Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Jalota Jungle

Picture this. You walk out of the elevator into a low-lit slatted wooden ramp with rope nets on either side. The ceiling is covered with plastic foliage - stiff, oily and shining. The floor is mottled with halogen shadows of the leaves. You can hear high treble noises of the jungle through some tinny speakers that you cannot see. You walk further to be greeted by a suited maitre’d of this restaurant on a roof in Banjara Hills. This is Serengeti – a bizarre world of awadhi cuisine served in a tacky copy of Amazon jungle named after an African plain.

The waiters are all dressed like desi Dr Livingstone with pith solar hats and starched khaki gear. They resemble malnourished native helpers standing along with sahibs in faded old retro photos of the Raj.

There are also strange animatronic and partially truncated menagerie to add to this chaos. If you are eating smoothly minced fried Galouti kababs at the second level you will observe a life size shiny giraffe moving his head jerkily towards you. The Galouti dropped from my mouth and you better hold on to yours. The giraffe stands at the level below with his head poking through the foliage to the level you are on exercising his right to watch you eat every once in a while. Do not tell me that I did not warn you.

There are more animal accessories like a mutant python with an extra large head (or was it an anaconda?) languorously wrapped on fiberglass branch above the bar stools that are illustrations of animal rumps. We should stay on the bar stools a little longer. I once saw a large man sit on the bar stool that was a zebra hip down (if the zebra was standing on his hind legs) from the back. In that darkness with thin spots of halogen it was very authentic. I was sure that it was a striped centaur ordering a Bacardi Breezer at the bar, in a plastic jungle, on the roof of a hotel in Banjara Hills. Very authentic!

The awadhi food, though very rich, is not so bad. The music is always ghazals with a preference to Anup Jalota. Bon Appetit!