened on 26 October 1990 at 16 rue Danseart in Brussels, Belgium. As a young chef, Alain was dissatisfied with the quality of bread available in Brussels, so he began making his own, mixing flour, water and salt into the familiar loaves of his childhood - enduring memories of his grandmom making the daily bread.
He furnished the first LPQ with cabinets scoured from antique stores and a large table purchased at a local flea market - that was to become the first Le Pain Quotidien’s many communal tables.

I truly enjoyed the LPQ experience - the staff was friendly, the food was yum, the portions were filling, which is, well, becoming a rarity! All I can say now is merci LPQ and GourmetItUp!

Disclaimer: I paid for this meal and this is an authentic account of a satisfied foodie! Burp!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Haughty IndiGo Can't Say Sorry!

And I have been getting a flurry of phone calls from IndiGo.
A lady called Pratibha, who claims to be from the President's office called up yesterday. The lady, who did not reveal her designation and seniority in the organisation, was flippant and casual. Instead of paying attention to what I was saying, she kept saying "I can't hear you" and all that kind of crap.
When she finally did "hear" me, she went all out in defence of the staffers at Hyderabad.
When I took none of that, she volunteered to investigate and get back to me.
Again today, I received a call from Her Highness, Pratibha. This time, again, I was stunned by her haughtiness and arrogance. She refused to admit her airline's mistake and demanded that I give her my email to explain the matter.
On a repeated enquiry on what she would write in her email, she informed that she would say that I was wrong, my overnighter weighed 12.5 kilogrammes and not 7.5 kilogrammes and that the check-in staff were right.
She laughed when I said the only way my overnighter could weigh 12.5 kilogrammes is if I packed stones! It wasn't a joke!
She had no explanation for the behaviour for the tone and language the ground staff had used that "I could choose to be a no-show and take another airline that would accept my bag".
God! I had enough!
She refused to put in an apology in her email.
Today's Mint has Aditya Ghosh, standing in front of an IndiGo's Airbus A320, beaming on IndiGo's "reported" profits of Rs. 787 crore. How long would they have these kind of profits if they disregard basic courtesies and respect to the flier, that too a frequent flier.
In response to my blog, I got a message from a person called Abhijeeth Vijay who wrote "IndiGo is slowly gaining a lot of arrogance. We've seen what happens to arrogant airlines. One down, one in deep red. IndiGo must be extremely careful."
Another reader, Robert Dequadros wrote "Yesterday, Sept 23, a friend and his wife travelling from Delhi back to BLR had a lousy experience with the airline right from check in time staff to delays on board and delay in take off....and they have been very loyal to the airline...sad."
Clearly I am not alone.
IndiGo now appears to be a big sham - a LCC that operates at full service fares, where wigged stewardesses put up a masquerade, where basic respect is lacking and where arrogance overshadows the ability to sorry. I would not be surprised if they go-under soon, unless they leverage some political clout to stay afloat.
As for me, I have had enough of shit from IndiGo. I would never ever travel on IndiGo again and the word of mouth does spread fast. The loss is IndiGo's, which they may not realise as Aditya Ghosh and team are now revelling in their record profits.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Up In The Air .... Part 12

I have always loved the awesome views of the verdent forests you get when landing at Bhubaneshwar! This week when I visited Bhubaneshwar, I was well armed with my camera to capture and share the awesome scenaries with readers of this blog!

The approach to BBI with the Mahanadi River in the distance....

The approach captured on video!

The return trip was equally awesome!

The sky was brilliantly blue. Wish I could be Up In The Air, forever!!!!!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

IndiGo At Its Lousiest Best

After enjoying the delights that have made Hyderabad a gastronomical paradise and completing the scheduled meetings of the day, we attempted returning back to Mumbai, but it turned out that all airlines seem to have cut down on flights out from Hyderabad. I wondered whether this was a creative way of lowering supply of seats and jacking up prices or was the Telangana tangle was taking a toll on the fortunes of Hyderabad as a fledgling aviation hub.
We had to settle for a morning flight, hoping to get back to Mumbai to salvage whatever was left of the Independence Day, and we gladly chose IndiGo's flight 6E-247 departing Hyderabad at about 7.30 AM, as so far I had pleasant experiences on IndiGo that I have documented on this blog. But that was not to be, as I was soon to realise.
My colleague and I got up early and had a complimentary breakfast - few croissants and muffins with Assam tea at the lobby of the Novotel Hyderabad Airport. I must admit the croissants were the best I ever had! And then we dashed for the airport a few kilometers down the road.

The airport was tastefully decorated in the colours of our Tricolour! That really gladdened my heart....

