Monday, July 11, 2011

Lunch at Mainland China, Vashi - a singular experience

Living in Navi Mumbai can leave one feeling pretty isolated so I thank God for the Internet every day. But one needs to have a real social life too, where one meets people face to face. It was time to make some new friends and a chance conversation with a new acquaintance led me into the unexplored world of the kitty party.

I was excited and a little embarrassed at the same time - I mean, a kitty party! But it was time to put aside all preconceived notions and give myself a chance to just go out and have some fun. And I did.

The venue chosen was Mainland China in Vashi. Now Mainland China as a restaurant chain has a formidable reputation built up over many years and many outlets all over the country and I was quite looking forward to going there. I was going to meet eight strangers (and one close friend!) and it was nice to have some sort of comfort zone, even if I hadn't been to this Vashi outlet more than once before.

One lady from the group was already there as my friend and I walked in. We got comfortable and before we knew it the waiter was at our table asking us what we would like to order. We said we were waiting for at least seven more people and we'd like to wait a bit. In another two or three minutes another waiter came by to take our order. We said the same thing and pointed to the large table we were sitting at and at all the empty spaces. We asked for the drinks menu thinking we'd at least order a drink.

The a la carte menu arrived. We specified we were going to all have their un fixed lunch because it would be easier for all. I reminded the waiter to get the drinks menu. The un fixed lunch menu arrived and with it an eager senior waiter type, all ready to take our order. There were still just three of us at the table. I asked for the drinks menu again.

We had some questions regarding the un fixed menu and the eager fellow went off to look for someone who knew how the un fixed menu works. No sign of the drinks menu yet. I finally lost patience and raised my voice asking one of the senior staff wandering around if they had a problem with serving us alcohol or any other drink. Many apologies and the drinks menus arrived.

Meanwhile a few more ladies arrived and our table began filling up. Introductions flew around, the fun had begun. The un fixed menu has soup and dim sum too and we all asked for both. Meanwhile the Chinese tea arrived. I don't like the stuff so I opted out but I did notice that there seemed to be a huge amount of tea leaves floating in every cup. The tea drinkers requested that the tea be strained and served because they couldn't enjoy the tea with a mouthful of leaves with every sip.

We continued chatting and joking and I was having a good time. Then the soup arrived. No sign of the drinks, by the way. Two beers, one cocktail and one mocktail had been ordered. Soup was served to all and voila! the drinks arrived and guess what? So did the tea! So we had soup, drinks and tea all together.

The dim sums also arrived but we were barely halfway through our soup. Now the un fixed menu has 3 pieces  of the dim sum per person but we were served 2 each and we had to demand that the third one be brought. It felt so silly but if you say 3 shouldn't you serve 3 and be done with it?? By this time the main courses began to arrive and the portions were unbelievably small. Why would the restaurant serve combined portions in dishes the same size as their regular single portion dishes? Why make the customer feel cheated? We insisted that they serve everything in their individual portions.

The food took forever to get to our table and when it came the waiters milled around dumping food on our plates, shouldering in from both sides literally giving us no room to even sit. It was simply unbelievable.

We finally chose our desserts and instructed them to bring each one individually. Guess what? They didn't. Everything came combined again and there were waiters actually serving half a scoop of ice cream because there were 9 people and six desserts had been ordered. Which part of 'bring everything individually' they didn't understand I honestly don't know.

This is possibly my worst experience eating out ever. I don't remember what the food tasted like because I was too pissed off to appreciate it. The service was beyond abysmal.

Being in the food business myself I am always willing to understand, be considerate and forgive a random mistake. But this was simply ridiculous and I had to hold myself back from holding a basic training session in courtesy and table service at Mainland China, Vashi.

Lunch at Mainland China, Vashi was a singular experience indeed. And it will remain so. I have been to other outlets, one of my favourites is the one in South City Mall, Calcutta. This one was a shock to the system.

I apologise to this long post, rather this rant...but I had to say it.


Kurush F Dalal said...

I'm a big fan of the Mainland China franchise and have had superb meals with excellent service at all their outlets with the exception of the one at Vashi. All three times that I have been there the service at best has been slow and vapid at worst negligent and sloppy. It is as though this outlet is where they send their least trained staff. The Pune, Kolkata and Mumbai outlets have impeccable service the Navi Mumbai outlet seems to make up for all of them! I dont think I'll be going back to them.

Atanu Dey said...

Shocking!! The Mainland China of Gurgaon is fantastic. We will surely make it up when u guys r here.

Ana said...

Dear Rhea and Kurush

I sincerely apologize for the experience you had at Mainland China Vashi and thank you for your feedback. Believe me your comments have helped tremendously in identifying the gaps and I assure you that your next experience will be better.

Rhea Mitra Dalal said...

Ok, I'm a little late in posting this and I apologise.
Two people from Speciality Foods, the company that runs the Mainland China chain got in touch with me, apologised profusely, heard me out patiently even after reading my detailed rant on the blog.
I have been assured that the matter is being taken very seriously and that they will make every effort to straighten out the service issues at the Vashi outlet.
I must say it felt good to be heard. And I do hope they will make a genuine effort to sort out the Vashi outlet of an otherwise impressive chain of restaurants.
Thanks Kalyan for helping me find the correct people to speak to. Thanks Bhavana and Phiroze from Speciality Foods for listening to me.