All for an authentic Maharashtrian thali

My BIL has a penchant for all things authentically Maharashtrian while the husband and I have a liking for all things culinary (provided of course I’m not doing the cooking). When the BIL offered to take us all out for lunch at an old-time thali joint we happily agreed. On a Sunday afternoon we set out … seven of us, the twins and my niece included, to a place called Durvankur in the old city.

Pic courtesy Google images
We were taken aback at the crowd waiting outside.. it was like a wedding reception.. There were over fifty people dressed in all their finery waiting around chatting in groups. It seemed like we’d chosen the wrong day for our foray in the city – it was Bhai Duj plus Padwa and the entire city was out for lunch.
The husband and the BIL were undaunted. “This is normal.. the place is always crowded,” said they elbowing their way into the joint while the SIL and I waited outside with the kids in order to spare the other diners.
“10 minutes,” said the maitre d. The men waited patiently while the SIL and I struggled to lighten up a grumpy Hrit. (As always the one-child-happy-one-cranky rule applied) After about 15 minutes the two men came out with the husband in a bad temper.
Apparently their turn had come and the maitre d allotted them the table then asked where the rest of the ‘party’ was. The H explained they were waiting outside. That didn’t go down well with the maitre d. Apparently, we ALL were expected to be waiting right at the table ready to jump on our chairs at his bidding. He promptly allotted the table to another family and extended our wait.
So much for Puneri hospitality! A rude maitre d is such a total turn off. He wouldn’t have been bothered though, what with the kind of crowds the joint was drawing. I guess some would take it in their stride, however brought up in the nawabi culture where people are polite to you even while shooting you in the head, rudeness is just not our cup of tea.
The H walked off in a huff and we all followed with the howling kids who were getting hungrier by the minute. I had a good mind to let loose the kids in the restaurant and watch the maitre d handle that. He had no idea of the mayhem they are capable of in crowded places with no aisle space and busy waiters walking around with food.
Anyway, we then went from joint to joint only to find all places choc-a-bloc with hungry people. We finally caught lunch at about 3 pm that day.
I wasn’t however able to get the thali thought out of my head. Last Sunday the SIL and I found ourselves making our way to the old city again for some shopping. By the time we winded up it was past lunch time. It really is rare that we find ourselves minus kids and husbands footloose and fancy free. My thali longing took us back to the same joint again.
The first floor has the kitchens and we got a gilmpse of the huge cooking utensils. However, it was the second floor where we were headed. This time round we were prepared for the rudeness. The maitre d however was more business like than rude. “Two people?” he asked and then pointed us to a seat right away. How’s that for luck!
We dodged rushing waiters and closely-laid out tables to our place. Even before we could take our seats thalis and bowls were planted before us. A waiter threw (Yes threw) napkins in our plates and disappeared before we could see where he came from. Then came the food… two gravy veggies, dahi vadas, potato bhaji, bhajias, dhokla, chips, jalebis and the crowning glory Sitaphal rabadi. Add to that a selection of five or six pickles and chutneys plus a huge bowl of koshimbir (a cool cucumber concoction with curd and groundnuts with a dash of salt and sugar....ideal on a hot afternoon). Mmmmmm…. There were puris and rotis to choose from plus a choice of rice served with a dash of ghee.
Ambience and frills there were none but the food was well worth the trouble. The Sitaphal rabadi alone was sweet enough to wash off last times rudeness. The service was almost military in its precision. The moment you emptied a bowl you’d magically get a refill. It seemed some people of the staff had the sole responsibility of peering into plates and beckoning the food-carriers as soon as they spotted empty bowls.
We were out in less than half an hour with a large packet of Sitaphal Rabri for the hungry pack at home.
At Rs 150 a thali --- it was a deal.

And we forgive the maitre d, he really just doesn’t have time to be nice. He’s too busy seating hungry people and ensuring he feeds as many as possible. If he does annoy a patron here and there … well never mind he'll come back in his own time. We did, didn’t we?