Nagpur: The Central Provinces Club, C.P. Club as it is called, was set up by the British for its officers serving in the area in 1910. They were so proud of their credentials and their exclusivity that a sign saying “No entry for Indians and dogs” hung proudly at their entrance, as the story goes.
And now this same ‘exclusive’ club and its services, specially food and catering, have degenerated to such an extent that many of its permanent members are up in arms and demanding some drastic changes forthwith. But for reasons best known to the Management, led by club President L.S. Dewani, there is great reluctance in doing away with the Caterer, D.P. Sabrawal, who has been in charge of the restaurants for the past 20 years or so. This in itself is unusual since other clubs like Gondwana club, a stone’s throw away from CP, has a practise of changing the caterer and giving chance to new establishments periodically. It’s like every time a new President is elected, he brings in a new team and often a new caterer also. Though it is a Committee decision, the lead is taken by the Captain of the team.
Fortunately or unfortunately for C.P. Club, apart from the Caterer, it has had the same President also for a number of years. The President is also in charge of the Catering in their Managing Committee. Members who have had bad experience with the food and service and who have complained to the Management haven’t even managed to get an audience with President Dewani. He has delegated the task of listening to complains to the Caterer himself, by some strange logic.
With this being the state of affairs, things have gone bad to worse. Last month, Nikhil Kusumgar, a Jain was at the club with his family. He had ordered a rice dish in white sauce. To his shock and astonishment, it seemed to contain chicken pieces. When he brought it to the notice of the waiters serving at their table, one confirmed it was chicken. Another denied the possibility. Both then disappeared leaving the dish at the table. After half an hour of waiting Nikhil had to go into the kitchen himself carrying the dish and demand an explanation. It was only then they agreed that indeed he had been served chicken and apology was offered casually.
At a party at around the same time, the meat curry served in the buffet, contained a number of dead cockroaches. Vociferous complains were made and the dish taken back.
Another member who had carried a take home also had the same experience. A roach in the curry – a large one. (This particular photo had been shared in a Foodies goup on Facebook).
Horrified by such happenings, members, approached the FDI office in Nagpur reluctantly, since the President was not taking any complains seriously.
When N.T. spoke to the FDI Inspector in Nagpur, Mr. Umap, he confirmed that his office had received complains and they had made a first inspection way back in November- December 2015.
“We – designated officials doing the inspection- found the kitchen very filthy and unhygienic. Further, it is required that people deployed in the kitchen for cooking and serving are medically certified to be free of any communicable disease. Even this medical certificate was lacking. When we sent them a show cause notice, as per rules they are supposed to give a reply in 15 days. No reply was recieved and the matter dragged on for some months with some verbal assurances made.”
Then when complains were received again last month, Mr. Umap sprung into action and this May 21st or so, the catering license of the Caterer was suspended. This is a preliminary step to cancellation. The Caterer has the recourse of going to the Commissioner’s office in Mumbai for appeal and gain some time. This is what seems to have happened in this case.
But the woes of the members continues. On June 15th, Father’s day, when member Ashok Balani was having dinner with his family they were served rotis with plastic strings in it! As he complained to a fellow member ” the experience was pathetic. It seems our Caterer is least bothered of the huge embarassment CP club and its management went through with the bad press we got after FDI inspection.”
What makes the caterer so complacent and heedless of strong sentiments expressed by so many?
As some other members said privately, Mr. Sabrawal, who has been known to have served tasty food for which the club had gained a good impression, became complacent and smug. He also runs the restaurant Moksha in Sitabaldi which is quite popular.
“The problem seems to be a mis- managed kitchen and bad maintenance for which club is also responsible.” Said one patron. When pointed out the glitches in Service, vegetarians being served non-veg, food ordered not being served for a long time or not served at all, she agreed that yes, the staff working for the Caterer has also developed a bad attitude problem. Or they could be just overworked. While most Nagpur restaurants close their doors by 11 p.m. clubs go on till about 1 a.m. on many days.
Whatever the reason, the club’s reputation has suffered and there are many ruffled feathers who are demanding a change.
Privately, we learn that a change is finally underfoot and notice has been served on the Caterer.