Here’s how 5-star hotels are delivering food, happiness amid COVID-19 – Mid-day

A day when luxury hotels would deliver food to our homes—who’d have thought of that? A coping mechanism to tide over the slowdown, most big names of hospitality, which started with takeaways are now home-delivering meals, either through their in-house fleet or via food aggregators. To ensure a seamless experience from their kitchen to your table, a bevy of chefs are busy at work—curating a floating menu, researching food grade packaging, running trials and delivering in a safe, hygienic environment. What’s clockwork now, took a few weeks to master because this isn’t just about standard restaurant food delivery—the brand name, built over the years, is at stake.

A signature feature of the St Regis Mumbai, is the butler service. A butler brings the food home and shares detailed instructions on the assembly of the meals. Pic/Atul Kamble

Executive chef at Taj Lands End, Rohit Sangwan believes that the food delivered needs to be at least 85-90 per cent close to what you eat in their restaurant and till you take that first bite, the responsibility is on them. “Every crisis teaches you something, and the lockdown has offered many lessons, including not taking anything for granted. For instance, this morning, we put salli boti on the menu, but the salli vendor couldn’t deliver it in time, so we had to make it from scratch in our own kitchen. It taught us two things; first, not to put anything on the menu unless all ingredients are ready at hand and, second, new ways to make the salli from scratch. Our online menus aren’t a copy-paste of the restaurant menu—enormous research and trials have gone into how the food looks and tastes after travelling a certain distance.”

Chef Rakesh Kamble, Chef Anshuman Bali and Chef Paul Kinny
Chef Rakesh Kamble, Chef Anshuman Bali and Chef Paul Kinny

Chef Anshuman Bali, executive chef at JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar, is disappointed that the restaurant’s decor and service, and even plating techniques that were their playground, got taken away due to the lockdown. “What we are left with is the creativity with food and packaging, and that’s what we are focusing on, albeit with limited resources,” he says. Bali believes that the pandemic has pushed them to think out of the box and give a twist to dishes. “But, we are loving the process.”

It goes without saying that hotels are expected to follow all the safety protocols put forth by the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP). All associates will be expected to wear masks and gloves and follow social distancing norms to ensure a safe home delivery experience. Another plus is the use of biodegradable materials for packaging, thus ensuring we aren’t piling the sea with our dump of takeaway containers.

‘We keep a limited menu’

St Regis, Lower Parel

St Regis, Lower Parel
One of the best DIY som tam salads with assembly instructions arrived along with a specially-curated menu by the chef. What’s special is that the butler got the food home and shared detailed instructions with this writer. A signature feature of the St Regis Mumbai, the butler service elevated the dining experience. The appetisers were a selection of Oriental chicken wings, Sichuan chicken dim sums and truffle edamame dim sums—something we were wary of because of the distance they had travelled. But, they were inviting and full of flavour. Indian mains comprising nalli nihari, laccha paratha, murgh lazeez handi and murgh dum biryani ranked high on the flavour metre. By the Mekong chicken, vegetable green Thai curry and ginger smoked jasmine rice were a hit and so were the desserts—a flourless chocolate cake and Basque burnt cheesecake. Director of culinary, chef Paul Kinny says, “Food travels for about 30-45 minutes from our kitchen to your home, so, there are several factors, including textures and temperatures that need to be taken into account while drafting a menu. That’s also the reason why we keep the options limited.”

Price: Rs 1,100 onwards
Order: 8657522956, Swiggy and Zomato

‘Food is connected to mood’

Grand Hyatt, Santa Cruz

Grand Hyatt, Santa Cruz
When we asked chef de cuisine Rakesh Kamble to rustle up a mood-lifting meal, he drafted a three-course menu with carefully selected ingredients. Appetisers included beetroot ravioli with edamame and goat cheese served with salsa verde for beating the blues. “Edamame is a good source of magnesium, which boosts serotonin or the happy hormone in the body,” he tells us. For the main course, he has made an ‘anger-fighting’ grilled salmon with orange beurre blanc and wilted baby spinach, because salmon is high in omega-3 acids that helps you calm down. The summery berry parfait with granola bar were included as guilt-free desserts. “With so much stress around, we are all craving something that can make us feel better. Food has a deep connection with mood,” says Kamble.

Price: Rs 800 onwards
Order: 66761234, Swiggy and Zomato

‘We’ve learnt to keep hot and cold food separate’

JW Marriott, Sahar

JW Marriott, Sahar
If your Sundays have been incomplete without leisurely brunches, Brunch in a box is aimed at you. The culinary team, spearheaded by chef Anshuman Bali, has done a splendid job of curation. “The idea was to fit the brunch favourites in a box and keep it light. Every week, a selection from Indian delicacies, Italian specialties, quick comfort food and artisanal desserts are packed in a box for guests to relive the brunch experience. We’ve learnt a lot about packaging, such as keeping hot and cold food separate.” On the Sunday we ordered, the meal comprised passion fruit iced tea, quinoa and avocado salad with citrus dressing, Malaysian satay with sambal peanut sauce, lagan ki boti and chicken empanadas. The opera and mango cremeaux tart and anjeer halwa as dessert made a delightful conclusion to a great meal.

