Where food is the starJul 12th, 2009 | By editor | Category: Food, Lifestyle
If you had to add a third ‘C’ to the fads in the country, (the first two being cricket and cinema) it would probably be cuisine. With a plethora of eateries, offering you heady themes and not-so-expensive familiar food, the connoisseur is spoilt for choice.
One restaurant that has caught the imagination of food lovers who also like entertaining weekends is Havmor 70mm in the southern film hub of Hyderabad.
The brainchild of the father-son duo — Ravi and Amar Ohri of Ohri’s Group — this is the first Indian restaurant created on a Bollywood theme.
“In the West I came across sports-oriented restaurants, horror and bizarre themes like jail. In LA there are many eateries on the Disneyland theme. So I thought one with a film theme — that too the Hindi cinema we knew — would be a bestseller,” says Amar.
A business man with a background in civil engineering, Ravi came to Hyderabad and started Hotel Baseraa in 1981. He also started Secunderabad’s first pub, Outswinger, still popular with cricket buffs and Mehfil, a restaurant with a live ghazal recital.
Equipped with a hotel management degree from Lucerne (Switzerland) and an MBA in hospitality from Johnson and Wales, North Carolina, Amar joined his father in 2000, executing projects like food courts and fuel stations in malls, theme restaurants and more.
So on a balmy evening Amar Ohri decides to play host at this Bollywood eatery by the lake. The top note of this place reads ‘kitschy’, with glitzy bead partitions taken from a “Zohrabai ka mujra scene” or the living room of a moll from the 1970s flicks.
“Don’t miss the red carpet and the pardah,” points Amar. What catches the eye is also the different zones here — vamp, action, romance, comedy and villain — featuring life-sized statues of prominent actors representative of the theme.
Hrithik Roshan in action and Helen from her heyday help the customers to soak in the Bollywood experience. The Big B statue in his “actual 6’ 3 height” takes you back to “Amar Akbar Anthony” and the “My name is Antony Gonsalves” ditty. Innumerable posters from “Sholay”, “Shaan” and other flims share space with others from the swinging 1970s and arty 1980s. “We have collected authentic posters from the films of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s as well as memorabilia. For instance, few know that Sunil Gavaskar cut a music album,” says Amar pointing at a vinyl on the poster-packed wall. “We plan to add more to the existing ones.”
“When we were planning the theme, we found there were no ready references. We want to give the diner the filmy experience: right from the red carpet to the carefully chosen menu,” says Amar.
… and the food
The menu, much like its popular theme, has a mix of Indian, Chinese, Italian and Mexican fare. “Chicken shaslik” —cubes on boneless chicken served with rice, sweet and sour and garlic sauce — meets “Sichuan prawns” — king prawn with water chestnut, chilli and Sichuan hot sauce from the fine food province in China. There are tortillas, pastas and pizzas for those who like their meal Tex-Mex and Italian. “South Indian 70 mm” dosa as also the “Chettinad chicken and egg” variant, “Chicken tikka masala” and more from the Indian platter grace the filmy menu replete with Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan frames.
We settle for some chalu food section that has vada pav as also “The Malaika” — sinfully delectable vanilla ice cream and crushed oreo cookie shake. We go for chole bhature from Hoshiarpur — also a hit in the group’s other hotels. “The masala even today is made by my grandmother,” says Amar about the flavour. Served with a piping hot huge bhatura and a plateful of Kabuli chana cooked to perfection and garnished with fresh coriander, this is a dish to die for.
Much like its trademark dishes, the Ohri’s chain is also known for its frozen desserts like “Mud pie” or a peanut butter and chocolate ice cream blend or “Irish chocolate truffle”, another sinful dark chocolate offering. At Havmor 70 mm, they’ve introduced a live sundae counter. “Choose fruits, jujubes, jelly cubes and ice cream to make your ice cream,” says Amar as children and adults alike give their preferences.
In terms of costs a meal for two works out to between Rs.500 and 700. Choose from the a la carte menu or go for the buffet.
They’re also looking at introducing Hyderabads biggest buffet with a diverse range of salads, soups and global cuisine plus live counters with an easy-on-your-pocket tariff, says Amar. There is more to come. Apart from the current collectibles — autographed coasters of Madhuri, Saif and SRK and corny dialogues for table mats — people will hear Bollywood music interspersed with popular dialogues. Come weekends and look-alikes of film stars will drop in for photo ops.
Amar is excited about taking the concept abroad. “We have Serengiti and Zanzibar in Bangalore and now plan to take Havmor 70 mm to London,” he says. Much like the box office cash registers ringing with overseas collections, a restaurant with a Bollywood theme should pull in crowds abroad as well.
“Right now, food is the star,” he says.