PIMP MY PLATE is my weekly series of reviews of cafés and restaurants in city and regional areas. My food challenge to have my lunch-or-brunch plate pimped for $19 or less.
‘It’s not all about the food’
Anjappar Chettinad Indian Restaurant
Walking along Church Street, I noticed the word Chettinad on the façade of Anjappar Indian restaurant across the street.
Chettinad is the name of a region, not a curry, of the Sivaganga district of southern Tamil Nadu state, in India.
The word immediately triggers a food memory for me – Rick Stein’s recipe for Chicken Chettinad in his INDIA cookbook. It’s a favourite recipe and I’ve cooked it often. I haven’t seen it on a menu before, so it felt like fate – or fateful.
‘Is the kitchen still serving lunch?’ I asked, as it was approximately 2.35pm in the afternoon.
‘Yes,’ replied the waitress.
I took a seat, was handed a menu, and I flicked it open.
A minute later, the waitress came back and asked me to hurry up with my order as the kitchen closed at 3pm. OK, fair enough. But at the time I didn’t realise that the kitchen closing time meant everyone – myself and one other diner – were expected to exit the restaurant.
On her way back to the kitchen the waitress locked the front door of the restaurant.
I speed-read the menu and made my choices: an entrée of Nethily Fry ($11.99) – described as ‘fresh anchovies marinated in special masala and deep fried’; and a main course of Chettinad Chicken Masala ($15.99) – chicken fried with shallots and spices. I’m not a fan of fresh anchovies but these sounded interesting and delicious.
The entrée plate of Nethily Fry arrived without a dipping sauce, or cutlery. I asked if the anchovies came with a sauce, and was told it didn’t have a sauce. OK, fair enough. The anchovies are chewy and delicious, and as munch-worthy as popping potato fries into your mouth, and having no cutlery except a spoon, that’s how I ate them.
So when my chicken arrived, I asked for cutlery.
The Chettinad Chicken Masala has a rich and delicious sauce, with more depth of spice and flavour than I usually expect from a $16 meal. There were no vegetables in the sauce, which is always disappointing, but not unusual.
Aware that the clock was ticking away towards closing time, I asked for my entrée to be packed as a takeaway. I thought this might save a few precious moments for both of us, until the waitress came back with a plastic bag and a foil bag, sat them on the table, and walked away. Well that’s a first – being expected to D.I.Y. my own takeaway!
The diner next to me paid his bill and left. Now I was alone in the restaurant, and the pressure was on…
After eating a few more mouthfuls of my masala, the waitress decided to stand vigil near my table. Obviously it was her strategy to hurry me out the door.
Tick, tock, tick, tick.
I tried to ignore this behaviour to avoid indigestion from speed-eating.
I ate another mouthful, and then she came over and asked if I could hurry up as “the restaurant closes at 3.30pm”.
I glanced at my phone …. I had 7 minutes to closing time.
I’d had enough of her, and I had eaten enough. I slid the remaining anchovies into the foil bag provided, sealed the top, and dutifully popped it into the plastic carry bag.
‘Oh I didn’t mean to rush you,’ said the waitress. Hell, no!
‘Next time I suggest you just tell people the restaurant is closed,’ I suggested, knowing there would never be a ‘next time’ for me.
I paid the bill and as I stood waiting for the waitress to unlock the front door, I picked up one of their takeaway menus. With a smirk I noticed the words HIGH CLASS restaurant on the front of the brochure.
On the back of the brochure, and on the back pages of the menu, they advertise that Anjappar restaurant in Parramatta is one of a worldwide franchise that includes restaurants in Dubai, Qatar, Malaysia, Canada, Singapore, USA, and several other countries. I imagine the hospitality offered is more generous in the other locations.
To be fair, I did arrive near end of lunchtime trading – they reopen to serve dinner – however if you can’t deliver service to paying customers then you shouldn’t seat them, and instead, say the restaurant is closed.
Later I had a look at online reviews for this restaurant and found other diners have experienced a similar lack of hospitality.
The basic principle of hospitality is that good service is more important than good food if you want to engage customers and create repeat customers.
If you manage a café or restaurant you are cooking and serving in a commercial enterprise, so there are both industry and customer expectations that you’re offering food and service at a professional level.
At home, a few hours later, I munched through my deep fried anchovies and scrolled through more online reviews of Anjappar in Parramatta. I nodded as I read the one that recommended, ‘Only do take away from here,’ and dipped my hand into the foil bag for another handful of anchovies.
RATED: Just do takeout FOOD: 3.5/5
VALUE: 3/5 ATMOS: 0/5 VIBE: Hospitality-free zone
ANJAPPAR – 108, 106/108 Church St, Parramatta