I used to work for this internet start close to a decade back. This was at the height of the dot-com boom when two year old programmers found themselves being referred to as ’senior’ and salaries touched ridiculous heights. Having said that, I’m not complaining, since my income soared too… briefly. Anyhow, I found myself working for one such company and referred a friend to join the company. Soft spoken, shy and a clever programmer, he quickly settled down into his new job and became comfortable with the new city. I must point out here, that I didn’t actually ‘hire’ the chap, nor was he reporting to me.
Then, the bubble burst and overnight thousands found themselves out of jobs. Having quickly surrounded themselves with the trappings of new found wealth, in installments of course, quite a few ‘right-sized’ people bordered on the suicidal. My friend too found himself on the chopping board and guess who was told to fire him? Yup. Me. Try as I might, to explain to the board that I didn’t hire him, nor did he report to me and on top of it all, he’s a friend, nothing seemed to work - the decision was taken. So I did it.
He hadn’t spoken to me since and I don’t blame him for it. Guess who called last week? Yes, it was him and he didn’t have much time - just enough for a quick dinner in Connaught Place and we thought Sarvana Bhawan would be an interesting choice, since I used to exist on their food in Madras and wondered why the place was getting such mixed reviews.
For some reason, most south Indian places in the city have this cheap, old-school canteen ambience and the Tamilian no-Hindi, no-English imports don’t do the service much good either. Saravana Bhawan wasn’t about to rock the boat and is exactly the same, except that they’re running a sweet counter in there as well.
Since we wanted to catch up rather than spend time thinking about what to order, we chose the thalis and a mini-tiffin. The food wasn’t bad. The thali contained a few puris, rice, dal, kovakkai, sambar, rasam, raita, curd, fruit halva, appalam (south Indian version of poppadums), some pickles and more-mulaga. The food tasted good and was quite nice. The mini-tiffin contained miniatures of cooked snack foods like dosa, idli, vada, sambar, chutney and some kesar halva. Everything was cooked well. We also ordered watermelon, mausambi and pineapple juice.
As I said, most of these places are a bit low on service, so if you go there expecting the Ritz, I’m afraid you will probably come back ranting and cursing. On the other hand, a polite word and a smile get you much more than most people who try to establish their ‘customer’ status with a shout, yell or a snap of their fingers. It is amazing how badly most people in this city treat waiters. Pity really.
Anyhow, if you’re looking for an authentic, Tamilian meal sans Ritz style service, Saravana Bhawan is the place for you. The prices are quite reasonable too.