The problem with ambitious menus

Friday December 1 2017

Sometimes my food adventures take me to places

Sometimes my food adventures take me to places that leave more than just a lot to be desired. PHOTO| COURTESY 

Sometimes my food adventures take me to places that leave more than just a lot to be desired.

This happened the other day when I met a visiting friend of mine for dinner at his Westlands hotel. I like to have an idea of the menu beforehand when dining somewhere new, but all my efforts to find an online menu were in vain.

It soon became obvious to me that the establishment was undergoing an ownership transition period when I couldn’t even trace a consistent brand identity on the interwebs.

The Azure Hotel is housed in blue glass façade towers, interrupting the rhythmic skyline of indigenous trees, residential townhouses and low-rise apartment blocks around the area. A grand lobby opens up to the F&B wing, which features an indoor buffet restaurant and bar.

For the most part, the dining room is trendy, but I could not keep my eyes off the ghastly mural of a savannah scene (complete with a distorted image of Mt Kilimanjaro) painted on one wall.

We decided that the ‘Garden View Bar’ had a more pleasant atmosphere as it faced a giant waterfall feature that cascaded into the swimming pool – but alas, the restaurant has no real garden view to speak of.

Other than a few potted plants, the only approximation of a garden is rolls of synthetic turf.

We sat at one of those umbrella tables with a bar running through their middle so that you can’t sit across each from other, and when we asked for a heater, they said had none.

We took all those disappointments with grace, but when loud tunes of modern afrobeat music started playing out of the blues, we cracked.

When we stopped a waiter to ask if they could see to having it turned off, he said the two most abominable words in service industry parlance: “I can’t”.


After ordering something to calm us, we turned to our menus. The kitchen staff at Azure are an ambitious lot, and I was impressed by the range of options from the grill, Italian and pan-Asian cuisine, starters, salads, soups and vegetarian options.

I refuse to eat Italian food outside of an Italian restaurant (I have been called a food snob for this stance, but I’d rather endure insults than culinary devastation). My buddy feels differently so he got himself a spaghetti Bolognese. When the waiter asked what accompaniment he would like with it, that should have been his cue to change his mind, but no. He laughed.

Meanwhile, I had noticed an Indian supervisor-type lady and the largely Indian clientele and concluded that the hotel had related proprietorship so my choice was somewhat informed: I ordered mutton rogan josh.

When the food came out, it was all I could do to not spit out my drink.

The pasta was so broken and overcooked that the bits which were not drowned in sauce lay sad and limp under a spread of grated cheese obviously intended to conceal the fact. Anyone who knows