Nightmare on Pali Naka ... Pali Village Cafe

It's not that I have not had bad restaurant experiences before. I normally don't make a scene. I just come home and Finely Chop them. But there is always a first time. Unfortunately tonight was not a good night.

We have grown up reading about Gandhi saying that 'India lived in its villages'. Watching Hindi films which depict the pure and simple and warm hearted folks who live in villages. And if you are a Bourdain fan, you would have seen him go all misty eyes at the villages of Vietnam, Mexico and Sunderbans.

Pali Village is one of the oldest settlements in Bandra. A Catholic residence which best exemplifies the welcoming, peace loving, relaxed, generous and liberal nature of Bandra. The suburb which represents the best of the cosmopolitan city of Mumbai. A suburb to which many of us who have come from outside have given our hearts to. A suburb which has welcomed us with open arms and rather high rents.

And then you have the rather ironically named Pali Village Cafe here. Imagine if you are invited to dinner by someone who keeps raising their eyebrows every time you request for something. Where you run short of the food. Yet the hosts are well fed. Where even as you are eating, you are asked to eat less. Where you are made to feel very very unwelcome. A far cry from the loving images conjured by Manoj Kumar and Tony Bourdain of the generous village life. Now imagine being made to feel so unwelcome and than being made to pay for it too. That's Pali Village Cafe for you.

There's a tremendous buzz about this newly opened place at Pali Naka at Bandra. I tried to go there last Sunday for lunch. Called to book on Saturday. Was told that there was no place. In the meanwhile heard good stuff about it from some. And the paid PR channels were hyper active. I did plan to go there.

Then I heard that Ash was coming in from Calcutta. We made plans to meet along with another friend Suma. The plan was to spend a languorous evening. Chatting and eating. Ash was extremely keen on PVC and tried booking it from Calcutta. She couldn't get through. Then I tried last night. Wonder of wonders. Got a reservation for Friday night. At an unearthly hour of 8.15 PM. With a threat that we would loose the table if we were fifteen minutes late.

I got a call in the middle of the day at work today asking me to confirm my booking. The dire warning of 'ten minutes or no table' was repeated. They obviously thought that they worked for the Moulin Rouge or Queen Elizabeth's parlour.

The three of us reached. In time as instructed. the restaurant was fairly empty and filled up later.

Ordered our first starter... 'dehydrated' chicken strips. Then the next one. Caviare like portions of a jalapeño hummus dip. We had a spoon each and the dish got over. The waiter immediately placed three menus on our table. I begun to sense a stink.

We were stretched. Chatting. Catching up. Two close pals. And me, more a virtual friend. The girls were getting quite giggly at my shooting pics and were having a hearty laugh by asking my questions such as about my 'first impression on eating the chicken'. And whether I start planning what to write as soon as I eat something. They claimed to be quite tickled by the fact that they were witness to a 'Finely Chopped review'.

Note: They feel that the pictures doesn't do them justice. K says I photograph food better than I photograph her. Well, guilty on both counts

We were having a nice time when the waiter came again with the menus. We ordered a couple of pizza slices.

No sooner did the second pizza arrive than the waiter came and asked if wanted to order the main course. By then I was getting rather hot under my collar and said that we'd order a bit later. He looked at us strangely. I asked him whether there was a problem. He backed off.

He came a bit later. By then all three of us were frazzled with the young ones using phrases such as WTF and discussing other restaurants where we have actually had good times. I again pointedly said that we'd order in a while. We begun to go through the menu and decided on the Lamb Stew which someone had praised on FB and which S enjoyed when she came the previous day. Pan seared rawas and something else later were part of our plans.

We thought that we'd start with the lamb stew. We called the waiter and ordered one. He looked puzzled and asked whether we'd order anything else. I said that 'we'll see'. He said, "our portion is small. You'll need more". I cuttingly said that I was aware that their portions were 'small' and again asked if there was a problem.

He went back and got the lamb stew. S said that there was a lot more sauce when she ordered this a couple of days back. Ash spotted an eyelash nestled on the potato. The light was so dim that we couldn't see anything. So we weren't sure unlike Ash. We tried to eat the lamb. Unfortunately they gave us table knives and not chain saws. I tried to flex my biceps and cut the meat. I failed. S felt that it was a lot more tender when she ordered it a few days back.