But then came the disappointment. At the check-in counter, I encountered the dumbest check-in executive I had ever met, that too from IndiGo that claimed to be a smart airline! Ha!
The stupid soul insisted that I check-in my small overnighter simply because it was 7.5 kilogrammes, 500 grams above the so-called "threshold" for cabin baggage. All around me, passengers were carrying bigger bags as cabin baggage, but this lady would JUST NOT listen! I patiently persisted and insisted to meet the supervisor, who was multiple times dumber than her, or, perhaps, so much more egoistic. He went livid - "Check in the bag or else don't board the flight."
The idiot did not even listen or bother to see what the weight of cabin bags other passengers were carrying. I succumbed, relented. But I was grossly upset and disappointed with IndiGo, which had different standards for different passengers. Never ever has any other airline behaved like this with me.
But redemption came easy when taxiing towards the runway brought spotting opportunities.

An Oman Air Boeing 737 just in from Muscat....

Cumulonimbus clouds or "CB" as they are called in aviation terminology scare pilots so much! Luckily we avoided this CB!

The lovely sights of Monsoon clouds below and the bright blue sky made me temporarily forget the pain that IndiGo inflicted on me....

Finally approach to BOM....

The lush green mangroves!

And we had a decent landing at Mumbai.
After landing at Mumbai, I tweeted about this experience to both Indigo's tweet handle (@6eIndiGo) as well as to Mr. Aditya Ghosh, the CEO of IndiGo (@AdityaGhosh6e). There was an insincere response from @6eIndiGo but Mr. Aditya Ghosh did not bother to respond at all. How can a CEO ignore customers' anguish?
A few days later, I got a call from a flippant customer care executive, who was as dumb as the other two dumb IndiGo staffers I had encountered on this Independence Day. Her responses did not satisfy me and I demanded that someone senior speak to me. I was assured that I would get a call back soon.
It's been a month, and till now, I haven't heard from IndiGo. It is a foregone conclusion I would never fly IndiGo again and would never recommend this airline to anyone else, ever.
This is surely not the way any business is run. Watch out, Mr. Ghosh, competition is coming soon, you cannot afford to piss off frequent fliers like this.

A Time For Letting Go!

Last night Neeti told me that she was planning to visit Lalbaug, Parel with colleagues, and pay obeisance to Mumbai's patron God, Lord Ganesh. She planned to leave real early, at 4AM, which was a bit of a stretch for me, that too on a Sunday morning.
At nearly 4.30AM, we left home and were accompanied by Neeti's colleagues. The drive to Parel took  barely 30 minutes and as we reached, the Sun began to rise on Mumbai and on us, the devotees of Lalbaugcharaja, as Lord Ganesh here is called - that literally translates to "The King of Lalbaug"!
It isn't surprising why the Ganesh here is called Lalbaugcharaja - the Ganesh sits majestically on a throne, gently looking at the teeming devotees lining up to seek His blessings!
The rush at 5AM had to be seen to be believed. Such is the devotion of people. Neeti had visited Lalbaugcharaja a week back and she was astounded by the devotion of people - some people came down from Delhi to seek His blessings, others stand in queues for nearly 12-15 hours just to catch a glimpse of the Lord!
While the festival had been celebrated for centuries, as long as the Hindu philosophy has existed, it was only in 1893 the festival became a public event. The nationalist, Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak recognised that the appeal of the Lord transcended castes and realised that these passions could be used to unite the masses and ignite nationalistic fervour, against British colonial rule!
And it did happen! One patriot shaped the festivities to what they are today - Lalbaugcharaja is a living proof of that even today, the biggest gathering of people in Mumbai today!

As I saw the teeming crowds jostling to make their way to the Lord, I wondered why the beatific and gentle idol of the Lord had to be immersed at the end of the festival.
That is when it dawned upon me - everything is transitory, everything comes and goes, nothing is permanent, nothing is temporary. It's an endless cycle of life and death, of joys and sorrows. 
While we should live, fully, in the moment, we shouldn't get attached to anything, but we should realise Almighty is there, always, for us! And so, we should let go....!

On the way back from Lalbaugcharaja, we stopped by at Matunga's Cafe Mysore, which is an institution in itself!
Matunga for nearly a century had been home to communities from the erstwhile Madras Province.
These migrants provided the white collared workforce for the British regime and cotton mills nearby at Parel!
With the migrants came their food - hearty, delicious and simple South Indian fare.

Just as many establishments in Mumbai did, Cafe Mysore fed stranded people during the flood of July 2005!

The light and fluffy wada in rasam was delectable.....

After the dosas and idlis, it had to be filter coffee, which is simply irresistible!

Ah well, there's something for dogs here at King's Circle! A dog spa!
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