Not only are the number of hotels increasing in Bombay but also the number of five-star restaurants attached to them.
There was a time when the only hotel restaurant in Bombay was the rendezvous: it was on the ground floor of the old Taj, where the Habour Bar is now, an entrance from the street and no air-conditioning. At least, I presume there was no airconditioning, because the windows were open and from one of the windows you could see a notice, prominently displayed and announcing: â€śSouth Africans not admitted.â€ť
Once I had got hold of a menu of the Rendezvous and the omelet was priced at Rs. 8, which I thought was daylight robbery. In those days, people used such quaint phrases as daylight robbery, now they say-rip-off, which, I think, is much more expressive.
The now demolished Greenâ€™s (where the Taj International has been set up) had an Indian restaurant called Gulmarg. It was decorated in bad taste, like a wedding pandal of the very rich, and the food was sleshy, too many raisins and cashewnuts. People would say: â€śSee, what I told you! Taj canâ€™t cook Indian food.â€ť (Now, of course, the groupâ€™s Gulzar has the best Indian food in the country, definitely a restaurant all foreigners should be taken to.)
The Sea Lounge was always there and always as it is now, except possibly that it had a few more potted palms. In the afternoons, Indian industrialists - some of them- would sit in the padded chairs of the Sea Lounge, after lunch at the ballaroom, light their cigars and fall asleep. Now in the afternoons, Gujarati families come to show their daughters to green card holders from America who have come to India to get married through the matrimonial columns of The Times of India. I wonder where do those green card holders who get married through the matrimonial columns of The Hindustan Times go. Probably to Birla House or Lodhi Gardens.
There was also the Majestic Hotel at Museum, now the MLAs Hostel. Where the Sahakari Bhandar is now, there was a restaurant with cane chairs, ceilings fans, turbaned waiters serving chotta pegs of whisky-pani. I never stepped in, of course. So I cannot give more details.
The Ambassador had The Other Room, a French restaurant which those who knew about food, including D. F. Karaka, swore was the best restaurant in town. They still say that about the Ambgassadorâ€™s Society.
And the Ritz had The Little Hunt, an Italian speciality restaurant. Which was another good restaurant. And the Ritz has also carried on its Italian tradition.
But these were all the hotel restaurants in Bombay, partly because these were all the hotels in Bombay. Now there is a whole collection of them, a restaurant to choose every day of the month, or, at least, three weeks. Only most people cannot afford them. I canâ€™t I could not afford the old Rendezvous where the omelet was Rs. 8 and I cannot afford the present Rendezvous where the omelet is Rs. 38.