By then we had had enough. We wanted to eat more but felt cheated and unwelcome and didn't want to spoil our evening. So we called for the bill. The waiter promptly came to our table and made a 'finito' like gesture to someone outside. Obviously not the sort of place which gives you a feedback form. I glared at him. It's been a while since I have come across such rudeness.

I did what I had never done before. Strode up with the girls to the manager and complained. He seemed genuinely apologetic and begun mumbling about two table seatings. That's when another guy came. He facetiously said 'I saw what happened and I am sorry." As fake as a Linking Road 'Gucci' handbag. Obviously in a hurry to get us out.

We were in a hurry to get out too. S was almost run over by their valet while we waited for her car.

How was the food?

Ice tea - watery

Dehydrated chicken strips? It was called something else I think

Jalapeño hummus and pita crackers? Barring the fact that we did a Nirupa Roy of the seventies, widowed mother with two kids sharing one roti, was nice.

Goat cheese and garlic pizza slice... the one who managed to get a bite of the cheese felt lucky. One of the less gloomy spots of the evening

Prosciutto pizza slice ... tomato purée drenched, couldn't taste the meat

Lamb stew? I am surprised that the knife didn't break as I tried to cut it. The accompaniments tasted worse than yesterday's garbage. Which possibly explains the presence of an eyelash on it. Even my camera revolted.

We ordered all of the above in the space of forty minutes so you can imagine how hurried we were.

Our evening at Pali Village Cafe was a blot on the name of Bandra. And of Mumbai. It goes against everything our city stands for. Ironically it stands on a place where there used to be a shop called Lila Stores a few years back. Run by very courteous and helpful folks.

But don't give up on Bandra. Pali Village Cafe is an aberration. A bad dream. The norm are places like Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf  where the three of us went after dinner and spent a pleasant couple of hours chatting over cheese cakes, chocolate 'sin' cake and mocha and white chocolate lattes. It was Christmas once again. No wonder Kainaz was there in the next table. Everybody loves a happy place. Thankfully we all made it to one.


Happy Fork said…
How atrocious!
The folks in Swati restaurant at Tardeo serve amazing food but have this irritating habit of hurrying you they are doing us a favor by giving us a meal there!
magiceye said…
sad to note the 'service' 'dished' out... deserves to be trashed
Ushnish Ghosh said…
Dear Kalayn
So you tried your best to make the place exciting!! I rarely eat out in Delhi or Noida, doesn't have the great culture that one sees in Cal or Bombay...
Also I dont eat at a place where they save electricity and use the eye lashes. I always like to sit at a joint which is brightly lit..

Enjoyed the great writing as usual.
Have a nice Sat-day
Ghosh kaku
happy fork said…
another thing that some folks in Mumbai do in so called hip places is to favor "foreigners" rather than local people! how racist is that?!!
Anonymous said…
what an infuriating experience! I had a similar experience in Hampi, North Karnataka - it was highly recommended in the "lonely planet" but like someone already mentioned, the waiters and owners did not particularly look forward to welcome desi people like us. They also informed us quite categorically that the menu and the food were meant particularly for foreigners.

I am glad that you are writing about it. most of us feel upset and angry, but at most times come back home and put it aside and move on. but unless more people know of these, awareness can not be built.
Lazy Pineapple said…
Your experience sounds quite hellish...I have been to such restaurants myself ughh

They make you feel as if they are doing you a favour by providing food and a place to eat...

You should send a copy of your post to the restaurant...that would be so much fun :P
Sharmila said…
Bad service is tolerable. Bad food is intolerable. Bad service and food is to be deciphered as "You are not important to us" + a rude shrug. And I agree with Lazy Pineapple ... they should be aware that customers are the only reason they are there ... and they cannot get away with such behaviour.
Kalyan Karmakar said…
True...Pali Village Cafe and their ilk who dish out bad service seem to have forgotten their reason for existence. People go to a restaurant to eat good food. And to have a good time. They don't go to ogle at starlets, news anchors or penny paperback novelists. I don't know if they have a foreigner fixation but that doesn't cut much ice with us
Scarlett said…
I guess you didn't hear what S said. She said we'd brought along our camera so we could photograph ourselves too! Haha! We do protest against that photo of ours though :P

The reviews of PVC are obviously paid for. It's the first time I've come across such a pathetic restaurant, and it's strange that it should exist in Bandra of all places! Thanks to Coffe Bean & Tea Leaf, our evening was salvaged.

