There was a time when food delivery or “ordering a parcel” as it was known in common parlance, was available only from the casual dining, middle-level, roadside, family style types of restaurants, or fast-food chains, food-carts, quick service restaurants, dhabas, udipis and the like. Even ordering a takeaway from a fancy fine-dine was rare, if not considered downright extravagant and undue. The argument often being, why pay those prices if you’re going to eat the food at home? I’d be more than happy to order a Chicken Makhanwala takeaway from Balwas, a middle-level air-conditioned restaurant tucked away in a lane in New Marine lines, or from Sagar, a non-air-conditioned chilliya café at Nagpada, but I’d think twice before I ordered Chicken Makhanwala from Gaylords or Gallops, both upmarket fine dine restaurants whose Butter Chicken is exquisite.
Those were times when I’d pick up the phone and breezily place an order with my neighbourhood Biryani joint, pav-bhaji place, or local Chinese never even imagining that I could order a parcel from a China Garden, Mumbai’s most sought after Chinese Restaurant. In fact, few of the more stylish restaurants would refuse to take delivery orders, because they did not feel the need to hire delivery boys, or didn’t feel the need to add that service to their oversubscribed restaurant or were just plain snobs. I’ve also been refused a doggy bag of leftovers to take home from one such restaurant, the excuse being, if I don’t store the food properly and it gets spoilt, it would destroy the reputation of the restaurant. In short, none of the big guys delivered. But online food aggregators and the lockdown changed all that. Today, you can order from any meal you like, from any restaurant you like, you could even order from any city you like. It’s all available at your doorstep with a few swipes on your phone. That had already started before the lockdown.
But what the lockdown did was pretty much got everyone down on their knees especially the five-star hotels. As the pandemic dealt blow of crores of rupees, to hotels and hospitality business, they too felt the pressure to find ways to sustain themselves. Sometimes good ideas come from bad times and that’s exactly what happened. Five-star hotels pulled out all their gastronomical and culinary plugs and started curating and delivering their popular and sought-after menus to your homes. All beautifully boxed and delivered. The first five-star that sent me food was the St. Regis Mumbai. Under the Brand name of “Marriot Bonvoy Wheels”, executive chef Paul Kini sent me a huge box of a specially curated East Indian menu. Of course, it was more special because Paul is East Indian and I could sense his heart in the food. It all arrived beautifully packaged delivered at my door by a liveried waiter, courteous, and white gloved. It was a feat. Under this delivery brand, Paul has decided to explore lost cuisines. This weekend as well, Paul did a menu of Pathare Prabhu food all for delivery.
On the other hand, Taj Hotels, have launched an app called Qmin. You can order their signature dishes from any restaurant of your choice from the Taj. The service extends to most cities where The Taj have hotels, from Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, and Kolkata of course but even, Nasik, Jamshedpur, Coimbatore, Bhubaneshwar, Pune and more as well. So, if you are missing Golden Dragon’s famous Lobster Butter Chilly oyster or Prawn Har Gau, or Shamiana’s famous Kheema Ghotala, or Thai Pavillion’s Gaeng Kiew Wan Goong, it can be delivered, with white gloves, to your home.
The Oberoi Delhi has a new menu and does take away. The menus are elaborate, and include sandwiches, salads to sushi also freshly baked breads, and confectionary from their boulangerie.
And how could I forget the ITC. They too have an app and in fact, were on Zomato way before others, and have meal plans, set meals and a la carte from their signature brands. The biryani, the black Dal, and all the food from Kebabs and curries can be delivered to your home, under the brand Gourmet Couch. They even have a full Biryani and Pulao section, which includes Keema Pulao, Gosht Bohri Biryani, Metiabruz Biryani (Kolkata) and Serai Ki Biryani. The Biryanis often come delivered piping hot in lovely ceramic bowls along with either raita, onion pachadi or ‘mirchi ka salaan’.
How times have changed, and I may say for the better. As they say, necessity is the mother of aggression or is it progression? … or something like that.
Kunal Vijayakar is a food writer based in Mumbai. He tweets @kunalvijayakar and can be followed on Instagram @kunalvijayakar. His YouTube channel is called Khaane Mein Kya Hai. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the stand of this publication.