I must stress here, it was a solitary prawn tempura that sat there looking forlorn in my white soup bowl. It was then smothered with chilled tomato juice. The famed Gazpacho? Hardly. What was in front of me was defined by nothing but the blandness of tomato juice and more tomato juice. The mélange of garnishes held off. It occurred to me as I tried to savour the bowl of disappointment that the tomato juice should have been more appropriately used for a Bloody Mary and done with that.
There is something about soups that sets the tone of a meal. Most often it gently stirs the inner warmth, just a little to the level of comfort and adds the dash of expectation. That goes for both hot and cold soups. The Gazpacho in Malabar House,
Then came the spinach and mushroom lasagne. Quantity matters to me and even if I do not have the acumen for accuracy without a measuring tape- I will put the approximate size of the portion at 2 inch * 2 inch on a large empty plate. It had all the promise of an interesting bite. But where was the bite? It had disappeared in a whiff. Like a minuscule pill of lasagne.
The roast pork with a teaspoon of red cabbage and a teaspoon of white cabbage on the side or the Malabar seafood platter did not help either. We were done in exactly one minute. We had polished the meal in record shattering seconds.
I was increasingly adopting the attitude of Oliver Twist. The ambience sharpened into an atmosphere of stinginess. And you could feel it.
Remember those famous lines:
Child as he was, he was desperate with hunger, and reckless with misery. He rose from the table; and advancing to the master, basin and spoon in hand, said: somewhat alarmed at his own temerity:
"Please, sir, I want some more."
The master was a fat, healthy man; but he turned very pale. He gazed in stupefied astonishment on the small rebel for some seconds, and then clung for support to the copper. The assistants were paralysed with wonder; the boys with fear.
"What!" said the master at length, in a faint voice.
"Please, sir," replied Oliver, "I want some more."
The master aimed a blow at Oliver's head with the ladle; pinioned him in his arms; and shrieked aloud for the beadle.
I had already licked the fork clean but something stalled me from taking the extreme step of ordering a second lasagne. Another 2inch* 2 inch was not going to provide any solace. Wisdom set in. We skipped dessert and went to another restaurant and had a proper dinner.
Meal for two at Malabar House costs: Rs.2000 without drinks or dessert.