The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Indian bite in maharaja of all meals
- Americans burn over Rs 37 lakh for dinner in London restaurant

London, Aug. 7: A wealthy American picked up a bill for £45,000 (Rs 37.8 lakh) for entertaining 90 of his friends at the Tamarind, one of only two Indian restaurants in Britain with a Michelin star.

The guests were flown over recently from America to the Mayfair establishment for a night of sumptuous maharaja-style dining, thereby allowing the total bill to top the previous record of £44,000 (Rs 36.9 lakh) set at Gordon Ramsay’s Petrus restaurant three years ago. Six bankers had then spent it mostly on expensive wine.

The Tamarind and the Zaika are the only Indian restaurants in London which have so far been able to get Michelin stars. Their originals chefs, Atul Kochhar and Vineet Bhatia, have left to start their own ventures, but Alfred Prasad, who took over as executive chef at the Tamarind, has been able to keep the much-prized single star.

Diners will have to wait until the next issue of the Michelin Guide to discover whether Zaika is also able to withstand the consequences of Bhatia’s recent departure. Normally, the star goes with the chef.

The top Indian restaurants in London — Tamarind, Zaika, Vama, Gaylord, Quillon, the Bombay Brasserie, Sarkhel’s, Cafe Spice Namaste, Chor Bizarre and the Cinnamon Club, among them — have no trouble attracting western clients willing to pay over the odds for good food. However, a few overcharge for bad Indian food which would not pass muster with desi gourmets.

To receive American endorsement, such as the one Tamarind has just received, is worth its weight in crisp fried King prawns.

The Tamarind’s general manager, Rajesh Suri, said of the £45,000 bill: “This is definitely the largest single tab we have had here.”

The restaurant put on quite a spread, with top chef Prasad frantically busy in the kitchen. “One of our regular customers, a member of a wealthy Manhattan family, hosted a celebration meal to celebrate a show of his watercolours here in London. He flew 90 of his friends from America by private jet to attend,” said Suri.

He added: “Everything they dreamt of we provided for them. Guests arrived in cars from Karma Cabs, which uses vehicles decorated with exotic Indian silks, and there were fire jugglers outside to greet them.”

In short, it was the kind of occasion guaranteed to make Americans feel good but which would make most Indians cringe with embarrassment. The cabs, incidentally, bear an uncanny resemblance to the good old Ambassador (except they are not quite as battered as some taxis found in abundance on the streets of Calcutta).

There was more “Indian culture” laid on for the Americans. “There were Bollywood dancers, too, and the room itself was transformed into a Rajasthani tent, where we had a champagne reception and then an eight-course royal feast, along with our selection of top wines,” Suri disclosed.

He concluded: “The whole event was a new experience for us -- it was a sensational night.”

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