Price: Rs 2,250 + taxes (non-vegetarian) and R1,950 + taxes (vegetarian)
Order: 68828888, Swiggy and Zomato

‘We pack in corn-starched clamshell boxes’

ITC Maratha, Airport and Grand Central, Parel

ITC Maratha, Airport and Grand Central, Parel
Corporate and personal virtual dining events executed on a pan-India level seem to be the new industry trend under lockdown. Think of an office video conference over lunch or a virtual birthday treat for friends and family. With Gourmet Couch, you can order ITC’s signature preparations like the dal bukhara, dudiya kebab and shahed-e-jam. “Based on special requests received by our guests, we help curate an exclusive gourmet experience,” says Atul Bhalla, area manager (west), ITC Hotels and general manager-ITC Maratha. What we liked is that the food box comes with a heating manual with instructions on how to best enjoy the type of cuisine ordered because flavours can be lost in the process. “The food is packed in corn starched clamshell boxes and corrugated paper boxes and parcelled in a biodegradable bag with an aqueous coating.”

Price: Rs 3,000 onwards
Order: 28303030, Swiggy and Zomato

‘We ask ourselves: how to make it special?’

JW Marriott, Juhu

JW Marriott, Juhu
For Dinesh Sathiyanathan, director (food and beverage), JW Marriott Mumbai Juhu, it’s all about curating good food experiences. On special request, he personalised our eighth wedding anniversary meal by going the extra mile and printing our wedding photos as an edible topping on muffins. Add to that, a specially curated his-and-her drink made with eight unique ingredients, one for each year of marriage. “When we sit down to ideate, we take inputs from the team, regardless of the hierarchy and that helps us deliver unique concepts to our guests. We ask ourselves, what is it that we would have done differently to make them remember this day and make it special? Since they cannot come down here personally, we make sure to do the simple things that elevate the experience,” says Sathiyanathan. The food was a simple and flavourful spread of prawn hargao, celery chicken dumplings, avocado and cream cheese uramaki, chicken tikka with pesto chilli and oregano, gosht nalli nihari and warqi paratha, burnt garlic and egg fried rice and pizza with artichoke, bell pepper, mushroom, basil and feta. Ending on a sweet note were desserts of exotic fruits and almond berry frangipani and a delicious honey chocolate berry croquant parfait.

Price: Minimum order Rs 1,250
Order: 9004616506 or via Swiggy and Zomato

Will they return?

Now that the hospitality industry has added home delivery to their repertoire, would patrons want to come back to the hotel when things go back to normal? “Certainly,” says an optimistic Paul Kinny. “Luxe restaurants are experiential and often, the service is the star. For instance, watching a salmon on fire or a sizzling kebab on the grill is a sight you want to soak in while being physically present. We can’t do the sushi and sashimi buffet at home since the temperatures are not the same and dealing with raw fish can be risky. There’s a lot you’d want to come back to the hotel for.”

‘Better to stick to one cuisine per meal’

The Westin Mumbai Garden City, Goregaon

The Westin Mumbai Garden City, Goregaon
Bento boxes are a curation of the Westin Mumbai Garden City’s bestsellers. From silky mutton galouti kebab and creamy butter chicken to the delectable Awadhi gosht biryani, and delicate saffron phirni, the non-vegetarian fare is stellar. In the veg selection, there is the rich dudiya paneer tikka, spicy vegetable Kolhapuri and pudina laccha paratha along with a sugar-free keto almond cake. If you’ve got pan-Asian on your mind, the bento box has chicken and peppers with fermented black beans, umami udon noodles, braised chicken with teriyaki sauce and a litchi mascarpone gateau to balance the sweet and tangy flavours. Executive chef Rahul Dhavale says, “While you can mix and match different dishes, I personally recommend ordering one cuisine per meal to allow your palate to savour the flavours. We keep engineering the menu every few weeks and it primarily runs on the concept of ‘go local’.”

Price: Minimum order of Rs 2,000
To order: 9004496577, Swiggy and Zomato

‘You have to keep logistics in mind’

Taj Qmin, Colaba, Cuffe Parade and Bandra

Taj Qmin, Colaba, Cuffe Parade and Bandra
How far will the galouti travel without getting mushed was a question the team at the Taj worked on before rolling out the deliveries via their app, Qmin. “Even though the risotto is everyone’s favourite, it didn’t make it to the menu, because the consistency after reheating is not the same as what it would be if you eat it at the restaurant. From which sponge and ganache to be used in a cake so that it stays soft even the next day to keeping parchment paper under dim sums was all a result of the real-time test runs we’ve been doing since March. When you are catering to orders from Pedder Road to Kharghar, you have to keep logistics in mind,” says executive chef Rohit Sangwan. From steamed chicken dumplings, shrimp har gao, steamed sea bass Cantonese style and stir fried oriental vegetables to aatish-e-chaap, Sunday mutton curry and dal makhni, the spread was an enticing blend of flavours and textures. The Parsi egg pudding, however, deserves a separate ode.

Price: Minimum order Rs 1,500 + taxes
Order: Download the Qmin App

‘We want to offer unpredictability’

Four Season, Worli

Four Season, Worli
Virtual high teas have been a hit among the swish set during the lockdown, and these newly introduced dips, sauces and condiments serve as an ideal accompaniment for teacakes and sandwiches. What’s interesting is that these come in a mini suitcase that adds to the charm of the setting. Executive chef Anupam Gulati says, “We wanted to offer guests an element of unpredictability in the offerings. While the pineapple preserve has turmeric and basil, the chocolate spread includes smoked chilli. And, the ketchup is made with smoked tomatoes.” Their ‘streets of Mumbai’ menu with kheema bhaji, kathi roll, and thupka are filled with robust flavours, making you reminisce the joys of street food.

Price: Minimum order Rs 2,000 plus taxes onwards
Order: 7710033143 or via Swiggy and Zomato.

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