Monday, October 13, 2014

Spectra, Leela Ambience, Gurgaon

Now the background is that I had just returned to India after six months and the occasion was a team lunch. I wanted to out the tea, for a good lavish lunch, preferably with a good spread and at five star hotel location. So as I looked up the options, there was the Oberoi’s, The Westin and The Leela. We decided to settle for the Leela hotel, which was offering a 10% discount and buffet was on till 3:30, perhaps the longest, as the others finished by 3.

Now we were a group of 5 people and it was the Navratra time as well. The Leela hotel as such is one of the best and the ambience was wow. Upscale, modern and chic. As we settled in, we were offered for complimentary drinks as part of the buffet. I settled in for a lemon ice tea. And the we head towards our gastronomical journey.
First I will come to the spread and talk about it. So the spread did seem big, and what the hotel did was spread it out over a large area. There was the Asian section with Dim Sums, a few stir fries of pork, chicken and veggies. Fried Rice and vegetable noodles.

The Indian side had a few assortments of dal, sabji, chicken tikkas, chicken Biryani, chicken curry. The vegetarian had a few more options of dal makhani, paneer etc.
There was a continental sections which had breads, a cheese platter, a meat platter, breadsticks. Chicken casseroles, and a veg counterpart. Next came the Italian section which had fresh/ live pasta’s being made to order. Pizza slices, lasagna. There was a Chinese chicken soup and a veg counterpart in the Indian style. Another section did the meats and sausages being grilled to your choice. There was steaks for order to your taste and wishes.  For the vegetarians there were the sticks of capsicum diced, onions and cottage cheese.
A small little counter at the back was serving a middle eastern fare which had chicken shawarma, hummus, babaganoush and whole lot of other dips.
The dessert section was quite impressive, with mousse, cakes, pastries, gulab jamuns and cookies and cakes.
Now let’s come to the food.  I started with the dimsums and they were average. The Chinese spread with the chicken in hot garlic sauce and vegetable noodles. The chicken was not boneless and I nearly fell of my chair. I mean, why would you have a chicken in Chinese sauce and have it boned. I think I have boned version is really small eateries or at the thekas but no, not at a five star hotel. The noodles were cold. Considering I really crave for Indian Chinese or Chinese when I come to India, I was quite disappointed.
The chicken tikkas while well marinated, was feebly warm. The chicken biryani again was descent- but I wished it had more chicken and was hot. Again very mild warm. The chicken curry was average.
The chicken lasagna was good. Again, not too hot, but was delicious and I liked it. The pizza slice was descent. I ordered for a lamb sausage and this was nice. Juicy and tasteful, although to be honest I have had better sausages in India, but I wouldn’t say I didn’t like it. The mince was chunky and juicy.
The chicken shawarma was a disaster. Cold chicken and not wow at all. I ordered for a stick of the capsicum and cottage cheese to be barbequed and this was again, just ok.
The chicken casserole with mushrooms and chicken in white sauce was ok.

Overall comments on the food.
While the ambience and the first impression of the Leela and its restaurant was overwhelming and subsequently a spread that had such variety, the food fell short by miles. I guess, at the end of the day, it was more of a desi five star I think. You can keep a spread which boasts to be pretentiously multi cuisine, but if the food is not up to the mark, then it makes no difference. For indian guests who crave for continental spread, I wouldn’t recommend- saying that you will get better food elsewhere. For the international guests, well, you’d probably have better choice elsewhere to be honest.

I’ll be honest, for a large part of my life when I lived in India and I craved for continental food, I might have thought wow. But now after living abroad for close to a decade, I was in a catch 22 situation. I was in India and craving for Indian food. Leela didn’t have such a good spread of Indian food in the buffet. Like seriously, cold chicken tikkas, and average chicken curry. Come on guys, is that your best.
Now because I do keep having international food, by virtue of staying abroad, I can tell you that the international selection was just about average and probably misleading. Not great at all.

The biggest feedback was that all the food was cold or rather luke warm. Nothing was hot. The service was about ok.

I still cant believe how average the food was. May be I expected something extra ordinary from a place like Leela and its brand, but this was a tragedy.
The only saving grace in the entire buffet was the dessert section. Amazing chocolate mouse, tarts, and cakes. The chocolate custard cakes variants were blissful. The gulab jamuns were warm and good. The apple pie was good and so were the cookies.

So to summarize. I would probably never go again to Leela Spectra for a lunch buffet ever again I think and I wouldn’t recommend either. Go take your chances with Westin or may be Crown Plaza. For a whooping price of approx Rs 2400 per person, I’d say you are just paying for the brand. For the food people at Leela- please heat your food, and think about making it worthwhile for your customers.

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