My favorite part of your post: "The girls were getting quite giggly at my shooting pics and were having a hearty laugh by asking my questions such as about my 'first impression on eating the chicken'. And whether I start planning what to write as soon as I eat something. They claimed to be quite tickled by the fact that they were witness to a 'Finely Chopped review'."

Yes, we were very tickled :DD
Scarlett said…
On a separate note, you should take a print of this review & give it to the restaurant manager the next time you pass them. And let them know that you write for food & lifestyle magazines as well, and should an opportunity crop up to write on PVC, you wouldn't hesitate writing the truth. And then not accept their offer of a lunch/dinner on the house & walk off. It'll be so much fun!
Rhea said…
I agree with Scarlett!! You so should!

Good times will be had. And also, please don't forget to capture the expression on the manager's face when all this happens. And put it up on the blog too for good measure! :-P

Gaurav said…
dont worry, we put up with thieves as politicians but not in restaurants... if they keep this up they wont last long..
Kalyan Karmakar said…
@Happy Fork...that's really irritating

@magiceye: true. Especially for a place that charges a premium

@Ghosh Kaku...true sort of thing is ok for a shady Khaalashi Tola sort of place

@Sharbori21: I had started my blog
as a place to vent against bad service. PVC reminded me of that

@Lazy, Sharmila, Scarlett, Rhea...the sense I got that day is that the owner/ manager didn't care. We could go blue in our face with our threats but they wouldn't care. But then as 'Scarlett' would retort, 'tomorrow is another day'

@Gaurav...which brings me to your point. I completely agree with you. They can't take us for granted
Jeff Mostade said…
I'm sorry that you had this one bad experience at such a marvelous restaurant. I have never been rushed; always had great, imaginative food; good wines; and a delightful time. I have been many times. I'm booking a party there for my birthday for over 25 people. You might try it again, one experience is not always a true reflection of a restaurant. I left a review on Burrp.
Amit S said…
Its sad how badly people misuse the freedom given on internet -
just because some1 had this one bad experience they thrash a place down which the owners must have gone through alot before setting the place up , every place has its problems , i personally am a regular at pali village cafe and its a wonderful place and highly recommended .... any1 can start a blog online a bitch about a place , if its that easy start a restaurant and get it right , and lets see how you feel when some1 thrashes it ...
Kalyan Karmakar said…
2 comments in 2 days. no id's to link them with. Tsk tsk, pity there's noone who actually has something good to say about the place.

My reaction to these 'one bad experience' comments is that I did have to pay it
Poonam said…
I went there a couple of days back and didn;t like it either. Though they didn't hurry us up the food wasnt really good. we were 3 of us and two dint like what they had ordered at all.
Manisha said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Manisha said…
er.. in all fairness the place is a restaurant and not a coffee shop, therefore expectations of table turnarounds would be significantly different...which might explain his fascination with your gastranomic preferences ;-)

A coffee shop expects you to order a cup of coffee and extract two hours worth of airconditioning and lounging time from it :-)) (it wouldn't be a coffee shop otherwise) - I suspect they build that in their financial projections, lol!

But a restaurant on the other hand, expects you to have ordered your drinks, had your starters, and be waiting for your main course to be served in 40-50 mins.. cant really blame the waiter :-))

Haven't been to PVC, but must try it now after having read your review, though I must admit having read somewhere else as well, that the ambience is way more charming than the food!!!
Anonymous said…
Been going to PVC for a long time now and in their support I speak it's one of the best restaurant/cafe I been too in Mumbai .... This place make you feel like your home as if it's your own bungalow in the middle of Bombay and you sit read a book surf online etc ... Just pay the bill at the end

Why does the blogger delete anything good that is written about Pali village cafe .... I believe there is a award they won from times food guide too.
Kalyan Karmakar said…
This blogger doesn't delete anything good about PVC. But does wonder why everything good about PVC is written by anonymous handles