Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Copper Castle, Munnar, India (Alissa and Don Eat Asia Day 17, Part 1)

I sometimes worry I'm a little too generous and positive in my appraisals of restaurants. Perhaps its because I worked hard researching good places to eat, but the vast majority of our meals in India have left us feeling genuinely satisfied, even surprisingly so in the case of the very cheap Rapsy Restaurant. As a means of contrast, let me tell you about our meal at Copper Castle.

After a morning and early afternoon of doing the Munnar tourist drive to Top Station and back, our driver Das took us to town to eat at Silver Spoon. When we got to town, we found that it was indeed right smack in the middle of town as I had remembered however it was closed for what seemed like renovations. Having to go with a second choice, we chose to forgo a second meal at Rapsy and decided on lunch at the Trip Advisor recommended Copper Castle, which was down the road from our hotel. Little did we know we had just made a huge mistake. 

We arrived to sit at the empty dining room of the restaurant, something I've come to notice is fairly usual with hotel restaurants in India as the dinner trade seems to be when they are at their busiest. We looked through the menu and chose to go with the Malabari Fried Prawns and the Pepper Chicken, along with two serves of parotta. 

We received our drinks quickly enough and began to amuse ourselves with conversation and making funny faces at each other as we took photos. But then things started to go downhill. We waited for what seemed like a very long time before we received our first dish, and when it came out we were both a little taken aback by how small it was.

The Malabari Fried Prawns were a lot smaller than we had expected. I'm not sure if the photo does justice to just how small the prawns were, but they were really very tiny – more like the smaller size you'd expect from a cheap supermarket shrimp cocktail than the usual meatier size I'd expect as a main. We ate this quietly, both of us commenting on how surprisingly small the serve was while noting that it at least tasted good. We were thinking maybe we should have ordered something else or that we may have to order an additional main, however the slow pace that things were coming out at made us hesitant to ask for an additional order less we extend our meal any longer. I understand prawns are more expensive than chicken or lamb, but I would rather pay more for a reasonable serve (either larger prawns or more small ones) than get a plate so insubstantial.

Things got even worse when they collected our finished plate. Unbeknownst to myself as I was facing the other way, the chef and kitchen staff came out of the kitchen to stand and watch as the waiter interacted with us.
'How was the prawns?' the waiter asked as he took the plate.
'It was very good, thank you,' said Alissa, being polite.
When he returned to where the staff were waiting, he spoke to them and they all started laughing. We're not sure whether they were laughing because they knew we'd obviously been fleeced by a stingy serve that they knew was no good or whether they were laughing because Alissa being Caucasian made her seem strange or some other reason. Regardless of the fact, this is unacceptable behaviour in any restaurant. I've never seen anything like it before.

After waiting again for a long time, the Pepper Chicken came out. We were very hungry by this point so to be fair the photo I've taken was after I'd already dished out some of the gravy onto my plate, but you can see that three measly pieces was all the chicken that was served to us. By way of comparison, have a look at the amount of chicken served to us at Rapsy Restaurant the previous day and you'll see how this was terrible value for money. The food was again at least tasty, having nice spice, and the parotta served to us was probably the best we had in Munnar. However I would later learn from Alissa that the restaurant staff again stood at the back of the room and watched, which made her feel very uncomfortable and self-conscious.

The Verdict: Okay
In all of our journey, I'm fairly certain this was easily the worst dining experience and most disappointing. I've heard that the nighttime buffet service is quite good but a restaurant should be bringing its A-Game at all times, and this was amongst the worst restaurant services I've ever experienced and the stingiest serving sizes we've encountered in all of India. A dish per person has been the rule of thumb at every other Indian restaurant we've eaten at, and my feedback to Copper Castle would be I'd rather have paid more for decent serving sizes that be served an insufficiently filling meal. But then at four times the price of Rapsy, one could eat food of equal quality to their hearts content and have a better dining experience to boot. Our meal here was at least good tasting otherwise this would be getting an even worse rating, but I thoroughly recommend you save you money and go to Rapsy Restaurant for a lunch in Munnar rather than have the kind of terrible service only Copper Castle seems able to offer.

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