Until now I have always written nice things about the places I’ve been to, because, well, somehow they turn out good. So here goes my first negative review about one of the posh restaurants in Delhi. Hope they don’t sue me after this but I merely wish to say that a place cannot keep resting on its past laurels.
So this nightmarish experience happened in the least likely places of all – Machan at The Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi
A few of my friends had come and they wanted to eat North Indian cuisine. So based on the recommendations of one of my loyal foodie friends, we decided to go to Varq in The Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi. But when we reached at 2.40, Varq was closed. Apparently they only serve food from 12.30 till 2.30 (what the hell is that!!!). I was too tired and didn’t want to go and search anywhere else, so we settled for Machan, located in the same premises.
So there were three of us and we ordered 4 dishes and 3 drinks, nothing that would confuse anyone in any other restaurant. Also the place was moderately filled. It wasn’t overflowing with people at all, lest the management could blame the shoddy service on the fact that the crowd was unmanageable.
We ordered a palak paneer with corns along with rice; a veg burger, a veg kathi roll filled with paneer (this was meant for me and was called PMKK, no clue what that stands for) and a chicken dish called Kanha Kebab Delight- Chicken Tikka filled in Garlic Bread. The drinks included an ice tea and 2 lime sodas. Each one of us gave our orders separately so it was really clear who ordered what. Even if the waiting staff didn’t know, it’s common sense to say the name of the dish out loud while serving so that it goes to the correct person.
So the orders came in and the waiting staff got our food and kept them in front of us without saying anything and rushed away before we could react. We all were a little distracted because we were talking and also very hungry. So we started eating what was kept in front of us. The palak dish and the burger belonged to my friend and he started gobbling it, while I was eating, what I discovered later, the chicken dish. I realized at this point that another dish was missing. So I called the waiting staff, who by the way was really busy and didn’t care to notice us. I called out to one of them and asked about the 4th dish. He said the kathi roll is taking a little time. At this point I realised he said “kathi roll”. Immediately I asked the name of the dish that I was eating. He said it was the chicken dish. I had just taken 4 bites of a chicken dish. OOO MY GOD… Well I should tell at this point that I am a VEGETARIAN and I had just eaten chicken. I have nothing against non vegetarian food at all. It’s just that I can’t bring myself to eating it because as a child I once saw a man butchering a chicken with blood oozing out and that incident is etched in my memory. So it is safe to say I was feeling queasy at this point.
I told the waiter that I am a vegetarian and he had just served me a chicken dish. He was unperturbed as if stuff like this always happened and he couldn’t care less. I thought that there was no point making a scene because this could happen (not to anyone I know and especially not at a five star where I was paying 5k for the damn lunch). I told him to change the dish and bring a fresh one for my friend, for whom it was meant. In the meanwhile, I thought I should eat my kathi roll which had come by then, because starving myself will only make me more nauseous.
If one thought all this was bad, wait for the best part. The waiter came back with the same dish with only the side of the bread cut, the part which I had eaten. Also the dish was garnished with 2 olives and I had eaten one of them. So when the “new” dish came, it was cut on the side and was missing one olive. So there was one bread which had 4 sides and the other bread on the plate had 5 sides, like someone had cut off from the side.
I immediately recognized that it wasn’t a fresh one but the old one which I had eaten and which was merely served back. I called the waiter and explained the situation and he replied with a bold “this is what the chef gave me” and went away WITHOUT listening to what I had to say.
I was furious. I called up the girl who had shown us to our table and asked her to let the manager know that I wanted to speak to him. He came immediately (thankfully) and I explained the entire situation, the chicken being fed to a vegetarian, the bread being cut off on the side etc and told him in clear terms that I wanted a fresh dish and not the one cut on the sides and that was willing to pay for both the dishes, the one that I ate and the fresh one. I just wanted my friend to have her food. It was almost 4 pm and she was obviously very hungry. He went and came back with a fresh dish with 4 cornered breads, garnished with 2 olives. Thankfully someone understood.
The rude waiter didn’t come and apologies for the goof up. I told the manager that we had ordered a masala chai too and hoped that it won’t get screwed up and come on time. The manager ensured the masala chai came and also sent a small pastry as an apology. But the waiter screwed up that as well and gave it to my male friend instead of me with whom the entire screw up happened. Seeing this, the manager sent the pastries for me as well as my other friend to cover up for another obvious embarrassment.
I just wanted to get out of there as soon as I could and waited for my friend to finish his tea. When the bill came, I was shocked to see that they had charged for the chicken dish (thankfully only once!!!). Had it been the West, the whole meal would have been free of charge, let alone the chicken dish.
I was surprised at the shoddy service, the lack of interest and absolute disregard shown to the guests at Machan, Taj. At a time when other restaurants are going that extra mile to make sure the experience is something to remember by, Machan has certainly made sure that this experience is something that I will not forget.
In the evening, I called them again and gave a feedback that this wasn’t expected at all and that I had a horrible experience and the manager said the next time I go there, great care will taken. Ummm??? No lunch or dinner invite but great care that will be taken NEXT time. Well, shouldn’t great care be taken every time, considering that this is the TAJ, one of THE posh hotels?? Doesn’t it have a legacy to protect? Even if we blame the waiters, shouldn’t they be trained well so that they can distinguish between paneer and chicken? And do they really think I will take a chance and go there next time to see what they will be serving me this time? This experience has made me stay away from every Taj restaurant and I will make sure to broadcast this incident amongst all my friends to stay away too especially from MACHAN!!!!
PS : In the Vintage Machan section of their menu, they have PMKK “1978” – cottage cheese, onion, capsicum and mint chutney in a roomali wrap. And the other dish was Kanha Kebab Delight – chicken tikka filed in grilled garlic bread.