For quite some time now, I have been complaining about the utter lack of swanky hotels in Mysore to my Dad. No ambiance, if tried very badly done. Waiters don’t know that starters are to be served before the main course. Some don’t even have the concept of starters. No one gives you finger bowls after a meal. I don’t want to go on about the state or the placement of the washing area. The menu cards are centuries old, some soaked on old coffee or wet with water. Heck, its better to ask the waiter “Whats there?”.
I’ve gotten used to entering names and waiting in queues for a table. The waiter pulling chairs, and handing over napkins after folding them in a triangle. Neatly made menu cards, sometimes leather bound placed in front of me. All of them immaculately dressed. Music to set the mood and good decor. The order taking guy comes takes it and goes, the others serve food and some others come and take away the plates when done. The second guy comes and sets the plates for the next course. All this is done like clockwork. Each table is an island in its own way. Orders of one not affecting anything in the other table. The bill comes in a leather bound folder. Cards get swapped. And I leave, sometimes the waiter pulling the chair back for me. Overall it feels like an evening well spent.
Today, I entered an average hotel in Mysore cursing my dad for not finding a better one. It was an old house convert. Looked very unclean, with rickety chairs (The chairs don’t match the tables!). None of the tables were empty, so we ended up sharing the table. The guy who brought water, spilt it on the table, and took a while to clean. The waiter told us the whole menu. He knew it by heart. I ordered a set masala dosa. My dad, a south Indian thali. My dosa came on a humble banana leaf placed on a steel plate. He brought my dad only a part of the thali saying that he would serve it hot when he came to it. The appalam late, so it wouldn’t get wet on the rasam. He kept asking if we wanted more, of anything, if the consistency was good, like my aunt at her place would. No fuss, nothing. He was even endearing to the cleaning boy when the chap took away our plates, that he could have done it later. In the end it was a very humble bill.
Some one in the hotel business once told me that a set of tables are assigned to a particular waiter, and that that is their territory. I was also told that a certain strict hierarchy exists. If you give feed back less than average in the end, the waiters are taken to task (And hence not to give bad feedback). I don’t know if such rules exist in this place. But it surely felt like home and it was the best dosa I have had in a very long time.