Champagne may not be within the easy reach of every wine lover since it normally costs upwards of Rs.5000 a bottle, but in Delhi and Mumbai one can binge on a bottle of Champagne for under $20 when ordered with a lavish spread of buffet at special brunches in Delhi and Mumbai, writes Subhash Arora from Delhi with Maloo Natarajan to follow from Mumbai.
Photos By:: Adil Arora
Despite several 5-star hotels in Delhi and Mumbai offering a daily buffet lunch at one or more restaurants, Sunday brunches are a special affair with special menu and alcoholic beverages ranging from beer, wine, spirits and sparkling wines, many with unlimited amount of pop-till-you-drop alcoholic beverages.
During the last couple of years unlimited Champagne had mostly displaced Cava, Prosecco or Indian bubblies but recently some have gone back due to the increase in excise duty in Delhi. However, a few like Hyatt Regency, Oberoi, Taj and Shangri-la are still carrying on with the tradition. If one considers the additional cost of Champagne at these buffets, the difference is as low as Rs.900.
For as low as $20 or less-one can binge on a full bottle of Champagne during the lunch which may last three hours or more.
While most hotels have champagne service only in one restaurant, Hyatt Regencyis the only hotel in Delhi that offers an unlimited quantity of Champagne in The China Kitchen, TK’s Oriental Grill and the Café. La Piazza which serves Italian cuisine offers Martinis and Prosecco but the same deal is available for Champagne if requested, comments Puneet Baijal, the F &B Director. Even the Indian food restaurant Aangan can offer a similar choice in lieu of the 4-course meal and beer offer, but is not recommendable as a good value with champagne.
A fixed menu offering Dim Sums, duck, sea food and several other dishes which pair well with Moet Chandon Brut, costs Rs.3000 (taxes and grat. extra) a person; the same with Moet Rosé may set you back by another Rs.800 (+taxes) but is a better-value deal for bargain hunters. The meal without any drinks costs Rs.2200 a person-giving a notional cost of Rs.800 for regular Champ.
If you drank a bottle of Moet Brut in the restaurant at any other time, it will cost you Rs. 7,800 but the Rosé from the same champagne house will set you back by Rs. 11,400 (with taxes)! Thus you spend only Rs.1, 600 for the bottle of Rosé. In the international retail, this Brut retails for about $36 (Duty Free price at Delhi T3 is $52) and $60 (source: wine-searcher.com) resp.
|Sunday bunch at the Cafe's Brunch- Hyatt Regency
The same meal with Moet Brut costs Rs. 2900 at the Café, if you don’t fancy the Sichuan fare at TCK. For sea-food lovers the best deal in town is available at TK’s Oriental Grill. For Rs. 2400 only, you can enjoy the teppanyaki food prepared in front of you, besides sushi, sashimi, and oriental salad. The standard fare here costs Rs.1050 daily but the extra special spread is notionally valued at Rs.1600 per person for food, according to Assistant Director F& B- Kumar Shobhan.
La Piazza is acknowledged as serving best Italian cuisine. Its generally full to capacity-especially on Sundays with the families walking in to their favourite place serving the Italian bubbly Prosecco and also Belvedere Martini for non-wine drinkers at only Rs.2100. But as Shaji Paul, Asst, Director F & B looking after the beverages of the hotel confirms, same Champagne deal is available. ‘In fact, we have some regulars on a couple of tables who drink only Champagne,’ he says.
Club-at-Hyatt members have another advantage-they pay 15% less. No wonder about 40% of the clients guzzling Champagne at these restaurants are the Card holders. Also, Rosé finds favour with only around 20% people, according to Abhishek Narang, the Restaurant Manager. Few take the package without Champagne in TCK but ‘we had to give a special rate for the non-drinkers, otherwise customers who don’t drink alcohol felt cheated,’ says Kumar who also emphasizes that the Menu is changed constantly.
Vegetarians also must feel short changed as the menu is rather limited for them. At events like this-for instance at the Delhi Wine Club dinners, the vegetarians are granted free access to whatever they want from the menu or available in the kitchen. Perhaps, the management ought to open their hearts and kitchen to them.
Champagne at other hotels
Similar deals are also available at Shangri-la coffee shop Café Uno (Indian, Chinese and Continental with Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin (VCP) at Rs.2700++ 360 degrees-Oberoi Hotel where it is slightly higher priced at Rs.3600++ while Machan at Taj Mahal Hotel has an excellent spread which includes a live sea-food counter with prawns, lobsters as well as a caviar counter besides the multi-cuisine Indian, Continental and Far-eastern cuisine for only Rs.3000++. Both of them offer unlimited Champagnes- no prize for guessing the label. ITC Maurya Sheraton offers Pommery champagne in their coffee shop-Pavillion at Rs.2950++
E Tu Piper- Heidsieck?
One of the best Champagne brunch deals is available to the residents of Gurgaon who can have a hearty buffet brunch at Rs.2450++ with unlimited champagne and champagne based cocktails with Piper Heidsieck, the latest arrival in India from Remy Cointreau..
Rukn Luthra, CEO of the Indian Arm of the French conglomerate, says that it is on top of his wish list is to make Piper Heidsieck the number two brand in India. What may appear to be David challenging Goliath battle in the planning stage, they are neither fighting for the religion as David did in Bible, nor is Moet Chandon the satanic goliath as the Holy-Bible interprets the battle. Besides, the company does not want to snatch the number one spot- they would be content with the second prize.
Rukn promises a few more venues in Delhi and Mumbai where talks are at an advanced stage to support affordable but attractive champagne brunches.
Consumption of champagne at brunches
How much champagne does an average customer consume at the 3-3.5 hour lunch? It varies, says Shaji. Sometimes, in a PDR with 12 customers we might open 15 bottles while on other tables the consumption is only half the bottle. On the average .7-.8 bottles is the average. So we are not off in suggesting one bottle during the meal.
How much of champagne is sold at these buffet lunches. No one was willing to venture into taking the guess but with TCK having the package on Saturdays as well, my conservative estimate would be 750-900 bottles alone, translating to 750-900 cases (of 12 bottles, champagne comes in cases of 6). Not bad in terms of consumption and more restaurants offer this deal, better it is for the total wine consumption.
Managing the Low Prices
|Diners at the TK Oriental Grill- Hyatt Regency
But how can they manage it at these low prices? ‘Obviously, the distributor has to support us.’ Denying that they link it with the consumption at these buffets, Shaji confirmed that the distributors have to give a volume discount. As Puneet Baijal, the Director of F & B at Hyatt Regency Delhi puts it, ‘The customers spend money at our hotel every day. These brunches are our way of saying –Thank you.’
So next time you are in a mood for binging-on food as well as Champagne, choose a restaurant you like and say thank you to the manager for giving you the reason.
< Next edition of delWine will carry the inputs from our Mumbai correspondent, Maloo Natarajan>
Friendly word of caution is in order. One bottle of Champagne or any other wine is considered binge drinking and a regular consumption will be positively harmful to your health. I won’t advice to indulge more than once a month (ok- twice for the incorrigible readers!). And please do not drive yourself after the hearty lunch and appoint a designated driver. Although it is spread over 3.5 to 4 hours, you would be in good control of senses, but not enough for safe driving- and I am not even going the route of illegality and the possibility of prison, in case you are caught-editor