Sunday, 18 July 2010

Hosted Lunches …

A major part of my life at the moment is visiting hotels for an inspection. These can be fun or they cannot. It all depends on the person who is showing you around. Some actually enjoy their job and take great pride to make it as entertaining for you as it can be. Some others (who I shall not mention) try and make it a living hell, by reciting from the hotel pamphlet. I wish she would have just giving me the leaflet and let me be. That hour is lost forever. I cannot get it back.
Sometimes, but not so much in India as in Oman, we get hosted lunches or dinners. These can be fun also, but again it all depends on the person who is eating with you. One or two have been painful, but most have been really enjoyable.
We’ve also had in Oman as well as in India some unhosted lunches, where you are just plonked into an empty restaurant and given a menu to order from. I have learnt quickly that when we are at an unhosted meal, the food is going to be crap, and it generally always is.
I would say that the majority of people working in hotels in Oman are form India. Well Kerala to be precise. So all the food is really south Indian food. Excellent I say.

This is not just because the rich Omani’s will not work in these jobs, it’s just that they have figured out that that they do not know how to run hotels and cook Indian food that well. So they get in experts to do all these things for them. But the links between Oman and India have been going on for centuries. They have deep trading links, and a mutual respect is given from both sides. Yes a lot of Indians do the real crap jobs, but it’s not like the UAE here where they are treated like shit. All the Omanis I spoke to liked and respected the Indians there in Oman. Where as in the UAE, and Dubai to be precise they are not respected nor liked. They are there to do the crap jobs, and that’s it.
So Oman has been eating Indian food for centuries and it’s a bit like in England where Indian food has been taken over as the norm now. Except in Oman where it is sooooooo much better. We got to eat really good south Indian food every day. I was expecting to see a lot more middle eastern food as I know from Lebanon, Egypt etc, alas no. It’s Indian all the way. 
Our first hosted lunch and for food it is still the best. The Chedi in Muscat. We were also staying there as well, and so far after nearly 4 weeks, it is still the best hotel I have stayed in.
After the tour of the hotel we were taken to the restaurant for lunch, now as it was my first day in Oman I opted for a traditional Middle Eastern mezze starter. All the usual suspects were there and tasted amazing. Now, Oman is well known for its fish, so a main of the grilled mixed seafood platter went down a real treat. The lobster tail was just so delicious. So moist and yummy. It’s not every day you get to eat lobster, so why not. Although I had just had it a few days before in Belgos. More on that at a later date.
The most fun dinner was at the Hilton in Salalah. The food from the Sri Lankan chef was blinding. Melt in the mouth chicken tandoori. Oh My Gawd. It was so good. But the company of the sales manager and his assistant was just great. Really nice people and they were genuinely happy to be with us. Plus they comped our rather large bar bill afterwards. Gladly we were not drunk or that would have been bad. Very.

A few meals came as a bit of a surprise, these were from small roadside cafes, serving the local Omani’s and Indian expats. They were cheap and cheerful but were delish none the less.
It’s just polite to do the hotel visit before being invited to eat in their restaurants. But sometimes you are just wanting to go straight and eat and miss the hotel tour altogether.
In India it’s a different thing all together. The hotels generally do not do hosted events. Not the big ones anyhows, as they can survive without our custom. But the smaller hotels like the Shahpura House in Jaipur for example needs every bit of custom they can get. So they scratch your back we scratch theirs. That seems to be the Indian way of doing business. But I have to say the lunch they gave us was pretty fantastic. The Lal Maas was sublime. Not quite as red and fiery as it should be but pretty damn good none the less. The mutton (as they call goat) was melt in the mouth. The hotel was very nice as well, and worth praising for what it is even without the great food.

But to be honest I am getting rather fed up of hotel food. I miss the India I know. Those cheap eateries in the street that seem to give you the best food of all. I miss interacting with the locals and finding out how they prepare their dishes. In hotels the kitchen is right off limits, although I managed to sneak a quick chat with the head chef at the Anãnda Spa Resort. I so wanted to eat there, but we were only offered tea or coffee. Damn.
I am slowly heading to Nepal where a buffalo steak awaits me. 

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